By Malcolm Baldwin
Who can disagree with the title to Dave LaRock’s September article in the Blue Ridge Journal – “Good Government Reinforces the Family”? But sadly he largely misunderstands what government has done and ought to do for such reinforcement. Many of his prescriptions would harm families while others would forestall any improvement in family conditions. His conclusions become more puzzling because he states, without any supporting data (as usual) that “poverty, social welfare programs, drug abuse and poor health are some of the many hardships” connected with family failures caused by government.
Of course poverty and unemployment strain every family they touch. Should we therefore do away with social welfare programs – unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and the Earned Income Tax Credit, subsidized housing, job training programs, drug treatment programs, Pell Grants for college students and free public school lunches (and breakfasts) – that clearly alleviate poverty and improve conditions for the children LaRock so clearly encourages us all to produce?
Dave LaRock would, we know, like to eliminate Obamacare, just as he has voted against its program to extend Medicaid to 400,000 Virginia citizens who are uninsured, despite available federal funding. How do families benefit from this denial of medical insurance? He ignores the fact that the Census Bureau reported in mid-September that the number of people without health insurance dropped last year by 8.8 million, to a total of 33 million, thanks to Obamacare. How can that not strengthen families and improve lives of children, adults and the elderly?
Good government strengthens families if it provides child care to hard-pressed mothers and fathers who must both work for a living. Public education helps those who cannot afford, as Mr. LaRock apparently can, to have one spouse stay at home to provide home schooling. School choice can be provided through charter and magnet schools, such as Loudoun’s Academy of Science. Good government would also provide full-day kindergarten and support birth control services that poor families seek who cannot afford a family of six or seven children, like Mr. LaRock’s. Good government should provide paid family and medical leave, but, as Senator Bernie Sanders noted when speaking to Liberty College students, the U.S. is “the only major country on Earth” that does not provide it.
The notion that families suffer from our immigration policies, as Mr. LaRock alleges, is ludicrous. Should we deport young children not born in America while their younger siblings can remain because they were born here? (Or does he adopt Donald Trump’s position that even American citizen children should be deported with their illegal immigrant parents?) Should we eliminate constitutionally guaranteed citizenship for those born here that has been a hallmark of America’s strength and diversity? Would he support the crazy notion that we spend billions, with incalculable damage to our labor force and economic output, to send back the 11 million undocumented aliens in this country? Does he understand that how much these immigrants pay in state and federal taxes? A number of studies find that immigrants pay between $90 and $140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes. According to Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, “Unauthorized workers are paying an estimated $13 billion a year in social security taxes and only getting around $1 billion back.” Moreover, unauthorized workers provide services to dairies, vineyards and others businesses that other Americans choose not to do.
Mr. LaRock also cites energy policies adversely affecting families! Presumably he is among the climate change deniers, or those who somehow ignore the fact that government programs to mandate increasing use of clean fuels that reduce pollution and discourage use of highly polluting protect the health of families, and children in particular. Requirements for ethanol in gasoline also support millions of farm families, and gasoline taxes pay for repairs to our increasingly decrepit roads and bridges.
Finally he offers the unsupported notion that, somehow, same-sex marriages harm all families. He, like others who espouse freedom and liberty would deny those values to others with whom he disagrees, without showing that their freedom diminishes his.
Government has, of course, always regulated marriage, for sound policy reasons (prohibiting polygamy or marrying one’s close relatives). That the Supreme Court has decreed that same sex marriage is a Constitutional right is a holding that Mr. LaRock chooses to ignore because he would impose upon all his narrow belief that this somehow will “undermine the traditional family.” Mr. LaRock’s family and those who believe as he does, will not suffer from others’ same-sex marriages, but countless children raised in loving homes with same-sex parents will benefit from family stability.
Good government works to promote equal opportunity in America that will give all individuals, and their families, the ability to maintain their health, to obtain an education, to find rewarding employment, to establish relationships of their choosing, and to express their religious and political views freely. With today’s growing wealth inequality, drug abuse, and an overcrowded prison system that all require attention, additional government efforts – with some reforms to improve effectiveness – are much needed. What we need in Richmond is a legislature that understands that.