Beating up on divorced (“deadbeat”) dads makes great politics in the United States, and apparently Russian presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev (pictured) has figured it out. United Press International says:

“Medvedev has also gone hunting for votes with the forensic skill of a U.S. campaign strategist. He has targeted the women’s vote by promising to increase child benefits so that the mother of a second child will get a state handout of more than $12,000, and alimony payments will be increased sharply.

“While American strategists talk of ‘soccer moms,’ Medvedev is appealing to the ‘divorced moms.’ One Russian child in three is being raised by a divorced mother, but only 12 percent of divorced men pay alimony.”

I take it that alimony in Russia largely means child support, as opposed to the US where the two are differentiated. Given Russia’s problems with alcoholism and domestic violence, I’m not going to uncritically defend Russian divorced dads, but I strongly suspect that many of those who aren’t paying their alimony are poor or unemployed.

During Putin’s eight years in office, the Russian economy has done well, largely due to record high prices for oil, gas, and its other natural resources. But the country still has much poverty and a weak manufacturing base. Moreover, many of the marriages in question fell apart during the disastrous 1990s, when even the official poverty rate was 30%.

As I’ve noted many times, research clearly shows that most American deadbeat dads are poor. I don’t imagine it’s any different in Russia.

I also question that “only 12 percent of divorced men [in Russia] pay alimony.” I don’t know where that statistic comes from, but I strongly suspect that it was arrived at simply by doing surveys of divorced women without asking divorced dads. American research shows that divorced women underestimate the amount of child support/alimony they receive, while divorced fathers overstate it. To get an accurate figure, you need to ask both.

BTW, for those who think that it’s only feminists or the left who bash dads or are responsible for the family court horrors dads face, I would add that Medvedev hardly fits that description.

The story is below.

Walker’s World: Putin’s heir and rival
Feb. 20, 2008
By MARTIN WALKER, UPI

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Russia’s presidential election is just two weeks away, and the Kremlin’s own candidate Dmitry Medvedev has been campaigning almost like a liberal.

“Freedom is better than the absence of freedom. This is the quintessence of the whole experience of humanity. I mean freedom in all its manifestations: individual freedom, economic freedom and, finally, the freedom of self-expression,” he told an economics forum in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

“Freedom is the soul of everything,” Medvedev went on. “Everything will be dead without freedom. I want everybody to abide by laws, but the laws should not be intended for slaves. Freedom is inseparable from the actual recognition by the people of the power of law. Freedom does not bring about chaos. It creates respect for the system existing in a country. The supremacy of law should become one of our basic values.”

“We should cross out infringement on law from the list of habits our citizens live by and see to it that legal infractions stop enriching some people and depraving others,” Medvedev said and went on to call for more media freedoms: “We must defend the real independence of mass media that provide the agencies of power with feedback signals from society.”

This is striking rhetoric, coming from President Vladimir Putin’s handpicked successor. But how much power will Medvedev really have, now that Putin is to become his prime minister? And Putin has also noted that he will not be hanging Medvedev’s presidential portrait in his own Kremlin office.

Putin’s entire Kremlin team, many of them old comrades from the KGB, looks as if they will be remaining in place. Medvedev comes from another part of Putin’s life, when he was working for the liberal, post-soviet mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. Medvedev, a young law student, was Putin’s assistant. Westernized and idealist, he once agonized about where he could rake up 200 rubles to buy a bootleg of Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall.”

Medvedev has the reputation of being a technocrat, a man who wants to bring business efficiency and some free-market principles to the business of the state. He also said in Krasnoyarsk that it was time to slash the swollen state bureaucracy, whose numbers have jumped from 1.2 million in 2002 to 1.7 million today. He wants to remove state officials from the boards of directors of state-owned companies and replace them with directors from the private sector.

He has also spelled out an ambitious goal of growing Russia’s small-business sector as part of a wider ambition to get two-thirds of Russia’s 147 million people “into the middle class by 2020. Small businesses generated 13-15 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product in 2007.”

“We ourselves realize how little this is. In developed countries, small businesses account for 50 or even 70 percent of the GDP,” he said.

Although the polls give him overwhelming support of more than 70 percent and the main opposition liberal candidates have been blocked from running, Medvedev has also gone hunting for votes with the forensic skill of a U.S. campaign strategist. He has targeted the women’s vote by promising to increase child benefits so that the mother of a second child will get a state handout of more than $12,000, and alimony payments will be increased sharply.

While American strategists talk of “soccer moms,” Medvedev is appealing to the “divorced moms.” One Russian child in three is being raised by a divorced mother, but only 12 percent of divorced men pay alimony.

But Medvedev is also signaling that he intends to maintain Putin’s tough line in foreign policy. In a long interview with the news magazine Itogi, he stressed that if Russia had not asserted itself and its national interests, “We’d have been treated as a Third World country even now. Something like Upper Volta with nuclear missiles.” Upper Volta is the old name for Burkina Faso.

Read the full article here.

Glenn Sacks, www.GlennSacks.com

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