In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a landmark report in which he contended that the rising number of black families headed by unmarried mothers would reduce the prospects for Blacks to rise out of poverty, in spite of that era’s landmark civil rights legislation.
Moynihan was furiously denounced for his efforts. But he was proven right, and he would be even more correct making the same observations today.
It’s been a tough half century for families. Although Moynihan focused his concerns on Blacks, family breakdown correlates as much with income level as it does with race.
Because there are more low-income Blacks, more black children are raised by single mothers, but the overall percentage of births to unmarried women has gone from 5% in 1960 to 40% today. In 1970, 84% of U.S. children spent their entire childhood with both biological parents. Today, about half do.
Partly because of the withering criticisms directed at Moynihan, the chattering classes have mostly avoided the issue of family deterioration, at least until recently. But the consequences have been enormous.
Harvard economist Raj Chetty analyzed the causes of income disparity and concluded that “the strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parents.”
In fact, there is scant evidence that race or racial discrimination causes the multiple economic and societal problems associated with family breakdown. Government spending doesn’t seem to have any effect, nor even does education explain the income gap. It’s family status itself.
So, what caused families, long our core civic institution and the means for passing on our values, to falter? There’s no easy answer, of course, but scholars note a sea change in our views of almost everything that began about the middle of the last century.
Especially in developed countries, people became more anti-authoritarian and more critical of traditional rules and roles. Views about sex outside of marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and single parenthood significantly changed.
It wasn’t all bad. Many of the changes extended civil rights and created a fairer society. But some of the “progress” has been tough on the kids.
For example, it’s not judgmental, just descriptive, to note that the increase in cohabitation has resulted in more unstable family structures.
Even with children, cohabiting couples break up faster and more often than married couples. Unmarried fathers are even less likely than divorced dads to form lasting bonds with their children. What may appear to be simply a matter of documentation can have a profound impact on the well-being of children.
Changing mores regarding sex before marriage has resulted in millions of young women bearing children for which they have made no financial or other preparations.
It’s not judging. It is the essence of caring for each of us to do a better job of informing these potential mothers of the catastrophic lifelong consequences of their casual decisions, both on themselves and the new life they are bringing into the world. We should also do a better job of making unwed fathers, many of whom openly boast about the children they are not raising, accountable for the consequences of their actions.
As Ronald Reagan might say, government is not the solution to this problem. It is the problem. There’s no question that the Great Society welfare rules, requiring recipients to be unmarried and unemployed to qualify for benefits, led to countless women making the sensible decision to “marry the government” rather than the uneducated, undependable father.
Government has also mortally harmed families by taking over many of their traditional functions, especially care of the young and the aged. Families traditionally stayed together to assure that those unable to provide for themselves would be sustained.
Today, it is assumed that the elderly are entitled to be cared for by the government. Some adults are known to simply walk away from their families because they don’t see the need.
We need sound strong families for all Americans, not only the wealthy and privileged. It would help if government did less harm. But we need to do a better job of protecting and prioritizing our families, respecting the outsized role they play in making our country strong and our lives worthwhile.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.
On Fox News recently, the leader of an “anti-work subreddit” with over 100,000 followers, caused a stir by claiming that “laziness” was a virtuous lifestyle choice, which should be freely available. She depicted work as a form of oppression that the woke are justified in resisting in principle. The guest was a part-time dog walker who hoped to someday “teach philosophy.”
Shrug this off at your peril. Like many other threads now coursing their way through our culture (CRT, BLM, MMT, etc.), anti-work has deep roots in Marxist ideology.
In “The Abolition of Work,” Marxist author Bob Black decades ago argued that the only way for humans to be free is to reclaim their time from jobs, the “source of most of the misery in the world.” “No one should ever work.”
Instead, they should indulge in voluntary free play. Only thus could they avoid the subordination and degradation of the workplace. Nietzsche argued that work “uses up a tremendous amount of nervous energy and takes away from reflection, brooding, dreaming…”
It’s not just goofy dog walkers or cranky proto-communists in the anti-work bandwagon today. Relief measures implemented when our response to COVID dried up the jobs markets are no longer necessary, yet a great many Americans are simply disdaining a lifestyle that includes working. 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November alone. There are currently 12 million jobs available. Services are becoming harder to obtain, and empty shelves are popping up.
But work from the beginning has been a cornerstone of American culture. America and Canada were settled by Europeans who came to stay and create a better life. Land and other resources were plentiful here, but labor was scarce. So work was necessary to survive and prosper.
In Europe, idleness was admired. Gentlemen were hereditary landowners who believed work was a humiliating sign of failure, best left to the masses.
In America, by contrast, work was honored and rewarded. Common people could become landowners simply by “working” the land. Small farmers, shopkeepers and artisans, workers…all were the backbone of the economy.
DeTocqueville in the 1830s noted the astonishing industriousness of Americans. “An honest day’s work for a day’s pay” was the prevailing code of conduct.
With a productive private sector and a modest, non-intrusive government, America prospered unimaginably, transforming itself from just another British colony to a worldwide beacon of opportunity and prosperity.
But work provided more than material comforts. It endowed each worker with dignity, a sense of self-worth and personal agency. Each citizen could take justifiable pride in providing for and protecting their family.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many Americans dreaded material poverty less than the loss of dignity from not working. Written materials from that time confirm that severe economic hardship was considered temporary and survivable, but loss of dignity crippled the human spirit.
We now know that both economic prosperity and dignity eventually survived. But today the connection between work and dignity seems to be diminished. Dignity itself seems to have fallen out of style. Our leaders emphasize made-up rights, inequality, and income guarantees, but dignity is mostly ignored.
In the 1990s, the Contract with America implicitly established the notion that the Great Society welfare programs of 30 years previous had been a colossal failure. By disconnecting beneficiaries from work, they had consigned generations of Americans to lives of dependency and poverty of spirit.
The reforms enacted by the states consisted mostly of work requirements for able-bodied adults on welfare. Despite their success, over time the requirements have gradually been eroded by the hostile bureaucracy that administers welfare programs.
Now Democrats, once the party of work and workers, are seeking to eliminate work requirements altogether. Work is seen as an injustice that particularly minorities and poor people shouldn’t have to endure.
Unless workers work, there are no goods and services produced and the standard of living falls for all. A society where citizens vie to avoid work and live off the productivity of others, and where politicians scramble to accommodate them, is in danger. Ahead lies chronic economic weakness and vulnerability to tyranny.
The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) accepted Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s petition to defend previous President Donald Trump’s updates to a rule limiting green cards and citizenship to those who haven’t and won’t become dependent on welfare programs. Brnovich announced this update in a press release Friday.
“When other federal officials won’t defend the law, I will,” asserted Brnovich. “The Public Charge Rule is a commonsense policy based on a real inconvenient truth. Overrunning our welfare programs right now would be like pulling back the last safety net for Americans who need it most.”
Congress first enacted the “Public Charge Rule” in 1882: a concept that officials could deny immigrants entrance, visas, and even citizenship if officials deemed they were likely to become a “public charge.” The definition of “public charge” varied over the years. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined “public charge” as illegal immigrants who received one year’s worth of welfare benefits in the aggregate within a three-year period. Under that definition, two benefits received in one month counted as two months.
According to the latest available data analysis from the Center for Immigration Studies, about 55 percent of noncitizens relied on welfare in 2018. Noncitizens in their study included both green card holders and illegal immigrants. While the law does prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving welfare benefits, noncitizens may receive benefits on behalf of any children they have born in the U.S.
In April, SCOTUS rejected a previous petition from 14 states attempting to revive Trump-era litigation that the Biden Administration halted. Texas led the charge on that petition. The states claimed that dropping the Trump rule would force them to provide millions of dollars of government benefits to illegal immigrants.
SCOTUS determined that states would have to work through lower courts before they’d take up the case, if at all.
Their recent acceptance means that Arizona and 12 other states – Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia – may be eligible to defend the rule even though the Biden Administration has decided against doing so.
SCOTUS will not be deciding on the legality of the rule, and oral arguments haven’t been scheduled.
Arizona is leading a coalition of 13 states to defend the Public Charge Rule, a federal immigration policy that ensures noncitizens can financially support themselves to become U.S. citizens or obtain green cards. Joining Arizona are attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a rule that expanded the definition of “public charges” to include anyone who received certain government benefits (like Medicaid or food stamps) for more than 12 months over a three-year period. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped applying the Public Charge Final Rule to all pending applications and petitions on March 9, 2021. USCIS removed content related to the vacated 2019 Public Charge Final Rule from the affected USCIS forms and has posted updated versions of affected forms.
The states are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to allow them to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the policy after the Biden Administration abandoned defense of the rule earlier this year. Arizona led a coalition of 13 states in March at the Ninth Circuit to intervene in the lawsuit but was denied.
Arizona and the other states are also asking Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to grant review of a Ninth Circuit decision that invalidated the Public Charge Rule. Previously, SCOTUS granted review of a case involving the same issues. But, after SCOTUS agreed to hear the case, the Biden Administration abruptly shifted course. Without any notice or warning—and breaking established norms—it sprung an unprecedented, coordinated, and multi-court gambit to dismiss all pending cases pursuant to a settlement. Attorney General Brnovich believes that the validity of the Public Charge Rule should be decided on its legal merits, not pervasive strategic surrenders by the Biden Administration.
Congress has had a Public Charge requirement in one form or another for over a century according to the Attorney General’s Office. Under existing federal immigration law, noncitizens are not eligible to receive a green card if they are reliant upon government assistance, otherwise known as a “public charge.”
Arizona and the other states claim to have a significant interest in upholding the Public Charge Rule because it reduces demand on already over-stretched government assistance programs. The federal government only pays a portion of the costs involved in many of the programs at issue, therefore increasing the strain on over-stretched state assistance programs. It is estimated the rule will save the states $1.01 billion annually in direct payments. For example:
In 2019 Arizona spent $3,059,000,000 on Medicaid benefits. Increasing the number of Medicaid participants would increase the State’s spending on Medicaid (the costs of which typically exceed State general fund growth) and would require the State to make budget adjustments elsewhere.
Arizona paid $85 million in maintenance-of-effort costs for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs in 2019. TANF resources are limited. In 2016, less than a quarter of eligible impoverished families received this assistance.
States incur administrative costs for each Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient. For FY 2016, Arizona paid $77,730,088 in administrative costs for administering SNAP. By admitting aliens who are unlikely to depend on this resource, the State will save money that would have otherwise gone to fund administrative costs for aliens who would depend on the program.