David R. Usher
Marriage: America's greatest fiscal issue
By David R. Usher and Missouri Rep. Cynthia Davis
October 31, 2010

Marriage is one of the top five most important issues of the 2010 elections. It will remain a controlling factor in the American dilemma until some form of the "10 Marriage Policies to rebuild America" is enacted at federal and state levels.

Why? Marriage-absence is driving federal and state deficits. Health care coverage, personal bankruptcy, and home loan defaults are infrequent problems for married couples. Children raised in intact families are the last to get in trouble, flunk out of school, join a gang, have babies, become chronic substance abusers, commit crimes, or grow up to be criminals.

Social spending is by far the largest line and fastest-growing item in federal and state budgets. Social spending does not put out fires, nor does it save the starfish. It buys another round of marriage-absence and deficits.

Consider Missouri, which is in much better shape than many other states, but typical in its spending priorities:

The direct cost of marriage-absence to taxpayers in Missouri is $1-billion to $1.5-billion per year. Missouri had 23,299 divorces in 2009, each costing the state at least $18,000 per year, and as much as $27,600 annually depending on the analysis applied. Out-of-wedlock births add another 33,543 cases at similar cost.

Marriage-absence is eating Missouri alive. Social services spending is the largest line item — at 32.7% of total spending — expenditures for which there is no good news to report.

In Missouri, social spending is 50% higher than spending on education. Schools are shortchanged and saddled with an impossible unfunded mandate — making up for what children lack not having both a mother and a father in the home. Under-parented children are predominantly the ones with aggravated behavior problems and low test scores. If most children came to school disciplined and ready to learn, schools and children would succeed — and so would America.

The cost of criminal interdiction arising from marriage-absence is alarming. 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. Improving marriage rates will translate into immediate and substantial reductions in spending on crime and prisons.

Many incorrectly assume that recent increases in poverty rates are primarily a result of today's high unemployment rates. Wrong. The "war on poverty" will be won only by improving marriage rates. When two adults support one household, high unemployment rates are far more survivable. The latest census income data proves the fact that unmarried households are the highest-risk group for poverty regardless of job availability. In good times or bad times, their incomes are only 35% to 67% of what married couples earn.

Missouri is facing a $1-billion deficit in 2012. If sensible marriage policy reduced illegitimacy and divorce by half (also happily resolving the greatest problems many Missourians face), it would today be running significant surpluses and could easily expect a balanced budget or surplus in 2012.

America would be a strong nation today had Ronald Reagan envisioned the need for trickle-down social policy interlocked with trickle-down economic policy. Both are required to create a strong economy on balanced federal and state budgets.

Welfare actively destroys marriage in economic downturns. Individuals divorce or simply cohabit to qualify for years of comparatively rich long-term welfare benefits, and then remain unemployed or underemployed for decades. The corrosive interaction between existing unemployment and welfare policy predicts today's record cohabitation and illegitimacy rates (and the deficits America is drowning in).

Eight years ago, James Q. Wilson pointed out the nexus between marriage, freedom, and economic success: "the nation is becoming divided into two nations; not a nation of the rich and the poor, but a nation of the married and the unmarried bearing children. The effort of the United States to expand freedom and economic opportunity to everybody is now running up against this wall." Eight years later, we collided with the wall and wonder where our freedoms, economy, and future went.

America is in sociopolitical economic meltdown. Our freedoms, economy, political and administrative systems, and banking systems are crumbling. Everyone is desperately seeking answers, but nobody has yet mentioned the one answer addressing the majority of America's economic problems, human needs, and dreams.

Republicans and Tea Partiers are hopeful that America can be restored solely by executing traditional conservative fiscal and constitutional ideals. Given the unquestionable hierarchy of America's contemporary problems, it is naïve to think we can avoid fiscal collapse or re-establish constitutional order unless we address the root problem.

"Marriage Values" policies created by the Center for Marriage Policy match precisely with core conservative and libertarian principles. Marriage naturally establishes and ensures the fundamental freedoms, rights, and limited government that Republicans and Tea Partiers now demand.

"Marriage Values" is not a cultural debate, nor does it force anyone to marry. It marks the terminus of today's government-driven gender war, the war on marriage, and the war on church first launched by Betty Friedan.

Marriage is the leading women's issue of the 21st century. Today, millions of unhappy welfare mothers must "do it all," live in poverty in unsafe streets, while waiting for some politician in Washington to save them. We are confident that most women will prefer the many benefits Marriage Values policy offers.

We have one simple choice to make: Marriage or monstrous quongocratic government. All grassroots organizations, conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Partiers must focus on real policies that will rebuild America. Join with us in enacting the 10 Marriage Policies to rebuild America. The erosions of rights everyone is bemoaning, the high taxes we cannot afford, and the deficits of monolithic helicopter government will naturally abate when marriage is restored as the social norm.

David R. Usher is President of the Center for Marriage Policy.

Cynthia Davis is State Representative for Missouri's 19th District.

© David R. Usher and Missouri Rep. Cynthia Davis


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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