There are times in a nation’s history when its leadership’s refusal to address an issue out of fear of offending voters explodes into a massive problem. That refusal has indirectly manifested into the now-out-of-control out-of-wedlock childbirth rate, which recently reached 41% of the population and is directly linked to the problem of government dependency.
The Republican Party has, in the last several decades, put up a half-hearted fight to deter non-marital childbearing because it has been afraid of alienating single parents — especially women. And the consequences of the GOP‘s lackluster efforts just became more pronounced than ever. This past election, Republicans lost the female vote to President Obama by a margin of 44% to 55%. Within the female electorate, 68% of single women voted for President Obama, while 53% of married women voted for Governor Romney. Hence, the Republican Party now needs to find a way to reverse this trend — as well as the problems that largely stem from single parenthood — while suffering as little political damage from single women as possible. The current “fiscal cliff” issue provides the best opportunity.
The fiscal cliff is a bipartisan congressional attempt to move toward balancing our country’s budgets in a responsible manner. It also just so happens that the out-of-wedlock childbirth problem is largely a budgetary issue. For example, out of the approximately $450 billion spent last year on Medicaid, $330 billion went to single parents. And the cost of Medicaid is expected to reach almost $675 billion annually by 2017. In addition, approximately 75% of the 1.6 million inmates in the U.S. prison system were born out of-wedlock. At a cost of approximately $30,000 per prisoner per year, that comes to a total taxpayer annual cost of $36 billion annually. Taxpayers have also lost an additional $50 billion over the last three years due to deadbeat parents not paying child support, which the government must then subsidize.
And there’s yet another side to this problem: how much we’re losing in potential tax revenue due to single parenthood. At present, with our 7.9% unemployment rate, there are 3,000,000 vacant job openings in science and engineering that pay an average of $129,000 per year (income average calculated for jobs directly related to science and engineering). Why aren’t these jobs taken? Americans aren’t qualified. If those jobs were filled and taxed at 40%, it would mean an additional $168 billion in annual tax revenue.
That’s not to say that all these jobs would be filled if people waited until they were married to have children. But children born to married parents are more likely to attend college and graduate school than are their single-parent counterparts. The aforementioned statistics thereby make it clear that if the out-of-wedlock childbirth problem in America were just cut in half, we could save at least an additional $150 billion per year in taxpayer revenue, which would translate to over $1.5 trillion in saved revenue over the next decade.
The Republicans’ lack of desire to address this issue stems largely from the negative light in which the liberal media would portray any attempt to resolve it. Hence, the party can use the fiscal cliff issue to provide political cover for addressing the out-of-wedlock childbirth problem right now. On the other hand, if the GOP were to address the issue as a single piece of legislation at a later date, the liberal media — seeing the future of their welfare state in danger — would portray Republicans as misogynistic. This would cost the party votes in the following election cycle, which would be ever closer.
Even worse, should the GOP wait until sometime after 2016, the out-of-wedlock childbirth rate might very well exceed 50% of the country’s population. The problem would then be far more difficult to address because it would be the norm in America. And, “never letting a crisis go to waste,” the Democrats would have more weaponry in their political arsenal to “help single moms.” But unless they deliberately want to see more people reliant on the government — and are therefore using government entitlement expansion to socially engineer America away from capitalism rather than to help people — the left should be willing to do whatever they can to get people off the government dole.
To be sure, the plan could provide both parties with something they want. For example, it could help prevent the types of tax increases Republicans want to avoid while also alleviating the need to cut the entitlement programs Democrats want to maintain.
Congress’s past efforts to deal with the out-of-wedlock childbirth crisis have fallen far short of expectations. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) bill legislated under the Clinton administration and The Healthy Marriage Initiative passed under the Bush administration weren’t groundbreaking enough to have any real societal effect. Therefore, the legislation passed this time around must be more expansive than previous attempts were.
One solution is that proposed by Dr. Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation. Rector suggests increasing the value of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for married couples with children, which would financially reward marital childbirth. Yet he also recommends a massive grassroots effort to deter single parenthood. His proposal includes public advertising campaigns that provide marriage education programs in high schools and birth control clinics as well as strengthening federal abstinence education programs that provide critical information on the value of marriage to adults, children, and society. In addition, he recommends making voluntary marriage education more available to interested couples in low-income communities.
Over the long term, a grassroots message such as the one conveyed by Rector’s plan wouldn’t be perceived by its beneficiaries as connected to any political party. This would make the Republican brand less toxic to potential voters in the subsequent election years while also bringing more of them into the party’s ranks. But the benefits to the country come first, and the Republicans should press President Obama to address the out-of-wedlock childbirth crisis as any part of a deal over the fiscal cliff. The fate of capitalism and the American way of life hang in the balance.