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Underwriting the Nuclear Family Meltdown

Profile photo of Bob Thomas 82 By redmitten
June 27th, 2012

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 dog… getting a new job… getting married… or getting pregnant?

Well, here’s New York City application for getting a dog:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vet/vet-doglicense-form.pdf

Here are all the jobs in New York – like making change, digging pet graves, and waxing people’s body parts – that require a license:
http://www.dos.state.ny.us/licensing/

Here’s the on-line application for getting married:
http://www.cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/license.shtml

Bottom line: in the eyes of New York and most other states, getting a dog – or even just digging a grave for one – 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.

http://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/vital_statistics/2010/table10.htm

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; it’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 it’s not teenage girls (41 per thousand): in most cases, it’s adult women in their twenties (78 per thousand).

2009 Center for Disease Control (CDC) Study

2010 U.S. Census Findings

  • Childbearing by unmarried women has resumed a steep climb since 2002.
  • Births to unmarried women totaled 1,714,643 in 2007, 26% more than in 2002. Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. births were to unmarried women in 2007.
  • Birth rates have risen considerably for unmarried women in their twenties and over, while declining or changing little for unmarried teenagers.
  • Most births to teenagers (86% in 2007) are nonmarital, but 60% of births to women 20–24 and nearly one-third of births to women 25–29 were nonmarital in 2007.
  • Teenagers accounted for just 23% of nonmarital births in 2007, down steeply from 50% in 1970.
  • Over one quarter of U.S. children under age 18 reside with a single parent; over 85% of single parents are single mothers.
  • The poverty rate for single mother families was 42.2% (with an extreme poverty rate of 21.6%.), the highest rate since 1997.
  • Single-mother poverty is almost double single-fathers (25.6%); almost three times the rate for the population as a whole (15.1%); and more than four times the 10.1% rate for people in married couple families.
  • The poverty rate for single mothers in the U.S. was the highest among 16 high income countries, and almost twice the average rate in the other 15 high income countries.

But beyond just America’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 – perpetuating the cycle – go on to have a broken home of their own. For details, see the National Fatherhood Initiative, at:
http://www.fatherhood.org/media/consequences-of-father-absence-statistics

The data in these reports should not be misconstrued as an attack on single-mothers or single-fathers, but a call to adopt a “Love the sinner, hate the sin” 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 – by having babies out of wedlock and in poverty – have done a very foolish, selfish, and hurtful thing.  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 – answering a question on abortion– “that we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies.” Fair enough. For Democrats, that often means things like sex education for pre-teens, free birth control and abortion on-demand.  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 – and their shortcomings – making it difficult to find common ground.

So let’s discuss it as if it were a business case. There is a saying in the private sector, “Accounting drives behavior.” 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 you’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 costs… and let them pocket what they don’t spend.

When there are financial incentives involved – regardless of class or income – you will get precisely the behavior you underwrite. So let’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 clinic… tacit approval from the authorities that you’re ready to start having sex (even though many will say that you shouldn’t… 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 out… so a major adverse consequence of your action is resolved by Government.
  • If you decide to have the baby – regardless of the father’s wishes – 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 18… 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, etc… 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 pregnant… 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 unacceptable… and yet, we feel powerless to stop a tidal wave of our own making.

Let’s go back to our stated goal, as voiced by President Obama: “we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies.” Since we’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 “Accounting drives behavior” – and a derivative, “Accountability drives behavior” – 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?  Though there would be no fine and no jail time for violating the law, news of the “No license, no write-off,” approach would spread quickly… 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 life… and learn the associated benefits of waiting to have children until they are married?  Not just Sex Ed, but here’s-what-awaits-you-if-you’re-not-careful. The course should also include information on what each party should expect in the event of divorce… including losing 50% custody your child, child support payments, wage garnishments, tax refund seizure, drivers’ license suspension, credit score penalties, etc. Forcing kids to “look before they leap” into the sack will undoubtedly cause many to rethink their plans.
  • What if we required everyone applying for a marriage license to – just like they do when they get a drivers’ license – first take a course and pass a test on marriage and raising children?  Make sure that all parties understand the time, effort, and costs associated with bringing children into the world. Just like the “Scared Straight” 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 partner’s birth control methods? Claiming entrapment, or saying “she said that she was on the pill/ using a diaphragm/ sponge/ spermicide,” 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 child… 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 – for the first time – makes the parties involved co-owners of both the problem and the solution, where currently, taxpayers pick up the pieces… 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 poverty… 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: aren’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 “lifestyle” 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 “a few minutes of pleasure isn’t worth a lifetime of suffering”; maybe it’s time for the American taxpayer and elected officials to show a little “tough love,” to make that same message perfectly clear.

One Comments to “Underwriting the Nuclear Family Meltdown”

  • Profile photo of Jim Pease Jim Pease says:

    How do you combat urges hard wired into the human DNA? Young people are not given to in depth thinking or long term planning it has always been so. that is why armies are made out of young men not older ones. “Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business.”( Francis Bacon, 1561-1626)
    Punishment for a transgression harms the child more than the parent. People rail against abortion but will not provide equal opportunity for the children, until every child is free to grow up without hunger and abuse and have a chance for a better life how can abortion be not an option? Social stigma is fine for the self righteous but they too have sinned if by none other than to judge. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone to stand up and claim otherwise is at least hypocrisy if not heretical. I don’t support abortion nor do I condemn it as a man it is not my issue and I could not decide for a women what her ethics and morals should be, I don’t expect that decision is easy and I am glad to have never had to face it.
    But if a society is judged by how it views its least powerful members then we are truly moving toward collapse. “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
    – Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    In this age sex is a marketing tool a constant companion for TV and mixed with the market for fear it is a powerful tool to sell cloths, cars, drugs anything you can name has been sold with some form of Sex or fear of one or another type. this cannot help but drive the urges that already wired into the human brain, for every action there is reaction every tool has a down side, sex as a tool has effect on the society.
    “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”
    – Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
    and that is reality I don’t have the answer, but I see many parts to the equation.