In our opening show of the year, we talked about the central problem of American politics, which is that our leaders have lost sight of the point of being in charge. Their goal should be simple: strong American families. Anything that makes it harder to form strong families, they ought to be against. It’s not complicated.
Judging by the response we got, a lot of you agree. The piece resonated more than anything we’ve done in the last two years. In Washington, though, it wasn’t very popular. One writer at National Review suggested we were peddling something called, “victimhood populism.”
That’s missing the point. Populism is never the goal. It’s the symptom. Populism is what you get when you blow off the country’s problems for so long that voters feel they have to punish the people in charge to get their attention. Populism is a smoke alarm; ignore it and the place burns down.
On the left, meanwhile, the response was just as predictable. They screamed bigotry, which is what they always do when they don’t want to talk about something. In this case, they accused us of sexism. We dared to talk about the role of falling male wages in the destruction of the American family, and that’s not allowed.
OK. But let the record reflect we’re not the first ones to notice this phenomenon. There’s at least one well-known politician who thought deeply about this more than a decade ago, in fact, wrote an entire book on the subject. See if you can guess who that was.
Alright. Time’s up. It was Elizabeth Warren.
Back in 2003, Warren was still a Harvard professor. That year she published a book, written with her daughter, entitled, “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke.” The central thesis of the book was that the mass entry of mothers into the workforce has been a disaster for families, and most of all for women.
Mothers who work have to spend far more time away from their kids, which for many isn’t liberating so much as it’s deeply sad. Companies love it, of course, because more workers means cheaper labor. But middle-class families? They don’t seem happier or more secure than they were a generation ago. If anything, much less.
As Warren points out, you’d think families would be much richer with two parents working. That hasn’t happened. Virtually all of the income gains have been consumed in an arms race to maintain the status quo. Most things in American life are cheaper than they were 50 years ago, except for the things that middle-class families need most. These are all much more expensive: Health care, daycare, college tuition, housing in places with good public schools.
Buying these things now requires two incomes, rather than one. That puts a strain on families in which both parents work. It absolutely crushes single-parent households.
Warren puts it this way:
“A generation ago, a single breadwinner who worked diligently and spent carefully could assure his family a comfortable position in the middle class. But the frenzied bidding wars, fueled by families with two incomes, changed the game for single-income families as well, pushing them down the economic ladder. To keep Mom at home, the average single-income family must forfeit decent public schools and preschools, health insurance, and college degrees, leaving themselves and their children with a tenuous hold on their middle-class dreams. Such pressures have taken these women out of the home and away from their children and simultaneously made family life less, not more, financially secure. Today’s middle-class mother is trapped: She can't afford to work, and she can't afford not to.”
Elizabeth Warren can’t talk about the things she believed 10 years ago. No modern Democrat can. They can’t say that protecting and encouraging married, two-parent families ought to be the goal. That’s not their base anymore.
Just to restate, this is not a press release from the Mennonites, or a position paper from some Christian right think-tank. This was written fairly recently by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts -- the same one -- hero to the left.
Later in the book – and we read it -- Warren lays out the long-term consequences of an economic system that requires both parents to work: More families go broke. This increases the rate of domestic abuse, divorce, and broken homes. Some people simply decide not to have children at all.
Warren’s response to this is striking:
“Many view parenthood as nothing more than another ‘lifestyle choice,’ not so different from joining a commune or developing a passion for windsurfing, but it isn't true for society at large. What happens to a nation that rewards the childless and penalizes the parents? If middle-class men and women stop making that parental lifestyle choice, who will care for them in their old age? Who will pay taxes, build infrastructure, and keep the economy afloat? And most important, who will populate the great middle class of America's future?”
Again, and we can’t say this enough: Elizabeth Warren wrote that. Not in 1936, but in 2003. The modern era. We had jet planes and frozen yogurt. Elizabeth Warren said that out loud. Nobody seemed to mind.
She’d never say that today. It’s not allowed, like so much else that’s true and important.
We’d love to talk to Warren about her book anytime.
Obviously, she won’t come on. She can’t talk about the things she believed 10 years ago. No modern Democrat can. They can’t say that protecting and encouraging married, two-parent families ought to be the goal. That’s not their base anymore.
But we can talk about it, and we will. And we will celebrate Elizabeth Warren, and anyone else who will join us in that conversation. This is not a partisan issue. It’s all that matters.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on January 7, 2019.