Romney: A strong economy = marriage values?
By David Usher
Last week on the Fox News Channel debates, Mitt Romney again played the traditional Reagan "marriage card". He said that a strong economy equals strong families. Unfortunately, this is only half the equation -- the half representing the possibility that strong families could exist.
Like the rest of the Republican lineup, Romney refuses to work on the other half of the equation – the most important piece that Republicans failed to handle in the 1996 welfare reforms – reducing illegitimacy and improving marriage rates and retention. Today, much of the largest line item in the federal budget – nearly $700-billion in H.H.S. expenditures – is misused destroying marriage and then trying to clean up the mess.
It has not worked for forty years. We know that it will never work because our record expenditures parallel today's miserable social statistics. Illegitimacy is at record levels, as is "shacking up". Divorce is down, but only because marriage rates are also down.
Reagan felt that American families were strong and were the envy of the world. The rest of the world did not see it that way then, and still heartily disagrees. In Reagan's day, we had nearly the highest divorce and illegitimacy rates on the planet. The same holds true today.
The Republican lineup is basically ignorant – except Mr. Huckabee – who is aware of the problem but to date has offered no conservative change he would seek to improve the problem (nationalized health care, child support, and welfare are strongly anti-marriage welfare-state policies that do not count as solutions).
Robert Rector also illuminated the policy problem in "Poor Politics" this past August:
Recently, Rush Limbaugh also read the tea leaves sinking in a rather cold pot correctly:
The larger Republican base is just as worked up about these problems as they were in 1992 – but perhaps more serious about it and less patient listening to muffin-mouthed pontifications about the "importance of marriage" lacking any policy change to effect it. The conservative base does not want national health care. The base does not want Republicans building a bigger welfare state. We don't want effusive "change" that does not have any specific policies attached to it.
It now seems that nearly everyone except the lineup of Republican candidates is aware that we not only expect, but demand that our candidates adopt a true "Marriage Values" agenda, one that speaks to what most voters need and want, policies to reform out-of-control social spending so that it predominantly expects and rewards marital responsibility and provides the tools that they need to work through the common marital stress-points and problems that are a normal part of marriage and aging. I predict that the first Republican who runs on a true "Marriage Values" policy agenda will overwhelmingly win the presidency – if not in 2008 – in 2012 or 2016.
David R. Usher is Senior Policy Analyst for the True Equality Network, and President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition.