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WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Mike Lee gave remarks at a policy summit hosted by Heritage Action for America outlining many of the challenges American families face as a result of dysfunctional government policy.  He said too often Washington leaves behind hardworking families and that a new reform agenda should focus more on protecting the economic and social capital that married households provide. 

Read the full speech

“The family has always been the linchpin of American life, but today more than ever the health of the family is indivisible from the destiny of our nation,” said Lee. But he lamented that “as American families approached the new economic challenges with their characteristic boldness and optimism, Washington responded with its characteristic lethargy and dysfunction.”

Lee outlined several major challenges that families face today – such as rising health care costs, the explosion in the price of higher education, and inefficient and ineffective transportation, labor, and housing systems – and pinned the dysfunction squarely on Washington’s inability to change the status quo.

“[T]hese are not stresses put on the family by the free market, or globalization, or income inequality, or even by corrosive trends in popular culture,” said Lee. “They are the product of sclerotic government policies that are imposed on the American people by politicians who respond to change by doubling down on status quo policies we already know don’t work.”

“This is not how a government of, by, and for the people is supposed to conduct itself. Our economy and society are constantly changing. The government’s job isn’t to micromanage or resist those changes, but to remove any barriers facing the American people as they adapt to them,” Lee explained 

“As Lincoln wisely counseled, the ‘leading object’ of government should be to ‘lift artificial weights’ from all shoulders and “clear the paths of laudable pursuit’ for all – especially for the working moms and dads the status quo is leaving behind.”

Lee suggested several solutions to help improve economic opportunity and mobility for families, such as making higher education more affordable and accessible by allowing students to use federal loans for a wider variety of educational options. 

“Non-traditional students who have been locked out of the current system – like working parents – deserve to be able to use federal student loans and grants to acquire the skills they need, at a price that’s right, and on a schedule that works for them,” he said.

Lee also argued that it’s time for policymakers to recognize that the family is both an economic unit as well as the “shaper of human character.”

“It is everyone’s primary source of human and social capital: skills and habits like empathy, self-control, and trust that facilitate our pursuit of happiness. By teaching us what it means to live with duties and obligations toward others, the family prepares us for citizenship and teaches us how to live as members of a community,” said Lee.

“We need to acknowledge that the family is both a moral institution with economic implications and an economic institution with moral implications.”

Read the full speech