Rand Paul drew some criticism recently for suggesting part of the unrest in Baltimore last week was due to the "lack of fathers."
"There are so many things we can talk about," Paul said. "It's something we talk about not in the immediate aftermath but over time: The breakdown of family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society."
"This isn't just a racial thing; it goes across racial boundaries."
Paul clarified those comments, telling the Associated Press that having kids outside of marriage is the number one poverty risk factor:
"The No. 1 risk factor for poverty in our country is having your kids before you are married," Paul said. "That's not me casting aspersions on anyone. It's just a fact, and we should tell our kids this and try to encourage them to make good decisions."
The comments are similar to remarks he made in January of last year when he said people shouldn't be having kids until they're married:
"We need to be telling kids 'don't have kids until you're married,'" Paul said. "It's your best chance to get in the middle class is not to have kids. There's all kinds of ways, and we can debate ... but there are all kinds of ways to stop having kids."
"You know, but we have to teach our kids that. But some of that's sort of some tough love too. Maybe we have to say 'enough's enough, you shouldn't be having kids after a certain amount.' I don't know how you do all that because then it's tough to tell a woman with four kids that she's got a fifth kid we're not going to give her any more money. But we have to figure out how to get that message through because that is part of the answer. Some of that's not coming from government. It needs to come from ministers and people in the community and parents and grandparents to convince our kids to do something different."
Paul clarified those remarks to CNN's Candy Crowley, saying that government might not be able to do anything about this, but parents should speak to their kids about marriage as "an economic institution."
"Actually, I said kind of the opposite," Paul said. "I said that a lot of times government can't do anything about this. But the number one cause in our country -- and I don't think you can debate this -- of poverty is having kids before you're married."
"Right," Crowley said.
Paul continued: "We need to be telling our kids that poverty is linked to having children before you're married. The institution of marriage is incredibly important -- not just as a religious institution, but as an economic institution."
"What is probably the number one problem facing our country? I think it's having kids out of wedlock," Paul said in a radio interview stumping for his dad in 2007. "But I don't think the government can do anything about that. Poverty is a direct result of having kids out of wedlock. And that may sound like an old, Puritan kinda person saying that. But the thing is, you can grow up poor in our country and you will never get anywhere if you have two or three kids and you're not married."
"And then there's a Christian sort of reason also, but the bottom line is that government can do nothing to make that better. That's gotta be a cultural change that has to happen by individuals choosing that and families sort of making those decisions."
Paul said the Christian right didn't understand, however, that government had no role in legislating the problem.
"But that's what we have to decide and that's the problem sometimes with the Christian right is they don't understand that we may agree with them with the problem but government can do nothing about it. People have to do something about it, you know."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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