By Alan W. Cohen
During his campaign, Donald Trump was about one thing: Jobs. Without much help from Congress, he is doing everything he can to support business investment in America to stimulate job creation. But the President is up against more than fifty years of failed government policies that have all but destroyed the incentive of those seeking to fill those jobs. He is up against fifty years of destruction of what was once called the Protestant Worth Ethic.
Donald Trump is seeing the world through his era, when couples married young and stayed together for life, when there was little divorce, and an unwanted pregnancy was a community-wide shame. This was the time when young men saw their place in society based on their chosen career. Their purpose was clear. Succeed to attract the best of of spouses, and to create a good life for himself and his family. Young men entered high school in search of both. Some, not all, went to college if that dream required a higher education. Others chose a different path, to create, or, perhaps, just to work and survive, without a family.
Those days are long over. Young men entering college today are less likely to see their future because they see college as an extension of high school, one where they are freer to play and party and chase girls, many who are more willing than ever to participate without any promise of a future. The statistics are daunting. According to Nicholas Eberstadt, in his recent book, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis, there is a smaller percentage of working age men in the workforce than at any time since the Great Depression, and the trend is continuing on a downward spiral. That explains why home ownership rates are also falling and are at the lowest rate since the Great Depression. Marriage rates continue to fall to their lowest ever. The same can be said for the average length of marriage. Meanwhile the rate of children born outside of marriage continues to climb to upwards of 40 percent, more than 72 percent in the African American community.
As I said in my 2015 book, America Solved: A New Family for the 21st Century, the blame for this disaster falls squarely on the federal government and its insidiously stupid child support policies, policies that are more racist than Jim Crow, and more destructive to the African American community than the Ku Klux Klan. In America Solved, I explain how Lyndon Johnson sought to control the African American vote, and how Johnson ignored the findings of the 1965 Moynihan Report that called for a complete reversal of a Kennedy administration policy that not only legislated single-parent families, but required the evicted husbands to pay back to the federal government the sum it was paying as a condition of his eviction. To summarize, the report said: Poor children have poor fathers and, unless immediately changed, would cause irreversible damage.to the African American family. Yet, as I explain in America Solved, those policies remain in place, and those grim statistics are a natural and logical consequence of Johnson’s policy, one that has expanded to a complete federal takeover of family law in America. Incredibly, federal policy is to incarcerate those that fail to pay the sum as determined by the state government agency or court at a cost that far exceeds their debt, even though more than 70 percent of all child support arrears is owed not to the mother, but the federal government, and 90 percent is owed by men earning less than $10,000 a year. It’s insanity on steroids.
So, the bottom line for President Donald Trump is to do three things that he alone can do from the Oval Office without a Congress that has been hell-bent for more than fifty years to continue its socialist expansion:
- End Mass Incarceration: Send a message to those men, especially those in poverty and those in the African American community that you hear their cries by issuing pardons to anyone who was ever convicted of criminal nonsupport, and by stopping the funding of federal paid jailing of those convicted. America was supposed to have banned debtor’s prisons at the turn of the 19th Century, but recreated them with the ill-fated 1996 Welfare Reform Bill.
- Stop Collection of Government Owed Debt for Back Child Support. As I explain in America Solved: A New Family for the 21st Century, federal law does not permit this debt (unlike back taxes) to be discounted, or in any way forgiven, despite the fact that 90 percent of those who owe it are the same chronically poor that the Welfare program was supposed to help. While President Trump is forbidden from forgiving the debt, a hiatus on all collection efforts will create a momentum that future presidents will have to continue. As well, it will shine a light on this incredibly stupid and racist policy.
- Push Male Contraceptives: Only Congress can reverse the illogical belief that men have any control over procreation, and thus should be punished for creating children they cannot support. Condoms are insufficient and the CDC claims only a 5 in 6 success rate. Big Pharma is reluctant to invest in new, inexpensive methods for both the Male Pill, and especially an inoculation procedure created by a doctor in India that would physically block sperm from being ejaculated with the remainder of the semen, a procedure that could be reversed with a similar inoculation. By forcing these medical procedures and drugs into the open market, and even pushing its distribution, President Trump would be telling these young men that they can live their lives without the fear that their success will be punished. Current child support policies are outdated, and, as I explain in my 2017 book, Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce, unconstitutional. Those policies assume that people will continue to earn more as they get older, and project that higher income on any person who is not presently earning that amount, despite the fact that, if that assumption were ever true, it hasn’t been for at least a generation. As a result, men are saying to America in the most passive aggressive way possible: Why bother? Better to hang around their parents’ house, play video games and get high.
If President Trump wants young men in America to sign on to his program, they must have the idea that he has their back, that he understands their plight. But mostly he must create the incentive for success that is sorely missing in our great nation. They must be free to find their purpose in life, and free to pursue their happiness. Mostly, however, they need to know that the hard work will be worth it. While you cannot reverse fifty years of bad policy overnight, these three measures will be a start. Congress has been asleep at the wheel or headed in the wrong direction, showing no signs of a course correction. That leaves it up to one man. Good luck Mr. President.
Alan W. Cohen is a retired attorney, blogger and author.