An Anti-Family Candidate

Rick Santorum is not your average 2012 Republican presidential candidate. In journalist Michael Gerson’s words, “He talks not only of the rights of the individual but also of the health of social institutions, particularly the family.” In a field of candidates who want government out of our lives as much as possible, Santorum alone speaks positively of how he wants to utilize government. For Santorum, who has framed himself as the pro-family candidate, government serves an important role in preserving families because, as he says, “Without strong families, we cannot have a strong and vibrant nation.”

But are Santorum’s policies really pro-family? Let’s take a look.

Santorum opposes same-sex marriage, going so far as to say he would consider all current same-sex marriages invalid if elected. The reason? Santorum says sodomy is “antithetical to a healthy, stable, and traditional family.”

Perhaps Santorum doesn’t understand the consequences of banning same-sex marriage. For all of the conservative doomsday warnings that same-sex marriage will undermine the traditional family, single-sex marriage soldiers onward in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont. False alarm?

Santorum says that “the future of…society” requires “children” and “monogamous relationships.” Apparently, he doesn’t realize that children and monogamous relationships are perfectly compatible with homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In fact, an estimated one quarter of all monogamous gay couples around the nation are raising more than 250,000 healthy, happy, and normal kids right now. How many more stable homosexual relationships, capable of providing a loving home to children who would otherwise lack one, would materialize if Americans allowed gays to seal their relationships with the bonds of marriage?

But Santorum’s opposition to homosexual behavior and marriage and his idea of their consequences were not born of a dispassionate review of the facts. His views flow, instead, from his devout Catholic faith. How do I know this? Well, I went to a Catholic high school myself, and I recognize the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality when I hear it. That’s why I can believe Santorum is being honest when he says, “I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who’s homosexual” and then immediately adds, “the question is, do you act on those [homosexual] orientations?”

Sounds a lot like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which affirms both that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” For Santorum and the Church, homosexuality is a difficult “trial” of the will, in which one must resist sinful temptation. So facts about same-sex marriage don’t really matter here to Santorum; it’s a matter of faith. Kids who need stable families be darned.

Santorum also supports tripling the child tax deduction to $3000. How does a man who spearheaded welfare reform in 1996, an attempt to break the cycle of dependency and poverty, think indiscriminately rewarding people for having children--including the poor, young, and unmarried--is a good way to promote healthy and stable families?

The child tax deduction’s intent to help ease the cost of caring for children and thereby strengthen families is admirable and makes it politically popular, but the method may be counterproductive for poorer Americans because it reduces the perceived cost of pregnancy, and a shaky financial situation is not a stable foundation for a strong family. Obviously the credit isn’t responsible for the structural decline of marriage in America, but it’s nonetheless irresponsible public policy to dangle $3000 as a reward for having a child in front of someone who makes less than $10,000 a year.

A better way to strengthen American families, without the side effect of making children seem less costly to those who aren’t ready for them, is to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal wage subsidy for the working poor. The EITC is one of the most effective weapons for combating poverty. Conservatives (other than those who support indiscriminately gutting discretionary spending) are happy because it is a powerful incentive to work--higher after-tax wages mean working becomes relatively more profitable than staying on the dole--and because, unlike the minimum wage, it doesn’t increase unemployment. Liberals are happy because the EITC lifts the stagnant wages of the working poor. And because it is aimed at workers instead of parents, it stabilizes the budgets of all members of the working poor without incentivizing irresponsible pregnancies.

Liberals are sometimes too quick to dismiss conservatives who praise the family unit. Santorum is right that families are “the fabric of our society.” But if we truly want stable relationships and healthy children, banning same-sex marriage and tripling the child tax credit are exactly the wrong way to go about it. Santorum can call himself a “champion of…families” all he wants, but it doesn’t make him one.

Wyatt Troia ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator in Winthrop House.

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