Friday, April 11, 2014

Wanna a better country? Promote Marriage!

“As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it. There are also those who argue ... racism is so embedded in our DNA that . . .the game is rigged.”

--Barack Obama, 4.10.14

Sigh, Obama once again bashing straw men.

In truth, the “Great Society” was a “failed experiment,” victim of a resource-draining Vietnam disaster, but very popular at its launch 49 (not 50) years ago. Lyndon Johnson’s program wasn’t an “encroachment on liberty;” it just didn’t work. Responsible critics don’t call government “the true source of all that ails us”--government performs essential services outlined in the preamble of our (still sacred) constitution.

Conservative critics don’t go after poverty as a “moral failing,” but do look for cultural differences written about in liberal David McClelland’s The Achieving Society 53 years ago, well in advance of Johnson’s presidency. And it’s simply outrageous to suggest, as did our first African-DNA president Thursday, that America is so racist “in our DNA” that we’ll never treat blacks fairly.

Face it: our culture is failing us. Why do left and right blame each other when the adverse impact of family breakdown affects us all? It’s a subject discussed in our last post, and worth returning to again and again.

As did Cynthia M. Allen in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Allen recently wrote about Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 study of black family breakdown, which triggered a “bounty of research correlating family structure to the economic mobility of children — or lack thereof.” Allen quotes the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project’s finding that “children of divorced mothers or [those] who were born to unmarried mothers are less likely to be upwardly mobile.” Given all the recent talk of social inequality, Allen uses the Pew study to stress family structure has ripple effects. It correlates with upward mobility, not only within the family, but also at the community level.

Marriage is important. The Brookings Institution reports that marriage is “a mechanism through which advantage is protected and passed on.” Less affluent women are more likely to have children outside of marriage and raise them on their own, often in similarly-structured communities, where they “enter vicious cycles of downward mobility.”

Allen, using highly understated language, tells us that “attempts to redistribute income and expand the welfare state. . . have not had the success that lawmakers expected.” Allen would rather turn to Ron Haskins, director of Brookings’ Center on Children and Families, who says, “do something about family structure,” adding that in the war on inequality, we should be supporting policies that promote more stable families. In other words, promote marriage.

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