Struck by the rapid disintegration of the family in American life, Heritage’s Chuck Donovan recently called for a “Marshall Plan for Marriage” to rebuild the traditional institution and re-establish its importance. In an interview with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez posted today, Donovan talks candidly about why this work is crucial to the nation’s economic, social and moral well-being.
At the outset of their Q & A, Lopez questions Donovan’s intentional shorthand reference to America’s multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild Europe after World War II, which got its nickname from Secretary of State George Marshall.
“A ‘Marshall Plan.’ Is that a little overly dramatic?” she asks. Well, no and yes, he replies:
“Marriage breakdown, or failure to form families, is creeping upward into the middle class, as Brad Wilcox’s studies have pointed out, and it’s tied to diminished economic prospects for men. We don’t live in the aftermath of a war zone, but Detroit and some of our other cities, denuded of economic opportunity and mother-father families, rival post-World War II conditions.
“Yes, the phrase ‘Marshall Plan for Marriage’ is overly dramatic. But being overly dramatic in the defense of marriage is no vice. I’m not proposing massive new investments — we are at a horrific stage of the cycle when even our bootstraps are frayed.”
Later in the interview, Donovan notes that Heritage colleague Robert Rector has estimated the annual cost of welfare benefits to support single-parent families at $300 billion. One in seven Americans gets food stamps from the federal government. We’re on track to spend $10.3 trillion more on welfare programs this decade. Firming up marriage offers enormous taxpayer savings.
Rector’s main theme – that marriage is the No. 1 weapon against childhood poverty and thus should be encouraged, not penalized – influenced the new welfare reform bill introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). A Senate version is expected this summer, and welfare reform along these lines “could be a big help” in promoting work and countering the collapse of marriage among the poor, Donovan says.
“It’s not that the American people begrudge the neediest people this temporary help. It’s that we’re running the risk that this isn’t temporary, and we’re paying too little attention to the roots of the problem in the mistaken idea this is just a private matter. Public assistance is not a private matter. The diminution in a child’s prospects because he or she has no access to a father is not just a private matter.”
What, Lopez asks, can ordinary Americans do? Donovan’s reply:
“Move marriage up your list of concerns, and recognize how it touches every aspect of our national well-being. Marriage is an economic issue as well as a social issue; it is a key to human happiness, an access card to the mansion that holds our past, present, and future dreams.”
You gotta love that kind of talk. There’s much more in the NRO interview.