Keep this statistic in the back of your mind as you read:
The percentage of households that are married couples with children has hit an all-time low (at least, the lowest since the Census Bureau started measuring such things): 23.7 percent. That's about half the level that marrieds-with-children constituted at the end of the Ozzie-and-Harriet '50s.It's also important to note that working-class families are affected more than college-educated ones. Taking into account all households, married couples with children are twice as likely to be in the top 20 percent of incomes, and their incomes have increased 59 percent over the past 30 years, while households overall have experienced just a 44 percent increase.
Financial instability is responsible for the decline of American families according to Meyerson.
So, families across America can thank the conservative movement for this financial insecurity and the decline of marriage. Right-wingers put profits and business ahead of people.
To be sure, the '60s, with its assaults on traditional authority, played some role in weakening the traditional family.
But its message was sounded loudest and clearest on elite college campuses, whose graduates were nonetheless the group most likely to have stable marriages. Then again, they were also the group most likely to have stable careers.
They enjoyed financial stability; they could plan for the future.
Such was not the case for working-class Americans. Over the past 35 years, the massive changes in the U.S. economy have largely condemned American workers to lives of economic insecurity. No longer can the worker count on a steady job for a single employer who provides a paycheck and health and retirement benefits, too. Over the past three decades, workers' individual annual income fluctuations have consistently increased, while their aggregate income has stagnated. In the brave new economy of outsourced jobs and short-term gigs and on-again, off-again health coverage, American workers cannot rationally plan their economic futures. And with each passing year, as their level of economic security declines, so does their entry into marriage.
Like I've said before, just because they say they're the "values party" doesn't make it so.
The right-wing ideologues who have championed outsourcing, offshoring, and union-busting, who have celebrated the same changes that have condemned American workers to lives of financial instability, piously lament the decline of family stability that has followed these economic changes as the night the day.
American conservatism is a house divided against itself. It applauds the radicalism of the economic changes of the past four decades -- the dismantling, say, of the American steel industry (and the job and income security that it once provided) in the cause of greater efficiency. It decries the decline of social and familial stability over that time -- the traditional, married working-class families, say, that once filled all those churches in the hills and hollows in what is now the smaller, post-working-class Pittsburgh.
Problem is, disperse a vibrant working-class community in America and you disperse the vibrant working-class family.
Which is how American conservatism became the primary author of the very social disorder that it routinely rails against, and that Republicans have the gall to run against.
The party of family values? Please. If that's the banner that Republicans continue to wave, then they should certainly make Rudy Giuliani, who couldn't bestir himself to attend his son's high school graduation or his daughter's high school plays, their presidential nominee. No candidate could better personify the sham that is Republicans' and conservatives' concern for the American family [emphasis added].