Everyone has an opinion about how to make America great again. Many people on both sides of the political spectrum seem to think that the way to solve America’s problems is to elect a president, any president, of their own party. In reality, if we want to make America great again, the movement must start at the bottom, not at the top. Making America great again will most likely require repentance and a spiritual revival.
Contrary to the beliefs of most people, the president’s power is limited. Presidents can issue Executive Orders, but we have seen how such decrees can be limited by the courts and Congress. Even in cooperation with Congress, the federal government can only nibble around the edges of one of the largest problems facing the United States, that of entitlements.
Entitlement spending is a ticking time bomb. Entitlements have been increasing since the New Deal era and now make up 65 percent of federal spending according to the National Priorities Project. Entitlements are mandatory spending that fall outside the normal appropriations process and include such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and veteran’s benefits.
In 2015, Social Security and federal health spending programs made up 60 percent of the federal budget. Military spending accounted for only 16 percent by comparison. The problem extends to state governments as well. Medicaid spending alone, much of it mandated by the federal government, makes up 30 percent of the budget of Texas and a fifth to a quarter of the budgets of many other states.
What does entitlement spending have to do with spiritual revival? Entitlement spending has exploded in past decades largely because of the decay of the American family. Unsurprisingly, charts showing the increase of entitlement spending match closely with charts showing the divorce rate and the rise of out-of-wedlock childbearing.
Children from single-parent families are more likely than children from intact families to live in poverty, abuse drugs or alcohol and drop out of school. In a vicious cycle, they are also more likely to have their own children outside of marriage.
Essentially, government safety net programs, although well-intentioned, made it more attractive for families to split. If the father failed to stick around, the family could get a check from their Uncle Sam.
Ironically, a 1996 Brookings Institution study also noted that the advent of birth control also increased the number of single-parent families. “Before the sexual revolution, women had less freedom, but men were expected to assume responsibility for their welfare,” the report said. “Today women are more free to choose, but men have afforded themselves the comparable option. ‘If she is not willing to have an abortion or use contraception,’ the man can reason, ‘why should I sacrifice myself to get married?’ By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.”
Birth control isn’t going away (and shouldn’t), but the growth of entitlements must be addressed. The federal budget deficit cannot be resolved without solving the problem of entitlements. The problem of entitlements cannot be resolved without a change in behavior.
The most likely way to change the behavior that feeds the entitlement beast is a return to Biblical principles. Even the liberal Brookings Institution realizes that the Bible’s teachings lead to a stable and prosperous life. They just don’t put it in those terms.
In 2013, Brookings published “Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class.” Rule one is to at least get a high school education (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Rule two is to get a full time job (Proverbs 12:11). Rule three is to wait until 21 to get married and have children… in that order (Psalm 127). Brookings is encouraging the Biblical values of wisdom, a good work ethic and intact families.
It isn’t the government’s place to force Americans to adopt Christian values, but, without implenting a state religion, it should encourage Biblical behaviors that are good for the country and stop encouraging destructive behavior. Barriers to matrimony such as the marriage tax penalty should be eliminated. Require counseling before divorce.
Ultimately, we shouldn’t look to Washington to make America great again. Making America great again will require Americans to become more self-sufficient and reject the endless cycle of entitlements that are busting budgets around the country. More promises of salvation from politicians are not the answer.
It’s up to us as Americans to take responsibility for our own lives. Learn a trade. Take a menial a job to get a better one later. Stand by your marriage and your children. Take your family to church. Teach them the secrets of life laid down 2,000 years ago. Break the cycle.