What Huckabee doesn’t understand about marriage and poverty

WHAT HUCKABEE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT MARRIAGE AND POVERTY…. Mike Huckabee chatted about his book with the cast of “Fox & Friends” yesterday, and repeated one of his favorite talking points, which resonates loudly with the GOP’s religious right base.

“Do you realize in America, we have a $300 billion a year ‘dad deficit’ in America,” the former Arkansas governor said, adding, “If we talk about poverty, two-thirds of poverty in this country disappear [sic] if the mothers of children marry the fathers of those kids.”

This is a powerful argument with the “compassionate conservative” wing of the Republican Party — they get to care about poverty, which the right tends to ignore, and promote “family values” at the same time.

The problem, of course, is that Huckabee doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, and is relying on highly dubious research. As Andrew Jones noted yesterday, the claim was included in a popular memo crafted by a former Bush aide, but it “does not appear to be supported by the data.”

“In a government report released last year, marriage (and programs promoting it) did not lead to a decrease in poverty, especially among single mothers. The study from May 2010 on the marriage promotion programs promoted by the previous administration found they had ‘no effect on family economic well-being.'”

It’s also interesting to consider what, exactly, Huckabee plans to do about this approach to policy. As he sees it, we can reduce poverty by pushing people into marriage. That’s almost certainly wrong, but that’s his position.

But if right-wing activists have thrown a months-long tantrum over Michelle Obama encouraging kids to eat healthier foods, how will these same activists perceive a presidential candidate who wants to press parents to get married, whether they want to or not?

By the standards of contemporary conservatism, isn’t that none of the government’s business?

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.