In Kansas, A Public Conference Reveals Deep Contempt for the Poor and for Women

VIDEO: Occupy Wichita Mic Checks Brownback’s Town Hall Meeting

Members of Occupy Wichita use the movement’s human microphone mode of amplification to voice a critique of the Brownback administration, including “slashing programs for women,” which drew applause.

“This Governor failed!” This was my angry proclamation to Kansas Public Radio after listening to Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation speak in Kansas City, Kansas on the topic of childhood poverty. Robert Rector was introduced as the “intellectual godfather of welfare reform.” Mr. Rector was invited to Kansas to speak by Governor Sam Brownback.

Governor Brownback stated at the start of the conference that he was seeking bi-partisan solutions to the problem of high rates of children living in poverty within our state.  He declared “the best way to do it is to reach as far across the political spectrum and find someone as far opposite or different from you as you can and start to talk about strategy.” This advice is obviously meant for all of the left leaning and moderate folks in the room, because this far right, radical Governor brought in a far-right, radical talking head from the Heritage Foundation. This is how the Governor failed.

Robert Rector’s resume includes a piece he wrote titled “The Myth of Poverty”, claiming that the Census Bureau is overestimating the number of those truly living in poverty. He recently wrote a piece for the National Review, “How do the poor live? For starters, a poor child in America is far more likely to have a wide-screen plasma television, cable or satellite TV, a computer and an Xbox or TiVo in his home than he is to be hungry.” Mr. Rector backed up his resume of crazy by spouting off some of these doozies during the course of his 45 minute speech…

It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the means-tested welfare system to support children in the United States is predominately a support system that compensates for the erosion of marriage.


Your state is separating into 2 social castes- unmarried women and married couples.


Marriage is stronger than education in reducing child poverty–it has the same effect as 4 or 5 years of education for the mother. The effect of marriage in reducing poverty is stronger statistically than graduating from high school.


These women regard having children as the most significant thing in their lives. It’s what gives their lives meaning. It’s just that they think of marriage like we think of a trip to Honolulu-it’d be nice sometime in the future, but not right now! First they get pregnant, and then they worry about marriage.


We’ve absolutely saturated these communities with birth control. In fact, Title X clinics don’t seem to be doing a very good job, do they?!


Sequential cohabitation is the primary cause of spousal abuse and child abuse. If they’re not the dad and just living with the mom, and the child is screaming and yelling, then the guy is more likely to react not in a positive way.


Low income women aren’t hostile to marriage-they’re not radical feminists. They’re actually quite conservative.

Mr. Rector’s government solution to the problem of unmarried ladies was presented as a three-part plan…

1. Explain the benefits of marriage in middle and high schools with a high proportion of at-risk youth;

2. Create public education campaigns in low-income communities on the benefits of marriage;

3. Require federally funded birth control clinics to provide information on the benefits of marriage and skills needed to develop stable families to interested low-income clients.

I can condense those three parts into two words… indoctrination and coercion.

Mr. Rector backed his statements up by producing a big screen with a power point that had lots of “data.” A reporter later asked me what I thought about the data. I agreed with the fact that the majority of children that are living in poverty are living in the homes of single mothers. However, focusing on this one piece of this very large puzzle is not just short-sided, it perpetuates the right wing sexist myth of lazy welfare moms. So, for Mr. Rector’s purposes…focusing on this one piece serves him, Governor Brownback and the rest of their right wing radical base well.

What young women need (beyond the obvious need for greater access to low cost birth control and improved sex education in schools) is a boost to their self-esteem. They need mentors that will tell them that they are greater than their biological ability to pro-create. They need to be told that they possess greatness within themselves beyond what can be obtained by any outside stimulus, whether that be men, babies, money, drugs or alcohol. We must prop these young women up with not only internal fortitude, but with jobs that pay a living wage and opportunities for secondary education.

These “town halls” created to perpetuate myths and sexist stereotypes about women for the political purpose of crushing welfare benefits to the needy within our state will do nothing to combat the true problem of childhood poverty. These events are despicable and they are sad. This Governor is using the poor children of Kansas as pawns to advance his personal political agenda.

The one positive that could potentially come from these high profile staged “town hall” events in Kansas, is the outing of this Governor. This Governor is not just an opponent of abortion, or even birth control, he is an opponent of women.

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  • freetobe

    Sounds incredibly one-sided to me. Always blaming the single mothers or single women for being single. What is really is missing is all those sperm donors of all those children. Where are they? Does the state even force child support payments or do they make these women go through months of waiting and yards of red tape to actually get a check?

    Beyond the money part why has society allowed men to just do what ever they want and never accept responsiblity for their actions? Where are the men in all this?

    I suppose many of those women are single because of abuse, physical and verbal and or spouses using up all the money on booze or drugs and never coming home to actually be a reall daddy!

    It is time for men to get kicked in the proverbial ass. We women sure have for eon’s and frankly we should not accept this as the norm anymore or it will just get worse if that is possible.

  • kingyak

    I propose that the plan to reduce the welfare rolls by convincing women how important it is that they have a boyfriend be called “Twilight-based welfare reform.”

  • roseviolet

    Man that’s an awful lot of lies and propaganda to put into one speech.  For example, means based welfare doesn’t “compensate” for the “erosion of marriage”.  On the contrary, the rules of our current welfare system and tax system are causing the erosion of marriage by making it too costly for many to get married or to be married.  To get an idea of what I mean, my SSDI amount is below the 100% of the Federal Poverty Line for a family of two – yet it’s “enough” it disqualified my ex from getting anything at all in SSI.  How can a below poverty income be “too much” or even “enough”? 


    Secondly, since when do married people not abuse their children?  Yes, there are plenty of examples of boyfriends/girlfriends/stepparents having abused their partner’s children or abused them more seriously than “their own” just because their partner’s child(ren) “weren’t theirs”.  However, there are plenty of examples of the partners within marriages or equivalent relationships abusing the kids they have together.  So this argument is rather a red herring.  Child abuse IS a problem – one for ALL relationships, not just unmarried, cohabitating or divorced women.

    Marriage is NOT a cure for poverty (see paragraph #1).  At best, it’s a way to kick people off of the welfare rolls while they still need help – and very likely lots of it.


    Finally, marriage is NOT a cure for society’s ills.  There are plenty of reasons for a woman (or man) to stay single, even while ignoring things like the “marriage penalties” in welfare rules and the tax codes.  Getting away from a bad partner is a great example of a good reason – and this one benefits the child(ren) too.


    While we’re at it, since the Heritage Foundation likes to talk about it, one reason why the poor tend to have things like nice clothes or other splurges is we get penalized for trying to save – thanks to asinine welfare rules.  So if we get anything like a tax return, it’s expected by the rules, to be spent.  If they want us to save, they need to talk to the rule makers about LETTING us save.


    The Governor and his friend(?), henchman(?), tool of evil(?), propaganda agent(?) Robert Rector need to step down from their ivory towers and live among the poor for a while.  I suggest the experiment I’ve long recommended for Congress: at least six months, at the amount of income that would put them right at the Federal Poverty Line for their family size and give them all the welfare assistance that would be appropriate for their family – also make one of their family members have to fake a chronic illness so they can see what using Medicaid/public health is really like.  Also, cut off their access to credit during the experiment and watch them like a hawk to make sure they’re not getting any sort of help that would result in a penalty (and penalize them if they do get such help).    If we’re lucky, they’ll realize it’s not like they’re thinking.

  • kittyarmy

    Is he on drugs? He talks like there are no married people living in poverty. And his presumptuous statements on how the poor in America are more likely to have entertainment electronics than actually be hungry is woefully callous and ignorant. God, if these are the kind of people they listen to no wonder they’re all stupid!