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July 7, 2011

Column #1,558

A Nation Adrift

By Mike McManus

            Usually, the Fourth of July is a happy holiday for me.  This year, however, I felt a sense of foreboding – a profound unease with the drift of our culture.  Nothing is going right.

            Both Democrats and Republican seem to be playing chicken over America’s debt and deficit crisis.  Republicans only want to cut spending, while Democrats want to raise taxes. The President has entered the battle belatedly.

            The economy is limping along at a stunning 9.1% unemployment rate.  Why?  Two reasons: Our economy has almost stopped producing goods for sale. We imported $561 billion more goods than we exported, while China had a surplus of $272 billion, Japan, $166 billion, and Germany $162 billion. Even Norway had a $60 billion surplus.

Second,  there are 76.6 million Baby Boomers who are trying to downsize by selling their big homes and retire.  But they only had 49 million kids who can’t possibly buy that many homes.  So housing values plummet, and housing construction has almost disappeared.

            Baby Boomers were selfish, aborting a million of their own children a year, because they wanted a more comfortable lifestyle that fewer kids offered.

            Consequence: There are three workers for every retiree today, but in 15 years the ratio will be 2.3 to one. Inevitably, they will have to work more years, retiring at age 69 or 70.

            Baby Boomers also gave us the Sexual Revolution, which rationalized promiscuity.  This is what lies behind some of the worst trends in our culture.

            Cohabitation has soared 17-fold, from 430,000 in 1960 to 7.5 million last year.  Young people think they can “test the relationship” by living together.  That’s one of the myths my wife and I wrote about in our book, “Living Together: Myths, Risks and Answers.” In fact, of the 7.5 million only 1.4 million married last year. So four out of five cohabitants broke up in an often painful premarital divorce.  Further, cohabitants who marry are 61% more likely to divorce. Thus, cohabitation is actually a step away from marriage.

            Yet neither parents nor churches warn young adults about the dangers of cohabitation.

            Result: the marriage rate has plunged. In 1990 there were 2.4 million marriages in America but less than 2.1 million in 2009. Meanwhile, the nation’s population jumped by  60 million. If population is considered, there has been a 31% drop in the marriage rate in only 19 years.

            Census reported recently that 30% of American adults have never married, and only 48% of adults are married today, down from 78% in 1950.

Fully 41% of births are now to unwed mothers.  In Japan, it is only 2%. Our divorce rate is triple that of Britain or France, with 23% of American divorcing in five years vs. only 8% of the British or French and 10% in Canada. Yet we consider ourselves a Christian country.

            What can be done about these serious problems?

Each of us have a sphere of influence.  We must move out of our comfort zone, and urge others to consider steps that could change these trends. 

            Remember that is what the founders of America did. 

            First, they set high goals.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

            Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration, was a slave owner, yet those immortal words ultimately did inspire an end to slavery and gave women the vote.

            Yet from a British point of view, the Declaration was treasonous. Therefore, the patriots “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

            One month later, nearly 400 British ships arrived in New York with 32,000 “well-armed, well-equipped, trained force more numerous than the entire population of New York or even Philadelphia with a population of 30,000,” writes David McCullough in “1776.”

            Americans today face no such risks. Therefore consider four steps that could change these trends.

            First, urge your pastor to preach on the dangers of promiscuity and cohabitation, and the need to strengthen marriages in your church.

            Second, if you are a parent, organize your PTA to confront public school officials about these issues.  Two-thirds of high school kids think cohabitation makes sense.

            Third, if you are in business, help your employer consider products or services that might be produced by Americans.

            Fourth, encourage your children or grandchildren to live abroad to experience another culture and get perspective on our own.

            All of us must become patriots.

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