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Marriage vs Poverty

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There’s a lot of talk among the Left these days about inequality. President Obama says income inequality is “the defining issue of our time.” His State of the Union address advocated government programs to address it. And inequality comes up as experts attempt to analyze 50 years of a ‘War on Poverty.’

Income inequality is actually a necessary part of a free society. Those with more invest and create businesses for others to work in. The problem is not that the wealthy and upper middle classes are doing too well. The problem is poverty. And the fact that 50 years of government programs and $16 trillion spent haven’t done a whole lot about it means we’re missing something.  All this talk of narrowing the gap between rich and poor ignores the most important cause of poverty in this country: the breakdown of marriage.

In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer used the phrase marriage inequality, but not as many use it in a way that assumes homosexuals should have the right to marry one another. Instead he recommended that who gets married and who doesn’t “be at the center of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don’t.” The trend is worrisome. The better-off are marrying. The less-well off are not.

According to the Brookings Institute, a left-of-center think tank, poverty would be 25 percent lower if marriage rates were the same as in 1970. The Beverly LaHaye Institute studied census data and found that, in 2012, 7.5 percent of families headed by married parents lived in poverty.  But among families headed by single moms, 33.9 percent fell below the poverty line.

The Heritage Foundation says we’re steadily separating into a 2-caste system with marriage and education as the dividing line. In the high-income top third of the population, children are raised by married parents with college educations. In the bottom third, children are raised by single parents with a high-school diploma or less. And the number of kids in single parent homes is growing.

Ari Fleischer points out that “the ‘haves’ tend to marry and give birth, in that order. The have-nots tend to have babies and remain unmarried.” The question is: why? And can this be fixed?

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker points out that Democrats avoid the word “marriage.” She says there’s a fear of “trespassing on constituent turfs, especially women’s.”   As if somehow encouraging marriage is a weapon in the war on women.   Ms. Parker says, “For many women, the push for marriage is seen as subterfuge for reversing their hard-won gains.”

That kind of rhetoric comes from the ivory tower feminists who can afford a baby and a nanny. But really, marriage is good for women, for men, and for the economy. And the sooner we begin encouraging it in our policies, the better off we’ll be.


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