The Right Opinion

Obama Needs a Family Plan

By Jonah Goldberg · Nov. 21, 2012

President Obama has several stated ambitions for his presidency. He wants it to be “transformative.” He wants to unite Americans of all parties. He wants to build an economy from the middle class out (whatever that means), and he wants to help what you might call the domestic refugees of America's economic transformation.

Given the principled disagreements dividing left and right in America, it's hard to see how he can accomplish these goals when it comes to conventional economic policy.

But there is one area where Obama could be transformative and bipartisan while helping both the middle class and the poor. He could show some leadership on the state of the black family, and the American family in general.

The thought came to me when a friend pointed me to a column by the Washington Post's Courtland Milloy about how blacks are fleeing baseball at an alarming rate. Today, only 8 percent of the baseball players are black. In 1959, black participation was more than twice as high at 17 percent. In 1975, the high-water mark, the rate was 27 percent.

The reasons for the decline are many and controversial, but one cited by Milloy is that baseball is a game taught by fathers, while basketball and football are more often taught by peers in pickup games.

Gerald Hall Jr., the director of a youth baseball program in Washington, D.C., told Milloy: “If you did a survey, I believe you'd find that the one thing average and above-average players have in common is a father. Baseball is, at heart, a father-and-son sport. And if you're a kid that has nobody to throw to, nobody to talk to, nobody to discipline you in the way that baseball demands, you're not likely to play the game.”

This struck me as more poignant than the usual bleak statistics about the black family. And they are bleak. About 70 percent of black kids are born out of wedlock. The out-of-wedlock birthrate for whites (29 percent) is now higher than what it was for blacks (24 percent) when Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his (in)famous 1965 report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”

Although it's certainly true that the kids of some single parents can do very well, particularly if those solo parents have the financial or social resources to carry the load (just look at Obama's own childhood), it is also the case that as a generalization, kids from single-parent homes do worse. In other words, it may be better to have one good parent than two bad parents, but it's indisputably better to have two good parents.

Put aside the arguments about traditional “family values.” The simple fact is that two parents who wait to have kids will have more time and money to invest in their kids, and the kids will benefit as a result. Single moms with two jobs don't have time to play catch with, or teach the infield fly rule to, their kids.

The decline of marriage among low- and middle-income Americans is a crisis afflicting all ethnicities. But among prosperous whites, marriage is doing pretty well. And the evidence has steadily mounted that marriage is a big source of that prosperity.

Fewer than 1 in 10 births to college-educated women happen outside of wedlock, according to the group Child Trends, while for women with high school degrees or less, the number is close to 6 out of 10.

As Richard Ralph Banks demonstrates in “Is Marriage for White People?,” the same cannot be said of blacks. Contrary to widespread perceptions, marriage is not all that popular among middle- and upper-class blacks either. Black women, Banks reports, long for traditional family structures, but black men – even college-educated black men – for a variety of complex reasons are more ambivalent about it.

As Moynihan learned, speaking honestly about the state of the black family is politically explosive, even when done with the best of intentions. But if there is one person in America with the moral and political standing to have a transformative and beneficial impact on that conversation, it's Barack Obama, a dedicated father and the most successful black man in American history. Nixon went to China. Maybe Obama can go to black America for something more than votes every four years.

© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Capt. Call in New Mexico said:

Oh, puh-leeze! Obama a dedicated father?? Right. I own a bridge in
San Francisco, and it is up for sale, too! A dedicated father would not teach his daughters that it would be perfectly acceptable to murder their unborn siblings! A dedicated father would not approve of living beyond one's means, and continually increasing the family (national) debt.
The most successful black man in American history?? Hardly. Yes, Obama was awarded the Presidency, but not due to his own intelligence or efforts. George Washington Carver was far more successful than the Kenyan imposter Obama.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 12:39 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Upward mobility is one of Black Americas best hopes for self-improvement. Too bad our Divider-in-Chief, desires to punish wealth-that, my friends-crushes upward mobility!!! Karl Marx was wrong!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 5:35 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

I won't hold my breath waiting for this fantasy to come to pass. The sheeple on the dole, of all races, are what keep the marxists in power. If anything, Obamao will do all in his power to keep increasing the welfare state. He probably gives his own daughters contraceptives, Sandra Fluke is a role model.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 10:11 AM

Jeremy in CA said:

Dream on. The dependency created by out of wedlock births is a boon to the Democrats. Why would they want to kill the goose that laid that golden egg?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Jon Wardlow in Port Orchard WA said:

"He wants to build an economy from the middle class out (whatever that means)"

He wants to take from the rich as defined by him and any 'enemies of the State' with wealth that don't agree with his agenda at every turn so they devolve to middle class = stolen wealth redistributed to the lower caste to bring them up to middle class. (It is only fair, right?)

Many disagree about the problem with wealth in this nation. Too many taxes, too much regulation, EPA, printing money out of thin air, etc. for which I don't have time to regurgitate it all here = Democratic party solutions do not work - continue not to work - will never work.

Stop redistributing wealth already and make it good for businesses here with a sprinkle of bad for businesses that take wealth and jobs outside our borders and illegal workers onto our soil = Reagan-era wealth for all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Does anyone thnk that even if Odumbo came out and said it was a bad thing to have children out of wedlock it would make a difference? I would say, hell no, when families have made it a way of life they aren't going to give it up even if their Messiah says so. Why should they take responsibility for their actions when they know the "guvmint", ie, taxpayers, will continue to subsidize their lifestyles. That goes for any race, white, black, asian, or hispanic that lives off the hard work of others. Their all parasites feeding off the host.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Torp44 in Ione, Wa. said:

"Maybe Obama can go to black America for something more than votes every four years"..........I'd like to see him go all the way back to the blacks in Kenya...he won't need any votes there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 9:17 PM