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 -- even brave.
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 admiringly.
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.