For the Christian and morality centered families the political arena may seem like a cold place as of late. Issues that affect the family such as income, taxation and values all have a nice ring to them when verbalized by those running for office or speaking to their base constituents. But in reality, what strides are being taken to ensure the stability of the most essential piece in the foundation of this great nation. Words spoken on the â€œstumpâ€ or from the doorsteps of congress do very little to help, if that same voice is not heard on the floor or evidenced by a voting record. Media sound bites on issues like â€œstem cell researchâ€, â€œabortionâ€, â€œsame-sex marriageâ€ while dear to our values are most assuredly not the only issues that will shape the very underpinning of this sacred institution .
Consider, to take one recent example, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, enacted last year, after a long delay, because of a controversial clause that would have prevented abortion protesters from filing for bankruptcy to avoid paying court-ordered fines. (a questionable point for bankruptcy law) After the Senate rejected this provision, the bill passed both houses of Congress and gained an enthusiastic signature from President George W. Bush.
In a nutshell, the new law makes a “clean start” after filing for bankruptcy much more difficult for families with at least one wage earner. Instead, most affected households will find themselves essentially indentured to a bank or credit card bureau, paying off their debt for years to come.
There is little doubt that the old law had been abused, turning repeated bankruptcy filings into a game. A tightening on this side probably made sense, but on a more significant note, the new law made no real changes on the lenders’ side, in which certain measures might have reined in an increasingly predatory credit industry. It is common knowledge, for example, that credit card companies intentionally urge financially troubled families to borrow still more money, because they can charge these households exorbitant interest rates. As one Citibank executive has candidly observed, “They are the ones who provide most of our profit.” Late payment fees, another favored industry device, reportedly deliver over 30 percent of credit card financing revenue. According to a USA today report, in 2004 each US household owed $84,454 in personal debt. That figure has climbed steadily over the last 2 years. There must be steps taken to reel in this industry. While we must not compromise free enterprise, surely there are ways to hamper industry leaders from targeting an already burdened family household solely for monetary gain.
There have been concrete wins. Regarding taxation, for example, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 doubled the value of the child-friendly personal exemption and indexed it to inflation. Ten years later, another tax bill created a new Child Tax Credit. George Bush’s 2001 tax cut raised this credit to $1,000 per child and began to eliminate the tax code’s notorious marriage penalty.
Other gains to note, Congress approved and President Bush signed a ban on partial-birth abortion. The welfare reform of 1996 eliminated perverse incentives to out-of-wedlock births. Under the current President Bush, the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families and the Office of Population Affairs, important branches of the Department of Health and Human Services, are in pro-family hands. As of last month, so are the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Judges with pro-family records have won presidential appointment to federal courts, most recently Samuel Alito.
While these are important gains for family and family values relatively little has been done to help traditional families certainly at the level of net incomes, the one-earner family today is worse off than it was thirty years ago. Specifically, the median income of married-couple families, with the wife not in the paid labor force, was $40,100 in 2002, less than it had been in 1970 ($40,785) when inflation is taken into account. In contrast, the real earnings of two-income married couple families rose by 35 percent over the same years (to nearly $73,000). Put another way, families have been able to get ahead only by becoming “nontraditional” and sending mother to work or forgoing children altogether. As the Maternalists had warned, eliminating America’s “family wage” system would drive male wages down and severely handicap the one-income home. So it has happened.
Despite the economic pressures, though, such families are not extinct. They still form core social conservative constituencies such as home schooling families and families with four or more children. But again, they have little to show in the way of support from their alliance in recent years with the conservative politicians. Indeed, they have done absolutely nothing to curb the egalitarian frenzy and the gender-role engineering set off by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and enshrined at the Pentagon. Equity feminism still rules these roosts.
Meanwhile, families that sacrifice a second income to keep a mother or father at home receive nothing except a higher net tax. Bills to correct this inequity have been regularly introduced in Congress since 1996, most recently the Parents’ Tax Relief Act of 2006 (H.R. 3080). However, the leadership has ignored them. To underscore the lost opportunity here, note that conservatives in Canada rode to victory just a few weeks ago by embracing a plan to extend that nation’s day care benefit to stay-at-home parents; perhaps some inspiring young politician will seize the opportunity to use this to his or her benefit.
Consider a point on the importance of family. The modern “family issues” are actually about a century old. The first openly “pro-family” president was Theodore Roosevelt. Between 1900 and about 1912, he wrote and spoke often, and eloquently, about the dangers of a rising divorce rate and a falling birth rate. He celebrated motherhood and fatherhood as the most important human tasks, and described the true marriage as “a partnership of the soul, the spirit and the mind, no less than of the body.” He blasted groups like, the birth control movement, equity feminism and liberal ideology as it related to these values, calling them “foes of our household”. The â€œmuzzle movementâ€ commonly referred to as â€œpolitical correctnessâ€ has taken a toll on those that agree with President Rooseveltâ€™s ideas. While many elected officials do hold values of family to be important and essential, it does very little to keep this institution strong if they cannot resist the temptation to accept status quo and stand up for the prolongation of our most sacred pillar of civilization. What America needs are political leaders that can take these concerns and issues beyond the platform of rhetoric. A great speech at the Democratic or Republican convention can rally a base, but it will not translate into much help for families if it stops there. A good pep rally has never won a game.
In the words of another great American president;
“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”
– President Ronald Reagan
Fathers and mothers must remain informed and up to date on issues such as these. We must all do our part to keep this nation strong. The integrity and character of our country can not rest solely on the arms of those we elect. We must stand and act alongside them, to continue what began a little more than 200 years ago, a great nation. I am proud of what this country has accomplished, but our foundation must stay secure for our future to be sure. It must be the responsibility of each American to stay informed on issues and support those that we elect, not for simple â€œlip serviceâ€ but for a willingness to stand in the face of opposition for what is right. This institution of a family began the first week of creation and since, no nation or culture has lasted without it securely at the center, not left on the doorstep.