A new study argues that single parents cost American taxpayers $112 billion, in the form of welfare, education, prison, and other expenses. There’s also a pernicious estimate of foregone tax revenue, as if it’s unproductive fellow citizens that cost you and me, and not a cabal of Congressmen who spend our money like drunken New York governors at a hooker convention.
A problem with the study, notes an economics professor at Syracuse University, is that a large portion of the men in urban communities have been imprisoned, limiting their earning potential, and hence the positive economic effect of marriage. Other critics note that there is little evidence that marriage programs like those advocated by the backers of this study have any impact. We need better jobs, they argue, and better education.
It seems the hole is much deeper than either left or right is willing to fathom. Does anyone really think that the hundreds of thousands of children born in the worst urban areas without fathers in their lives are deprived of this necessity because these men can’t find work? Is it the presence of a job that makes a man live up to his responsibilities? Is it a college degree?
No, it’s moral backbone, and there’s no program that will implant one where it is absent. And so the cycle is now in a self-fueling frenzy — boys grow up without men to guide them, and girls grow up desperate for male attention, and when they meet, a new crop of neglected children is produced.
Better jobs wouldn’t hurt, nor better schools, nor perhaps even programs designed to promote responsible parenting. But this madness will end one life at a time, one man at a time, each willing to set aside his excuses and enter the daily grind that is parenting.
I’m still sorting out, in my own life, what it means to be a man. But I’m certain that you can’t be one if you’re not willing to care for your children. You can kill the enemy in war, score forty points a game, become CEO of your company — but none of it will make you a man. There are a great many fathers in our country, but significantly fewer men. And given an illegitimacy rate nationwide that is approaching 40 percent, and one closer to 90 percent in the inner cities, this ought to be a topic every pastor covers on a regular basis.