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The real value of fathers

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

We ought to make Father's Day the most important American holiday.

And not just so retailers can put more neckties, power tools and golf clubs on sale.

The gift market is trivial alongside the more basic economic lifting power of Dad. There's no comparison with the weight he pulls for the total economy — when he's around.

His employment keeps most families out of poverty.

His children do better at school. They're also more apt to stay off drugs and out of prison. And to be gainfully employed — and married — when they in turn grow up.

How many billions all of this saves the taxpayers defies calculation. It might dwarf the national debt. In fact, maybe we've got such a nightmarish debt for the very reason that too many fathers aren't around. Government keeps trying to pick up after them.

In 1960, less than 10 percent of America's children were born out of wedlock. Today, it's more than 40 percent, and for African Americans, 70 percent.

How did a destructive trend like that ever get started? Where did the nonsense come from that kids don't need a father?

The statistics couldn't be clearer.

Single-parent families are nearly six times likelier to live in poverty than traditional two-parent homes. Imagine a room containing all the poor families with kids in America. Seventy-one out of 100 will be headed by an unmarried parent, usually a struggling Mom. Only 29 percent will have a Mr. and Mrs. in charge. Everybody in poor neighborhoods knows this. It's a secret only to intellectuals and bureaucrats.

Children without a father are five times likelier to commit a crime, President Obama has pointed out. And also that the fatherless child is nine times likelier to drop out of school, 20 times more apt to be in prison.

The average long-term lockup is filled with a huge population that never had a father, married, present and accounted for, helping to teach the next generation to behave — and likelier to grow into literate, employed, taxpaying citizens.

“I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home, not helping to raise that son or daughter,” Mr. Obama said in a graduation speech May 19 at Morehouse College, a traditionally black men's institution in Atlanta. Strangely, most news media missed or downplayed this theme.

Strangely, too, government policy and political correctness tend to sentimentalize and subsidize that modern icon, the “single Mom.” Yet solid economic data show the dollars-and-cents importance of her AWOL mate.

The government is speed-spending toward bankruptcy for schools, preschools, welfare and the criminal justice system, program after program to repair what fathers ought to be accomplishing in their homes, for free. Teachers unions, feminists, civic groups and the American Civil Liberties Union ought to be cheering get-married and stay-married Dads.

The family is the foundation stone of society. Yet America does “little or nothing to discourage unwed births and nothing to encourage and strengthen healthy marriages,” the Heritage Foundation has noted. “Most welfare programs actively penalize low-income couples who do marry.”

And with Father's Day coming, too.

Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist of Trib Total media. Email jmarkowitz@tribweb.com.

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