Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Family Breakdown, Economic Hardship

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

That quote comes from one of our earlier discussions of culture and politics. Here’s how I would rephrase Moynihan today: “Another central conservative truth is that liberal politics can ruin a culture.”

We are focusing on the problem of a culture that endorses raising children in single-parent families. You might think this concern is strictly a conservative preoccupation. You would be wrong.

Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen are Democrats. Caddell worked closely with Jimmy Carter and Schoen with Bill Clinton. As with this blog, they too link our current economic problems to family breakdown. In “Politico,” Caddell and Schoen write:
The decline of the American family is the hidden issue in our election. . . we are now facing a crisis of serious proportions that affects all Americans, regardless of race and class. [emphasis added]
Marriage rates are down. . .The proportion of married U.S. adults dropped from 57% in 2000 to 52% in 2009, the lowest percentage . . . ever recorded. Marriage rates have declined most steeply among young adults ages 25 to 34 whose education does not exceed a high school diploma. Approximately 45% of children raised by divorced mothers, and 69% of children raised by never-married mothers lived at or near the poverty line, with few prospects of economic success.
More than 50% of all youths put in jail for criminal behavior grew up in one-parent families. Three-quarters of teenage pregnancies are to adolescents from single-parent homes. Non-high school graduates are almost four times as likely to become unemployed as college graduates. For those who do find jobs, they will most likely make less than half of what college graduates do.
We are seeing an important breakthrough when well-known Democrats are willing to discuss single parents and family breakdown in Charles Murray terms.

Perhaps not surprisingly though, while Schoen and Caddell call for “affirmative policies that strengthen the nuclear family, enhance traditional values” and “encourage young people to become responsible adults and successful employees”—in effect, a cultural solution—they also endorse government "improving the overall quality of education and job training.” If that means throwing money at existing education and job training bureaucracies, well that’s the old “Blue Model” way. And it doesn’t work.

What’s required now: a political and cultural revolution.

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