Right-wing christianist Katherine Kersten asks – in what is regarded as the ‘liberal’ paper in the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune – “What on Earth is happening to marriage?“:
The growing “marriage gap” is one of our nation’s most important and troubling trends. For Americans with college degrees (30 percent of the population), marriage — our bedrock social institution — is stable and getting stronger. But for the moderately educated (the 58 percent with a high school but not a college diploma), it’s in precipitous decline. In fact, the family life of America’s once-great middle class is quickly becoming almost as fragile as that of our poorest citizens — the 12 percent who are high school dropouts.
The disturbing details are in a new study — “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America” — by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values. The conclusion is stark: “The United States is devolving into a separate-and-unequal family regime, where the highly educated and affluent enjoy strong and stable households and everyone else is consigned to increasingly unstable, unhappy, and unworkable ones.”
Its all because of attitudes toward marriage – and apparently nothing at all to do with three decades of Reganistic economic policy – as subsequently modified by even greedier neo-cons – that has resulted in the vast majority of that “everyone else” either unemployed because their jobs were exported to Mexico, India or China or, if they’re lucky enough to still have a job, with a job wherein they have no health insurance but do know that their wages have, in real dollars, decreased since 1980 while the morally-idle executives for whom they work now make between 500 and 1000 times what they make for legitimate, productive labor.
In the past, our society adhered to the “institutional” model of marriage. This model seeks to “integrate sex, parenthood, economic cooperation, and emotional intimacy” into the sort of “good-enough” marriage that our grandparents expected — and which most of us can still attain. Today, however, that model is being displaced by a yuppie-style “soul mate” model, which sees marriage primarily as a “couple-centered vehicle for personal growth, emotional intimacy, and shared consumption that depends for its survival” on happiness and constant self-fulfillment.
Many college-educated Americans are well-equipped to achieve a soul-mate-type marriage. They generally plan their lives using what the report calls the “success sequence:” a focus first on education and work, then on marriage, followed by child-bearing. This requires developing such virtues as delay of gratification and hard work. It also minimizes such stresses as out-of-wedlock birth, and maximizes financial resources that can be used for self-fulfillment.
It also helps to have the virtue of rich – or at the very least employed – mummies and daddies (and I will freely admit that I benefited from the latter.)
Oh, but the stupid keeps on comin’:
But a “soul mate” marriage is beyond the reach of a growing number of moderately educated and poor adults. Today, these Americans tend to have more sexual partners, substance abuse, infidelity and unplanned pregnancies than do their college-educated peers, according to the report. Men in particular tend to embrace a “live-for-the-moment” ethic, and to have “long periods of idleness.” This is hardly a recipe for marital success.
Moderately educated Americans are also disengaging from institutions of work and civil society to a much greater degree than are those with college degrees.
To bastardize The Gipper: They haven’t disengaged from work, work disengaged from them (and from America.)
The marriage gap is bad news for all. Young people without married parents are at risk for a host of social pathologies. Single mothers are more likely to live in poverty, while single men risk detachment from their children and from what the report calls the “civilizing power” of marriage.
Naturally, Kersten’s quote-friendly Leave-it-to-Beaver-fest did not mention Teh Gay at all – at least explicitly. Yet we all know who she’s actually targeting with that.
FYI – for those not familiar with Kersten, here’s what she was writing about in the Strib ten years ago today:
Why have Minnesota’s Legislature and courts granted such individuals legal legitimacy, and handed them an arsenal of weapons in the MHRA?
Surely, it is appropriate for government to address issues of egregious unfairness in our society. But the elevation of Goins’ complaints about bathroom access to a violation of “human rights” demonstrates that Minnesota’s public institutions have lost their moorings in common sense. Our state seems determined to create ever-new classes of certified victims, all jostling to trump each other with endless streams of grievances. Have our Legislature and courts lost all confidence in average citizens’ ability to settle even trivial disputes without the guidance of the state’s heavy hand?
Who pays the cost of this silliness? For starters, companies trying to do business here in Minnesota. Today, if they ask a transgendered worker not to use the women’s restroom, they may get taken to the cleaners for sexual orientation discrimination. But if they adopt an “open door” policy, female employees may nail them on hostile environment or invasion of privacy claims.
No wonder that, on some days, South Dakota looks pretty good.
There, in an ever so fair and balanced way, she was writing about the Goins v. West Group case, in which Juli Goins had then recently prevailed at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
A fact-free (and legisiative history-free) Minnesota Supreme Court would undo that victory a year later. I wonder how many employers actually brought jobs to Minnesota as a result of that court’s evisceration of the trans clause of the Minnesota Human Rights Act?
Sadly, its probably a lot fewer than the number of people who will be fooled by Kersten’s syrupy right-wing marriage molasses of today.