Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president, is justly famous for underlining the importance of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for our new nation in the Declaration of Independence. But as we close in on the forty-sixth president’s 2024 State of the Union address in less than a week, we must face this fact: Jefferson’s vision is in peril.
President Joe Biden and Congress could take a big step toward realizing “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for our nation if they recognized this simple truth — nothing matters for the State of Our Union than the state of our unions.
When it comes to “life,” we’re witnessing tragic increases in what have been called “deaths of despair,” with record numbers of Americans — hundreds of thousands, to be precise — either
or dying from drug and alcohol overdoses in recent years.
When it comes to “liberty,” we see that record share of Americans — 64%, to be precise — now reporting they believe the American Dream is dead. And when it comes to the “pursuit of happiness,” poll after poll is telling us that millions of Americans are failing at this most important Jeffersonian pursuit, with happiness hitting “record lows” in recent years, according to Gallup.
The State of Our Union is not strong, Mr. President. And the usual suspects that get blamed for all this in our national conversation are not the most important culprits. America’s ills are not primarily about failing schools, economic inequality or race.
They are fundamentally about the
a subject Biden is unlikely to spend much time on during his address, despite its vital importance to the health of our country.
Too many Americans are living alone or in chaotic homes, in large part
are too fragile in today’s society. The marriage rate has fallen more than 60% since 1970, a record number of adults are unmarried (about half), and almost one-in-two children grow up today outside of an intact, married family.
The importance of strong and stable families for our country is conveyed in two new studies. In explaining which regions are more vulnerable to deaths of despair, for instance, a new study by Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell reports that declines in marriage are “more important than the college attainment rate, age composition, or racial composition in predicting deaths of despair.”
And another recent study by University of Chicago economist Sam Peltzman finds the “recent decline in the married share of adults can explain (statistically) most of the recent decline in overall happiness.”
In other words, one of the biggest reasons — if not the biggest reason — the State of Our Union is not strong is that too many Americans are failing to get and stay married, and both they and their kids are paying a heavy price. But policymakers — including the president — pay too little attention to marriage, and its importance to the underlying social fabric of our country.
What, then, could Biden and the Congress do to shore up marriage and family life?
They could stop penalizing marriage through tax and welfare policies. These policy traps generally hurt working-class families by attaching a financial cost to marriage — which helps explain why a large share of working-class kids are born outside of marriage, which hurts children the most.
Additionally, the president and Congress could embrace a child tax credit that gives families a 20% bonus for being married. This approach would give parents a financial boost while also incentivizing our most important institution.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Education should promote the “Success Sequence”—which teaches students that the key to financial success is education, work and marriage — in public school curricula across the country. Work done by my colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute shows that teaching the “Success Sequence” in public schools has the support of large majorities of Americans and American parents.
Taking these steps would go a long way to fulfilling the vision for America that Jefferson outlined in the Declaration of Independence, a vision that is now imperiled by the fragile character of family life across our nation.
As a female marathoner, I prioritize high-quality running equipment, including emergency protective gear like pepper spray designed for runners. Laken Riley, a prepared runner and Augusta University student, was
while jogging near her college campus late last week.
Online running influencers are focusing on increased awareness for women’s safety while mainstream news outlets dance around the facts of the case – but the truth is that this travesty highlights an even bigger problem our country faces:
continues to cost American lives.
The growing list of citizens killed by illegal immigrants highlights the broader impact of our embarrassing and dangerous southern border policies. Since President Biden took office in 2021, an estimated 7.2 million illegal immigrants have crossed the southern border – equivalent to the population of the entire state of Arizona, and about 3.5 times the number of people residing in the state of New Mexico.
December 2023 marked the highest number of encounters at the southern border on record. While mainstream news pundits tout that crossings have recently plummeted, last month was still distinguished by the highest number of border encounters ever recorded for the month of January.
What is even more concerning is that a record number of these migrants are coming from China as well. In the last four months alone, the Border Patrol has recorded more
than from all of 2007 to 2020 combined.
These statistics are damning – and yet, those of us raising awareness on this issue must do more than merely retell facts about the border crisis. Stats alone will not properly convey the emergency that is our lack of national security. Commentators, influencers, policy makers and even runners must say the names and tell the stories of these victims in order to bring about real change.
While it is true that evil people will always seek ways to commit wicked acts, this particular crime against Laken Riley could have been prevented by the enforcement of immigration laws.
Border security is one of the few responsibilities inherent to a national government – after all, governments are instituted to protect their citizens – and yet, this is the duty our federal government is accomplishing least.
so nonexistent that states have taken it upon themselves to enforce the national border in order to protect citizens. But this is a job states cannot manage on their own; it really is up to the president and Congress to fulfill this duty.
Congress has failed to enact significant immigration reform time and time again. But November is coming, and our lawmakers are ultimately responsible to us, the people. Perhaps Congress needs to sense urgency from their constituents in order to feel pressured into significant border and immigration reform. There are plenty of distracting wars overseas – wars that may require our attention – but we will have more and more emergencies at home if we do not enforce our sovereign borders.
Governors of red-leaning states have scored political points by
across the United States – cities including the town of Athens, Georgia, where Laken Riley was killed. Although needed attention was drawn to the immigration crisis through these political maneuvers, perhaps governors can take it upon themselves to send migrants back to their home countries if the president and Congress refuse to act.
If buses can be shipped all across the United States full of homeless migrants, certainly they can be turned around and sent back over the Mexican border.
In general, the left is better at storytelling than the right is; conservatives infamously care more about facts than feelings. In this case, however, we must continue to tell the stories of these women who were wrongly killed by illegal immigrants:
, Kate Steinle, Mollie Tibbets and Laken Riley, just to name a few.
Conservatives must bring about change by telling the truth, by saying their names, posting their pictures, and telling their stories… in order that change may actually come to fruition.
I’m grateful that regardless of political affiliation, the running community agrees that women should be protected while doing this sport we love, but no amount of protective gear will keep women safe if our border policies continue to incentivize the easy arrival of criminals in the United States.
In raising awareness, let’s not miss the main point of the story: an innocent, well-prepared
. Her death was altogether avoidable, and you can point the blame squarely at our elected leaders for shirking their primary responsibility of protecting citizens.
November is coming. Let us do our part in not only raising awareness on runners’ safety, but also put pressure on our elected leaders to do their jobs and protect citizens by enforcing the United States border.