Here are some items from my latest reading of Rick Santorum’s It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good.
1. Santorum does not support passing out condoms to teens in school, for he thinks that sends out a message of low expectations: We don’t expect for many teens to abstain, so here’s some contraception. Against this mindset, Santorum cites the 1991 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that 54 percent of high school students have had sex, and Santorum notes that this percentage was down to 46 percent in 2001. That means that most high school students are virgins, even though Santorum acknowledges that it is not that overwhelming of a majority.
Personally, I’m in favor of abstinence-plus education. I support contraception being available, but I also think that sex education should teach teens that abstinence is okay, and to respect themselves and others.
2. Santorum thinks that the tax system should be reformed to help families. He has problems with the marriage penalty, and also with phasing out the per-child tax credit for families making $110,000 a year, since such a family would need that tax credit if it had (say) eight children! Santorum also talks about how the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to make sure that the “super-wealthy were paying their fair share at a time when tax shelters were commonplace”, hurts families that take advantage of deductions, since these families are deemed to be paying “not enough” (pages 96-97).
3. Santorum is a strong proponent of parents spending time with their kids. He supports parents talking with their kids and families eating dinner together. In the book, he also appears to be critical of mothers with kids pursuing careers, which came back to bite him during his Presidential campaign. But he also wants fathers to spend time with their children. In terms of how he believes that public policy can encourage this, his ideas go “from providing money for regional telecommuting planning, to providing pollution credits to companies that encourage their employees to telecommute, to giving a tax credit to individuals and companies” (page 94—-see here for information on telecommuting). He also supports amending the Federal Labor Standards Act to allow hourly workers to choose comp or flex time over overtime.
I don’t think that women need to stay home all day to spend quality time with their children. There is something to be said for them finding fulfillment outside of the home. At the same time, I appreciate that Santorum does not want for parents to be so bound to the capitalist treadmill that they don’t have time to spend with their kids. For him, there’s more to life and society than the bottom line.
4. Santorum believes that religion is beneficial to society. He says that institutions affiliated with religions (i.e., Catholic hospitals) should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs, even when they receive federal funds, the same way that Planned Parenthood can act according to its beliefs when receiving federal funds. (But isn’t Planned Parenthood barred from spending tax money on abortion?) Santorum also talks about how Prison Fellowship, which teaches prisoners faith and morality and gives them a network to get back on their feet after being released from prison, has produced a lower recidivism rate among participants, in comparison to prisoners who are not in Prison Fellowship programs. Santorum believes that the government should support these kinds of programs, and, against those who cry “Separation of Church and State”, he replies that such a phrase is not in the Constitution. At the same time, in defending faith-based initiatives, Santorum states that President George W. Bush took measures to ensure that federal funds were not being used to proselytize or to condition help on participation in religious activities.
I appreciated a point that Santorum made on page 103, where he talked about introducing the Workplace Religious Freedom Act with John Kerry. This act required the workplace to accommodate people’s religious practices, such as observance of the Seventh-Day Sabbath. Although the ACLU has advanced legitimate arguments against this law (see here), I am appreciative of Santorum’s sensitivity to the issue, as one who has been in denominations that keep the Seventh-Day Sabbath.