What we lost when the Republican Party got lost | Charen
In the congressional scam typhoon we witnessed this week, one detail caught my attention that could easily have been lost in the gales.
A group of 35 Republican senators signed a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden about an aspect of the House reconciliation bill they find disturbing .
“As you know, the current marriage penalties arise when a household’s overall tax bill increases due to a couple’s marriage and joint tax filing. … Unfortunately, despite its initial rollout as part of the “American Plan for Families,” the current draft reconciliation bill takes an existing marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and l ‘significantly worsens. This is not the only marriage penalty created or made worse by the partisan bill. “
For the record, I think this objection is quite valid. If there is one thing the social science literature is virtually unanimous on, it is that two parents are better than one. And while marriage is not essential in ensuring that a child grows up in a stable home – some cohabiting parents stay together for decades and some single parents provide a very stable home – the association is extremely strong. Anyone concerned about child poverty should be concerned about marriage. Children who grow up in two-parent families have a poverty rate of 7.5%, compared to 36.5% of those raised in single-parent families.
It’s not just poverty. Children raised in stable homes without revolving doors with new adult partners for their parents and new half-brothers (real or de facto) for themselves are in better physical and psychological health. They are less likely to have difficulty in school, to be in trouble with the law, to engage in risky behavior or to become depressed and to kill themselves. The United States has the dubious distinction of having more children living with a single adult (23%) than any other nation on earth. A Pew survey of 130 countries found the global average to be 7%.
This link between marriage and good outcomes for children is so strong that academics from all walks of life agree on it, although they may differ on what to do about it, or how to do it. question of whether it is even possible to do something about the increasing percentage of children who are growing up. in single-parent households.
Government efforts to encourage marriage, such as those undertaken by the administration of George W. Bush, have been well-intentioned failures. They included funding for programs offering counseling to new mothers on the virtues of marriage as well as couples therapy and public service announcements featuring celebrities. Divorce / unmarried parentage numbers did not respond. (Divorce has been on a declining trend since its peak in 1980, but the percentage of children growing up in single-parent homes has not declined due to the increase in unmarried pregnancies.)
The government’s failure to affect marriage should come as no surprise. For one thing, the programs didn’t last long, but it’s probably for the best. Behavior as complex as choosing whether or not to marry is unlikely to be affected by government encouragement. It’s the same with other behaviors. Remember the “President’s Challenge” to eat healthy and exercise more? It was another Bush initiative. These incentive programs have a long pedigree. President Dwight Eisenhower founded the Presidential Council on Youth Fitness in 1956. Since then, obesity rates have steadily increased in every decade.
It doesn’t mean we should raise our hands. Cultural change is happening all the time. Just consider how successful we have been in reducing drunk driving over the past 25 years due to changing mores and activism from civil society groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
But there is one huge thing the government can do: stop making it worse. Any tax or marriage penalties related to the safety net should be removed from the code. Republican senators are absolutely right about this. If that means the programs cost more, so be it. It’s worth it.
This is precisely the kind of perspective we need a healthy Conservative Party to move forward. We need a party that focuses on the importance of mediating institutions in society – families, churches, schools and community organizations – rather than just individuals and government. It is too often a blind spot for Democrats.
But today’s Republican Party has lost the benefit of the doubt. You need a certain moral standard to be taken seriously on issues like the marriage penalty. You rely on voters to believe that you are at least partly motivated by good politics.
But when Senator Mitch McConnell cynically obstructs a bill to raise the debt ceiling to cover the bills, his party helped rack up; when Republicans open their ranks to representatives like Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene; when the party thwarts basic public health measures like vaccines and masks; and when the party tightens ranks around former President Donald Trump by blocking an independent commission to investigate the January 6 riot, well, people will doubt your good faith.
Republicans are also endangering our democracy by embracing Trump’s election fraud fantasy. It is the most urgent threat. But it is also a loss for this country that the Republican Party discredits conservatism, because we cannot do without it.
Mona Charen is Policy Editor at The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast.
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