Sunday, April 28, 2019

Whither the Family?

I think I'm rather glad that there's nobody in the conservative movement who/s doing what Phyllis Schlafly did in the 1960s and 1970s. After all, why would we need a person who says that women should stay home, take care of their families and be obedient to their husband, while at the same time jetting around the country (and not being with her family), running for Congress, and joining conservative organizations? Please don't misunderstand me; I'm saying that we need activists of all genders and orientations to carry forward positive, useful messages that will bring encouraging change to this country. Mrs. Schlafly preached one message and lived quite another, all the while attempting to scare people into thinking that the Equal Rights Amendment, which she can take credit for defeating, would require unisex bathrooms, women forced into the labor market, and gay marriage. Then again, she was right, but for the wrong reasons.

With the conservatives back in charge of most of the government, it's their time to talk about what they rue as the breakdown, or dormancy, of the family. But of course, this argument comes down to how you define the American family. If your idea is of a man and woman and children and perhaps a pet or two with the man working and the women staying home full or part time, then yes, we have a family system in decline.

But if you define a family differently, with, say same sex couples, unmarried couples, single parents or many adults living, working and being responsible for each other and offspring, then the issue looks different.

And if you also see the decline in the family as a result of changes in the economy, then it looks even more different. Part of the conservative lament is that women have entered the work force, which raised incomes and family spending power, which led to rising prices and the cost of family-related services and thus the decline of purchasing power. This then necessitated both men and women to work more hours to keep up which resulted in children being kept in child care for longer days, more family stress, and pressure on career couples to work harder just to keep up.

At the lower end of the income scale, the problem seems to stem from the fact that there are fewer jobs for men that would allow them to make a decent living, which is scaring off the available women who are deciding (deciding!) that they might be better off having a child and not getting married because, well, the man might be more trouble than he's worth. And since single women are at the very bottom of the income scale in this country, they have to run faster just to keep up.

Some of the proposals in the article I linked to would allow families to borrow from their Social Security by taking paid leave now and having to work longer in their 60s to make up for the amount they borrowed. After all, it's revenue neutral for the federal government. Of course, the federal government under the GOP had no problem slashing the corporate tax rate by 15% and giving the wealthy huge tax cuts ever since 1981, both of which resulted in trillion dollar debts to the federal budget.

But helping families get 12 weeks of paid leave? Sorry--must be revenue neutral.

And of course, let's not get started about families headed by gay couples or LGBTQ Americans who love their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, theyfriends, biological children, adopted children, foster children, and pets. We know that conservatives might pay some lip service to these arrangements, but beneath the surface, social and religious conservatives are hoping that Brett Kavanaugh will undo the abominations of a fellow Republican, Anthony Kennedy, who actually understood differences and accepted them as American, pure and simple.

The problems associated with the family are, to a great extent, related to the enormous income inequality that's been foisted on the American Republic since the election of Ronald Reagan. If incomes don't stagnate, then families and workers have a chance at earning real money and could cover the costs of services they need to function effectively as a family. If the government would recognize the dire need we have today for subsidized child care, paid family leave, and government programs that actually supported people who need the services, then we could have families that wouldn't be stressed about missing work or school to take care of their needs. Having to borrow from Social Security to pay for child care is an unnecessary burden that wealthier people do not have to carry. And it's also a cruel joke on people who will likely need their Social Security at an earlier age than wealthy people.

I want strong families. I want healthy, well-educated children to have an opportunity to succeed in this country. I want people to be able to spend time with their loved ones, share experiences and contribute to the country. Let's elect people who will share in this desire.

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