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Missing from Trump’s Otherwise Slam-Bang Second-Term Agenda: Family Formation

As hinted in this space previously, Donald Trump needs to quit goofing around and place front-and-center, in-our-faces, the slam-bang/bombshell/whoomp!-there-it-is second-term agenda released at the Republican National Convention.

It’s all there, in plain, straight, Trumpian prose – just about everything a voter could ask for in an encore performance in today’s environment, including:

  • “Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months”
  • “Eradicate COVID/Return to Normal in 2021
  • “Enact Fair Trade Deals that Protect American Jobs”
  • “Expand Opportunity Zones”
  • “Continue Deregulatory Agenda for Energy Independence”
  • “Defend Our Police”
  • “End Illegal Immigration and Protect American Workers”
  • “Build the World’s Greatest Infrastructure System”

Three planks are especially gratifying to this commentator (to whom the Trump camp is obviously listening intently):

  • Cut Taxes to Boost Take-Home Pay and Keep Jobs in America:” Like maybe 9-9-9-0?
  • Create 1 Million New Small Businesses.” It’s also been asserted here that one of the essential priorities of government must be to revive flagging small-business formation as a primary source of job-and-wealth creation, especially for now-disadvantaged males.
  • And a multi-part plank: “Hold China Fully Accountable for Allowing the Virus to Spread around the World” … “No Federal Contracts for Companies who Outsource to China” … “Bring Back 1 Million Manufacturing Jobs from China.” Also on these pages, in the wake of corona, the call has gone out to “progressively wean ourselves off the Middle Kingdom’s brutal, criminal dictatorship; its crooked, immoral, hazardous and larcenous business activities; its unhygienic practices; and its antagonistic rhetoric and actions.”

Yep, it’s all there – just about.

But one absolutely, utterly, sine-qua-non, can’t-do-without essential is missing from Team Donald’s spectacular stage-two blueprint: family formation.

As The Gipper (inspired by the late, great policy innovator Jack Kemp), used to say, “If you want more of something, subsidize it. If you want less of something, tax it.”

Perhaps the most colossal policy error of the modern era in the U.S. of A. is to pay people to be single and poor. What happens when a nation does that?

Duh. You get more single and poor people.

Pray tell, what was the overall poverty rate in 2018? 11.8%. (Though it’s certainly jumped with the coronavirus panic).

What percentage of households headed by single mothers are in poverty?  Thirty-four percent (in 2019).

How about for married couples? Try 4.7%. Yet marriage is at an all-time low.

So how is the government paying people to be single and poor? Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has pointed out that more than 80 means-tested welfare programs provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services.

This overlapping spider’s web of services not only enables single mothers to raise children by being “married” to the government, but also creates a “welfare cliff” to keep them that way. Then-Pennsylvania Welfare Secretary – and welfare reformer – Gary Alexander once demonstrated that a single mom of two in his state was better off earning $29,000, which brought in $57,327 in net income and benefits, than to earn $69,000 with net income & benefits of $57,045.

Not to mention that almost all of these programs, according to Rector, contain “marriage penalties:” a single mom earning $20,000 a year who marries a man earning the same amount would lose $12,000 a year in benefits.

So why get married – or rise up the ladder?

Here’s why: children and society benefit. Rector also confirms what everyone has known for years: that children of single parents are “more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.”

Married people do better too. The CDC earlier this year, in reporting on the cratering of marriage, underscored that “marriage has been shown to be correlated with positive health outcomes and longevity.”

By the way: want to fix so-called “systemic racism?” Don’t go the way of Black Lives Matters’ founders, who want to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” The African-American community, with its 70% or more out-of-wedlock birth rate, has had enough of that, with all the results listed by Rector.

And combat abortion? Probably the most pro-life policy is to be pro-marriage – only 14% of abortions took place among that cohort in 2014.

So if marriage, like early to bed and early to rise, actually makes children and their parents healthier, wealthier and wiser – along with achieving other important policy objectives –  instead of paying people to be single and poor, why not literally (and by that, this correspondent means “literally”) pay them to be married and better off?

That’s what Hungary is doing: providing loans to marrying couples and progressively forgiving them as their families grow. And it’s working: The government reported earlier this year that the nation’s fertility rate jumped 11% in 2019 and its marriage rate an astonishing 100%. So important is this project to the Hungarians that they are devoting an equally astounding 4.8% of GDP to it.

So how about it, Mr. President? Can we make that slam-bang second-term agenda a perfecta – by pledging to throw some money at the greatest, most tried-and-true wealth and well-being generator there is?

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at

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