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Santorum: Fix the economy by incentivizing marriage

By Megan Carpentier
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 23:28 EDT
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At tonight’s Bloomberg/The Washington Post Republican Presidential Debate at Dartmouth College, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), unveiled part of his unique economic initiative: incentivizing marriage to help end poverty.

Speaking near the end of the debate, he told moderator Charlie Rose that “the biggest problem with poverty in America, and we don’t talk about here, because it’s an economic discussion — and that is the break down of the American family.”

Santorum continued: “You want to look at the poverty rate among families that have two — that have a husband and wife working in them? It’s 5 percent today. A family that’s headed by one person? It’s 30 percent today. We need to do something, and we need to talk about economics. The home — the word ‘home’ in Greek is the basis of the word ‘economy.’ It is the foundation of our country. We need to have a policy that supports families, that encourages marriage, that has fathers take responsibility for their children. You can’t have limited government — you can’t have a wealthy society if the family breaks down, that basic unit of society. And that needs to be included in this economic discussion.”

In an interview after the debates with Raw Story, Santorum expanded on his thesis. “On the legislative side, you have to make sure that families that are raising children are not unduly penalized for having children,” and cited the fact that the child deduction hasn’t kept pace with inflation since the fifties, meaning “the tax burden on middle income families has grown and grown and grown.”

But, Santorum cited as another example the Chattanooga First Things First program, which was a collaborative effort to encourage more people to get and stay married. Santorum said, “what they did was get educators together, churches together, government together, community and business leaders together and they put together a plan to help families, to educate through the school system the importance of marriage, not just from the standpoint of interpersonal relationships but economically, the importance of it.” That, Santorum added, “is what a leader can do.”

The Chattanooga program does not advocate for more sex education or low-cost birth control, despite having had one of the highest rates of unwed mothers in the country, according to Santorum.

Santorum added, “How many of us have had a conversation at the kitchen table in the last two or three weeks about class warfare, about the rich versus the poor? Why? Because the President’s talking about it. Now what do you think if the President actually talks about the importance of marriage, not just from the standpoint of men and women coming together, but from the standpoint of how it’s going to help the economy? And we actually put together ideas and programs to try to foster this whole different way of looking at America?”

He concluded: “Economy … starts at the home, starts at the family, it’s the first economy and if that economy breaks down, the overall economy can’t succeed.”

Santorum has long been active in efforts to champion government programs to incentivize marriage (and a booster of the Chattanooga initiative).

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), also present at the debate, responded to Santorum’s plan. “Women are disproportionately impacted by the downturn in the economy and we need to make sure that politics that focus on creating jobs now are directed to make sure that jobs primarily done by women have as much effort put into them as jobs that are done by men,” adding that the focus of government efforts should be on “getting men and women back to work.”

[Image via IowaPolitics.com, Creative Commons Licensed]

Megan Carpentier
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
 
 
 
 
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