Single Mothers Wreaking Havoc on Rhode Island, Says Leading Liberal

Sunday, January 15, 2017


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Ray Rickman

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity - and the American Conservative Union Foundation — are hosting a forum at Bryant University on Tuesday entitled “From Family Disintegration to Family Prosperity — Turning the Tide in the Ocean State.

One of the panelists?  Self-described “Eleanor Roosevelt liberal” Ray Rickman, who is a former Democratic State Representative and currently runs the non-profit “Stages of Freedom" -- and says that he believes that "unmarried births" - i.e. children born to single mothers -- are "wreaking havoc" on the state. 

“Look, I want to talk with people. I want solutions.  I am deeply committed to finding solutions to our problems,” said Rickman. “I want to take care of people in the shadows of life. I advocate for people with disabilities, gay teenagers, black kids who can’t swim. I want government and the foundations and RISD — I want all those groups to focus on them.”

According to the Center, the focus of Tuesday’s forum is Rhode Island’s #48 national ranking in their Rhode Island Family Prosperity report

“The report highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores across a broad spectrum of measures of well-being, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate,” states the Center.

“I reached out Ray. I’ve met him at a couple of events, and we sat down and established a rapport,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Center. “Even if we have different approaches on different things, there is a need for all sides. That’s the message of the whole thing — where we do agree, where can we can work together.”

“There are two groups we’re talking to, political, and civil society leaders,” said Stenhouse. “This big government, anti-family agenda is obviously not working, and it’s resulting in unintended consequences.”

Areas of Agreement - and Disagreement

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Mike Stenhous

The panel Tuesday will be held at Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University and include Founder and Director Gary Sasse, as well as national speakers from the American Enterprise Institute, and the Family Prosperity Initiative. 

Also on the roster is the Director for ACUF Criminal Justice Reform - and area which Rickman and Stenhouse find common ground. 

“We’re going to support the Justice Reinvestment Initiative,” said Stenhouse, of the legislation that was approved last year in the Rhode Island Senate but died in the House. “Those of us on the right are seen as people who want to put people in the jail and throw away the key. But when you look, there’s a budgetary cost, when you take them away from the family.”

“So this package of bills gives judges some leeway of who needs to be incarcerated, so they can look at who can remain productive members of society and their family,” said Stenhouse. “We have to think about what’s good for families. The family’s the center of this country.”

One of the more controversial areas the report and the forum will take a look at is the impact of single parent households. 

“If we’re going to improve we have to ask the difficult and politically incorrect questions — someone has to ask," said Stenhouse. "The national research clearly shows that the best chance to get on a path on upward mobility is work and marriage. There’s nothing wrong with households with a single mom, but data shows those children are far less likely to achieve upward mobility.”

Rickman, however, noted where he agreed - and where he disagreed. 

“I want to be careful of looking at ‘mother-father’ families,” said Rickman. “Yes, data shows that the number of unmarried births is wrecking havoc on us. But I think that women who are lesbians can care for a child as well as anyone else in the world. Conservatives need to come into the modern age on some things.”

“And I’m as pro-choice as they get,” added Rickman. “I don’t think the government says you have to have the child and ruin a woman’s life, her mother’s life, and if we’re not lucky it gets worse with the social problems of underfinanced families.”

Fiscal Viewpoints

“The Republican party since the 60s has historically been pro-big business and the traditional Republicans tend to be still,” said Rickman. “But lately you have these people on the right, or center-right, as they call themselves, that are against corporate welfare. They see it as a step too far.  They’re old fashioned capitalists — so am I, but I also believe in a higher minimum wage."

“But on corporate welfare I’m in league with them,” said Rickman. “Why? There’s only so much money. I want job training, I want Commerce to give every little factory that’s left in Rhode Island a $20,000 check to go and hire a $35,000 person. There are a dozen things we agree on — they want change, I want change.”

Stenhouse spoke to the policy initiatives that the Center is pursuing, and his anti-corporate welfare stance as well. 

“From a public policy standpoint, it’s 180 from the top down, central plan developed by Brookings that is the state’s official plan,” said Stenhouse of what the Center is proposing. “This current corporate, top-down based strategy — how does bringing in high tech jobs from other states going to help the low income residents they claim to representing?”

“We need broad based relief that helps all families and all small business, that’s the difference,” said Stenhouse.  “I think the Speaker is on the right track of letting people keep their money with eliminating the car tax — he’s got the right idea. We’ll show shortly how sales tax reform would be an even superior moved, again focused on the benefit of the family.”


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