Thursday, March 08, 2007

Another Casualty of Conservative Values

Here's another casualty of conservative values according to Harold Meyerson - the American family. He makes a good case that the rise in divorce rates and the number of children born out of wedlock can be blamed on the Reagan '80s and not the permissive '60s.

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.

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.

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.

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].

Like I've said before, just because they say they're the "values party" doesn't make it so.


Snave said...

You have a good weblog, and your criticisms are well-reasoned (unlike some of the ones I like to foist upon my readers!) I will bookmark your site, and visit here from time to time!

The "family values" stuff is probably not something they would apply to Giuliani, because he is a busy man. When it comes to "family values", after all, it is mostly the job of the mother to be at all her kids' activities and to attend to their needs, while the father earns the money and does whatever it is that men do.

I love the book "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff. He writes in a very readable way, and he explains very clearly about how so many of the conservatives are of a "strict father mentality" as opposed to the mentality of "nurturing" more commonly found on the left. So when they talk about their "family values", then yes, they are the party of such values according to their definition of such... a definition which includes a nearly-total patriarchal outlook, with punishment from the patriarchs for those who don't follow the rules they set. When this kind of outlook extends to government, we get things like the modern conservative movement: male-dominated, punitive, and motivated by power and sometimes by fundamentalist religion.

Sad, sad stuff... but Lakoff's book is WONDERFUL. I think you might like it if you haven't read it yet!

Kathy said...

Snave, welcome, and thanks for the kind comments. You're the second person this month to mention that Lakoff book to me. I'm going to have to look for it at Amazon.

I can understand the conservative's concept of the family revolving around a strict father mentality and moral code, but what I can't accept is the fact that they excuse and accept men within their own demographics or party who break those codes. That's hypocrisy and it's hypocritical of them not to admit it. I also don't buy the argument that they should forgive these people because they are contrite, but yet they won't forgive liberals who ask for forgiveness. God is the final judge of who is sincerely repenting - not them - and it's again another example of their hypocrisy.