Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blamed poverty on bad parents and a lack of strong family values during a CNN Republican presidential townhall, parroting Fox News' talking points and long history of poor-shaming.
Marco Rubio Blames Poverty On Bad Parents And A Lack Of Strong Family Values During CNN Townhall
Marco Rubio On Policies To Help Students From Low Income Households: “There's No Law I Can Pass To Make People Better Parents.” During the February 17 CNN Republican Presidential Townhall, Rubio stated “there's no law I can pass to make people better parents,” in response to a question on helping students from low income households, and suggested a solution would be ensuring there is no law in the U.S. “that discourages marriage or undermines parenting” (emphasis added):
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Thank you for the question. I have three educators in my family, elementary school. And I hear the exact same thing. Because ultimately, our schools are inheriting whatever society sends them in the morning. And I touched on that briefly a moment ago, if a child is being raised in a broken home living in substandard housing, no access to health care, and facing these other challenges we talked about, this child faces significant obstacles and they need to be addressed. The question is what can government do about it? Because ultimately, there's no law I can pass to make people better parents. And no matter how hard you try and how much you want to help, there's only so much you can do about that as well. I do think we need to empower parents. It's one of the reasons why my tax plan, that I've proposed, increases the per child tax credit. And I've been criticized for that by, for example The Wall Street Journal and others. They don't like the per child tax credit. But I don't understand, why do we live in a country where when big business invest money in a piece of equipment they get to write it off their taxes, but if a working parent invests more money in their children they don't get to write that off their taxes. This is their money. What I'm arguing is that working parents should be allowed to keep more of their own money so that they have the resources it takes to raise their children. It's expensive to raise children in the 21st century. My tax plan recognizes that. But ultimately, I think your question goes to the core of something we need to remind ourselves. There is not a government solution to every problem in our country. That does not mean that our leaders should not spend the time to tell people that what happens in our house, what happens in your house is often times much more important than what happens in the White House. The most important job I will ever have, will not be president of the United States, it will be to be a father to my four children. And I think that's important for us as a society to continue to understand that you cannot have a strong country without strong people. You cannot have strong people without strong values and you cannot have strong values without strong families. No one is born with strong values. They have to be instilled in you in a strong home. And while government cannot make families stronger, it most certainly can do things to help families. Like allowing them to keep more of their hard earned money and most importantly, not having any laws, whether it's in our safety net program or our tax code that discourages marriage or undermines parenting. [CNN, Republican Presidential Townhall, 2/17/16]
Rubio's Comments Echo Fox News' Long History Of Poor-Shaming, Blaming Parents and “Family Structure” For Poverty
Bill O'Reilly: “It Is Not The System Or The Country's Fault That Irresponsible People Have Children.” During the October 21, 2015, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly criticized government programs to aid children in low income households, arguing that “it is not the system or the country's fault that irresponsible people have children, and then cannot feed or raise the children”:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): But that's not society's fault that your mother was a drug addict and alcoholic and you didn't have a father. That's not my fault. But that was my point and it was clearly made.
NIKKI JOHNSON-HUSTON: I didn't say that that's the point that you were making and I didn't say that it was society's fault. But we as a society have said that we are not going to let children go hungry and we have put an apparatus into place with our tax dollars and I'm saying it's not working the way that you think it is.
O'REILLY: Let me challenge that. OK? Society is responsible for providing safety nets, all right?
O'REILLY: Now here in Philadelphia where you live, if you are a poor person making $19,000 or less in Philadelphia, here is what you're entitled to right at this moment: more than $6,000 in food stamps. More than $7,000 in housing -- that's rent. All right. About $15,000 in day care subsidies, which means that your kids will be minded by somebody else and fed while you work. All right? About $7,500 per child and $10,000 per child for Head Start and Early Start educational programs. The package adds up to more than $40,000.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: But a lot of the programs that you cited are not money that comes directly to the parent and, again--
O'REILLY: That's because many of these parents are drug addicts and alcoholics as your mother was. What I'm trying to say is--
JOHNSON-HUSTON: That is not the reason that we ended up on the streets. Someone took our money and, look, I'm not saying that my mother was perfect. She made mistakes, but we said in the United States that people have second chances at life. And you know what?
O'REILLY: Well look at you. Look at how successful you've been.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: I am, and you know what, I'm not blaming the system. I'm saying, in this sense, the system worked for me.
O'REILLY: That's what I want you to understand and everybody else hear me. It is not the system or the country's fault that irresponsible people have children and then cannot feed or raise the children.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Everyone who is poor is not irresponsible.
O'REILLY: That's not what I said, counselor, and you know that.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: You are confusing an economic status of someone with their character, and people make mistakes in life, but you know what? My mother loved me and what you put forth was that people who are in these situations, that they're abusing their children. I know people who have been abused. I was not abused and my mother did the right thing by me which was to put me in a more stable environment--
O'REILLY: Your grandmother took you.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: Yes, my grandmother took me.
O'REILLY: I contend, and I'm glad you love and you're loyal to your mother. I contend that it's not America's fault.
JOHNSON-HUSTON: No one said it was America's fault. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/21/15]
Ben Stein: If You Give Tax Money To “Dumber People Who Are Way Below The Poverty Line ... They Are Not Going To Be Better Off.” On the May 19, 2015, edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, frequent Fox guest Ben Stein called many low income workers, “slobs, drunks, drug addicts,” claiming only “their own discipline ... will help them,” rather than government programs:
BEN STEIN: There has never been a case in history where a poor person who is a slovenly, uneducated, lazy, undisciplined drug addict got to be rich because of some wealthy person being taxed. It's fine
with me --
NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): Wait, wait, wait. I just want to be clear Ben Stein is not saying that all poor people are slovenly.
STEIN: No, no, no, not at all, not at all, many are fine, and incredibly hard working people and I love them and by the way, I work with them when I go to Walmart, and they're great, great people. But there are an awful lot of people who are slobs, drunks, drug addicts. No plan is going to help them. Their own discipline, their own willingness to get an education, that will help them. Taking away from the rich is not going to help them. By the way, it's fine with me if they take away from the rich. I sign my income tax check with a smile, but I don't -- but I don't think it's going to make the poor rich.
STEIN: If you took all that money and gave it to the dumber people who are way below the poverty line, they'll be better off for a little while, but unless they can develop better habits of life they are not going to be better off at all. Any person in this country who works hard, gets a decent education and really, really is disciplined can become a middle-class person unless he's physically or mentally disabled. It doesn't happen by taking away from the rich. It happens by the efforts of the individual person in America. Self-discipline, reliance upon self, reliance upon hard work -- that's what makes it happen. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 5/19/15]
Brit Hume: Those In Poverty Are “Responsible For That By The Choices They Make.” During the May 17, 2015, edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, senior political analyst Brit Hume lamented that “you never hear [President Obama] suggest that the people who live in these terrible conditions are in any way responsible for that by the choices they make”:
BRIT HUME: I also think that [Obama] has a particular viewpoint on these issues, where you never hear him suggest that the people who live in these terrible conditions are in any way responsible for that by the choices they make.
HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): I don't think that's entirely fair, because the president has talked about fatherless families, and dysfunction in the black culture --
HUME: Yes, he does. Yes, but he speaks of it as if -- first, on the one hand he's -- what he says is these conditions, fatherless families, broken homes, and the rest of it, are a result of poverty and the conditions, and not a cause of it. On the other hand, he'll turn around, and he did it, in this presentation at --
HUME: Georgetown, and talk about how the statistics on poverty are wrong because they don't include an array of benefits. So, on the one hand he's saying poverty is not all that bad, then on the other hand he's saying “Well, it's the cause of all these broken families.” So he's -- you know, his own message is full of self-contradiction. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 5/17/15]
Bill O'Reilly: “True Poverty Is Being Driven By Personal Behavior,” So “Maybe We Should Have A War Against Chaotic, Irresponsible Parents.” During the January 9, 2014, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly argued that “true poverty is being driven by personal behavior, not an unfair economic system,” suggesting “maybe we should have a war against chaotic, irresponsible parents”:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Of course, welfare beneficiaries comprise a solid core of the Democratic Party. And so, we see the Dems ramping up for this year's election by promising even more benefits in their quest for income equality. But, true poverty is being driven by personal behavior, not an unfair economic system. In 1963, just 6 percent of American babies were born out-of-wedlock, now 41 percent are and that includes 72 percent of African-American babies. According to Heritage [Foundation], single parent homes are four times more likely to be living in poverty, and children raised by single parents are three times more likely to end up in prison, 50 percent more likely to be poor as adults. So maybe we should have a war against chaotic, irresponsible parents. But America will never launch that kind of war, because it is too judgmental and deeply affects the minority precincts. Therefore, cowardly politicians and race hustlers continue to bear false witness, that our economic system is at fault, rather than bad personal decision making. Talking Points has exposed that ruse before and will again, no matter how much money the government takes from the haves, and gives to the have-nots, poverty will not change until personal behavior does. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/9/14]
Fox's Jonah Goldberg: “Family Structure And The Values That Go Into Successful Child Rearing Have A Stronger Correlation With Economic Mobility Than Income Inequality.” In a January 6, 2014, USA Today opinion article, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg claimed that non-economic issues like family structure can do more to combat poverty and income inequality than economic policy:
Family structure and the values that go into successful child rearing have a stronger correlation with economic mobility than income inequality. America's system is hardly flawless. But if Dasani were born to the same parents in a socialist country, she'd still be a victim -- of bad parents. [USA Today, 1/6/14]