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Jewish World Review July 19, 2000 /16 Tamuz, 5760

Don Feder

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Consumer Reports

Government neutrality toward marriage courts disaster -- THERE'S A BIT of nonsense floating in the miasma that passes for thinking among liberal politicians that government should be marriage-neutral. This notion is so patently absurd and manifestly pernicious that, frankly, only the dogma-bound could embrace it.

Washington is currently debating elimination of the marriage tax penalty -- by which married couples pay $1,400 more in taxes each year than those filing separately.

One news account noted that Democrats, who voted against repeal by a three-to-one margin when it passed the House last week, want to be sure that in adjusting the tax code Congress doesn't go too far and discriminate in favor of matrimony.

"I don't think we should create a bonus for some married couples over others or over singles," says Rep. Lynn Rivers, D-Mich. Just because marriage is the basis for social stability, tames the wild urges of young men and is unquestionably the best arrangement for raising children (providing society with healthy, well-adjusted citizens), why would government want to encourage it?

But seriously, given what married couples give back to the country, government should get down on its knees and kiss their 1040 forms. To grasp the importance of marriage, consider the consequences of its absence. In the past 40 years, through illegitimacy and divorce, single-parent families have grown from 9 percent to 32 percent of households.

At the same time, adolescent crime, drug abuse, depression, sexual activity and out-of-wedlock births have soared. You'd think that even Democrats could connect the dots.

Over 70 percent of adolescent murderers come from fatherless families. Girls who grow up in these homes are three times more likely to bear children out of wedlock and twice as likely to drop out of school as those from intact families.

Children aside, men and women who marry have a greater chance of being healthy, happy and productive, and are less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior (crime, drug use and promiscuous sex) than singles.

Taxpayers bear the burden of singleness and single-parent families in increased expenditures for welfare, law enforcement and health care. But liberals fret, lest Washington take cognizance of this reality and tilt the tax code, ever so slightly, toward marriage.

JWR columnist Dr. Wade F. Horn, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, comments: "We don't provide subsidies for the consumption of strawberry ice cream over vanilla because, in terms of social welfare, it doesn't matter." Married couples matter.

"We create tax incentives for home ownership," Horn notes, "because it's been shown to provide stability to neighborhoods. There are deductions for charitable donations on the same basis."

The social utility of home ownership and philanthropy are insignificant compared to the benefits of the original and still the most comprehensive, cost-effective social service agency -- a married couple.

Even after elimination of the marriage tax penalty, families will still be worse off tax-wise then they were in times past. As recently as 1946, the individual exemption was high enough to keep the average family of four off the federal tax rolls.

For decades now, normative families have been forced to subsidize solo parenting, through Aid to Families with Dependent Children and give-away programs. The children raised by married couples will pay the retirement benefits of the childless.

As much as fairness, it's a matter of common sense: More needs to be done to help those families that form the bedrock of our nation.

Alan Carlson of the Rockford Institute wants to universalize the dependent child-care credit of $1,500, enabling families that care for children at home to derive the same tax benefit as those who put their children in day care.

The left's passion for equality at any cost (all living arrangements must be treated equally) blinds it to the bottom line of what marriage means to our culture.

The survival-conscious society doesn't treat families that foster normality and those that generate pathology impartially. Like American neutrality from 1939 to late 1941, such a policy courts disaster.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. To comment on this column click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate