Thank Ronald Reagan's Red America For Death of American Family Values

Finally, someone writes the truth about "family values", conservatives acting like they "own" the concept even though they hardly practice such values, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the greed, excess, and extremes of the Ronald Reagan era. From Harold Meyerson in WaPo, "Family Values Chutzpah" (a/k/a "The GOP's 'Family Values' Sham"):

l As conservatives tell the tale, the decline of the American family, the rise in divorce rates, the number of children born out of wedlock all can be traced to the pernicious influence of one decade in American history: the '60s.

The conservatives are right that one decade, at least in its metaphoric significance, can encapsulate the causes for the family's decline. But they've misidentified the decade. It's not the permissive '60s. It's the Reagan '80s.

In Saturday's Post, reporter Blaine Harden took a hard look at the erosion of what we have long taken to be the model American family -- married couples with children -- and discovered that while this decline hasn't really afflicted college-educated professionals, it is the curse of the working class. The percentage of households that are married couples with children has hit an all-time low (at least, the lowest since the Census Bureau started measuring such things): 23.7 percent. That's about half the level that marrieds-with-children constituted at the end of the Ozzie-and-Harriet '50s.

Now, I'm not a scholar of the sitcom, but I did watch "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" as a child, marveling that anything labeled "Adventures" could be so dull. And I don't recall a single episode in which the family had to do without because Ozzie had lost his job or missed taking David or Ricky to the doctor for fear he couldn't pay for it.

Which may explain why the Ozzie and Harriet family -- modified by feminism, since Harriet now holds down a job, too -- still rolls along within the upper-middle class but has become much harder to find in working-class America, where cohabitation without marriage has increasingly become the norm. Taking into account all households, married couples with children are twice as likely to be in the top 20 percent of incomes, Harden reported. Their incomes have increased 59 percent over the past 30 years, while households overall have experienced just a 44 percent increase.