Posted Thursday, April 12, 2012, at 11:02 AM
Given Mitt Romney's somewhat eccentric interest in deliberately focusing attention on the question of which presidential candidate's economic policies are better for women, it's worth noting that the House GOP budget Romney has endorsed enacts steep cuts in programs aimed at helping poor people. They want to reduce the budget for Medicaid which gives health care to poor people. But they also want to reduce spending on nutrition assistance to poor people and housing assistance to poor people. Indeed, every single program that helps poor people in the United States would face severe budget cuts under the Romney/Ryan budget. And judging by the Census Bureau's statistics on the demographic composition of poor families (PDF) converted into convenient chart form above, it turns out that the overwhelming majority of poor adults in the United States are women.
This is particularly interesting in light of last night's twitter kerfluffle between Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney. As you may have heard, Mitt Romney suggested that he listened to his wife Ann for insights into women's economic struggles. Rosen responded by saying that Ann Romney's never worked. The Romney camp took offense, arguing persuasively that raising all the Romney kids as a stay-at-home mom is in fact hard work. I don't think this seriously undermines Rosen's point about Ann Romney's lack of practical labor market assistance, but it does put these poverty figures in an interesting light. After all, the vast majority of these female-headed poor households also include children. So we're talking about women who, by Romney's lights, are working a full-time job taking care of their kids. Unfortunately, many mothers aren't fortunate enough to have a multi-millionaire husband who can keep them in dressage horses so in some cases they end up relying on federal anti-poverty programs. If we understand these poor moms as moochers and looters exploiting the hard-working taxpayers, then the Romney policy agenda of reducing their incomes makes a lot of sense. But in the context of his own wife at least, Romney seems to want to say that childrearing as such is a difficult and socially valuable undertaking. So why don't the same considerations apply to poor people?