Rick Santorum’s recent surge in the Republican presidential polls would indicate the public’s interest and support, in no small part due to his stance on the social issues.
Santorum is unashamedly pro-family, pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-faith—just about pro everything we stand for here at the NDFA. But he has a much deeper understanding of where America is today. Santorum has a firm recognition of the correlation of the cultural state of the family and the fiscal crisis in our country.
Today the breakdown of the family is evidenced in lower marriage rates, increased out of wedlock birth rates, higher cohabitation numbers, as well as other indicators. At the same time, we see a fiscal crisis pushing the debt limits to unparalleled levels.
Fiscally, the bottom line is this—married couples provide the most stable, sustaining revenue for the government, federal and state. The federal fiscal crisis we are in is due in part to the declining number of married couple families, with marriage rates having declined by 50% over the past 35 years.
Conversely, those providing the least revenue to government fall into the category of separated, cohabitating, and divorced. And in many cases, these require government assistance. This population is rising, with cohabitation rates increasing over 1500% since 1960.
This trend is of great concern. The number of families supporting the government revenue needs (taxes) is declining, and the number of families providing very little support if any, and very likely accepting government assistance is rising. As one researcher stated, “we cannot tax, spend, or borrow enough to counteract this trend”. Most estimates cite the cost at $112 billion per year, one trillion over a ten year period.
Compounding this spiraling trend is the slowdown of our birthrate, decreasing the number of working, tax paying citizens. In addition, of the births, 41% occur in a non-marital situation, with many requiring government assistance.
Understanding that research documents the common denominator of those doing better financially is the stability of the married couple structure, today an obvious phenomena is occurring. Over 83% of those in the higher income groups are married, only 44% of those in the middle/blue collar, working class groups are married. This gap between the “haves” (those married) and the “have nots” (those not married) is increasing. Where we are today is very reminiscent of where the inner city African-American communities were some generations ago.
Not only is this trend alarming for the fiscal future to this country, it is a moral crisis which we cannot ignore. We have an ever increasing number of children growing up in non-traditional homes, with 27% of children living in a single parent home and 55% having experienced a break up of their family by time they reach 18 years of age. And these children have a greater likelihood of not doing as well in school, turning to drugs, having children out of wedlock, and living in poverty.
Vast amounts of research document the undeniable link between marital status, the welfare of children, and the economic status of both the children and their parents. As a society, we must remove our heads from the sand and seek to affect this issue on a moral basis. As a government, our elected officials must recognize the criticality of understanding the importance of this issue and take action. The future of our country is depending on us.
Tom Freier is the executive director of the North Dakota Family Alliance