Can middle-class families thrive again on a single income?

Will leaders in America listen to a charming young woman playing pickleball, explaining — with clarity and wisdom — a key problem that faces our society?

Let’s hope so.

Gracie Hunt is a scion of the dynastic Hunt family, who own the Kansas City Chiefs. Harrison Butker, the three-time Super Bowl champion kicker employed by her father’s team, garnered both widespread acclaim and derision for his commencement address at Benedictine University in Kansas. Butker had the gall to speak as a Catholic at a Catholic graduation … and celebrate the values of a traditional family structure.

Then, during a “Fox & Friends” story about a Baptist church using pickleball as a ministry outreach activity, Miss Hunt was asked about Butker’s comments. She defended him fully and lauded his “Christian faith and what he’s accomplished on and off the field.”

She clearly hit a nerve with her comments, as Steve Cortes’ post of the video garnered 2.5 million views on the X platform alone.

Hunt expressed gratitude that her own mother stayed home to raise her along with her siblings and then made a comment that connects directly to decades of policy failures and the dire fallout for American families. Regarding her homemaker mother, Gracie said: “I understand that there are many women out there who can’t make that decision.”

There was a time in America, long before Gracie Hunt was born, when generations lived the reality of an American Dream that was largely about strong, stable families living in relative financial comfort. Get married, have children, buy a house and live comfortably on a single income.

Not very long ago, that path was the reality, the norm, for the great American middle class. You did not have to be born a Hunt to be raised in a home with a stay-at-home parent.

To be sure, some women work because they want to and because opportunities have opened up to them over the last half century. But many women — and men — also now feel obliged to labor for a second income, out of economic necessity.

Even discussing this topic is considered anachronistic or sexist by detractors. But Gallup surveys reveal that at least half of women with children prefer to stay home —and supermajorities prefer at least the option to stay home.

Whether the mother or the father actually stays home, having the choice would represent a great economic improvement. Notably, there is a class divide on this topic. Wealthier, higher-credentialed Americans desire dual career parents, while only 29% of blue-collar families prefer to have both parents working full-time.

But for the masses of Americans right now, there is no choice at all. In reality, a middle-class existence is almost unthinkable on a single income for non-elite households. Across the country, families struggle, even on two incomes.

Looking at nationwide statistics, the pro-family advocacy group American Compass created a “ Cost-of-Thriving Index” that calculates incomes vs. typical costs for families over history. In 1985, a family of four could thrive on 40 weeks of work for a typical earner, meaning that another 12 weeks per year could be used for vacation time, extra spending or to build savings.

But by 2022, the weeks of work necessary soared to 62 total weeks — or 10 more than actually exist in a calendar year. Hence, debt levels soar, along with Americans’ anxiety.

Creating the economic conditions for strong families should be a foundational goal for any government. Such aspirations form the worldviews of thoughtful Catholics like Butker, and indeed for all believing Christians.

But even for Americans of different religions — or no faith at all — all people of good know intrinsically that the current economic system does not work for the masses who no longer believe they have a shot at the American Dream.

The America First vision of populist economic nationalism addresses this ubiquitous malaise with real policy solutions. The most pressing reforms needed are budget discipline and border control.

Biden and establishment Republicans continue to pile on an unsustainable $34 trillion mountain of federal debt that sends costs spiraling higher throughout the economy. Are conservative candidates ready to reverse that tide?

On border issues, the constant inflow of millions of illegal migrants lowers wages for American workers — while simultaneously raising the already unaffordable costs of scarce housing. As such, securing the border is an imperative for reclaiming broad middle-class prosperity.

Gracie Hunt is right, and she makes far more sense than middle-aged politicians at congressional hearings or blathering pundits in TV studios.

Let’s build the society of prosperity and justice that we all want, and let’s start right now.

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