It's been weeks since the last one, so on Sunday, The New York Times Magazine
featured yet another cheery, upbeat article on single mothers. As with all its
other promotional pieces on single motherhood over the years, the Times followed a
specific formula to make this social disaster sound normal, blameless and harmless
These single motherhood advertisements include lots of conclusory statements to the
effect that this is simply the way things are so get used to it, bourgeois
America! "(A)n increasing number of unmarried mothers," the article explained,
"look a lot more like Fran McElhill and Nancy Clark they are college-educated,
and they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s."
Why isn't the number of smokers treated as a fait accompli that the rest of us just
have to accept? Smoking causes a lot less damage and the harm befalls the person
who chooses to smoke, not innocent children.
The Times' single motherhood endorsements always describe single mothers as the
very picture of middle-class normality: "She grew up in blue-collar Chester County,
Pa., outside Philadelphia, and talks like a local girl (long O's). Her father was a
World War II vet who worked for a union and took his kids to Mass most Sundays."
Even as a girl she dreamed of raising a baby with a 50 percent greater chance of
growing up in poverty.
How about some articles on all the nice middle-class smokers whose fathers served
in World War II and took them to Mass? Only when describing aberrant social
behavior do Times writers even recognize what normality is, much less speak of it
According to hysterical anti-smoking zealots at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, smoking costs the nation $92 billion a year in "lost productivity."
(Obviously these conclusions were produced by people who not only have never
smoked, but also don't know any smokers, who could have told them smoking makes us
10 times more productive.)
Meanwhile, single motherhood costs taxpayers about $112 billion every year,
according to a 2008 study by Georgia State University economist Benjamin Scafidi.
Smoking has no causal relationship to crime, has little effect on others and
let's be honest looks cool. Controlling for income, education and occupation, it
causes about 200,000 deaths per year, mostly of people in their 70s.
Single motherhood, by contrast, directly harms children, occurs at a rate of about
1.5 million a year and has a causal relationship to criminal behavior, substance
abuse, juvenile delinquency, sexual victimization and almost every other social
If a pregnant woman smokes or drinks, we blame her. But if a woman decides to have
a fatherless child, we praise her as brave even though the outcome for the child
is much worse.
Thus, the Times writes warmly of single mothers, always including an innocent
explanation: "Many of these women followed a similar and familiar pattern in having
their first child: They planned to marry, found they hadn't by their 30s, looked
some more and then decided to have a child without a husband." At which point, a
stork showed up with their babies.
So apparently, single motherhood could happen to anyone!
How about: These smokers followed a similar and familiar pattern, they
planned never to start smoking, found themselves working long nights at the law
firm and then decided to have a cigarette to stay alert.
Then there is the Times' reversal of cause and effect, which manages to exonerate
the single mother while turning her into a victim: "The biggest reason that
children born to unmarried mothers tend to have problems they're more likely to
drop out of school and commit crimes is that they tend to grow up poor."
First, the reason the children "tend to grow up poor" is that their mothers
considered it unnecessary to have a primary bread-earner in the family.
Second, the Times simply made up the fact that poverty, rather than single
motherhood, causes anti-social behavior in children. Poverty doesn't cause crime
single mothers do. If poverty caused crime, how did we get Bernie Madoff?
Studies including one by the liberal Progressive Policy Institute have shown
that controlling for factors such as poverty and socioeconomic status, single
motherhood accounts for the entire difference in black and white crime rates.
The Times' claim that poverty is the "biggest reason" for the problems of
illegitimate children is on the order of claiming that the biggest reason that
smokers develop heart disease and lung cancer is not because they smoke, but
because they tend to work so hard. It's a half-baked, wishful-thinking theory
contradicted by all known evidence. Other than that, it holds up pretty well.
Finally, the Times produced an imaginary statistic that is valid only in the sense
that no study has specifically disproved it yet. "No one has shown," the Times
triumphantly announced, "that there are similar risks for the children of
college-educated single mothers by choice."
No one has shown that there are similar risks for smokers who run marathons,
either. There are probably about as many college graduate single mothers by choice
(7 percent) as there are smokers who run marathons. And, unlike single mothers,
smokers who run marathons look really cool.
If the establishment media wrote about smoking the way they write about unwed
motherhood, I think people would notice that they seem oddly hellbent on destroying
as many lives as possible.