A strong national economy requires strong families, supported by both government and the broader community, said Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a recent policy speech. “Too often in modern politics, debates about our values have been viewed as either wedges to win elections or unnecessary distractions to be avoided,” Rubio said during a July 23 talk at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.   “But the truth is that the social and moral wellbeing of our people has a direct and consequential impact on their economic wellbeing.” Rubio, who has been viewed as a potential Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election, told CNA on July 23 that he and his family have been prayerfully considering a run for presidential office. He explained in his talk that in his own life, the strong marriage of his parents and the moral values they taught him “gave me an enormous advantage in life,” despite being poor immigrants. However, the senator noted, social mores around the country are being challenged and uprooted, as seen in the national decline of marriage and the increasing number of children being raised in single parent homes. The country is paying a “staggering” economic price for this erosion, he said, pointing to high unemployment levels, dropout rates, poverty and low upward mobility as symptoms affecting children born into these conditions. “Societal breakdown is not a problem that the government alone can solve, but it is also not one the government can afford to ignore,” Rubio stated. He said that political leaders need to “publicly recognize the link between our social wellbeing and our economic wellbeing,” and to put into place policies that help support education, job security, marriage and two parent homes, as well as help struggling families reach these goals. As an example, he cited his proposed child tax credit as a way of helping “single parents, many of whom are doing a heroic job of raising their children by themselves,” as well as other programs to help children find placement in better schools and receive the higher education and skills necessary to enter the workforce. The senator also called for the elimination of “policies and programs that punish marriage” under the current tax code, and more flexible overtime and work leave policies that would enable parents to spend more time with their families. Speaking about marriage, Rubio said the United States should “acknowledge that our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians.” “There was once a time when the federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required private contractors to identify and fire them,” he said. “Some laws prohibited gays from being served in bars and restaurants. And many cities carried out law enforcement efforts targeting gay Americans.” Overcoming such discrimination is laudable, Rubio said. However, this does not change the time-tested truth that children fare best when raised by “a mother and a father committed to one another.” This “special relationship” of marriage, he said, “has proven to be of great benefit to our society, our nation and our people, and therefore deserves to be elevated in our laws.” Affirming his own views in defense of marriage, he noted that state legislatures have a constitutional right to regulate the institution of marriage and called for respect among those on both sides of the issue, criticizing high profile displays of “intolerance towards those who continue to support traditional marriage.” “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy,” he said, observing that until recently, the president himself professed views that are now labeled “bigotry.” On the topic of abortion, Rubio said that the unborn have “certain inalienable rights, primarily the right to live” and “should be welcomed into life and protected in law.” However, he added, it is also important for a humane society to address the factors that contribute to abortion and “take tangible steps to help women with unwanted pregnancies even as that society defends an unborn child’s right to live.” Ultimately, the senator said, politics is simply one piece in a larger community response to rebuilding a strong society by promoting marriage, family, education and jobs. “We will never improve our people’s economic wellbeing without also improving their moral and social wellbeing,” he stressed, adding that while politics is important, the “ultimate responsibility for our social wellbeing rests on us as a people.” “What we do as parents, neighbors and members of a church, a charity or community will often have a greater impact on our nation’s future than what we do as voters or even as a senator,” he emphasized.