Punish absent dads, not single moms

Edna St. Vincent Millay once stated cynically, "It is not true that life is one damn thing after another . it's the same damn thing over and over again." The Republican welfare plan evokes this sentiment by assigning Victorian principles of roles and responsibilities to poor mothers and punishing them for deviating from the traditional family mold.

Somehow, the conservative family values campaign trickled into the welfare debate, and the result places poor fathers in an ideal situation while forcing single mothers into an impossible Catch-22.

Conservatives prefer women to stay at home and raise children that is, unless the women are single and poor, in which case the idyllic Donna Reed scenario so crucial to the family values crusade is replaced by a fifty-hour work week toiling at a blue collar job. You see, family values are a luxury that some Americans cannot afford.

Single mothers are required to work, but the conservatives refuse to finance child care. So it's off to the mines for old mom, and the tot is left in the care of a sitter. Of course, the mother finds herself in quite a quandary since she can't afford to pay for child care. If she leaves the child home in a house full of chemical cleaning agents and electrical appliances, it will be seized by the children's social services.

The mother is required to work though, so it's off to the mines for old mom, and the tot is left in the care of a sitter. Of course, the mother finds herself in quite a quandary .

Single mothers are viewed as a threat to the normal nuclear family, and as a punishment, conservatives have created a series of obstacles and absurd regulations to stigmatize poor single mothers to depict them as welfare queens, as lazy, self-absorbed baby factories (when in fact, most welfare mothers have fewer children than the national average).

Next on the "vilify welfare mothers" agenda is the family cap, a measure which gives poor women the same reproductive status as dogs or horses in controlled breeding environments. Any woman who violates the breeding laws will not receive an increase in benefits for children born while on welfare (thus, in typical conservative fashion, punishing children for their parents' "crimes").

Why is there a family cap on the number of children a welfare mother can have while fathers can copulate at will without a formal reprimand from the government? Restricting the family cap to women alone promotes the assumption that women, not men, will take responsibility for their offspring it cultivates an attitude of irresponsibility among fathers. Is this plan consistent with the conservative ideals of personal responsibility, of accepting the consequences for choices made?

Poor mothers, far from being welfare queens or miscreants in a traditional society, are simply hard-working women who are juggling blue-collar jobs, children, and mountains of guilt in a valiant attempt to hold their families together. The conservatives choose to target these women rather than the absent fathers, who are either playing bachelor or gallivanting around with a twenty-something princess with no regard for their forgotten ex-family.

When they designed their welfare plan, conservatives had no intention of instilling work ethics and a sense of responsibility in welfare recipients. Their primary concern was to strike at those to whom they attribute all that is broken and corrupt in the welfare system. The obvious scapegoat is always the welfare mothers.

There is one solution which makes Republican misanthropes shudder and gives welfare mothers a break.

Make fathers take responsibility for their children, if not through custody arrangements, then at least financially. Shifting part of the financial burden from the government to absent fathers emphasizes personal responsibility, one of the basic tenants which conservatives cling to. Fathers should be paying half of all their children's expenses not just food, but clothes, housing, medical expenses and school expenses. Enforcing financial obligations for fathers also partially privatizes the welfare system.

The conservatives need to recognize that the government is picking up the tab for irresponsible fathers, not for the single mothers who, through difficult circumstances and enormous adversity, are always holding down the fort. Place the blame where it belongs yes, current and potential fathers, responsibility begins after sperm contribution.

Jessie Fillerup is a music education junior. Her column appears every other Friday.

Read Next Article