Other Voices: Marriage, job growth and governing from the middle

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Farm Forum

Marriage fading for people without college degrees

The University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project has released another disturbing report. It reiterates that marriage remains strong for college-educated couples — but it’s disintegrating in “Middle America,” the nearly 60 percent of the populace with only high school diplomas.

As the gulf between affluent Americans and the less-privileged keeps widening, vast numbers of high school graduates apparently can’t find careers solid enough to support secure families.

“Among that group, 44 percent of children are now born outside of marriage, up sharply from 13 percent in the 1980s,” the project said. This bodes ill because “children born or raised outside of marriage are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems — including drug use, depression, attempted suicide and dropping out of high school — compared to children in intact married families.”

The Institute for American Values, which helped write the report, said: “The retreat from marriage is both a cause and a consequence of increasing inequality in America.”

Dr. William Galston of the Brookings Institution added: “We believe marriage is a fundamental building block of American society, and marriage is in trouble. That is contributing to widening class divides . . . societies suffer when marriage falters.”

To boost wedlock among less-affluent high school graduates, the National Marriage Project report urges various efforts, such as more specialized job training, and “triple the child tax credit to shore up the economic foundations of family life in Middle America.”

Previously, the Project warned that fading wedlock among high school graduates may mean “that we will witness the emergence of a new society. For a substantial share of the United States, economic mobility will be out of reach, their children’s life chances will diminish, and large numbers of young men will live apart from the civilizing power of married life.”

— Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette

Government is an obstacle to job growth

The nation is in the midst of economic recovery which began more than three years ago. Financial markets have revived, home starts and prices are beginning to perk up, and business profits are growing.

One part of the economy isn’t faring very well, however, and it is the part that all politicians profess to care about the most: the middle class and those toward the bottom of the economic ladder. Job growth is anemic, with unemployment stuck at 7.9 percent. Wage growth is non-existent, and real median household incomes are falling.

Why has this recovery been so sluggish? For three years, interest rates have been artificially held at historical low levels. The federal government has spent billions in stimulus programs designed to recharge the economy. Why haven’t hiring and wage growth followed?

Many argue that the problem is with government policies that actually inhibit growth, instead of promoting it. With the national elections over, activist regulators are firmly entrenched in Washington for the next four years. The EPA and other agencies are expected to redouble their efforts to use the power of government, in the name of protecting the middle class.

As a result, business leaders are bracing for a slew of new rules and regulations that are designed to restrict, control or punish, rather than encourage expansion. Other headwinds include the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act, as the benefit of controlling costs is discredited. Competitive energy costs are vital to manufacturing, but government claims to embrace cheap energy are contradicted by actions that actually impede it.

Our economy is ready to grow at rates far faster than the past three years. To do it, businesses must adapt to today’s circumstances, and grow in spite of them.

But it sure would help if government was a motor, not an anchor.

— Grand Island (Neb.) Independent

Governing from middle best policy for nation

One only had to watch the contrast between Joe Biden and John Boehner during the recent State of the Union address to know that any lessons learned from the November election have been forgotten.

There was a grinning Vice President Biden leaping to his feet time and again at President Barack Obama’s scripted applause lines. And then there was a morose and moribund House Speaker Boehner looking as if he would rather be having a root canal — with no anesthetic.

In other words, nothing has changed since Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected and the House remained firmly in Republican hands. Any hope for compromise on much of anything has frittered away.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s Republican response to the president was so predictable it could have been written months ago.

Of course, we didn’t hear what we needed to hear from the president. There was no explanation of any plans for reducing the overwhelming federal debt that is dragging this country down and stalling economic recovery efforts. Maybe he has none. If he does, we ask that he kindly share them with the rest of us.

There are many serious issues facing this nation — immigration reform, security, a return to economic prosperity, health care, gun control — that it will take a coordinated effort from Republicans and Democrats alike. Sadly, with the Democrats, the party of “been there, done that” and the Republicans, the party of “not only no, but hell no,” that doesn’t appear likely.

As we have said many times in the past, this country runs best when governed from the middle.

We simply cannot continue along the same path that has led us to too many cliffs in recent years.

— Bryan-College Station (Texas) Eagle

U.S.-European free trade deal would be beneficial

It is good news that the United States and the European Union have confirmed that they are going to start formal talks about a new free-trade agreement. That President Barack Obama announced the move in his State of the Union address reflects a profound personal evolution on the issue. As a presidential candidate in 2008, he was a populist critic of free trade. But today, as he struggles to revive a sluggish economy while also cutting the U.S. deficit, he is a convert to its potential to open up markets and generate jobs. Recent assertions that the Obama administration wants Britain to stay in the EU — presumably to push the case for economic liberalization — suddenly make a lot of sense.

If the talks prove successful, then they might validate David Cameron’s strategy toward the EU. Critics say that his constant demands for reform threaten to isolate Britain. But his toughness also has the potential to compel Europe to liberalize in a way that benefits the entire EU and a the case for Britain staying in. Trade between the EU and the U.S. is worth an estimated 393 billion pounds annually and removing tariffs is predicted to generate an extra 115 billion pounds within five years for both sides. Although much of the talk is about the rise of China, America and Europe still generate more than half of the global economic output. If they can strengthen their market position by working together, rather than against each other, Cameron’s argument against EU protectionism will be demonstrated to be both economically and politically savvy.

Optimism must be cautious. The last round of world trade talks broke down when agreement could not be reached on agricultural import rules, and agriculture is likely to cause trouble in these discussions, too. But it is encouraging to see the U.S. and the EU understand that, in principle, free trade is a vital motor of growth.

— London Telegraph