This new American Experiment symposium grows out of a book of mine published just about a year ago, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation, which examined many of the problems and shortcomings resulting from very high rates of nonmarital births, very high rates of divorce, and routinely short-lived cohabiting relationships. One of the book’s central themes is how such family churning—more specifically, the extent to which it hurts great numbers of children—is leading, and can only lead, to stunted mobility and deeper class divisions in a nation that has never viewed itself in such splintered ways.
A reasonable reading of the following 34 brief essays in American Experiment’s newest symposium—What Governmental Services and Benefits Are You Personally Willing to Give Up?—suggests that more Americans than generally assumed may be seriously willing to sacrifice when it comes to major entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. In the interest of balancing the nation’s skewed books, the columns similarly suggest that more people than routinely thought may be willing to forgo various exemptions and other tax breaks, including near-sacred deductions on home mortgage payments.
In the current campaign season, as in all campaign seasons in this golden age of marketing, much attention is being paid to key demographic groups. By most measures American Jews do not really qualify as a key group. “Key,” however, can mean something else: key to understanding. And in this sense American Jews perhaps do qualify.