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Vote for Change; Neoliberalism vs. Mormon Families


Vote for Change
In the past couple of weeks, there have been opposing sides of the marriage issue voiced in the letters to the editor [“It’s a Tradition,” “Marriage Doesn’t Have to be Equal,” July 10, City Weekly]. 

The writers of these letters have missed a very important point. In the recent primary, only 10 percent of Democrats turned out to vote. With that level of indifference, elected officials can pass anything they want because citizens aren’t paying attention. They could add further to the marriage issue and make it illegal to be single in Utah after the age of 18.

The fewer people who participate in the governing process, the more the voting power is diminished. People have the right to choose not to participate, but they don’t have the right to choose the consequences of that choice.

Dale Curtis
Salt Lake City

Neoliberalism vs. Mormon Families
One of the leading causes of divorce among Mormons is money, not same-sex marriage. That seems obvious, but lately, a lot of resources have been poured into preventing same-sex marriage as if it were the threat to the family.

Those resources might be better used to change the systems that lead families into dire financial straits. For instance, many Mormons believe that the ideal division of labor between the sexes means that fathers work and mothers remain at home. Yet for many families, that ideal is no longer a reality; increasingly, families need two wages to support a household. Are these dual-earning families committing sin? I doubt anyone would argue that mothers working is a sin, but in 1995, church leadership issued a proclamation about the family that called for a male-breadwinner arrangement. So are families who deviate from this ideal making poor choices? If so, why are so many Mormon families “choosing the wrong” by having both parents work?  

Americans tend to explain outcomes in terms of individual choice, and individual agency is a central element of Mormon doctrine. But this tendency to individualize our choices is shortsighted when it comes to understanding family employment strategies. Yes, families make choices about who will work, but they make those choices within a context—like the economy—that has placed constraints on their available options.

Researchers have tracked a growing divide between the rich and the rest since the late 1970s. This shift occurred as Americans abandoned one kind of capitalism for neoliberalism, and it has been disastrous for middle-class families. For the first time in American history, the wealth of most Americans has declined.

Workers are losing ground despite being more productive than ever. Instead of reaping the benefits of hard work, their wages are stagnant, and the wealthy are experiencing unprecedented gains. This situation has pushed many families to send both parents into the workforce. Those in single-parent households, or those who choose to have only the father work, are at a clear disadvantage.

It wasn’t always like this. We constructed a system that encouraged a more equitable society with wages high enough that a single worker could support a family. We can enact policies that reduce inequality while bolstering the Mormon ideal of the family and improve situations for single-parent households. Minimum wages that are tied to the local cost of living or to productivity mean that workers can afford the basics without the need of government assistance. They help to reduce the burden on the welfare state and allow more families to survive on a single income.

James Singer
Salt Lake City