Family Values, Revisited

By Quayle, Dan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 29, 1993 | Go to article overview
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Family Values, Revisited

Quayle, Dan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

When I raised the issue of traditional family values last year, Bill Clinton and many in the media called it a cynical political ploy that was intended to divide the nation.

Clinton recently recanted. "I read his whole speech, the Murphy Brown speech," said the president. "I thought there were a lot of good things in that speech. . . . It is certainly true that this country would be better off if our babies were born into two-parent families." Now some may call this merely a cynical political ploy by President Clinton intended to wrap himself in the mantle of traditional values. But I welcome the president to the debate, and I encourage him to continue speaking out on the issue, as he began doing last month in Memphis. "Too many kids," the president said there, "are growing up without family supports - without the structure and values and support they need." Amen.

Our families are hurting. Government programs aren't the cure. As a matter of fact, welfare dependency - and the economic incentives it provides for children to have children - helps to perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty. But family breakdown is no longer confined mainly to the underclass. It affects all races and social classes. Clinton apparently realizes the trashing the American family has taken. He now talks openly about the sad statistics of unwed mothers in this country. Those statistics are shocking indeed. Nationwide, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has reached 30 percent, rising to 70 percent in our larger urban areas. In 1991 more than 1.2 million births were out of wedlock, compared with only 240,000 three decades earlier.

The figures are rising for blacks and whites, rich and poor alike. Commenting on the most recent set of numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issud in September, demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute noted that "the stereotype of the unwed mother as a black teen-ager is completely outdated. Less than one-eighth of the illegitimate babies of 1991 were born to African-American teen-agers - fewer in fact than were born to white women in their 30s."

Now that Clinton has entered the fray, discussing moral issues and values in public, the opportunity for rational discussion of family breakdown improves. It's a discussion we badly need, both for our country and for our children, many of whom live in abject poverty, material and spiritual, with little hope for the future.

Every time the issue of the family structure has been raised, it has caused controversy and eventually silence. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan was called a racist in 1965, when he pointed out the rising rate of black households headed by single mothers and predicted social chaos from the rising number of children growing up without fathers.

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