Colby King is unfair to Peter Orszag
Colby King derides budget director Peter Orszag as “the absentee daddy of a love child” and says he has a hard time “squaring Orszag's behavior with his boss's views on family and the duties of fatherhood.”
Perhaps I can help. The modern world is a lot messier than King’s easy equivalences acknowledge. Orszag has two children from his former marriage. His former girlfriend got pregnant with his child. Orszag acknowledges that he is the child’s father but has gotten engaged to someone else. This makes the budget director, in the world according to King, Exhibit A for inside-the-beltway hypocrisy about absent fathers. President Obama has eloquently described the need for fathers to be present in the lives of their children and eloquently flayed fathers, poor and rich, for failing to live up to their responsibilities. “Is [Orszag] held to a different standard, or perhaps none at all, because he's within Washington's privileged?” King asks.
All else equal, as the economists are wont to say, it is better for children to be raised in a home with two parents. (And, yes, I use the word parents advisedly, to include same-sex parents as well.) But all else is, all too often, not equal.
For one thing, marriages fail. I believe that the impetus to stay together for the kids has fallen too far out of favor, but I also know that sometimes that is either not possible or not the best outcome. In those situations fathers and mothers have a responsibility to do what Obama’s absent father failed to: not only provide child support but remain deeply
involved, on a day-to-day basis, in their children’s lives. Does King have some evidence that Orszag has fallen short of this standard?
For another, people have sex outside of marriage, and that tends, sometimes,
to result in pregnancies, intentional and unintended. I write about the federal budget, so I've known Orszag for years, but I don't have any idea -- and I suspect King doesn't either -- what happened in the case of Orszag and his former girlfriend. But the Supreme Court has made clear, and rightly so, that the decision about whether to bear a child is up to
the pregnant woman. If I were 39 and unmarried, I’d have chosen to have the baby, too, no matter what the father wanted. The legal playing field here is unavoidably tilted: the woman gets to decide whether to have the child, but the father has no choice about his legal duty to provide child support if she chooses to proceed with the pregnancy.
Again, there is no indication that Orszag has any intention of ducking his obligations, legal or moral. Yet it seems more than a little archaic to think that every out-of-wedlock pregnancy must result in a marriage. Does King want a shotgun wedding, with an outraged Obama wielding the firearm? In truth, he has no clue about whether that is what any of the parties involved want, or whether that would be in the best interests of their child.
Is King demanding that every father of an out-of-wedlock child marry the mother? If not, how can he so confidently assert that Orszag has fallen short of Obama’s injunctions?
| January 16, 2010; 11:02 AM ET
Categories: Marcus | Tags: Ruth Marcus
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