Why You Can't Count on the GOP to Be Truly Family Friendly

Social conservatism, and the Republican Party, have an interesting history according to Allan Carlson, the president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Illinois. Writing in The Weekly Standard (March 27, 2006) Carlson notes that historically the Republican Party has favored Wall Street interests and big business, and done very little to protect the family, at least in terms of tax codes and family positive lawmaking. In fact, the GOP not only tilted toward banks and industry historically, it was the party of radical feminism prior to 1980. Only with the Reagan Revolution of 1980 did this substantially change. Carlson shows that since 1990 the GOP has been anything but consistently helpful with regard to important family promoting policies. He offers as a major illustration of his salient point the average income of single-income families. When the wife chooses to be a stay-at-home mother the average income for such a family in 1970 was $40,785. By 2002 it had actually declined, in inflation adjusted dollars, to $40,100. Two-income families rose in average income, during the same time period, by 35%. Carlson’s well-argued point is that this kind of tax policy promotes “nontraditional” patterns that force mothers into the work force. As some conservatives had previously warned this “family wage” idea actually drove male wages down and placed a sever handicap on the single-income home. The results, Carlson believes, are quite deleterious to our society.

He further shows that where big-business and the interests of a traditional, one-breadwinner family collide, the GOP almost always sides with business. Historically, at least until the Reagan era, the Democrats favored the opposite approach. It was actually Reagan’s ability to understand this that helped him capture what were then called the “Reagan Democrats.” This prompted Reagan, a former New Deal Democrat, to say to a group of Catholic voters in 1980: “So, you can see, the party that so many of us grew up with still exists except that today it’s called the Republican Party.”

Allan Carlson is a true friend of the family by showing how “a new economic populism, delivering child-sensitive benefits and skewering predatory banks and bureaucrats, could [still] work politically for a clever Democrat.” He further argues that “social conservatives remain second-class citizens under the Republican tent.” I profoundly agree. And I often wonder why so many of my fellow social and religious conservatives do not seem to care. At times we are about as politically savvy as a stick. I think we have been consistently taken for granted by one political party for decades. A carefully reasoned, sensible, tax-fair social agenda is neither important to Republicans or Democrats at the present moment. Thanks to Allan Carlson for the wisdom and courage to make this point clear for all who care to consider it.

In my estimation real conservatives would do much better to spend their money and time working for real change in family law and tax-code rather than spending so much time working for meaningless things like keeping "In God We Trust" on our coins. Someone please tell the Christian Right to redirect its efforts toward something truly positive; something that would help both the middle class and the poor to strengthen their families. I long for the day when both parties will address an issue as important as this one.

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