Approximately 25 million married couples find themselves paying more
income taxes than if they had simply stayed single and shacked up.
However, heartened by strong forecasts of budget surpluses, Republicans
have passed a bill to eliminate what is clearly a punitive tax on
While many Democrats saw the wisdom of the legislation and joined
Republicans in passing it in Congress, the Democratic leadership is
having a genuine hyperbolic fit. President Clinton said he intended to
veto the bill, calling it “a costly, poorly targeted and regressive tax
plan promoted by Republicans.” He was joined by Massachusetts Sen. Ted
Kennedy, who shouted, “Once again, our Republican friends are using an
attractive label like the marriage penalty as a cover for unjustified
tax breaks for the wealthy.”
Democrats offer three objections to the repeal of a marriage penalty
tax: it costs too much, the benefits go to the wrong people (the rich),
and there are more important things to do with the money.
It is worthwhile to tease out these objections and examine their
worth. As background, the bill is designed to cut taxes for essentially
all married couples, at a cost of about $292 billion over the next 10
years. The latest projected budget surplus over the next 10 years is
about $2.17 trillion, not including Social Security surpluses.
Conclusion: America can easily afford to get rid of an unfair tax on
people who get married.
Does the marriage tax cut go to the wrong people, namely the
undeserving rich? This liberal question deserves a counter question:
what is the rationale for increasing the taxes of any couple, no matter
how much money they make, simply because they choose to get married?
At issue, of course, is whether successful people pay their fair
share of income taxes. Federal individual income tax data for the year
1997 reveal that the top 50 percent of taxpayers paid 95.7 percent of
all income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid 4.3 percent. The top
5 percent of taxpayers paid 51.9 percent of all income taxes, and the
top 1 percent paid 33.2 percent.
The Democrats have almost reached their goal of more than half of all
Americans not paying income taxes. Soon, a majority of Americans,
including government bureaucrats and unionized government employees, who
benefit in one way or another from high taxes, will show up at the polls
to put in office those politicians who will plunder successful companies
and individuals and share the spoils with them.
This brings us to the third, last and probably most significant
objection to eliminating the marriage tax penalty: There are more
important things to do with the surplus money.
For those with the courage and the integrity to look, it is obvious
that the absence of fathers and in particular the absence of full-time
mothers from the home has wreaked havoc and tragedy in our society.
These parental voids correlate with the frightening increases in
juvenile violence, gangs, drugs, promiscuity, abortions and
The mother’s role is special. The ordinary day-to-day and
hour-to-hour behavior of the developing child provides her with
countless opportunities to gently build a social and moral conscience.
It is she who holds the child’s hand as a stolen candy is returned; it
is she who will not tolerate profanity; it is she who sees to it that
the child admits to a broken window; it is she who speaks of God with
reverence and instills a sense of right and wrong; and it is she who
shapes the child’s life with loving correction and unwavering love. It
is she who is always there for the child.
In 1950, the tax burden on the typical American family was about 5
percent of their annual income. Today, the government burden on families
is about 40 percent. Translation: If taxes had stayed at the 1950 level,
millions of mothers could return to the full-time care of their homes
and children with little or no reduction in family income. And according
to a series of recent studies and surveys, that’s where most of them
have decided they would prefer to be: at home, raising their children.
Those institutions — marriage, family, religion, schools — that
historically have preserved our social learning curves and served as
bulwarks against moral degeneration, are under broad attack, and
It is not a priority of liberals to stop this assault.