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Linda & Richard Eyre: Solving America's problems at the roots

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

As consistent readers of this column know, we occasionally do an article on our friends Mitt and Ann Romney and do our best to tie those articles to the parenting and family focus of this column.

I (Richard) have been hoping to see a Romney in the White House for more than 40 years since I worked as the national student chairman for Mitt’s father, George. And we have known and loved Mitt and Ann for many years. So have our kids, who know their kids.

Because of our support and ties to the Romneys, we occasionally have a dream about how parent- and family-centric a Romney presidency might be. But this dream could apply to anyone in the White House.

So let’s dream for a moment. There are a lot of “what ifs” in the scenario that follows, but that’s what dreams are all about, right?

What if the person elected to the next presidency felt that our children were the key to our future as a country? What if he believed that children need, more than anything else, committed parents and strong families? What if he concluded that any problems that are allowed to spill out of the family become impossibly expensive to solve in our social services or welfare and juvenile justice departments? What if he decided that the best solution for social problems is stronger homes?

What if he decided that parents are this country’s largest and most important special interest group? And what if he concluded that the best way to think of government is as a support mechanism for families and parents?

What if the president reasoned that the preventive medicine of building stronger families is a much better course than trying to “cure” social ills after families fail and kids become problems within our society? What if he came firmly to the conclusion that the best thing a country can do to promote its own solvency and survival and to advance economic and societal well-being is to protect and strengthen traditional, functional, lasting families?

And what if he came to believe that there are actually quite a few things government can do — not to substitute for parents, but to support and acknowledge the contributions of parents and to back up and assist their parenting and ease their burdens in various ways?

Examples of how to do this are cropping up around the world.

Australia has adopted a policy of attaching a "family impact statement" to all proposed and pending legislation, forcing lawmakers to consider how various policies will affect families and households.

England has a kind of family ombudsman whose job it is to watch out for children’s and parents’ interests in policy discussions or decisions.

And other governments are beginning to recognize and acknowledge the enormous economic contribution of parents in raising a child as a productive and law-abiding member of society and accordingly are increasing the tax deduction and exemption for each child in a household.

Here in this country, pressure is mounting to abolish the "marriage tax," which causes married couples to have higher tax rates than two adults living as single individuals. And governments all over the world are trying — although not making as much progress as we would like — to find appropriate ways to protect children and families from a spectrum of dangers ranging from pornography and violence to health risks and excessive taxes.

But with all the well-intentioned "defensive" efforts aimed at protecting families in various ways, governments and public agencies are not doing much creative or proactive thinking about actual policies and methods to support parents in the increasingly difficult job of raising children.

The impact would be enormous if the president used his bully pulpit to recognize the importance of the contributions of parents and to encourage family-friendly policy at every level, even to the point of a cabinet-level office on parents and children. This might lead to an energized search for proactive policy ideas on how to keep families together and how to empower moms and dads as the decision-makers for their own children. Creative concepts on everything from school and health care choice to parent-involving juvenile justice systems and better adoption policies could emerge.

No matter who is elected president, the only way to save this country is one family at a time.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.ValuesParenting.com and read their books for free at www.EyresFreeBooks.com.

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