Sunday, March 06, 2011

On The Merits, He Was Right

On Thursday, conservative Repub talk show host Michael Medved, posing to Mike Huckabee a question in the form of a statement, commented about Academy Award-winning Natalie Portman:

in any event, she got up, she was very visibly pregnant, and it's really it's a problem because she's about seven months pregnant, it's her first pregnancy, and she and the baby's father aren't married, and before two billion people, Natalie Portman says, 'Oh I want to thank my love and he's given me the most wonderful gift.' He didn't give her the most wonderful gift, which would be a wedding ring! And it just seems to me that sending that kind of message is problematic.

The (other) man from Hope (Ark.) replied

You know Michael, one of the things that's troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, 'Hey look, you know, we're having children, we're not married, but we're having these children, and they're doing just fine.' But there aren't really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And I think it gives a distorted image that yes, not everybody hires nannies, and caretakers, and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that's the story that we're not seeing, and it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.

You know, right now, 75 percent of black kids in this country are born out of wedlock. 61 percent of Hispanic kids -- across the board, 41 percent of all live births in America are out of wedlock births. And the cost of that is simply staggering.

Huckabee, is of course, right. There are more single mothers than in decades past and a disproportionate number are of minority groups (whether his statistics are accurate), especially black. The impact upon poor and working class women, who disproportionately (see last sentence) bear children while unmarried, is particularly severe, given their reduced capacity for earnings and child care. Sara McLanahan of the Fragile Families Study observed "whereas 14% of married mothers are poor at the time their child is born, the number is 53% for unmarried mothers who are living alone and 32% for unmarried mothers who are cohabiting with child's father." She grudgingly conceded "on average, children born to married parents have better outcomes than children born to unmarried parents." And Portman (who, it appears, was somewhat misquoted by Medved) has a lot of fans, many of them young, and many of those, impressionable. Like then-NBA star Charles Barkley, she has assumed the role of role model, intentionally or otherwise.

According to Media Matters, Natalie Portman referred to being given "my most important role" rather than "the most wonderful gift." She will, no doubt, with or without a husband (she is reportedly engaged) give her child the best in private education and health care in her home, by nanny or whatever the fashion is among the wealthy. But for most single mothers, the outlook is much, much bleaker. And if it took a Republican- a Republican!- to draw attention to, and sympathize with, women struggling to raise a child without a father present, it was at least someone.

Next Up: Huckabee was bold and accurate- but politically tone-deaf.

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