Friday, April 29, 2011

Madam Defarge's War On Poverty

We're hearing a lot about how our taxes and social compacts need to help the "less fortunate" among us. Just who are these people? Well, here's the Census data on poverty. Assuming, perhaps rashly, that unencumbered adults can take care of themselves, let's look at families below the poverty line.

Married parents: 5.8% of all married families live in poverty
Single moms: 29.9% of all single mother families live in poverty
Single dads: 16.9% of all single father families live in poverty

How about total numbers of such families?
Married parents: 3.4M
Single moms: 4.4M
Single dads: 0.9M

Single moms make up more than half of all families living in poverty. So, by percentages and total numbers, it's reasonable to say that the "less fortunate" can be characterized as single moms. If our overall poverty rate was 5-6%, I'd think we'd be pretty happy with that.

So what's the plan here? As far as I can tell from the rhetoric, there's no longer any talk of a War on Poverty or any grand strategy, there's only financial envy and a desire to redistribute income. It's like we've given up on the whole "help the poor escape poverty" thing and have settled for making them our national housepets, paid for by "the rich". There's certainly no indication that our social programs have done anything at all to prevent the condition that leads to poverty more than any other. In fact, we can't even speak of it in polite company for fear of being labeled a prude.

Solving a problem you can't even discuss seems like a fool's errand to me.

Perhaps we should nominate Madam Defarge for director of Health and Human Services since we seem more interested in revenge than solving the problem. Assuming we can even bring ourselves to admit the real problem in the first place.


Foxfier said...

Might be interesting to break it down between divorced and never married, as well.

I get the impression that the divorced category is a lot smaller, and has a higher turnover.

tim eisele said...

I'm afraid I can't agree with your "can't even discuss the problem" statement. I see people discussing it all the time - in the local paper, in casual conversation, and the whole idea of abstinence-only sex education seems to be to discuss this single point:

Everyone I can think of agrees that single parenthood is an express ticket straight to the poorhouse. I have never heard anyone say that having children out of wedlock is a good idea, or that being a single parent is, in general, preferable to being married as far as being able to support kids. Never. While you keep writing that a lot of people claim these very things. Which makes me wonder, who the heck are you talking to, out there on the west coast?

Can you give some names, so that we know who to boo and hiss?

K T Cat said...

Tim, here's a hint at a future post.

Watch Sex and the City some time and see if it doesn't strike you as the stars of the show acting as Uncle Toms. While the vast majority of the people who engage in their behavior are screwed, they sit there living lives of wealth and pleasure. I'd suggest that our popular culture is totally dominated by propenents of the lifestyle that leads to poverty.

If you disagree, spend some time with Dean Martin, Doris Day and Bing Crosby and then spend some time with the current pop stars. There's a marked difference between what is acceptable and what isn't. Modern populat culture denies the existence of the impoverished single mom. Once the young woman has had a child or two and lost her figure, it's like she never existed and we're on to bedding the next girl.

K T Cat said...

I thought more about your comment. You can't be serious. Watch TV, go to movies, listen to music. How many times do you see people shacking up ending up with poverty and kids? 30% of the time? I doubt it.

It's a cultural thing, Tim. When you watch Friends and they're all yukking it up while talking about how they're sleeping together, think of the people actually doing the deed in real life and ending up in poverty.

You can't tell me it's inevitable, either, since you can find concrete data from just a few decades ago when they had less sex ed and less access to birth control and had far less unmarried moms.

tim eisele said...

Ah. I think I see why we are seeing two different worlds here:

- I haven't watched commercial television for years (we only watch DVDs. It's cheaper, and we get to watch what we want, when we want). I am vaguely aware that there are shows called "Friends" and "Desperate Housewives" and such like, but have never seen any of them.

- I rarely go to movies.

- I mainly listen to classical music.

So, all three of the things that you list as being major issues, aren't impinging on me or my family at all.

It sounds like I'm not missing anything, either.