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GOP Candidates Drop the F-word: Family

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Tuesday night’s GOP debate wasn’t focused on social issues, by design. But there’s a natural connection between the two Fs — fiscal and family — that all candidates should have seized on. Unfortunately, only a handful did, making a compelling case that the country’s economic problems have a deep cultural component.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Santorum masterfully threaded the needle on America’s fiscal and social woes. “If the family breaks down, society breaks down,” Senator Rubio argued. “You can’t have a strong nation without strong values, and no one is born with strong values. They have to be taught to you in strong families and reinforced in you in strong communities. And so when we set out to do tax reform, we endeavor to have a pro-family tax code, and we endeavor to do it because we know how difficult it is for families in the 21st century to afford the cost of living.”

In the earlier debate, Senator Santorum, who had a stellar night on both foreign and economic policy, leaned on his strengths as a full-portfolio conservative. As someone who’s consistently fought to include the family in the conversation of economic solutions, Rick did what he does best.

“The problem with the tax code today,” he pointed out, “because of all the different provisions, you’re right, you go back to work, you lose welfare benefits, you’re losing money. Throw on top of that the even a bigger problem, over 50 percent of children being raised in a home today of a single mom are raised in a home where the father is born — father is (sic) living at the child — the time the child is born. Now what does that mean? That means we have incentivized people not to marry. We’ve incentivized people to cohabitate instead of [marry], why? Because mom will lose welfare benefits if she marries father. It’s not just mom going back to work, but it’s mother and father marrying to form a more stable family for that child to grow up in.”

While the rest of the presidential hopefuls danced around the issue, Santorum was clear: “[T]he biggest problem in America today at the hollowing out of the middle of America is the breakdown of the nuclear family in America. We’d better be the party that’s out there talking about this issue and what we’re going to do to help strengthen marriage and return dads into homes in all communities.”

One of my personal disappointments from Tuesday’s was the lack of discussion about religious liberty. At first blush, it may not seem relevant in a discussion of economics — but the research tells a different story. Not only does religious practice contribute to more regular employment, but it’s also a source of social capital. One study found a positive relationship between religious freedom and ten of the twelve pillars of global competitiveness measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Research continues to show that when religious freedom flourishes, corruption is lowered, there’s more peace, less harmful regulation, reduced liabilities, and more diversity and growth. Religious freedom is important for peace and security, which in turn permit economic growth and prosperity. Under the current administration, we have less of both.



 

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