This week in conservatives looking to blame anything but income inequality and unemployment for poverty: Ralph Reed went on Morning Joe on Tuesday and laid the problem of poverty on the feet of men who toss their wives out the door once the crow’s feet start coming in:
I personally think the no-fault divorce revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s has not been good for society. Certainly, I recognize that couples are not going to be able to stay together. That’s been true throughout society, but do we really want to make it easier for a man to discard the wife of his youth than it is for him to fire his secretary. To basically go in and say goodbye when 40 percent of all child support is never paid? And when we know, 40 percent of the women and children that are thus cast aside end up in poverty. A woman is far more likely to end up in poverty. A man’s income goes up. So, a lot of the poverty problem in America is a problem of women and children abandoned by the husbands and fathers.
Reed’s fantasy of what no-fault divorce is like—well-off men tossing aside their old families for greener pastures—is so quaint that it’s almost not offensive. Or wouldn’t be, anyway, if it wasn’t being treated like a legitimate opinion on MSNBC. But actually, Ralph, it should be harder to fire your secretary than it is to divorce the wife of your youth, especially if you’re concerned about poverty. While there is a connection between divorce and poverty, there’s an even stronger connection between unemployment and poverty. (What if that secretary is a divorced mother whose ex-husband is evading child support?)
The reason that divorced women are more likely to live in poverty is not because they were all housewives with no marketable skills whose husbands abandoned them. It’s because wages are so low, especially for women, that many households need two adults working full time to make ends meet. The real solution to women’s problems is better jobs with better wages. Women shouldn’t have to pick between living in poverty and living with a man who makes them unhappy, and men shouldn’t have to stay in a marriage to fix income inequality.