- A monthly payment of $250 isn’t enough to incentivize someone to stay out of the labor force, but it would make a difference to parents trying to pay bills during difficult months of unemployment, illness, or upheaval. Tweet This
- A balloon payment in the form of a tax return check once a year in the spring does nothing for a single mother struggling to make rent in November. Tweet This
I was raised by a superhero single mother. She was the first in her family to go to college and when she got pregnant, she kicked a drug problem that my dad would not. We bounced from basement apartment to basement apartment, moving every few months due to her inability to make rent payments. Once, our landlord turned off our hot water as retribution, and she had to bathe me by heating the water on the stove and pouring it into the kitchen sink.
I now live a modest and comfortable middle-class life as a stay-at-home mother of a gaggle of small children, married to a wonderful man with a stable job. I’ve watched with some interest the three child benefit plans proposed by President Biden and Senators Romney and Rubio. I’m not an economist or a public policy expert, but I am our family bookkeeper. And with any of the proposed plans, our personal finances look better. The infusion of cash would help us save more for college or perhaps send one or two of our children to a morning preschool program while I homeschool their older siblings. But we are not the family that truly needs this cash assistance; it is families headed up by women like my mother who need this help the most. Which is why I found Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) messaging around his opposition to the other two proposed plans so infuriating.
In his press release in opposition to Biden’s plan, Rubio explains,
It is not pro-family to provide cash payments without ensuring that at least one parent has a stable job or a path to getting one, because it makes the family reliant on those cash benefits.
It is not pro-family to remove longstanding financial incentives for low-income single parents to marry.
It is not pro-family to provide direct cash payments without ensuring parents with troubled histories, whether because of crime or substance abuse, are put on a path to recovery and stability.
It is not pro-family to provide direct cash payments to single parents without ensuring child-support orders are established, and to do so will destroy the child-support enforcement system as we know it.
My father was a drug addict who rarely, if ever, made child support payments on time. Payments of $3,600 spread out over the course of a year would have helped my mother pay rent, but they wouldn’t have done anything to get him “on a path of recovery” or prevented him from defaulting on what he owed my mother. These monthly payments surely would have helped my mother pay necessary bills, but they wouldn’t have taken the fire out from under her to work or get what she was owed by her ex-husband. The payments would have helped, but they were not enough to discourage major life decisions. If my father had received the payments instead, it’s likely he would have used it to fuel his addiction instead of our family budget. But is the possibility of that happening with a small number of people reason enough to withhold assistance to the majority? If my mother had been denied this lifeline due to my father’s addiction, it would have served as yet another data point in how his addiction victimized our family.
There were several times where my mother was left without a job and any source of income due to my father’s refusal to pay her support. Operating under Rubio’s calculus, that’s the moment assistance to her would have stopped, when she needed it most of all. A monthly payment of $250 isn’t enough to incentivize someone to stay out of the labor force, but it would make a difference to parents trying to pay bills during difficult months of unemployment, illness, or upheaval.
In a tweet expressing opposition to the other two plans, Rubio didn’t just upset me as a daughter of a single mother but as a stay-at-home mother as well, "Sending $250/$350 per month/per child to everyone, with no work requirement, is welfare. Being pro-family means being pro-work. Our expanded Child Tax Credit idea is a far better approach."
There is nothing “pro-family” about requiring mothers to work outside of the home as a condition of anything. I am a stay-at-home mother for a reason, and the decision is directly tied to my own upbringing. My mother had to work non-stop in order to pay rent and put food on the table. I was raised by the television in our living room as a result. I remember seeing neighborhood friends with mothers who were home to make them after-school snacks and dinner, and I wished more than anything I could have the same. I wanted that for my children, and we made it happen. As a conservative, it is a core belief that children are best cared for by their mother. That’s one of those inconvenient truths we are not allowed to say out loud anymore, but it’s a truth, nonetheless.
Of the three proposed plans, our personal finances would be best buoyed by Rubio’s, who offers larger tax credits than Biden. It would be a significant cash infusion once a year that we would bank into savings or roll into our next year’s tax payment.
But families like ours aren’t the ones who need the help; the families who need it most are like the one I grew up in, families that struggled on a month-to-month basis to pay basic expenses. A balloon payment in the form of a tax return check once a year in the spring does nothing for a single mother struggling to make rent in November, suddenly out of work when the group home she worked in cut her hours (something that happened to my mother one year). At that moment, my single mother didn’t need a condescending lecture about the dignity of work and the importance of marriage, she just needed a hand. Romney and Biden’s plans would provide that.
Bethany Mandel is a stay-at-home and homeschooling mother of four, editor at Ricochet, and freelance writer on politics and culture.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or viewpoint of the Institute for Family Studies.