Marriage-absence and uncontrollable deficit spending are inseparable problems bankrupting the United States. An accounting of the marriage-deficit demonstrates that recent major national problems, including health care coverage, home foreclosures, social entitlement spending, crime interdiction costs, and the disappearing middle class are all consequences of marriage-absence.
Marriage-absence is a problem caused by decades of breezy liberal “change” agenda for which Conservatives have never had sound socioeconomic policy or legislation. Liberals attempt to enact ideas into law to give the appearance of solving social problems. Our culture of honoring marriage has suffered decades of incremental losses for lack of a better policy. Today’s seemingly unrelated budget battles are the end-stage consequence of years of using “no” as our only social policy, and assuming marriage would survive despite societal erosion and new anti-family policies.
We must now ask ourselves an important question: Why do Republicans usually lose on social issues?
The Limitations of Reaganomics
Reagan knew that “welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.” This directly implies more is needed than budget cuts to deal with massive welfare expansion. Reagan and his descendants were unable to translate this vision into effective policy. For this reason, conservative social policy has been a risky exercise in economic crisis management often exacerbating the root causes.
One of Reagan’s biggest regrets, as expressed in his memoirs, was signing the first “no-fault” divorce law into effect as Governor of California. Passage of no-fault divorce laws by all other states were followed by explosions of divorce, illegitimacy, and uncontrollable social spending, empowering Democrat administrations while Republicans nervously stood aside.
Historically, Republicans fail when it comes to delivering both a strong economy and a balanced budget. Republicans have done well on the economic side, but have had difficulty articulating the right way to accomplish strong social policy. Democrats have demonstrated incompetence on economic issues, but rely on social problems — powered by class and gender warfare organizers — to escalate welfare spending.
The lack of monetaristic social policy, combined with Milton Friedman’s liberal views on social issues, precluded the invention of technically-sound conservative social policy. The liberal followers of Keynes hence enjoyed sole control of social policy, and America is nearly bankrupt.
During the Reagan, H.W. Bush, and G.W. Bush years, the debt-to-GDP ratio skyrocketed by 62.7%. This is partially attributable to a combination of lower tax rates and increased defense spending — but is predominantly the result of out-of-control “War on Poverty” spending.
The 1996 welfare reforms, primarily focused on cutting budgets, aggressively attacked the consequences of marriage-absence instead of addressing problems at the source. Social expenditures were privatized as aggressive “child support” recoupment programs, and more single mothers were forced to work full time. This did not lift unmarried mothers out of poverty or resolve their problems. Many mothers ended up doing double-duty as mothers and full-time workers, while legions of un-parented children failed in school, went to prison, and gave birth to the next unfortunate generation to be raised without married parents.
Recasting “welfare” as a “child support collections problem” also transformed welfare into an inbred policy structure effectively taking from the poor to help the poor — pitting poor women against poor men. This proved to aggravate the unmarried underclass — still believing it was getting welfare — only to find it taken back four or five years later by the Title IV-D collections system. The resulting disparity between rich and poor provided powerful ammunition for the “social justice” movement to organize large urban areas during the run-up to the 2008 elections.
A “family values” cultural clash emerged – hallmarked by the policy-free “family values” debate and punctuated by Gingrich’s strident call for more orphanages. In their efforts to appear politically correct many Republicans became squeamish about social issues. Between 1998 and 2008, Democrats wrenched social issues away from the Republican Party and positioned themselves as the only ones who care about the hardships of single mothers, retirees, and the ever-expanding cotillion of interests being brought under the “welfare” model.
Budget-cutting is a necessary tool but is not a substitute for well-crafted policy that ends social problems and precludes subsequent spending needs. Cutting builds a backlog of social problems inuring to the benefit of opportunistic politicians and bleeding-heart media.
By 2008, the burgeoning underclass and community organizers leveraged enough energy to provide the rocket fuel for the Democrat’s “free health care” welfare-state landslide. Once again, Republicans forfeited political power by having weak and incoherent social policy.
Obama entered territory far beyond that charted by Lyndon Johnson and his predecessors by launching a wild social spending spree, doubling the size of the welfare state, on the Democrat scorecard, in full defiance of the values of most Americans. While social issues elected President Obama in a strong victory, it was his social spending that also purchased Republican victories in 2010.
Republicans celebrated as they regained control of the House in 2010. The credit for most of the gains belongs primarily to energetic Tea Partiers and Constitutionalists – who focused on cutting budgets and limiting government — not the Republican Party itself. The lack of enticing, visionary reconstruction agenda prevented a Republican takeover in the Senate, despite a magnificent political opportunity not unlike the Zeitgeist that drove the Republican landslide in 1994.
Haley Barbour offered a sobering bookmark: “Republicans now [only] own one-half of one-third of government“. The 2010 elections were a step in the right direction, but not the sweep anticipated after two tumultuous years of bankrupt quangocratic rule that sent the nation into a state of horrified uproar. With little more than budget reforms in the toolbox, Republicans are walking a political tightrope that could become a third rail. We won a skirmish, but are a long way from winning the war in 2012.
With a nation drowning in spending driven primarily by marriage-absence we must change our game. Winning the future still hinges on Republicans’ ability to seize the upper hand on social policy.
The economic necessity of marriage
Conservatives are more outspoken about the importance of marriage than ever before. At CPAC, Representative Allen West said “We cannot continue in an America where we are making more and more people wedded to government either by subsistence check or by unemployment check… we must hold sacred the privilege of marriage between a man and a woman … because we cannot allow the destruction of the American family.”
Referring to overlapping problems of marriage-absence and education, Governor Mitch Daniels said, “we must never yield to the self-fulfilling despair that these problems are immutable or insurmountable.” Mitt Romney knows that “Liberal welfare policies condemn generations to dependency and poverty.” Most notably, Mike Huckabee expressed a vitally-important point on Stephen Colbert recently when he said, “social issues are economic issues”.
The Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and many other organizations have emphatically recommended a return to marriage decades.
Conservatives uniformly realize that rebuilding marriage, to serve its necessary civilizational role, is an important goal. Most do not yet understand that rebuilding marriage is also a mandatory cornerstone of economic reconstruction. Without a visionary policy Republicans will never have the ability to reverse the troubling trend of marriage-absence, and America will sink ever-deeper into financial insolvency.
Marriage-absence is the greatest economic problem we face and is the primary driver of uncontrollable spending and deficits at both state and federal levels. Economic and social conservatives need a unified agenda. William F. Buckley’s conservative political revolution will be reborn when social conservatives deliver productive socioeconomic policy capable of balancing the budget.
Establishing prevailing conservative socioeconomic policy
The Center for Marriage Policy is launching the science of Marriage Values socioeconomic policy. Our policy establishes a pillar of “monetaristic socioeconomics” to complement settled conservative economic policy. “Marriage Values” policy naturally builds marriage, actively deflates social problems driving deficit spending, naturally balances federal and state budgets, reduces poverty, and uplifts the poor.
The principles of the two pillars are very similar. One builds business, economy, and tax revenues. The other builds marriage and structural socioeconomic strength while deflating large amounts of unproductive government spending. Together, jobs and marriage are the two necessary safety nets assuring the best outcomes, even when the job market contracts.
Marriage is social currency, which if invested in, builds nations. When our social currency contracts, like the money supply shrunk just before the Great Depression, the economic and social consequences are profound. Today’s problems are compounded because about half of individuals lack the social safety net of marriage in a tough job market.
Marriage is an irreplaceable structural necessity because each family has two incomes, four hands, and two brains to support the household, raise children, and save for retirement, in a healthy form of mutual socioeconomic interdependency. This fundamental truth is often ignored by trendy social re-engineers who coincidentally believe that government can somehow replace both the social and economic benefits of marriage.
Going forward, we must establish an enduring stewardship of our most valuable national socioeconomic currency — marriage.
Marriage Values policy will transform government from marriage-destructive to marriage-positive activities. Government must stop financially coercing or baiting citizens into pursuit of bad choices that often destroy their futures. We will lead Americans from the intergenerational trap of welfare, poverty, and crime to happier, richer, more stable married lives – where temporary employment difficulties are mitigated by the fact that married families have two income sources and only one roof to support.
Our “10 Marriage Values Policies” are founded on scientific knowledge that will deliver improved marriage rates, reduced poverty, illegitimacy and cohabitation rates; and deliver substantial improvements in criminal, health care, retirement, and educational metrics. Spending decreases will be substantial, answering the most serious state and federal budgetary shortfalls, while we grow the tax base.
The body of reliable studies proves that marriage is the foundation for low poverty rates. Married individuals and their children are the happiest, are most likely to succeed in work and school, and retire on roughly three times the assets of unmarried individuals.
We cannot end the myriad problems associated with marriage-absence by ignoring or complaining about them, forcing marriage, or solely slicing budgets. We will succeed by giving Americans better choices leading to personal independence and happier lives, at little or no cost to government.
Marriage Values policy marks a sea-change in approach to “social issues”. Socioeconomic policy will be empirically defined and measured in non-confrontational scientific contexts. In the past, social issues have been staged as religious or cultural collisions with class or gender activists – with policy essentially driven by street culture. This approach may make for exciting headlines, but leaves a lot of people with hurt feelings, ruins political careers, and prevents development of well-crafted policy founded on peer-reviewed science.
Marriage Values policy avoids the third rails of feminism, racism, multiculturalism, and religious debate. Anti-marriage and anti-American special interest groups cannot effectively challenge science and civil instinct that will deliver what most Americans want and need.
High employment and marriage rates structurally benefit all Americans, and are necessary pillars for any successful society. This truth speaks to atheists, libertarians, constitutionalists, conservatives, mainstream feminists, women, children, and especially the poor most severely impacted by marriage-absence. Jobs and marriage are everyone’s issues. The scientific evidence supporting the benefits of marriage to individuals cannot be deconstructed by progressives no matter how hard they try.
Marriage is the leading women’s issue
All arrows point to the fact that past social policy has tremendously harmed most women caught up in the welfare state. Mothers who are divorced or never married the fathers of their children suffer many disadvantages. We must reach out to show poor women the road map to a better life.
Despite years of intergenerational non-marriage, the core belief in marriage remains very strong according to reliable studies. The human dynamic of Marriage Values policy begins with tapping the unparalleled economic and social benefits of marriage to individuals, and leading them out of the welfare-poverty trap. Coordinated changes to welfare and family law have the potential to gently transition large numbers of women from welfare to marriage.
Current practices take women who would be winners and turn them into losers by baiting them out of marriage with trinkets and baubles. Winners will pick themselves, avoid troublesome government solutions, and the majority will succeed out of self-interest. Our policy works by giving Americans better choices – the ones individuals wanted in the first place – pre-empting existing programs and in many cases relegating them to handle much smaller numbers of temporary crises.
Ending America’s silent civil war
Our approach ends the fifty-year battle between the Great Society and Daniel Patrick Moynihan — on a positive note — with everyone emerging a winner. Marriage Values policy is the only road map addressing the root causes of America’s greatest economic and social problems within a single, inseparable policy framework.
America is near insolvency due to socialist expansions of the welfare state by Democrats. Anti-American activists sense the tipping point is near, and hope to push America over the edge into collapse by organizing class-based civil war on our economic institutions. We must not let Marxists end the American Experiment when we now have the tools to eviscerate their insidious rich vs. poor revolution.
The Republican Party desperately needs the unifying strategic model of Marriage Values policy to achieve landslide victories in Congress and the Presidency in 2012, and to reconstruct America to be the self-determined and self-governing prosperous Republic it was designed to be. All Americans must heed the Patriot call to win America’s second civil war – a Donnybrook lost by decades of values attacks from the rear – and which will be won by frontal assault with non-contentious sound socioeconomic policy.
Allen Icet is the former State Representative for Missouri’s 84th District,
Chairman of The Missouri Club for Growth, and Vice President of the Center for Marriage Policy
Cynthia Davis is the former State Representative for Missouri’s 19th District and Executive Director of the Center for Marriage Policy