elections

elections

The Infrastructure that Donald Trump Can Do Little About

elections, family, marriage, religion No comments

The election results stimulated myriad projections for change about the political and economic future, but at the foundational levels of society, marriage and worship, nothing changed this past week.

Political elections are about who gets to control the instruments of power.  But the fundamental work of rebuilding society from the ground up — restoring marriage and turning back to worshipping God weekly — remains in a realm beyond the instrumental tools of government. These fundamentals, so necessary for a functional society, remain untouched by the elections.

And yet the need to change these fundamentals is critical if the goods of politics are to bear fruit.  Otherwise it is all for naught in the medium to long term.  One good revolution (French, Russian, Chinese or Cambodian) can wipe out a lot overnight.

Marriage and religious practice are all about “belonging” — belonging to spouse and children and to God.  But belonging is not something we can manufacture for others, and it certainly is not something government can distribute, transfer or manufacture.  Belonging is the result of attraction — a fulfilled two-way attraction.  However, and this is key, it can start as a one-way attraction.  Many a brave man has proven this by wooing, and eventually winning, the reluctant woman of his dreams.  “Faint heart never won fair lady.”   She gradually came to see how attractive he really was.  But no man (not even the most radical of progressives) has ever turned to government to help him be more attractive to the woman of his dreams.  So to where and to whom do we turn for this rebuilding, this “sine qua non” of social policy, if not to government?  Is not social policy all about government?

This is the fundamental political question for all who want to see society get back on track.  Donald Trump can wield political instruments that will affect the economy, the army, medicine and even education (to a degree), but neither he nor his cabinet can improve marriage or levels of worship through policy initiatives. Yet, of all aspects of the United States, these are the “infrastructure” that needs rebuilding.

This family belonging, which is only full of its power when it means marital belonging between mother and father, is the glue that holds society together.  This lies, not in the realm of government (except to protect or destroy), but in the realm of “the people”.  Belonging is beyond the reach or competence of government.  Sure, big government can do and has done lots to wreck it–as in abortion, in sex education that undermines chastity and marriage, in laws that removed restraints on sex outside of marriage, or in liberal Supreme Courts, such as one that would have occurred under Hillary Clinton, that injects such principles into the legal system.  But the work of rebuilding lies in the heart of the citizen, not in the powers of government.

The social infrastructure of every inner city needs to be rebuilt. It depends on the capacity of millennials to stay married, to grow when adversity hits a marriage so that they mature into strong adults rather than wimp into a rejection that damages their children. Who can do that? Certainly not the instruments of government.

We can only turn to ourselves, and within ourselves to God.  We either attract others to chastity, marriage and worship or we repel them.  We are all either walking advertisements for marriage or effective propaganda against it. People expect a deep joy (even in painful times — especially in painful times) from marriage and family: we either deliver on this in our personal lives or we don’t.  Belonging is caught by contact, by seeing it, by experiencing it up close.  By being invited in.

Belonging is a very different social policy paradigm, but it is the only one that works.

How the Family Protects Against Government Dependency

elections, family, government dependency No comments


Newly elected Republican leadership in the House and Senate is sure to usher in a wave of policy proposals, reforms, and disputes. A predictably significant debate already underway is the extent to which policy will encourage self-sufficiency rather than reliance upon government.
Between 2008 and 2011, household participation in government benefit programs rose from 45.3 percent to 49.2 percent. However, the majority of Americans favor independence to reliance on the commons (i.e. government re-distribution).  Of those polled, 74 percent believe that Americans are too dependent on government (87 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats expressed this view).

Encouragingly, there is a natural, efficient, and generally bipartisan remedy that will decrease government reliance and encourage self-sufficiency: the intact, married family. In 2011, federal and state governments spent over $450 billion on means-tested welfare for low-income families with children. Roughly three-quarters of this welfare assistance, or $330 billion, went to single-parent families. Notably, three-fourths of all women applying for welfare benefits do so because of a disruption of marriage.
For most measures of government dependency, family intactness is the leading influence (or shares the position of leading influence with the fraction of adult high school graduates). For instance, more adults in their first marriage (47 percent) have private health insurance than those who have been always single (23 percent), cohabit (6 percent), have divorced (10 percent), or have re-married (13 percent).
The influence of family intactness on independence is readily apparent in the breakdown of welfare recipients by family structure. Family intactness in a geographic area has the largest influence on average welfare transfers in that geographic area. This is not surprising because Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) primarily supports low-income women and their children. Only 16 percent of adult women who receive TANF or welfare are in their first marriage.
The fraction of intact families in a geographic area also has the largest influence on average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) transfers to men aged 25 to 54 (with controls applied for demographics, education, and earnings). Most men who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have always been single (52 percent) or are divorced (17 percent).
Social science shows that intact families are more self-reliant and therefore have more options to direct their own lives; however, non-intact families are at the mercy of the government..
If the new majority will take the longer term view they will talk up the for parents, pastors and teachers to work to restore marriage in the nation for there is little that Congress can do to rebuild marriage (though there is a lot it can do (and has done) to damage marriage. The rebuilding will be done mainly by other institutions, but encouragement by leaders will be very helpful.