J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, delivered the keynote address yesterday during Heritage’s panel on the release of the 2017 Index of Culture and Opportunity.

Vance’s upbringing was riddled with hardship, poverty, abuse and instability giving him first-hand experience of how culture plays a critical role in shaping people’s lives.

According to Vance:

When you think about a person who grows up in a disadvantaged circumstance, their culture is really the set of environmental and social circumstances that affect them…and if you want to understand why some of these kids are doing well and some aren’t, you really have to understand that social environment, the culture in which they grew up.

And I think that unfortunately it’s something that a lot of folks aren’t comfortable talking about, but it is a really important component in determining whether these kids are able to have much in the way of opportunity.

In his introduction to the Index he goes on to say:

It is harder to mea­sure culture and how it affects the people who occupy it, and judging by much of our recent discourse, it is harder still to talk about culture. But talk about it we must, because the evi­dence that culture matters should now over­whelm any suggestion to the contrary

This is the purpose behind Heritage’s Index–to analyze the cultural trends facing our nation and lead the conversation on how those trends should be addressed.

Read more about the Index and review this year’s edition.

While at Heritage Vance also sat down with Genevieve Wood from the Daily Signal and explained why the American dream is in crisis.

You can watch his interview below.

J.D. Vance on Why the American Dream is in Crisis

Why is the American dream in jeopardy? Author of "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis," J.D. Vance joins us live with the answer.

Posted by The Daily Signal on Thursday, July 20, 2017

Many thanks to J.D. Vance for bringing us this message and drawing attention to the importance of civil society building a positive culture.

Why do you think it is important to emphasize the connection between culture and opportunity? To emphasize the family and social institutions? How can we as a nation promote and support these critical links?

Privatizing the U.S. Air Traffic Control (ATC) system has been a Heritage priority since the 1980s.

Recently, President Trump adopted the Heritage stance on privatization as part of his proposed budget and he has gotten behind the current legislative effort to end government control of the nation’s ATC system.

This is one of the most significant free-market transportation reforms in at least a generation.

Heritage policy analyst Michael Sargent points out that one of the effects of our current, government-run ATC, is delayed flight times due to inefficient and outmoded technology. Because ATC services are provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it has severely lagged in modernization, using “20th century radar technology and strips of paper to track the thousands of U.S. flights daily.”

According to a recent report, Sargent describes the effects of government control:

Given that the FAA is primarily a risk-averse safety regulator, the agency is not well suited to provide a high-tech, 24/7 service.  Furthermore, because the FAA acts as its own regulator, it faces a conflict of interest when it comes to safety reporting, an issue the International Civil Aviation Organization warned governments to address in 2001.

Sargent goes on to explain how congressional micromanagement further impedes efficient operation, especially because of the politics of the federal budget, and points out the inevitable failure of reform efforts as long as ATC is housed in a slow-moving government bureaucracy.

Sargent concludes:

…fliers tired of flight delays due to inefficient ATC services should demand more for their money’s worth. That means running ATC like a business—not a government agency—in order to generate a faster, safer, and more cost effective aviation system.

Read Sargent’s full report >>

Watch Michael Sargent lead the latest discussion on pro-market reforms to our aviation system:

President Trump’s vocal support of the current bill to privatize ATC, the 21st Century AIRR Act, sponsored by Congressman Bill Shuster, has given this initiative more political viability than it had in previous years. As of now, the bill has made it further than any privatization effort to date, passing out of its committee and currently awaiting enough votes to bring it to the House floor.

Thank you for making this impact possible.

Tired of having your travel plans interrupted by flight delays and cancellations? What do you think are the most important effects of privatization of ATC and how would those benefit you and our communities?

Are you concerned about the rising rate of teen drug use? Do you know how much the marriage rate and church attendance have declined? Are you concerned that our cultural dependance on welfare programs like foodstamps has increased?

You can find information on these trends and more in Heritage’s 2017 Index of Culture and Opportunity, released yesterday. A cultural check-up on our nation, this annual report analyzes social and economic trends related to culture, poverty and dependence, and general opportunity in America. The report then explains what these changes mean for our society.

Jennifer Marshall, the Vice President of the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity and editor of the Index, addresses a few of these trends and their impact:

Family and faith have had an enormous impact in grounding and directing generation after generation through human history. It’s no wonder that the erosion of family and faith would inevitably lead to unsettling.

She explains that one reason Heritage releases this index is to shine a light on these often-ignored realities.

Most conversations about opportunity begin and end with economic indicators. But opportunity begins much earlier, much closer to home, much closer to the heart.

Beyond statistics, the Index provides detail and commentary that puts these trends into context. This is great insight whether you are talking with your friends and neighbors about the state of our culture or striving to take action to preserve our freedoms for the next generation. It is also designed to help policymakers obtain the data they need and focuses on the following topics:

  • Marriage, family, and civil society;
  • Welfare reform;
  • Reduced spending;
  • Economic growth; and
  • The opportunity of individuals in a free society to improve their circumstances.

The Index of Culture and Opportunity, along with Heritage’s other indexes, the Index of Economic Freedom and the Index of U.S. Military Strength, perfectly rounds out Heritage’s mission by assessing America’s standing not only in economic and military strength, but social strength as well.

Find out the latest cultural trends in the 2017 Index of Culture and Opportunity>>

Watch several of the contributors talk about this year’s Index below:

How strong do you believe the American society is today?  How important is it for our nation to maintain a strong society?

Three weeks ago we celebrated the success of the most important religious liberty case this past term. In the Trinity Lutheran case, the Supreme Court issued a decisive victory preventing a form of religious discrimination.

Missouri had denied Trinity Lutheran a grant to update its preschool playground because it was a church. The Supreme Court’s reversal recognized this action inappropriately violated the Free Exercise Clause and put churches at a disadvantage when competing with secular organizations for state funds.

David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who advocated for Trinity Lutheran in this case, had the following to say about Heritage’s impact in cases like this:

Heritage has consistently provided invaluable assistance and support in many Supreme Court cases for ADF, including the recent victories in Trinity Lutheran and Reed v. Town of Gilbert.  In addition to hosting an amicus participation conference, the team there gladly hosts moot courts—which always include an excellent panel of heavy-hitters. To its credit, Heritage continues to be involved in the most important issues of the day.

Thanks to you, Heritage is able to provide essential support for advocates like David and groups like ADF.

Together, we are able to stand against the tide of culture and fight for the principles that made our country great.

Why is religious discrimination a problem today?

Last Tuesday, Heritage experts Rachel Zissimos and Thomas Spoehr released a monumental report on defense spending that soundly debunks the liberal argument that we spend too much on defense compared with other nations.

The report explains:

Statements such as “the U.S. spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined” evoke an appearance of excess, but give no consideration to the decisions driving defense spending or the factors contributing to costs across national economies. Claims that the U.S. spends too much, as measured against the defense expenditures of other countries, are disingenuous. The security environment in which the U.S. military is expected to operate has grown increasingly complex, and national defense resourcing warrants more than a solitary sentence of discussion.

The experts present a sound case to defeat the leftist rhetoric that downplays the necessity of spending for a strong defense. They argue that we should base funding decisions on national security requirements – not arbitrary comparisons. These comparisons fail to take into account many fundamental differences such as the value of the dollar and what it can buy in different economies. This fact alone delegitimizes dollar-for-dollar comparisons. Additionally, the United States has many unique security needs that are not applicable to other countries. With this perspective, the experts assert that we should not focus on how much we currently spend but how much we need to spend to meet our national security needs.

The report concludes:

The U.S. should not strive to achieve military defense parity with other countries, in either cost or capability. Rather, the goal of the U.S. should be military superiority, so that when the nation must fight, it will win—and win decisively.

Read the full report here>>

When Heritage weighs in on an important debate like national security, people listen. Thanks to you, our experts continue to counter the liberals myths and misperceptions about our military and national defense propagated. And they continue to deliver excellent research and sound, conservative policy to those in positions of influence.

What do you think about the Left’s characterization of defense spending?

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