The conservative “Family Values” charade is one of the biggest political scams in history. For three decades, mostly Republican lawmakers exploited the alleged threat of single moms and gays to distract the electorate from their greed-inspired pilfering of our financial system. In a classic bait and switch, these charlatans would point to the television character Murphy Brown or raise hackles about gay couples marrying, while dismantling key regulations and reforms that bolstered the middle class and made America strong.
I guess the “family values” scheme was a success in the sense that it is keeping families together for longer periods of time. For example, a record high 14-percent of Americans 25-34 are living with their parents.
While the richest Americans are partying like they are “Wolves on Wall Street,” basic survival for everyday people is becoming more difficult. For example, the New York Times reports that low income families that spend more than half their income on housing spend a third less on food, 50 percent less on clothing and 80 percent less on medical care compared with families with affordable rents.
Unfortunately, affordable rents in most major cities are disappearing. Half of all American renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, up from 38 percent in 2000, according to a Harvard study. Where I live in Chicago, rent as a percentage of income has risen to 31 percent, from an historical average of 21 percent.
It’s not just the hard data that is hitting the middle class, but the daily indignities and quality of life issues. Flying, for instance, used to be a relatively enjoyable experience. Then the airlines deregulated and merged, leaving passengers at the mercy of airlines with less competition, and less need to please customers. The result is steep charges for bags that used to be free, skimping with frequent flier programs, the elimination of meals, and in some cases beverages. In place of food, one gets a knee sandwich – which is what you taste when your knees are pressed up against your lips because the airlines keep shrinking the seat size – without shrinking the cost of a ticket.
The catastrophic economic legacy of conservatism has been largely achieved at the expense of America. Corporations are now people and median compensation for CEO’s in 2013 was $13.9 million, a nine percent increase from 2012.
How did this happen?
Beginning in the Reagan era, conservatives started getting elected in droves by promising to shove gays back in the closet, return illegal aliens to Mexico, control a woman’s reproductive options, and reinstate prayer in public schools. None of those nefarious goals has been fully realized.
Of course, the backward social agenda was never meant to come to fruition. It was always a ruse to persuade rubes to vote against the future of their own children. Not only are these suckers left with little more than economic dust from their former middle class lives, the misguided impulse to protect the family has backfired. A Pew Research study shows that 74 percent of the millennial generation remains unmarried. Even among those 25-34, only 44 percent were married in 2013, compared with 55 percent in 2000 and 66 percent in 1980. These young people are avoiding marriage primarily because they are strapped for cash and have no future prospects.
Meanwhile, stinking hypocrites keep falling face first out of the family values clown car. Conservative Congressman Vance McAllister, R-La was caught on surveillance video kissing a married female staffer who wasn’t his wife. This is the same phony that bowed to a gay bashing “Duck Dynasty” star to shore up his right wing credentials.
Similarly, former cocaine addicted strip joint manager turned preacher man, Bob Coy, resigned from 20,000-member Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale for a “moral failing.” The idea that people would rely on slippery politicians or preachers with sleazy histories to enforce moral standards always struck me as bizarre.
The fools in Middle American and the Old South voted Republican for moral reasons – but only enabled cunning businessmen to manipulate capitalism, rig the game, and saw off the economic ladder so upward mobility was available primarily to the wealthy and well-connected.
The word “conservative” begins with “con,” but the hoodwinked never seem to learn. In the latest polls, the GOP may retake the Senate and the Religious Right has rebranded itself the “Tea Party.” However, if we return to the failed Reagan/Bush policies, the party may be over for America.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”