Thursday, January 9, 2014

Marco's Masquerade

Here he goes again. Earlier today, we discussed Senator Marco Rubio's (R-Thirsty for TEA) "true conservative plan to fight poverty". Apparently, there was something we missed this morning.

Believe it or not, Senator Rubio believes he has the ultimate solution to poverty in America: Marriage! Who knew getting hitched could magically solve women's economic problems? But wait, there's a rather large problem with Marco Rubio's great marriage solution: It doesn't actually work that way.

But you know what works? Ding, ding, ding: A functioning social safety net!

[Ohio State University sociology professor Kristi] Williams points to greater access to “comprehensive and early sex education and expansive and affordable access to birth control and family planning services” to help women avoid unwanted or mistimed births. Contraception can be a potent tool in helping women achieve a higher economic status. In one study, the majority of women reported that contraception allowed them to support themselves financially, complete their education, and either keep or get a job. And family planning doesn’t just benefit mothers: it benefits their future children. Research has found that it can increase their children’s likelihood of completing college and getting a job while boosting their wages decades later. But it can also be costly, which can limit access. One in three women have struggled to afford prescription birth control at some point, and more than half of young women experienced a time when they couldn’t afford to take it consistently.

But even with greater access to contraception, some women will still be single mothers. So what can we do to help them stay out of poverty? It turns out that while marriage may not offer much help, better policies could. American single mothers are worse off than their counterparts in 16 other high-income peer countries thanks to a thin social safety net. Single moms in this country have the highest rates of lacking health insurance, put up with the stingiest income support programs, have to wait longer than in other countries for early childhood education to begin, aren’t guaranteed paid time off of work for a new child or if they or their kids fall sick, and have a low rate of receiving child support. They also are much more likely to be employed in low wage work.

There are ways to solve the problems they face: universal preschool and more support for childcare could help them get to jobs and know their children have somewhere to be; raising the minimum wage would lift many out of poverty; guaranteed paid sick days would give them the ability to care for a child when he or she falls ill without losing wages or risking a job; paid family leave would mean they wouldn’t have to quit, go into debt, or go on public assistance when a new child arrives; welfare, or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, could be updated so that it reaches more families and the benefits could be enhanced so that they are worth more than in 1996.

You know what also works? Contraception. And access to other critical family planning services. And education.

You know what doesn't work? This ridiculous War on Women! Seriously, Rubio and other G-O-TEA politicians don't know what's best for America's women. Many sisters can easily do it for themselves. And for those who need a helping hand, it's much easier and more cost effective to simply provide that helping hand rather than try to take control of their lives.

But yet again, some House G-O-TEA yahoos are embarking on another battle to take away women’s access to reproductive health care. How does that reduce poverty? Here's a helpful hint: It doesn't.

Oh, and it's funny that Senator Rubio is suddenly encouraging people to get married. He must really like the thought of families coming together... Or perhaps not. It wasn't that long ago when he was threatening to quash comprehensive immigration reform if it meant help for LGBTQ families trying to reunite.

For all their talk of "celebrating marriage & family" and "cutting waste", Senator Rubio and other top DC Republicans haven't said a peep about the State of Utah wasting $2 million on its legal campaign to deny LGBTQ families civil marriage rights. How does anti-LGBTQ discrimination reduce poverty? Here's a helpful hint: It doesn't. (If anything, the opposite is true.)

It looks to us like Senator Rubio invited us to a masquerade ball. He's wearing a new mask of "poverty fighter", but beneath that mask is the same old Culture Warrior. Color us unimpressed. If we want a good ball, we already know damned well where to find one. And if Marco Rubio wants effective policies to reduce poverty, we already know damned well where to find those.

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