Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation writes about understanding illegitimacy in an important column you can read here.
He points to a statistic which frankly is the most alarming portent I have ever seen regarding the future of our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2008 40.6 percent of children were born outside of marriage. Over 40 percent! This is a mind-numbing and frightening figure.
We're talking about 1.72 million children here, the bulk of whom were born not only into fatherless households but to mothers of low education levels. These kids are starting life with an 0-2 count with a strikeout artist on the mound. What chance do these children have?
They are almost certain to grow up in poverty, since single mothers with young children and no education have almost no income possibilities which can sustain a family. They are certain to grow up in an environment where they do not have the daily, meaningful and essential presence of a father. They will never have a chance to observe an intact, healthy marriage relationship, and in most cases will be destined to repeat the dismal failures of the only adults they know when they become adults themselves.
In time, the young females among them are highly likely to bear their own illegitimate children - it's no longer fashionable to call them "bastards," but that's what they are - and the males among them are highly likely to impregnate available women and then walk when it comes time to assume the responsibilities not just of a sperm donor but a father.
As Rector says, this out-of-wedlock birth rate is "an overwhelming catastrophe for taxpayers and society."
He points out that we are exacerbating the problem by subsidizing it. I've always argued that one of the fixed rules of human nature is that you get more of what you subsidize,and we are going broke subsidizing the births of bastard children. This year, taxpayers will cough up $300 billion to provide welfare to single moms, with the average single mother getting three dollars back in benefits for every dollar she pays in taxes.
What lesson does she learn from this? Fornication pays.
As poorly educated as she is, the average poor single mother is apt to figure that the best way to increase her income is to have more illegitimate children by sticking out her hand to already overworked and overtaxed two-parent families.
Rector observes, "America is rapidly becoming a two-caste society, with marriage and education at the dividing line. Children born to married couples with a college education are mostly in the top half of the population; children born to single mothers with high-school degrees or less are mostly in the bottom half."
The surest antidote to poverty is marriage. Rector reminds us that if poor single mothers were actually married to the fathers of their children, two-thirds of them would be lifted out of poverty.
The rate at which bastard children were born in 1963, when Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty, was seven percent. Meanwhile, we continue to maintain actual marriage penalties in our tax code, including the newly hatched monstrosity of health care reform. So we subsidize illegitimacy and penalize marriage, and we wonder why things get worse rather than better.
And President Obama intends to zero out the one budget item devoted to strengthening marriage in low-income communities.
The place to begin? By reforming state and federal budgets so that we no longer subsidize immorality. It's time to communicate in policy and not just in words that in America, we expect you to save sex for marriage, to have children only within the marriage relationship, and that we will no longer force American taxpayers to fund the expenses of children they did not conceive and with whom they have no relationship and for whom they have no responsibility.
if you conceive children out of wedlock, we will expect you and your families to find a way to take care of the expenses involved in raising that child. In America, that child is your responsibility and no one else's. You may look for help to charities funded by private, voluntary, compassion-driven donations, but you may not look to government to force other Americans at gunpoint to take money out of their wallets and fork it over to you. We are no longer going to treat you as helpless little children; we are going to treat you as the responsible adults you can become. It's time to grow up.