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No, Single Mothers Are Not Breaking the Budget

Amanda Marcotte answers an increasingly common argument from the right about single mothers and how if they’d all just find a man and get married, they’d stop costing us so much in public assistance payments. Some examples of this argument being made:

Back in December, Ann Coulter claimed on Fox & Friends that, “single women look to the government as their husbands. Please provide for me, please take care of me.” Andrea Tantaros echoed the claim later on Fox, saying that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to keep single mothers “dependent on the government.” Rush Limbaugh is a big fan of painting single women as government-dependent, whining back in November that “unmarried women are looking at government for everything.”

And a couple different facts that undermine it. The first is that most women want to be married:

It is also asinine to assume that marriage is an institution that women resist and have to be forced into by making it impossible for them to feed themselves or their children without a man to provide. Most women want to get married, and single women are usually single not because they are taking some kind of government-subsidized stand against being with a man, but because they don’t have a good man right now to be married to. The fantasy of widespread female rejection of monogamous commitment is pure right-wing paranoia that has nothing to do with women’s real lives.

The second is that the vast majority of taxpayer funding, direct and indirect, does not go to single women:

Taking a broader view, there’s no reason whatsoever to think that single mothers, particularly single mothers living in poverty, are the biggest beneficiaries of government spending. As Brad Plumer of the Washington Post explained in September 2012, by far the largest group of recipients, with money sent to them directly by checks, is not, as conservatives assume, single mothers. No, 53 percent of direct cash entitlements go to people over 65 years old. Another 20 percent goes to disabled people and another 18 percent to working people, leaving only 9 percent for non-disabled, non-working people that conservatives like to pretend make up the bulk of recipients of social spending.

Of course, direct cash payments are hardly the only way the government helps people out. Tax expenditures are also a government benefit that should be considered no different than direct cash payments, because, at the end of the day, whether the government mails you a check or gives you a tax break, the result is the same: More money to you, less money in the government coffers. As Plumer demonstrated, if you incorporate tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction into your view of social spending, it turns out the real “welfare queens” are America’s wealthiest citizens. The top 20 percent of Americans receive a whopping 66 percent of tax expenditures, while the bottom 20 percent—the people who to scrape for every bite of food they get—only get three percent of this government bonanza.

And that doesn’t even count all of the government contracts given to corporations. But there’s another problem here, which is this: What solution are they suggesting? Cutting public assistance so that women will be forced to get married, whether that would result in a strong, stable relationship or not. This is incredibly unhealthy in every imaginable way.

Comments

  1. dogmeat says

    incredibly unhealthy in every imaginable way.

    This could be the title of just about any book or article talking about the policies of the Republican party in the 21st century.

  2. says

    …if they’d all just find a man and get married, they’d stop costing us so much in public assistance payments.

    And what will these idiots say when all those men they marry apply for public assistance to help them provide for their unemployed wives and kids?

  3. matty1 says

    From wikipedia

    Coulter has been engaged several times, but never married.

    Also notice the assumption that women must be kept either by a husband or the government. No mention of women who work to pay their own way, as hypocrite Coulter presumably does. Now obviously going out to work is harder with small children at home but proper funding for nurseries could help a lot not to mention more flexible working arrangements, which actually benefit everyone but that would be going too far off topic.

    Or if you insist that children need their mother with them 24/7 then accept that it is going to cost money to make this even possible and that the society that chooses to push such a lifestyle should be willing to pay for it.

  4. cry4turtles says

    Yes yes yes! The acquisition of a man, the answer to everywoman’s problems. Just consider Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. What more can I say???

  5. steve84 says

    Let’s not forget the probably huge sums of money the government uses to subsidize married couples with all kinds of tax breaks and benefits increases based on marital status.

  6. says

    Now, look, if we Conservatives stopped punching down, we might have the time and energy to look up. And that won’t do. God ordered the world the way He did for a reason. It’s the best way. Plus, it gives us someone to step on.

  7. says

    The fantasy of widespread female rejection of monogamous commitment is pure right-wing paranoia that has nothing to do with women’s real lives.

    Not purely paranoia; also self centeredness, lack of empathy, and general asshattery. SEe, the thing is that many (I would venture to say most) women don’t want monogamous lifelong commitments with assholes like conservatives tend to be, and if there aren’t socioeconomic pressures forcing them to marry and stay with these shitheads, they have real trouble finding a relationship. I have less explanation for conservative women pushing that line other than that they’ve swallowed the ideology hook line and sinker.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    cry4turtles @ # 4: Just consider Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty.

    Pls remember that those three ladies all married the same man (in which order no one seems to know).

  9. says

    Amanda Marcotte misses the part about how this meme is also not just used for handwringing about moochers taking our hard-earned money, but about how the welfare state is destroying the family, especially the black family. Many conservatives are very concerned about the state of black family and have no shortage of suggestions for how to fix it by cutting all sorts of programs that make poor people’s lives a bit better.

  10. says

    Ace of Sevens “Many conservatives are very concerned about the state of black family and have no shortage of suggestions for how to fix it by cutting all sorts of programs that make poor people’s lives a bit better.”
    Woah! Talk about leaving out important details. Telling only half the truth is the same as lying. You completely left out that they’re also trying to help black families not to vote and making it easier for white people not to get in trouble for shooting them.
    There. The Big Picture doesn’t look like what you thought it looked like, now does it?*

     
    * Spoiler: It looks worse.

  11. cptdoom says

    …single women are usually single not because they are taking some kind of government-subsidized stand against being with a man, but because they don’t have a good man right now to be married to.

    Let’s see, single motherhood is far more common the less money you make, and what could be limiting the supply of acceptable marriage partners for poorer women? It couldn’t be the “War on Drugs” that leaves poor men incarcerated at much higher rates than the general population, and often for non-violent offenses, could it?

  12. dshetty says

    @raging bee
    And what will these idiots say when all those men they marry apply for public assistance to help them provide for their unemployed wives and kids?
    Gay marriage destroys straight marriages?

  13. corporal klinger says

    Uff, I’m relieved to learn that it’s the single mothers that break the budget (and all the other moochers) and not the 700+ billions in military spending. Because liberty, y’know.

  14. jbhodges7 says

    Back in the 1970′s I read a column by William Raspberry, who wrote for the Washington Post and probably other papers. Many young black women had asked him “Where are all the black men?” (As a black man, they assumed he would know.) He decided to research the question. He found that the death rate for young black males were higher than for young black females; the incarceration rate was higher, the High School graduation rate was lower, and the employment rate was lower. Add those factors together and the result was that there were two young black women for every “marriageable” young black man.

  15. says

    @19:

    Well, that prolly means that my “(Made up in my head) Headline”, for democommie’s National Inquisitor:

    “I was Prince Charming’s ‘beard’–Crystal Sippers and a broken heart, the tragic denouement of Cinderella’s fairytale marriage”

    is outta line. Sorry, I think it’s pretty damned funny.

    As for single women and the ReiKKKwing’s obsession with them; ever since having concubines was seen as a social deficit to one’s advancement, old, white, rich men (and most other white men who are assholes) have seen allathem uppity slutz as an underutilitzed resource.

    Fuck.Those.Assholes.

  16. caseloweraz says

    Pierce R. Butler: Pls remember that those three ladies all married the same man (in which order no one seems to know).

    You mean < gasp > . . . Prince?

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