Life is Hard: Suck it Up and Strengthen Your Family Now

Balanced rock resting above lava arch near Park Lake in Grant County

“When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America” was recently published by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.  National Review interviewed the Director of the project Brad Wilcox. National Review’s interview can be found here.

In the National Review interview, Wilcox states:

“When Marriage Disappears” points out that a “soul mate” model of marriage has overtaken an “institutional” model of marriage in the minds of many Americans. What I mean by that is that more and more Americans think that marriage is about an intense and fulfilling couple-focused relationship that, by the way, is made possible by a comfortable and secure income.

More and more Americans have jettisoned the older, institutional view that marriage is also about raising a family together, offering mutual aid to one another in tough times, and becoming engaged in larger networks of kin and community.

I’ve been reading alot about the Mexican drug cartels lately so I’ll say it in Spanish and then translate, “la vida es dura” (English: life is hard).  I can no longer remember what movie it was that dispensed this knowledge to me in my early twenties but it’s the truth.  We all love the movie “Life is Beautiful” but we love it because of Roberto Benigni’s fight, spirit and resolve in the face of adversity.  Marriage isn’t easy.  Raising the kiddos isn’t easy.  However, Gen Xers like myself and those generations that follow somehow think that all these things “should” be easy.

We women are trying to “find ourselves” in our careers and during our pedicures when we should be trying to get to know our spouse and our kids.  Since mom went to work, families have gone into debt to try and afford the suburban home and second car that mom requires and/or demands if she works full-time.  Let’s not be ridiculous and talk about college tuition for the kids.  The environmentalists talk about sustainable growth; well, this dual-income plan isn’t sustainable over the long-run.

Like Mr. Wilcox stated above, the traditional view of marriage is: spouses aid one another during tough times and are involved in their extended families and community.  Well, Grandma no longer lives down the street and there are usually no uncles, aunts or extended family to help pitch in when life is hard.  Divorce scatters finances and family members while also weakening loyalty of parent-to-child as the divorced parents go on to start second marriages.

During tough economic times like we face now, it is imperative that we have strong family ties.  We need many arms to hold us up (and I don’t mean the Government).  During the last Great Depression, we had an intact social fabric.  We no longer have this fabric so what does that mean for us as we face double-digit long-term unemployment and a bankrupt Social Security program ?

Life is hard young mothers and fathers, please stop surfing the 352 channels on your tv and start talking to your spouse and children about your plans for the next five years.  Start focusing on what is going to make your family unit stable and durable over the long run.  The long-run is important; just ask those who didn’t save enough for retirement and don’t have family nearby to help take care of them; their only prospect may be living their days out in a state-run nursing home.

O’Reilly to Females on The View: Let Yourself Be Challenged

Fireworks

I generally don’t watch The O’Reilly Factor but because I’m always reading the news, I kept coming across the fireworks that went on between O’Reilly and the cast of the female talk show The View whose hosts include Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg.

The remarks which caused two of the members of The View to walk off-stage were O’Reilly’s reference to the terrorists that brought down the twin towers in NYC as Muslims.  Whoopi, for example, said they were extremists and Joy Behar who walked off with Whoopi said he was indicting a whole religion by referring to them as Muslim.  O’Reilly apologized if people thought he was indicting the whole religion stating that he thought it was well known after ten years that they were Muslim jihadists.

Of course, the new mosque to be built near Ground Zero and more largely the policies of the Obama Administration with regards to terrorists are all fruitful areas for heated debate.  However, the comment that I found most valuable was what O’Reilly challenged the ladies on The View to do when asked by Walters if he thought they were pinheads or patriots.  O’Reilly answered that he respected the women for passionately voicing their views.  However, he thought some of them were very reactionary with their pseudo-liberal ideology.  He said they don’t challenge themselves to see both sides of an issue and then draw their conclusions.  Instead, their opinions seemed canned and full of liberal bumpersticker rantings.  Like, “we inherited the problem” and “we’ve been driven into the ditch by Republicans” and “Repub are fat cat wall streeters who don’t care about poor people.”

So how does O’Reilly’s insight relate to what I think is important ?  If social conservative families don’t challenge themselves to asses their own lives with regards to whether God is really  at the center of their lives, how they educate their children, whether women should be going to a job outside the home everyday, why they’re not involved in local politics, and why they buy things they really don’t need instead of building up their savings accounts, we’ll be contributing to the decline of the family just like our liberal counterparts.  Albeit, we’ll be contributing at a much slower rate but if we’re not making major changes to shore up the family, we won’t turn the tide on the decline of the family in America.  I think the first big step is to bring mom home even if she is working from home.  Mom is the greatest nurturer and policeman for her children; she is also either going to destroy or save America.

Elizabeth Warren’s September Smackdown in The Wall Street Journal

Fat Sam

Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who is a new member to the Obama team,  received a tongue-lashing in the Wall Street Journal on September 30th.  She is also the acclaimed author of “The Two Income Trap” which delivers a message which is critical to restoring the power of families in America.

I am sympathetic to author and Law Professor Zywicki’s criticisms of Warren as we come from the same libertarian George Mason cloth.  And, I do understand that he is mostly attacking her questionable data analysis.  I agree with him that this is troubling and the Senate should have had the opportunity to address these issues with Warren before Obama appointed her to lead an extremely powerful new agency named the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which as Zywicki says has the power to

regulate or ban almost every consumer credit product in the country, yet it is beyond Congress’s power of the purse because its budget is guaranteed as a percentage of the Fed’s annual revenues.

She does avoid a discussion about the need for lowering taxes despite her presentation of Tax Foundation data showing that taxes increased significantly during the relevant time period.  Instead, in the second half of the book which is committed to her policy solutions, she discusses remedies like bank regulation, the institution of usury laws, etc which should be completely ignored.

Taxes have been eroding family wealth for a good period of time and not just for the so-called middle class.  A Univ of Chicago Law Prof recently drove this point home when he posted his family’s finances on his blog to show that he is hardly making it despite a combined two-parent income of over $250k.  Liberals immediately jumped all over him as an elite snob who can’t possibly relate to his poorer compatriots.  However, he was making a powerful point that The American Dream is becoming The American Nightmare.

We are clearly not as well off as we should be with student loans, credit card balances and mortgages consuming the typical young family.  If you assume the Chicago Professor and his presumable Ivy League wife had student loans from Ivys, that alone may be enough to break the bank for them.  So-called richer white collar people in America with jobs are typically just broke at a higher level than their poorer brethren with more expensive student loans, houses, cars and clothes.

It is really only those who own their own businesses that are “wealthy” but even that dream is being eroded with financial regulation, the federal health care bill and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.  For a family of four making $150k, for example, your tax bill will be going up by $4510 (see The Tax Foundation calculator to find your own burden).  Who has an extra $4510 laying under their mattress during The Great Recession ?  Shouldn’t that $4,510 be put into a savings account instead of Uncle Sam’s account ?

Despite her wreckless policy solutions and the data landmines she has laid, Elizabeth Warren does deserve a huge pat on the back for making an obvious point which most people continue to ignore: the two-parent working household does not work.  I hope social conservatives are not blinded by her liberal public policy solutions and chumminess with Obama and his liberal friends.  Instead, I hope conservatives will keep in mind that there is an opportunity for bipartisanship as she identifies a problem that is at the heart of the social conservative agenda:  the family.