Launch Blog, Category 8: Education and Family Services
Underwriting the Nuclear Family Meltdown
Which would change your life more, and require the most thought before taking the plunge: getting a dogâ€¦ getting a new jobâ€¦ getting marriedâ€¦ or getting pregnant?
Well, hereâ€™s New York City application for getting a dog:
Here are all the jobs in New York â€“ like making change, digging pet graves, and waxing peopleâ€™s body parts â€“ that require a license:
Hereâ€™s the on-line application for getting married:
Bottom line: in the eyes of New York and most other states, getting a dog â€“ or even just digging a grave for one â€“ requires a lot more accountability than getting married. Worse, getting pregnant requires no accountability whatsoever; and unmarried women in New York and across America are having babies at a rate unheard of just a few years ago.
Consider the following two reports from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and its sister agency down the hall, the U.S. Census Bureau; itâ€™s not a coincidence that according to the latest data available, women having babies without a father around are the primary driver of poverty in America. And itâ€™s not teenage girls (41 per thousand): in most cases, itâ€™s adult women in their twenties (78 per thousand).
2009 Center for Disease Control (CDC) Study
2010 U.S. Census Findings
But beyond just Americaâ€™s financial toll of single motherhood, statistics from every relevant branch of government show time and again that children raised in a single-parent home are far more likely to suffer abuse and neglect; experience serious emotionally-rooted health problems; become drug and/or alcohol abusers; get involved in violent crime; spend time in prison; and â€“ perpetuating the cycle â€“ go on to have a broken home of their own. For details, see the National Fatherhood Initiative, at:
The data in these reports should not be misconstrued as an attack on single-mothers or single-fathers, but a call to adopt a â€śLove the sinner, hate the sinâ€ť approach to a serious, and growing, societal threat to America. These women (and we single them out only because, biologically, they are the ones giving birth) are probably not bad people; and indeed, there are some professional women out there with the financial means and social networks to make it work.
But the rest â€“ by having babies out of wedlock and in poverty â€“ have done a very foolish, selfish, and hurtful thing.Â And the biggest price will be paid by their children… as well as, of course, U.S. taxpayers, since the huge portion of federal and state welfare funding, totaling nearly $700 billion according to some accounts, is directly attributable to people and social problems coming from single-parent homes.
All Americans, Liberal or Conservative, should agree with the remarks by then-candidate Barack Obama â€“ answering a question on abortionâ€“ â€śthat we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies.â€ť Fair enough. For Democrats, that often means things like sex education for pre-teens, free birth control and abortion on-demand.Â For Republicans, that often means a ban on abortion, promotion of abstinence-only sex education, and tough parental notification laws. Both sides have their moral, economic, and social merits â€“ and their shortcomings â€“ making it difficult to find common ground.
So letâ€™s discuss it as if it were a business case. There is a saying in the private sector, â€śAccounting drives behavior.â€ť In short, it means that if you want to motivate employees towards a particular way of doing things, just fund it: with some financial incentives in place, people will quickly migrate towards whatever youâ€™re trying to achieve. Want to cut costs? Let employees generate ideas, and give them a chunk of the savings. Looking for new product ideas? Give employees a bonus on the sales of new products they dream up. Want to lower employee moving expenses? Give relocating employees a lump sum to cover all of their moving costsâ€¦ and let them pocket what they donâ€™t spend.
When there are financial incentives involved â€“ regardless of class or income â€“ you will get precisely the behavior you underwrite. So letâ€™s ask ourselves: if you are a teenage girl or a 20-something woman living in the United States, what is your Government financially and socially incentivizing you to do?
- You can probably get free condoms at school or a publicly-funded clinicâ€¦ tacit approval from the authorities that youâ€™re ready to start having sex (even though many will say that you shouldnâ€™tâ€¦ but their actions speak louder than their words.)
- If you get pregnant, in many states you can get a free abortion without your parents finding outâ€¦ so a major adverse consequence of your action is resolved by Government.
- If you decide to have the baby â€“ regardless of the fatherâ€™s wishes â€“ the Government will cover your pregnancy and delivery expenses. And the Courts will order the father (and in many cases, his parents, if he is a minor) to pay you child support at least until the child is 18â€¦ so the baby you are carrying will come with ample Court-ordered financial assistance.
- The government will give you food stamps and spending money, as well as help pay for your housing, child care, cell phone, etcâ€¦ so you will [just barely] be able to get by on your own, without having to listen to the disapproval of your parents or boyfriend.
Given the red carpet we are rolling out, is it any wonder why we have a problem in the United States with unwed pregnancies, and children being raised in households with no father involved? We practically bend over backwards to encourage young women to get pregnantâ€¦ and then wring our hands over the two most likely outcomes: abortions (about 1.2 million per year) and out-of-wedlock births (1.6 million) resulting in poverty. For most Americans, both are unacceptableâ€¦ and yet, we feel powerless to stop a tidal wave of our own making.
Letâ€™s go back to our stated goal, as voiced by President Obama: â€śwe should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies.â€ť Since weâ€™ve already proven that statistically, the best case scenario for children is a home with the same, two committed parents throughout his or her formative years, therefore, the common goal of those on The Left or The Right should be simple:
Convince young men and women not to risk pregnancy,
until they raise children in a stable, committed relationship.
How do we do this? Maybe there is some middle ground and some alternative approaches we should be considering. Perhaps the â€śAccounting drives behaviorâ€ť â€“ and a derivative, â€śAccountability drives behaviorâ€ť â€“ approach could provide the necessary legal and financial incentives to compel our young people to behave more responsibly, by requiring them to bear the primary financial burden for their actions.
Why not consider ideas such as:
- What if only allowed children born to parents holding a valid marriage license to be claimed as dependents on state and federal income taxes, as well as qualify for financial assistance from the government?Â Though there would be no fine and no jail time for violating the law, news of the â€śNo license, no write-off,â€ť approach would spread quicklyâ€¦ since the problematic behavior would now bring financial consequences.
- What if we required pre-teens to be educated on the legal, financial, and societal demands of marriage and family lifeâ€¦ and learn the associated benefits of waiting to have children until they are married? Â Not just Sex Ed, but hereâ€™s-what-awaits-you-if-youâ€™re-not-careful. The course should also include information on what each party should expect in the event of divorceâ€¦ including losing 50% custody your child, child support payments, wage garnishments, tax refund seizure, driversâ€™ license suspension, credit score penalties, etc. Forcing kids to â€ślook before they leapâ€ť into the sack will undoubtedly cause many to rethink their plans.
- What if we required everyone applying for a marriage license to â€“ just like they do when they get a driversâ€™ license â€“ first take a course and pass a test on marriage and raising children? Â Make sure that all parties understand the time, effort, and costs associated with bringing children into the world. Just like the â€śScared Straightâ€ť program for young, first-time drug offenders.
- What if we held men legally accountable for conception, even in the event of failure of their female partnerâ€™s birth control methods? Claiming entrapment, or saying â€śshe said that she was on the pill/ using a diaphragm/ sponge/ spermicide,â€ť does not excuse his not wearing a condom.
- What if we required that Birth Certificates be completed in full, listing the name of both the mother and the father? If the father is not present at the birth, he has 30 days to contest paternity; if does not, once he is established to be the father he accepts all financial responsibility for the child even in the event of a divorce. Under Family Court law in most states, this makes both parents primarily responsible for meeting the financial needs of the childâ€¦ preempting reliance on government assistance.
Once informed of the new stricter laws, young people of child-bearing age will have to suddenly think twice before hooking up with a partner without using birth control. The problems of abortion and out-of-wedlock births would be addressed in a manner that â€“ for the first time â€“ makes the parties involved co-owners of both the problem and the solution, where currently, taxpayers pick up the piecesâ€¦ and the tab.
Opponents of these sorts of proposals will undoubtedly cite them as being hard-hearted, and unfair to the children involved. Others will say that that what is truly hard-hearted is bringing children into a world of single-parent povertyâ€¦ with, statistically speaking, the bleakest possible future ahead of them.
While no one wants to put single parents and their children in a position where financial assistance is means-tested to a degree where it becomes nearly impossible to attain, we need to ask ourselves: arenâ€™t we, the taxpayers, the ones perpetuating this cycle of misery, by enabling it to persist generation after generation? How is our financially underwriting this disproven and destructive â€ślifestyleâ€ť any different than giving enabling an alcoholic or drug addict to prolong his misery, by giving him just enough spare change to keep his habit going?
In simpler times, parents used to warn their sons and daughters that â€śa few minutes of pleasure isnâ€™t worth a lifetime of sufferingâ€ť; maybe itâ€™s time for the American taxpayer and elected officials to show a little â€śtough love,â€ť to make that same message perfectly clear.