A Lot to Digest

A couple of months ago I suggested that maybe it wasn’t so smart for public officials to adopt a dependency agenda for grade schoolers; specifically, I suggested that maybe there should be a stigma surrounding free government school lunches, so that kids don’t get too comfortable accepting handouts from the public largesse.  Well, as it turns out, there is a way to turn kids away from school lunches in general; you just have to wait for the government to screw it up:

Since new federal nutrition standards began rolling out in 2012, fewer students are buying school lunches, even though enrollment is going up.

The Cox Washington Bureau reviewed U.S. Department of Agriculture documents and found thousands fewer students bought meals when stricter standards kicked in.

The rules, championed by first lady Michelle Obama and approved by congress [sic], require more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in lunches. Plus, the rules put limits on sodium, sugar, fat and calories.

“It’s a struggle to get kids to eat them and enjoy them,” said Dianne Pratt-Heavner, with the School Nutrition Association.

What a surprise: when you combine the nutritional busybodies of the federal government with the sub-par industrial food served at most public schools, many kids don’t want to eat the stuff. Actually, I’d much prefer that kids eat the food if they need it—free or otherwise—rather than go hungry in disgust over Michelle Obama’s new nutritional policies, but I guess if you’ve got the incompetent government with which we’ve been saddled, you don’t really get to choose.

Of course, while some folks are busy getting the hell off the school lunch train, others are trying to get on it—by any means necessary:

The Office of the State Comptroller issued a report this year that found “widespread fraud” in the National School Lunch Program throughout New Jersey school districts. The report found more than 100 people on public payrolls, or their family members, who allegedly lied about their income so their kids could eat for free.

The Garfield employees include the secretary to the superintendent, who listed her household income at $15,600 when it’s actually $67,065, the investigation found.

Oh, well, it’s just New Jersey—everything else is corrupt, so why not the school lunch program? Anyway, the punishments received by the wrongdoers in Garfield, New Jersey included “suspensions, a year-long pay freeze and restitution for the lunches and the district’s legal fees.” Two of the district employees resigned. Not a single one of them was fired for defrauding the taxpayers and the state government. You can opt out of eating crummy school lunches if you want, but you can’t so easily opt out of the fraudulent thieves and scam artists that make up America’s overlarge bureaucracy class. Would that it were so simple to say no to both crappy school lunches and the criminals that so often staff our public sector.

Moms Demand Gun-Grabbing Nonsense

At The Federalist today, you can find my latest piece: “Relax, Open Carry Won’t Get You Shot at Kroger.” If you haven’t been following the news: Moms Demand Action, a prominent anti-gun activist group, has been pushing Kroger to ban openly-carried weapons in its stores because, according to MDA founder Shannon Watts,

“When state laws don’t protect children and families…it’s up to businesses that depend heavily on female clientele to put policies in place that protect them on their private property.”

Well, great, except for one problem: there’s no evidence that Kroger’s gun policy has endangered anyone at all; Kroger’s open-carry policy has apparently harmed nobody at all. Shannon Watts has argued that Kroger should ban openly-carried weapons in its stores in order to effect a “sense of security;” Moms Demand Action, in other words, is opposed to firearms based purely on the aesthetics; they’re not concerned with facts or with hard evidence. Their motive is not to reduce gun injuries but to make people afraid of guns and swell the ranks of people who favor increased gun control laws. This is shallow anti-gun politics at its worst; the worst thing Kroger could do would be to give into these nasty little fearmongers.

Welcome Home, Obamacare

Today at Reason you can find my latest piece on the disastrous “healthcare” law known as Obamacare: “I Like My Insurance Plan and I Can Keep It—for About $1,740 More Per Year.” As I point out, both the Left and the Right are basically unserious about “reforming” health care; their proposals to repair the health care system look pretty much the same, and as a result we have to suffer under expensive, inconvenient, confusing laws like the Affordable Care Act. Due to Obamacare’s genius “minimal essential coverage” provisions,

My premium will be almost quadrupling, from $55 per month to just over $200 per month.

There are a few other options available to me. I could enroll in my employer’s coverage, but that, too, would cost me a little over $200 per month. I could seek insurance through one of the Obamacare exchanges, on which I would qualify for a tax subsidy for my plan, but—so far as I can tell in the dense, unworkable digital jungle of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) marketplaces—the cheapest plan I could find would jack my deductible up by an enormous $1,350.

No matter how you slice it, I’m paying more—either four times the premium, or nearly thirty percent more in deductible. I suppose I may spring for the stupid ACA plan, yet honestly, I really want no part of it: the last thing I want to be doing is accepting tax credits from the same slack-jawed idiots that caused my preferred plan to be cancelled in the first place.

Caroline and I are getting married in the summer; we’ve got a house to which we’d like to make some modest renovations over time; we’ve got a very sweet dog whose hobby is getting a urinary tract infection every couple of weeks or so; we’ve got charities to which we like to give on a regular basis; I’m a serial gardener and Carrie usually has about a million crafty projects going on at one time or another. In other words, we’ve got a whole host of things on which we have to spend money and many things on which we want to spend money; the last thing we want to worry about is some stupid overpriced insurance plan that we don’t want in the first place. Yet the Affordable Care Act makes us worry about it: by law we have to buy this shit, and pay for it, and anything else we had in mind has to take a back seat. Thanks, Obamacare!

The “Affordable” “Care” Act has been, and continues to be, an awful joke of a law: the only thing that keeps it from being truly funny is that it’s affecting real people who are sincerely unsure if they’re going to be able to afford progressivism’s latest vanity project. Obamacare’s price hikes are not mere abstractions, in other words—they’re real, and they’re already making life more difficult for people. And there’s no real hope of rescue coming from Republicans in Congress. As I write: “Both conservatives and liberals are avoiding useful and substantial reform efforts in favor of washed-out, middle-of-the-road policies that make every aspect of the healthcare system genuinely worse.” The future of American healthcare is grim.

While I once thought that Obamacare would be easy to repeal once its awfulness was revealed to the body politic, these days I’m not so sure:

One of the best ways to keep homeless people healthy, studies have found, is to give them somewhere to live—the so-called “housing first” model, which gets the homeless off the streets and saves hospitals money in caring for them.

That’s led many advocates for the homeless to wonder—if we’re spending so much money through Obamacare to expand health coverage for poor people, why not spend it to house some of them, too?

Sure, why not? Honestly, the problem per se isn’t that people want to help house the homeless—that’s great, and anyway that seems like a nobler and more practical application of tax dollars than using them to pay for overpriced insurance plans. The problem is that this wasn’t Obamacare’s original intention; its primary application was supposed to be to in helping people afford insurance, and I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning anything about homeless housing. In the space of a few short years, Obamacare is already being considered for a purpose it was never intended to do. That’s evidently the future of Obamacare: it’s expensive as hell, it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do, and it’s being used to funnel tax dollars to a job it was never meant to do in the first place. As I said, I’m not so sure this law can be repealed at this point; if it’s progressed to the “should-we-use-Obamacare-to-house-the-homeless” question, it’s probably out of our hands.

The Gay Marriage Draft

At Pocket Full of Liberty today, you can find my latest post: “Gay Marriage Gets Mandatory.” If you’ve been following the latest development in leftist gay politics, you’d know that progressives have moved quickly from legalizing gay marriage to forcing people to perform gay marriage ceremonies even if the officiants are opposed to homosexual unions. The Left is generally given to authoritarian politics, but it’s rather impressive how fast this new strain has developed. As I write today,

[A]s far as it applies to the government-based institution of marriage and its attendant benefits, I believe gay marriage should be on equal footing with traditional marriage; I have not yet been confronted with any compelling argument as to why the government should treat one civil contract any differently than other.

Religious marriage is a different matter altogether—which is why we have the First Amendment and its guarantee of religious liberty.

One fellow concurred:

As a gay married man, who is also a Christian and conservative/libertarian in most of my views, I could not agree more with your article. All I have ever wanted was the same “civil” right to marriage without discrimination and want nothing to do with forcing any religious organization, pastor, church, etc into performing or even acknowledging my marriage in any way. I also believe that a bakery, flower shop or photographer etc should be able to say their religious belief prohibits them from being contracted for services for any gay wedding. There are tons of providers who will be glad to earn the money and happy for the couple so why even waste a moment thinking about someone who doesn’t care to do so?

Gay marriage (civil) is fully in line with the concept of personal liberty and doesn’t need to be made into something it is not by either side.

This is as perfect a summation of classic American political thought as one is apt to find: religious freedom and individual autonomy, economic pluralism, a prudent conservatism when it comes to maters of “personal liberty.” This man has determined that his sexual orientation, and his marriage, are both matters that do not require the conscription of the general public: he has correctly decided that it is offensive to one’s freedom and one’s conscience to be roped into doing something to which one is morally opposed (and what bizarre kind of couple would want to involve such a person in their wedding, anyway?).

The Left, generally speaking, is not concerned with such matters: it only wishes to force everyone into first accepting and then participating in its own worldview. It is not pleasant to contemplate—and in any event we do not really have to contemplate it anymore, for it is already happening.

Sober Advice

Earlier this week, my friend Ashten Whited wrote about “the danger of politicizing alcohol to young women:” noting the predictable feminist outrage that occurs every time someone suggests that women should watch their alcohol intake to mitigate the chances of rape, Whited writes:

It is not up for debate that drinking to excess can be dangerous, both physiologically and in terms of the predatory attention it attracts. Issuing proclamations to young women that drinking with impunity is a form of empowerment is deeply irresponsible. This is not a political issue.

She’s right, it’s not a political issue—but tell that to Jessica Valenti:

In addition to just being ineffective – women get raped drunk and sober, in skirts and in sweatpants – warnings to avoid alcohol in order to avoid being raped send a clear message to women: you can never make a mistake, or any crime committed against you will be at least partially your fault.

This is just shockingly dense. First of all, yes, women can get raped whether they’re drunk or sober—but the relevant component to this debate is not whether women do get raped, but when and how they’re most likely to get raped. It is much easier for a rapist to take advantage of a drunk woman than it is for him to take advantage of a sober one; that this needs explaining is just remarkable. Put another way: drivers can get in car accidents whether or not they’re drunk or sober, yet we still discourage drinking and driving for the simple fact that it makes having a wreck much more likely.

Dim, too, is the notion that we cannot counsel women against the dangers of binge drinking for fear of sending the message that “any crime committed against [them] will be at least partially [their] fault.” Obviously, we do not want to blame a raped woman for the sick, psychopathic motivations that compelled her rapist to violate her—that would make no sense and it would be counterproductive—and yet I am aware of no other type of crime in which the agency of the victim is so often and so furiously discounted. If I left my door open all night, for example, I would still not deserve to be robbed by a passing cat burglar; and yet could anyone pretend that my getting robbed was not “at least partially my fault?” Would it wrong to advise me to take the added precaution of locking my door at night? Of course not. Normal, intelligent people take steps to mitigate certain risks in their lives; for women, it’s sensible to moderate your alcohol intake when you’re in public and around strangers. For Valenti to so stridently and childishly avoid this rational conclusion is not just ignorant—it’s irresponsible to the many women who look to her as an intelligent and authoritative public figure. Shame on her.

She Said Gun!

Yesterday I noted that many anti-gun zealots are driven by an uptight kind of prudishness: many folks, for some reason, just seem to be offended by guns. Take, for example, the reaction to Joni Ernst’s little speech from a few years ago; in 2012, at an NRA event, the Senate candidate remarked:

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere…But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

After waving some smelling salts under his nose and picking himself off of the floor, Steve Benen wrote at the MaddowBlog:

In the United States, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to the courts. In Joni Ernst’s world, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to guns.

Actually, no—there is no difference between “Joni Ernst’s world” and the United States, Ernst herself being a resident of this country (and a Senate candidate to boot). Obviously she was just throwing a little red meat to the NRA crowd—if she was serious about “defending herself” from a government that had “decide[d] her rights are no longer important,” she would have had ample reason to do so already. It’s obvious that Ernst is not campaigning for office in a government she hopes to overthrow. Still, even if we’re to assume that Ernst was speaking literally and not rhetorically, it’s probably safe to say that she’s not referring to a situation in which we merely “believe our rights are being violated:” even the most passionate right-wing whack-job militia types are known to exercise a little discretion when it comes to the whole topple-the-government thing. Guns are a last resort, not a first—something of which Ernst is doubtlessly aware.

Nevertheless, guns are a resort—for instances in which the government is too corrupt, too violent and too large to combat through “the courts,” which at that point are probably just puppet shows for the dictatorship anyway. Steve Benen appears to be hyperventilating at even the distant, fractional possibility of armed revolt— but of course that’s how the United States was founded in the first place, and the Declaration of Independence explicitly sanctions rebellion as a legitimate means of regime change. It’s really not that big of a deal, in other words, if some politician voices support for one of the foundational tenets of our country. Even the MaddowBlog can relax about it.

The New Puritanism

Anti-gun demonstrations are a fairly common occurrence in a country as saturated with guns as the United States—and yet sometimes the protests take a bizarre turn:

A Minnesota gun control activist sparks quite a Second Amendment and First Amendment rights debate after placing a large sign in her yard announcing to the world that her neighbor carried a gun — and she didn’t like it. Matthew Halleck, an Olmstead County resident, said keeping his two daughters safer is his primary concern, so he garnered a concealed carry permit to achieve his goal.

Kimberly Edson, Matthew Halleck’s neighbor, decided to alert the neighborhood that at least one resident possessed a concealed carry permit. “This man carries a loaded gun around your children every day,” her sign read. While some residents may have become alarmed by such an exercise of Second Amendment rights, others felt Halleck made the block a lot safer.

“Since we don’t have a way to stop him, we felt it was important to notify the neighborhood and the parents that there is an armed man in their presence. The first couple of days of school he had it very visible, we saw it and were quite concerned,” Kimberly Edson told ABC News 6. “He has a Second Amendment right to carry the gun, I have my First Amendment to say that I don’t like it,” she added.

Matthew Halleck is allegedly considering a libel lawsuit against Kimberly Edson, a suit that would almost certainly bear no fruit: it is not, after all, as if Edson has lied about Halleck. Nevertheless, Edson’s histrionic outburst is still remarkable to behold. Does she have any evidence that Halleck is violent, that he is a danger to children, or indeed that the average fellow carrying around a concealed weapon is a danger to children? I can’t imagine that she has any such proof that any of these suppositions are true; rather, she is simply angry that Halleck is doing something she doesn’t approve of, and she wants to publicly chastise him, and incite others to do the same.

I understand that there are people who do not “like” guns—who are not interested in using guns for self-defense, who do not appreciate their novel machinery, who don’t care about their indispensable roll in the history of the American Republic—and, assuredly, there’s nothing wrong with not taking an interest in firearms. Yet I am constantly struck by how prudish anti-gun zealots really are. When the topic of guns has come up in the past, I have observed many gun foes to visibly stiffen up, as if we had started discussing a genuinely disturbing and uncomfortable topic. Some time ago at dinner, my mom recounted a story in which a sleazy man was following her in his pickup truck while she walked her dog at night; I casually (and, truth be told, half-jokingly) suggested that it might have been useful to have been visibly carrying a revolver of which her quasi-stalker could have taken note. One of her left-leaning friends at the table immediately voiced her palpable disgust with the idea, claiming that it would have simply put my mother in more danger; when I tried to raise a friendly objection, she began shaking her head and saying, “Nope, nope, nope, nope.” It felt like the same response that a seventeenth-century Calvinist woman, say, might have put forward if sexually propositioned by a waggish ne’er-do-well scalawag: abject horror coupled with an affected denial that such a thing might even exist at all.

To be fair, sometimes guns can be scary, and the threat of guns can be real; though even then the situation can be complicated:

The day before her speech, university administrators received an e-mail warning that a shooting massacre would take place should Sarkeesian go ahead with her speech. “This will be the deadliest shooting in American history,” the message read, “and I’m giving you a chance to stop it.” The e-mail’s author signed with the name Marc Lepine, who, the Times explained, was “a person who killed 14 women in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989 before taking his own life.”

When administrators told Sarkeesian that Utah law explicitly forbade them from having the campus police stop people with guns from attending her talk, Sarkeesian had little choice but to cancel.

Now, it’s entirely likely that the threat was a fake one, issued by a sick, deranged prankster who was disgusted with Sarkeesian exercising her right to free speech. But just imagine for  a second that the threat was real, and a psycho gunman was planning to show up at the speech and open fire. Is it likely that he would be kept out of the event by “administrators” attempting to “stop people with guns from attending” the speech? Put another way, if a gunman wants to get into a public place, what’s to stop him—a gun-free zone? Hardly. Adam Lanza, after all, took his guns into the most gun-free zone of all—an elementary school—and he shot open a locked door to get there. You can’t keep these guys out, in other words, not if they’ve determined to get in. “Utah’s gun laws could not have been more precisely designed to compel the cancellation,” writes the author of this piece. Sorry, but that’s false. You can dislike guns and liberalized gun laws if you want, but you shouldn’t make things up to advance your cause; it’s unseemly, and you look like a fool.

A Revolution of Questionable Merit

The Freedom Socialist Party—a “revolutionary, socialist feminist organization, dedicated to the replacement of capitalist rule by a genuine workers’ democracy”—has drawn some excellent criticism for, on the one hand, advocating for a $20 per hour minimum wage and, on the other hand, offering a job in its ranks for only $13 per hour. Hey, even socialists have to acknowledge economic reality every once in a while—though Doug Barnes, the national secretary of the party, defended the rock-bottom wages from an ideological perspective:

“We’re practicing what we’re preaching in terms of continuing to fight for the minimum wage,” Barnes said, making his first public comment on the controversy. “But we can’t pay a lot more than $13.”

Maybe if they dialed up the revolutionary feminism a bit, they’d get more financial backing. Anyway, it’s pretty hilarious for a socialist organization to whine about being unable to afford a high minimum wage—as if that hasn’t been the capitalist argument all along. According to Barnes, however, raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour would actually allow the party to offer a higher-paying position:

“Our donor base would all be affected, and the low-wage workers who support us with $5 to $6 a month would be able to give more,” he said. “That would affect our ability to pay higher wages as well.”

This is just daffy. For starters, if the wage were raised to $20 per hour, then the Freedom Socialist Party’s budget would undoubtedly become tighter in the process; the party’s income theoretically might increase, but—assuming it pays any of its employees less than $20 per hour—its outlays would correspondingly rise as well. It is odd, though, that Barnes assumes that the party’s “donor base” would be automatically willing to donate more money to the cause: who’s to say that these “low-wage workers” might not have something better on which to spend their newfound wages than a political organization? Is the socialist argument for raising the minimum wage really, even in part, coming to: “Hey, it’ll increase socialist party contributions?”

At any rate, $20 an hour is a fairly outrageous wage hike, even for a political faction so economically illiterate as socialism: even the very liberal Paul Krugman claims that “setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems.” Depending on how much it pays its hourly employees, establishing such a high minimum wage might very well cause the Freedom Socialist Party to scrap many of its paid positions and start offering unpaid internships or volunteer opportunities in their place. If that happens, you can be assured they’ll find a way to blame “capitalism” for the results of their own ignorant politics.

Speaking of dimwitted statists, a “progressive socialist” in Michigan went on a recent rampage at Oakland University; his targets were libertarians, and his weapon of choice was rather surprising:

“I just came from Texas, I have Ebola, and now I’m going to give it to you,” Mitchell can be heard saying…

According to witnesses, Mitchell licked his hand and tried to wipe his saliva off on the students.

Mitchell called the students “fascists” and blamed their political beliefs for the spread of Ebola.

“Without a public health system, we are going to have the spread of Ebola,” Mitchell told them. “Libertarians don’t want a public health system so you’re a fascist.”

I don’t think the young man knows quite what fascism is. Anyway, it’s worth noting that, at least in his weird fantasy scenario, it’s Mitchell, the self-described “socialist,” who was responsible for transmitting Ebola: the small-government libertarians were innocent victims, and the big-government lunatic was the one who was spreading disease and chaos. Like the Freedom Socialist Party, our young Michigan socialist was perpetrating the very injustices of which he was accusing the Right. If the socialist Left is this brazenly ignorant on a micro level, why on Earth would we ever want them in charge of our government?

Climate Change Goes Crackers

Over at Pocket Full of Liberty today, you can find my latest piece on climate change hysteria: “The Death of Global Warmism.” Global warming appears to have suffered a “death,” at least insofar as there has been no warming of the globe for nearly two decades; but it’s global warmism—the ideology that has driven the histrionic climate change movement—that is suffering the most prominent death throes. To be fair, if your entire raison d’être were falling apart—if the environmental phenomenon you were fighting against appeared to not really exist at all—wouldn’t you go a little nuts, too?

Speaking of nuts, I mentioned authoress Naomi Klein in my article; Klein considers many corporate profits to be “not legitimate in an era of climate change.” The Left, of course, has always had a marked disdain for profits of any kind, but the double threat of corporate profits that accentuate “climate change” is just too much for them to bear, as Klein herself shows in an op/ed in yesterday’s Guardian:

The astronomical profits these companies and their cohorts continue to earn from digging up and burning fossil fuels cannot continue to haemorrhage into private coffers. They must, instead, be harnessed to help roll out the clean technologies and infrastructure that will allow us to move beyond these dangerous energy sources, as well as to help us adapt to the heavy weather we have already locked in.

When Naomi Klein says she wants to “harness” your profits, you’d better run for cover. Actually, it might be helpful if someone would point out to her that it’s not “these companies and their cohorts” that are “burning fossil fuels;” it’s people, average human beings like you and me (and even Naomi Klein). Your garden-variety radical environmentalist likes to pretend that it’s the evil “corporations” who are doing all the fossil fuel burning, but that’s really not the case: we use fossil fuels to get the kids to school, to get the work, to heat the house, to power our appliances and cook our food and do a million other things. Fossil fuels, in other words, are a normal and vital part of nearly everyone’s lives. Naomi Klein can pretend to be disgusted with “companies” and “cohorts,” but in reality she’s disgusted great multitudes of humanity that have benefited immensely from cheap and abundant energy. At its heart, environmentalism often appears to despise human happiness and flourishing as much as it cares about protecting the environment.

Marriage Is What Brings Us Together Today

Recently, NPR had a segment that took a look at the institution of marriage, focusing particularly on the dire straits that marriage is in: for my boneheaded Millennial generation, the out-of-wedlock birth rate is nearly fifty percent, and the post-illegitimate-birth wedding rate is low. Way to go, geniuses.  “This family structure,” Jennifer Ludden writes, “once common mainly among African-Americans and the poor, is spreading across races and into the middle class.” What’s driving this sociological upheaval?

Like half of all U.S. pregnancies, Sheridan’s was not exactly planned.

“We think we mistimed something,” she says. “But it wasn’t really, like, a bad time, or, I don’t know … it just … seemed like an OK thing to do?”

“I stared at the pregnancy test for 10 minutes, waiting for it to change,” Underwood says.

“But then he got really happy — it was actually really cute,” Sheridan says.

It wasn’t Sheridan’s first child. Her older son, Logan, is 8; his father left before he was born. Michelle spent four years as a single mom before meeting Underwood, and says she felt no stigma or fear about that.

So Ms. Sheridan had had a child before, by a man who was either too cowardly to hang around and take care of his family or else too worthless to stick with; either way, Sheridan apparently learned nothing from the experience, feeling “no stigma or fear” about single motherhood—to the point that she had yet another child without being married to the father, seemingly without any awareness that the circumstances were, yet again, sub-optimal: it “seemed like an ok thing to do?” according to Ms. Sheridan. Why doesn’t she go ahead and get married to Mr. Underwood at the very least, now that she’s had one of his children and he’s evidently helping to raise both kids?

Like so many children of the 1980s and ’90s — the decades when the nation hit its highest divorce rate — both Sheridan and Underwood are also wary about the institution of marriage.

Underwood says when he was a baby — or when his mom was still pregnant, he isn’t sure — “my dad left for a loaf of bread and never came back.”

Sheridan’s parents stayed together but fought a lot.

“That was hard to watch,” she says. “I don’t want to go through that, and I don’t want my kids to see it.”

Here are two excellent examples of both mindless fatalism and Millennial cluelessness, respectively: Mr. Underwood is convinced that, because his dad left when he was very young, he is probably fated to do the same thing if he himself gets married. There is no indication that he believes he is capable of doing otherwise; the contemptible actions of another man have made him “wary about the institution of marriage,” as if marriage itself, instead of laziness and cowardice, made Mr. Underwood, Sr. walk out on his responsibilities all those years ago.

Meanwhile, Ms. Sheridan witnessed her parents “fight a lot” when she was young; “I don’t want to go through that,” she says, “and I don’t want my kids to see it.” Here’s some advice: if you’re worried about “fighting a lot” with the man who’s fathered at least one of your children—so worried, in fact, that you do not want to get married to him—then you should probably not be with that man; if your relationship with your lover is so acrimonious that “you don’t want your kids to see it,” perhaps you should find a new relationship, immediately, and stop having babies with the guy. Call me crazy.

Ms. Sheridan also expresses the financial concerns that motivate both her and Mr. Underwood to delay marriage—“it’s hard enough,” she claims, “to work up just on your own”—and to be fair these financial fears are not limited to one particular class or demographic:

At the other end of this marriage divide, Diana and Dave Black of Harrisonburg, Va., started dating in college and now have graduate degrees and budding careers.

The couple is among the minority of millennials who feel secure enough to say “I do” — though Dave waited to propose until he got a handle on his student loans.

“I had the bulk of them paid off at that point,” he says, “and I felt like I was in a decent place to shell out the additional money for the ring.”

There are a few lessons to be learned here: first of all, perhaps it’s wise to avoid a college career if it requires a boatload of student loans that will put you on the financial defensive in your younger years. Maybe the Blacks needed to attend college in order to realize their “budding careers,” in which case their debt is understandable—but as a general rule it’s worth wondering whether or not your poli-sci degree and your basket weaving minor are worth a five-figure debt load you’ll be paying off for years and years. As well, Mr. Black appears to have had to “shell out…additional money for the ring,” which implies that the ring cost a lot. I’m sure it was a pretty ring, but seriously, here’s a tip to the fellas in the room: you can save a boatload of money by shopping smart on engagement rings. You don’t have to break the bank. I’m speaking from personal experience here. (Caroline, if you’re reading this: if I could have scratched the cash together, sweetheart, I would’ve bought you the Hope Diamond.)

More broadly speaking, both the Blacks and the Sheridan-Underwoods seem not to understand that marriage itself brings a whole host of financial benefits; there’s the myriad tax breaks you get when you tie the knot, for instance, and then there’s the combined incomes and the efficiency and practicality that comes along with combined incomes: once Caroline and I get married next year we’ll have one grocery bill, one utilities bill, less gas used going back and forth between each other’s dwellings, etc. Diana and Dave Black “feel secure enough to say ‘I Do,”‘ but marriage itself typically engenders financial security, or at least more security than you have when you’re single. Perhaps marriage rates would go up, and illegitimacy rates down, if people treated marriage as the harbinger of a stable lifestyle instead of, as Ludden puts it, “the cherry on top.”