October 13, 2011
an interview to POLITICO earlier this
month, and in 10 words, spoke a truth that neither the president nor his Republican
opponent will explore -- or even mention -- in 2012.
“What’s a common and accepted practice for Americans nowadays,” the
website asked Mitch Daniels, “that
you think we’ll look back on with regret?”
Answer: “The raising of children outside an intact, two-parent
In May, Daniels, citing the “wishes of my family,” bowed out of
the Republican presidential contest. So we’ll never know if he planned to
highlight illegitimacy in his campaign. The issue isn’t being raised by GOP
candidates. And rest assured, it
won’t pop up on Barack Obama’s teleprompter.
No one secures an elective office by telling voters that their reckless
behavior has created a disaster. So it’s left to policy analysts and cultural
commentators to pester their countrymen about owning up to the consequences of libidinal
Clearly, the lectures aren’t having any impact.
In 1965, as LBJ’s
“Great Society” began to squander trillions of dollars, the illegitimacy
rate was a scant 7.7 percent. In 2009, it was 41 percent. Rates may be higher for black and Latino mothers, but whites
plurality (37.6 percent) of all children born to unwed women.
The human toll of fatherlessness -- depression, substance abuse,
failure to develop marketable skills, prison sentences, etc. -- is not in
doubt. Neither is the cost. According
to the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, “The steady growth of
childbearing by single women and the general collapse of marriage, especially among
the poor, lie at the heart of the mushrooming welfare state. [In 2010],
taxpayers [spent] over $300 billion providing means-tested welfare aid to
single parents. The average single mother receives nearly three dollars in
government benefits for each dollar she pays in taxes.”
From a child’s perspective, it’s difficult to asses which is
worse: a nonexistent marriage, or a marriage that imploded. Brave scholars --
most notably, Judith
Wallerstein and Barbara
Dafoe Whitehead -- have defied a taboo, and publicly criticized divorce.
They’ve debunked the Me Generation’s grotesque belief that children are
inherently adaptable, and thus can easily weather the dissolution of a marriage.
“Children are conservative creatures,” Whitehead wrote in her
seminal book The Divorce Culture. “They
like things to stay the same. Troublingly, divorce makes change the only sure
thing in children’s family lives.” Similar to kids born out of wedlock, the victims
of divorce suffer adverse health effects, stumble in schoolwork, and are
likelier to fall into poverty. Wallerstein’s research found that a marital
breakup can leave sons and daughters with emotional scars that last for decades.
Less well-documented, but worthy of investigation, are the
mothers who’ve found something better to do than raise their offspring. In the
blunt prose of antifeminist firebrand George Gilder: “The very idea that women
with small children should work outside the home is perverse.” Only people who
have never cared for babies and toddlers, or are blinkered by sexual-equality
ideology, believe that the little ones don’t benefit enormously from their
mothers’ constant presence.
1965, 25.3 percent of women with children under age six were in the labor force.
In 1980, the portion had risen to 48.6 percent; by 1990, 58.2 percent. In 2009, more
than two-thirds of single mothers with
young children worked, and the married-mothers cohort was just a few percentage
While most children of off-to-work moms are cared for by relatives,
many are not. A 2005
Census Bureau analysis found that 34.9 percent of kids younger than five years
old were institutionalized -- in either daycare or government/private
“preschool.” In other words, over a third of America’s youngest children are
watched over by medium-
and low-wage workers who have
no blood ties to their charges. Appalling.
for the federal government is at a historic high, and the pols who’ve spent
coffers into insolvency deserve their abysmal approval ratings. En masse, they should be voted out of
selfish, slow-witted solons could restore sound money, slash taxes, devolve
regulations to the states, privatize pensions and healthcare, jettison
market-warping subsidies, and bring the troops home, and we would still be a country
with a family-structure emergency.
Judge them by their actions, not their intentions. Rich and
poor, white and “minority,” red and blue, a huge number of parents don’t give a
damn about their children. It’s arguably the greatest crisis facing the nation.
And there won’t be a word about it in the 2012 presidential race.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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