Romney Says Poor Mothers ‘Need To Go To Work’ — But Not The SAHM Kind

Hilary Rosen‘s gaffe about Anne Romney having “never worked a day in her life” may have sparked a superficial Mommy Wars on the Twittersphere — despite the intended swipe at Romney’s privilege. The Romney campaign jumped on this opportunity to gain ground with female voters with Ann Romney hopping on Twitter to announce that she had definitely “worked.” Even the RNC designed travel mugs entitled “Moms Do Work! Vote GOP.” But of course it wouldn’t be long until Mitt Romney’s notoriously inconsistent record could perhaps provide some economic clarity. Turns out that although Ann Romney was working raising her five boys, welfare mothers need to seek out “the dignity of work” outside the home.

In a clip uncovered by Up w/ Chris Hayes, Romney tells the audience:

“I wanted to increase the work requirement,” said Romney. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”

Yet, for these low income mothers “the dignity of work” doesn’t exactly include raising their kids at home given their financial hardships — again solidifying that of course stay-at-home motherhood is work, if you’re privileged enough to be able to choose it. To have access to that type of career speaks volumes about class and doesn’t reflect the economic decisions that many less fortunate mothers are faced with, including procuring a paycheck with which to feed their kids. Mitt Romney most likely knows this given that, in a video located by Buzzfeed, he said:

 ”This is a different world than it was in the 1960s when I was growing up, when you used to have Mom at home and Dad at work. Now Mom and Dad both have to work whether they want to or not, and usually one of them has two jobs.”

Yet, given that Mitt has said that his wife “reports” to him on issues pertaining to women and the economy, perhaps we can credit her with these revelations that low-income mothers with toddlers “need to go to work.”


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  • kt

    what else is new? it is a sad fact that all people want those families on aide to go back to work to earn their own living, and it isnt just the right conservative party– they SHOULD go back to work when possible, HOWEVER
    this isnt just about them ‘earning their keep’… this problem begins with basic education at the elementary level, and that is something that wont happen they way state and feds keep cutting into those funds to pay for the horrible govt spending that goes on on both sides of the aisle. it cant be ‘corrected’ just by sending low income moms back to work.. because it will only create the same problem we already have of children growing up without parental guidance and not being contributors to a better society. it is a horrible and vicious circle no matter how you look at it…

    • Frances

      That’s the thing, most women on assistance ARE working. The issue isn’t hard work, it’s making a living wage. I agree 100% that the issue is education. But the fact is the more money you have the more access you have to higher education.

    • Jen

      Frances: And let’s not forget that the Right is also enjoying the hell out of criticizing anyone and everyone who has debt from college and can’t pay it off. Meanwhile they ignore all of the surrounding reasons for this situation. Heck, I went to an insanely expensive college and I am now a SAHM and NEVER had any debt because my parents had the luxury to save for my college and still do things like own three cars, go on vacation every year, send us to private school our entire lives, etc (never mind the basics like food and housing). It’s pretty easy if you come from a situation like mine to completely forget that for some people, even if they sacrifice every single luxury for their kids they will still never be able to afford the sort of educational benefits that I was allowed simply because I come from a higher tax bracket.

  • Jen

    As usual, women deserve tons of dignity and choice…unless they are living in poverty.

  • Frances

    It makes my skin crawl to be put in a situation where I feel the need to defend Mittens, but I think he might have a point (and that his comments were taken a bit out of context). If a woman has the financial security to stay at home, The Romneys think that this choice should be respected, but if you don’t then you need to work and depend less on assistance. He also mentioned allowing for my childcare help which I think is an important factor a lot of people are leaving out.

    What I feel is wrong about this rationalization is that Mittens has no idea how difficult it is to break out of poverty without financial assistance. This includes food assistance and assistance with paying for school so they can have more economic pull in addition to child care help. I believe wholeheartedly that welfare programs should be a hand up and not a hand out, but cutting assistance to basic needs isn’t the answer.

    I think there is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to what welfare means also. Traditional welfare, where you’re given cash assistance is difficult to get. I grew up in a hard scrabble neighborhood that was very impoverished and I don’t know of one person under the age of 35 who has ever received cash assistance. The Clinton reforms really changed the game there and I think a lot of middle class people forget this.

    The “welfare queen” is something of the past. Most women in assistance get a reasonable amount of food stamps and child care help and work very, very hard to survive even with the help they get. I went through this years ago when my oldest was a baby and my shiftless ex walked out. I worked 50+ hours a week, put myself through school and raised my daughter alone. I couldn’t have done that without some assistance and I am grateful for it.

    What bothers me is the attitude that perhaps I didn’t understand the dignity of work when I worked harder at that point in my life than Ann Romney has probably ever worked. I am sure she is a nice person and that she worked hard raising her kids. But doing that same thing while working more than 40 hours a week and still maintaining a 4.0 average in school, and raising a child is hands down more physical work, especially when you’re dirt poor with no support system and a husband who walked out when things got tough. I did everything right according to the GOP and hell, I made a lot of similar choices to Ann herself, getting married right out of high school and starting a family. I chose a seemingly wonderful partner who turned out to be a douche, which is something that very well could have happened to Ann or any other woman, and if I hadn’t had a backup plan and a drive to be educated I would still be living the way I was because what choice would I have had?

    • SJP

      Very well written!

  • CW

    If you choose to have a baby out of wedlock, then obviously it’s the lesser of two evils to put your baby into daycare so that you can hold down full-time employment than to rely on a government handout. Obviously the ideal situation would be to wait to have a baby until you are married to someone who can either support you on his income or who can be a SAHD while you are employed FT. But if that isn’t the case, then earning an honest paycheck is a far better situation than being dependent on welfare.

    • Jen

      The point is that “earning an honest paycheck” is not always an option. For many people living in poverty things like food stamps and government assistance doesn’t come close to covering the cost of living and in addition to that daycare options in poorer neighborhoods tend to be abysmal. Anyone who has ever tried to live off of minimum wage in a place like NYC can tell you that even working two jobs is not always enough for a mother to support her children and as Frances has so beautifully explained, the system is such that we trap women and children in a cycle of poverty and then complain that they don’t magically lift themselves out of it.

    • Another Steph

      Yes, I believe the term is ‘the working poor’.

  • Hong Mei

    Well stated Frances. What I have a problem with is women or parents I should say but often it is the mom that is the caregiver, having more and more children that they can’t afford because they know they will get more money and not have to work for every subsequent child. Ok, one unplanned pregnancy I can accept, two ok, but three, four or more. I mean really? I was not a single mom but my husband and I were poor (think instant noodles EVERY DAY and stolen bread from our restaurant jobs, not proud about that but it’s true) while we put ourselves through school and worked shitty jobs. We really worked hard to be where we are now. One of our daughters was unplanned but the other we waited 8 years to have so we could be sure we could afford two children. It wasn’t easy but we made it and it is this sense of accomplishment that I want to instill in my two children. I am not a stay at home mom because I don’t want to be, but I am also not having any more kids because while I love my children, I know that more than two would be too much for our family to afford. And I am not talking about barely scraping by, I am talking about giving my children the opportunities that Jen had, international travel every year, private school all the way and whatever (insanely expensive, yikes!) college they want to go to. My sister (who is 22) on the other hand is pregnant with her third child and is on public assistance. I am a lot older than her (with many kids in between) and she just wants a handout. She doesn’t want to work and is perfectly happy having kid after kid and being poor. It is really sad. She was taught by our mom that it is ok to not be responsible for your life and you will be taken care of no matter what. And so the cycle continues…

  • Meg

    I feel like telling people to wait until they are financially aol eng to have kids is a good idea, but it also eliminates some of the complexity from the situation. We lady people have until maybe 35 if we want to have the idealized safe sand easy pregnancy. I am 27 and most of my friends are still firmly in the drowning in student debt and still working retail parts of their lives, and for all I know some of them will never dig all the way out.

    So what if they want kids? Most of them are partnered but none of them can afford to get married, where does a baby fit in this picture? You wait until your finances are In order and you risk not being able to get pregnant. You go for it anyway and you are irresponsible for having a baby that you can’t afford. I guess I sympathize with a woman choosing to have a baby in less than ideal situations because maybe that is her only chance for a family.

    • T.

      Sorry, peraphs I make it too easy but, well…
      If you can’t feed a child, don’t have a child.
      It is as simpy as that.

      Having a child in a less than ideal situation because you want a child… is the best thing for the child?
      And, honestly, dreams and utopism aside, what change of life a child grow up on welfare has got? (Leaving aside the rather slim change he/she is a genius or incredibly strong-willed).
      Statistically few : /

      There are many kind of families, after all. Mom+Dad+Child is not the only one, after all.

    • Love4Tax

      Kids on welfare have a chance if their parents use that welfare to improve their condition. I became pregnant at 19 – yes, irresponsibly and I take full ownership for that. I was a party-loving college kid but the reality of the situation I created hit me quickly. I never once looked at the gov’t help we received as an “entitlement,” but was eternally grateful to have the opportunity to finish college. I will be starting a job with a comfortable salary within a few weeks, and will proudly pay my first tax liability! I care very much for my son, and will now be able to provide him with plenty of opportunities (on a budget, like most families).

      On that note, my parents moved to this country with $300 and me as a 1.5 yr old. They had some basic help from friends (no welfare), but we lived in very modest conditions for a number of years. My mom had to work as a housekeeper at first, but by the time I was 10, my parents both were business owners – I got to travel the world and attend private schools. I made a mistake at 19, but would say that my son and I still have a nice “chance of life.”

      I have seen plenty of welfare abuse. It would be so easy! No one really checks in with you when you are receiving food stamps or unemployment. It is sad to see people losing all motivation and self-worth. Next step… drugs to numb the boredom and nothingness. I briefly lived in a city where this was the culture, but decided to move in with my mom rather than letting my son be around people like that. Just based on receiving welfare myself, I feel it needs to be way better supervised. Drug tests, time limits, removing incentives to birth more children into welfare…

      Anyway, my point is that all types of people can find themselves on welfare and it is a deeper issue than throwing out a judgmental statement. BTW, my son is not a genius though quite strong-willed… he has Down Syndrome. But he will learn to be a respectful citizen and will work (regardless of whether it makes sense financially), because that is the ethic my parents have taught me, and what his mama will teach to him.

    • Jen

      T: The same people who complain about “welfare moms” tend to be the ones who oppose abortion and make access to birth control difficult if not impossible for the poor. So…poor people should be punished over and over again because they are poor instead of having the ultra wealthy actually contribute to society (and I’m not talking about spending over $100 million on a painting “contributions”) and help to improve the health and education system for all.

  • kim

    i’m a single mom. i’ve been on welfare. i sold everything i had that was of any value before i did it, but eventually it was a necessity. i worked while i was on welfare, went to school at the same time. i finally got a great job & was independant for 2 yrs. then i lost the job. the only thing keeping me from welfare again is my unemployment. its not that i dont WANT to work, i can’t find a flipping job.
    i really hate the stigma that goes along with people on welfare, or low- income people. not everyone is the same. many people WANT to work, but can’t find jobs. and as great as it is that mitt is willing to pay for daycare, its pretty hard to find a daycare thats open nights and wknds, & many employers are requiring that type of availibility now. i was in the dental field. i worked 2 nights a week & saturdays, too.

  • e

    I agree with frances what she said was very well put, but I must say assistance in some cases does make it too easy for some. Its like the people who want to do better and just need a little extra help cant get it because you dont have children. Fpr example I have a family member on it she has one child why is it that she is completely able to work but get gets $300 worth of food stamps plus cash assistance plus a free education, and all she has to do is work a minimum number of hrs a week. I on the other hand work 60hrs a week and my partner works 70 and we are just “maintaing” and expecting our first. To provide all the things we need for our child we will have to keep these schedules and hardly be with the child. While my family member can work 3hrs a day and reap the benefits of assistance. We could not get married due to the fact we would just be making a little too much for assistance but yet in reality we are just getting by. Especially when you live in a state like ct and the cost of living is high. I cant go to school because of the cost and finacial aid wont cover everything because im under 25 so they go off of parents income which i have not lived with since i was 16. And school will also put you into more debt than most are able or willing to handle. Theres something so very wrong with the way this country is governed and most times it doesnt make sense. So like I was saying it seems that those that could benefit off a bit of assistance have no access but then theres the others…smh.

    • Jen

      E: The part about financial aid is definitely NOT true. When I attended grad school (which my parents did not pay for) I was 23 and my financial aid was based on my income without taking into account my folks. The same is true for everyone I know who is/was in grad school regardless of age. Additionally since you are married you are definitely considered “independent” as far as financial aid goes AND as a soon to be mom you should be eligible for lots of other grants. Not trying to minimize your struggle at all, just something to keep in mind if pursuing a higher education is something you are interested in.