"It Takes a Family"
Monday, July 25, 2005; 1:00 PM
In his new book, "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good," Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) argues that it is the family unit, rather than the federal government, that should make up the foundation of a fair society. He says that public policy should reflect this principle through conservative statestmanship as a means of addressing social and economic problems.
Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) was online Monday, July 25, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his new book, "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good."
Read more about "It Takes a Family."
A transcript follows.
Senator Rick Santorum: Thanks to everybody for coming online. I appreciate the opportunity to answer questions. This book was written to come up with a third way of dealing with public policy in America, critical of both the liberal left as well as the libertarian right. I am hopeful that this will spawn a great deal of debate and discussion on a variety of issues.
New York, N.Y.: Love the book........how do we get government on the side of promoting stable two parent families without offending those who are offended by moral judgments?
Senator Rick Santorum: That's a great question because what I try to do in the book is point out that lots of different types of families can work but what we know works best is a two-parent traditional, what I call natural, families. That's not to say that single moms or single dads or other types of family arrangements (aunts, uncles etc.) can't work. The story I tell in the book is one related to me by Dr. Wade Horn, where he likens it to taking an airplane trip, one plane gets you there 90% of the time, the other plane gets you there 80% of the time. Both are good planes, but who wouldn't be for the one that gets you there more often. That's what the traditional family is, proven over time to be the ideal and that's what we should strive for.
Manassas, Va.: I am reading your book right now and admire what you have done to help strengthen the family, especially inner city minority families. Can you give examples of programs you have supported in Pennsylvania that actually help minority families?
Senator Rick Santorum: Yes, I have worked with programs in Philadelphia, a pastor by the name of Herb Lusk, who has a ministry called People for People. We have done lots of things with them in abstinence education, parenting programs, after school programs, etc. Another organization I have worked with is the Urban Family Council, with a variety of programs such as fatherhood programs trying to strengthen the bond between children and fathers. On the economic side I've worked with the Redevelopment Fund, which I talk about in the book, to help build stronger economies in poor neighborhoods and in so doing help strengthen families in poor neighborhoods. I've worked with People's Emergency Center in West Philadelphia to help with mothers who are in domestic crisis. And that's just a sampling.
Colorado Springs, Colo.: What most concerns you when you look at the state of America?
Senator Rick Santorum: I am certainly concerned about the war on terror and our resolve to defeat terrorism in spite of the costs. I am concerned about, as I've said in the book, the state of the American family and our ability internally to deal with the problems that face future generations of Americans here at home. I'm concerned about our ability to compete in a global economy, making sure the government works to make a competitive economy. Those are probably my top three concerns.
Silver Spring, Md.: Senator, thank you for taking questions. I agree that the family is the first line for dealing with issues, but I must admit to being a bit confused about whether you believe society plays any role at all in raising children. Unless children are put in a bubble, are they not part of a society at large? Don't they have to deal with society?
Senator Rick Santorum: I would encourage you to read the book, because I do talk about the concept of subsidiarity, which is a concept that says that problems should be solved at the most local level possible. That doesn't mean that every problem can be solved at the most local level possible. But we should start with the family and then look to local organizations like community groups, churches, civic organizations, then local government, state government and ultimately, if necessary, the federal government. An example of a problem that could not be solved at the family or local level was, as I detail in the book, civil rights. We needed the federal government to play an important role in dealing with that wrong.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Santorum, I read parts of your book and it's solid writing. I read most of the "capitals" in the book, but I didn't read 'Cultural Capital'. Could you sum up what is 'the cultural capital', and why it is necessary for a stronger society?
Senator Rick Santorum: Cultural capital speaks to the influence of the media in our society, particularly on children. I talk about the pervasiveness of the culture bombarding all of us as unique in world history. On average, a teenager is receiving either through music, television, movies, video games, messages from the culture of about 6 hours a day. They're spending that much time interacting with these mediums. On average a child spends 10 minutes a day talking with parents. So culture has a huge influence on us and we have to be concerned about the messages culture sends. I say in the book that good culture tells the truth and bad culture lies. That doesn't mean that I'm a prude, and that we shouldn't have violent content or sexual content or offensive media, but it needs to tell the truth. So violence depicted without consequence or sex depicted without consequence is a lie, and we see far too much of that in video games, television, and rap music, and that's a lie and it's not good culture. Parents should demand from the purveyors of culture as well as through the use of their pocketbooks good culture. And that is, the truth.
DuBois, Pa.: It may take a family, but what do you say to families who need both parents to work in order to make ends meet, and that includes the high cost of child care that makes it even more difficult for parents to survive in this economy?
Senator Rick Santorum: That's a very important question. I say in the book that it's important for the government as well as society to be there in order to help moms and dads raise children. One place the government does not help is through taxes. In fact in 1950 the average American family paid 2% in taxes. Today that average American family pays 27% in taxes to the federal government. Oddly enough the difference, 25%, is what the average second wage earner makes in America today. So you see, on average, the second wage earner is working simply to pay the increased burden the federal government has put on the family. So tax policy matters, as well as all the other aspects of our society in nurturing and supporting families. I'm not saying both parents should not work, sometimes both parents have to work in order to make ends meet. What I'm saying is that we should make it easier for one of those parents to stay at home at least during times when children are home, and parents should understand how important their presence at home is for children. I cite lots of studies that talk about how well children do when one of the parents is in the home with a child at home vs. all other family forms.
San Francisco, Calif.: Senator Santorum:
Was the title of your book, "It Takes a Family," devised to challenge Senator Hillary Clinton's book, "It Takes A Village"? If so, could you detail some of your objections to points raised in her book? Thank you.
Senator Rick Santorum: It was not meant to challenge her book, it was meant to challenge the ideology of those who believe in a top down approach to solving problems in America. Most folks on the left believe in the federal government as the best and fairest place to resolve problems and build a better America. I believe just the opposite, that a better America is built one family at a time by strengthening those families and having community organizations and churches there to support the family, as well as the state and federal government and the educational establishment, culture, and news media standing shoulder to shoulder and supporting the traditional family as well.
Colorado Springs, Colo.: What sparked your passion for the pro-life movement?
Senator Rick Santorum: I talk about my story with respect to abortion at great length in the book. In fact I spent three chapters on it, and those three chapters are really the only chapters that are personal. So first I would encourage you to read the book for a full answer to that question.
Washington, D.C.: What are you doing to address the crushing tax burden on American families, particularly low-income and minority families?
Senator Rick Santorum: First off, the tax burden on low-income families is actually very light. The bottom 25% of tax filers pay no income taxes and in fact, many get an Earned Income Tax Credit to help them pay their Social Security Taxes. I have been a strong supporter over the years of the EIC over the years for that reason. Where the tax burden hits tends to be in middle income America, and particularly on families who are middle income. That is where the child credit and the marriage penalty release that we have passed over the past few years have been of assistance. I believe we need to expand the child credit and the dependent deduction for children to focus more tax relief on average American families.
Phoenixville, Pa.: Didn't you grow up in a family where both parents worked? Didn't you come out alright?
Senator Rick Santorum: I did grow up in a family where both parents worked but they worked to schedule their time at work to make sure that one of them was home when we were home. My dad would go to work later in the day and my mother would go to work early and be home when we were home from school. One more point: growing up in the 1950's and 1960's was far different from growing up in this decade. The culture, the neighborhoods, the values that were being fed through the popular culture and the educational establishments were far different from now. The world was different and far more nurturing to families. Can you imagine a show today entitled Father Knows Best? It's a a culture that undermines the family as opposed to a culture that supported the family.
Pasadena, Calif.: Senator Santorum,
Given the rich religious diversity in the country, do you feel it appropriate for the federal government to legislate strictly Christian morality?
Senator Rick Santorum: I think it is important that we have a debate in this country about what's right and what's wrong, and that is reflected in our laws. To suggest that a Christian world view should not be brought to the public square and debated for its merits in addressing the problems that confront this country would be a restriction of religious freedom, just as saying a secular world view should not be able to come to the public square with their answers for the problems that confront America. The founders believed in a vibrant debate in America where everyone's opinion would come into the halls of Congress through their elected representatives and they would decide what's in the best interests of America irrespective of whether they happened to agree with a particular faith. They were very insistent that people of faith should have the opportunity to express their world view and influence the debate in this country. And I agree.
Falls Church, Va.: What really interested me in your book is how you discuss the individualism and selfish mentality of so many people in today's society. Parents leaving their kids in a stifling hot car so they can go shopping. Where did this attitude originate and how do we correct it?
Senator Rick Santorum: I don't know if I can pinpoint where it originated, but I think in part it has to do with a society that talks about the importance of individualism. I believe very much in the individual, but I don't believe in individualism where the focus is on me and me only. Whether it's the advertisers on Madison Avenue trying to sell their products, whether it's an elite who wants the ability to have laws that allow them to do what they want to do without consequence; we have a culture around us that elevates and celebrates freedom that is equivalent with license or simply choice instead of a freedom that says we have a responsibility to do what we ought to do, not to do simply what we want to do. And that's where my definition of selfless freedom comes in. The place we learn about selflessness first is the family, from mom and dad, who sacrifice their wants and desires for the benefit of one another and their children, and where children are told that they must sacrifice for the benefit of the family. When the family breaks down, that lesson often is never taught or modeled.
Harrisburg, Pa.: How come every politician acts coyly and says they are not going to run for President when everyone knows they'd like to? Why doesn't someone admit: yes, I aspire to the highest office of my profession, I have dedicated my career to preparing myself for the position, and I will be truthful, yes, I'd like to be President, and I'd like to be the best President I can be? I think the public would appreciate that honesty.
Senator Rick Santorum: Well, I will be honest with you. I have six children ages 4-14. And the idea of coming off a race of the intensity that I am engaged in at this point and turning around and running another two year campaign for president is not something that I believe is in the best interest of my family, which I say in the book, and I believe in my heart it's my principal responsibility. I can't speak for other politicians but I can speak for me, and my intention is not to run in 2008.
Warren, Pa.: As a Catholic, I was wondering if you were surprised by the Democratic reaction to your renewed comments on sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese. In my view, I don't see how the political orientation of Boston should have anything to do with sexual abuse problems involving parish priests. Can you clarify these remarks, and does your book address the sexual abuse scandal and how it has affected you or your faith?
Senator Rick Santorum: I would encourage you to read the article that Senator Kennedy lifted a quote from, and you will find in that article a discussion of a variety of problems that I believe needed to be addressed in the Catholic church with respect to the sexual abuse scandal. I was outspoken, publicly and privately, and worked both publicly and privately within the church to solve the problems of sexual abuse among the clergy. I am proud of my record during that time and challenge any other United States Senator to match that record. With respect to one of the several points I made, with respect to the genesis of the problem of sexual abuse among the clergy, I made a point which was also subsequently made by Robert Bennett, former adviser to President Clinton who was hired by the Keating Commission ( the commission was put together by the bishops to advise them and make recommendations on the scandal). Mr. Bennett said exactly what I said with respect to the culture of sexual freedom and license having an impact not just on society but also on priest who are part of society. The only difference between my remarks and the report language and the report Mr. Bennett wrote is that I mentioned the city of Boston. At the time I wrote that article three years ago Boston was the epicenter, and the degree and extent of abuse around the country was not known. This was clearly a case of political opponents taking what I said out of context as a matter of substance, but also a matter of chronology and the perspective of the time at which it was said.
Senator Rick Santorum: I want to thank everyone for participating in today's chat, and I certainly hope that the debate that we've had here online is one that my book with encourage and spur around the country around the country on these important issues facing our country. Thank you.
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