Marriage Schools the Federal Government

The Heritage Foundation has written extensively on the benefits of marriage, and during the National Marriage Week (February 7-14), they have chosen to highlight specifically the fiscal benefits of marriage.  The bottom line: spouses, children, and communities as a whole reap the benefits of marriage.

Marriage is an excellent prism through which to make the case against excessive encroachment by the federal government in our lives.  This is especially true on a fiscal and financial level.

Heritage demonstrates why marriage is so advantageous and the corruption of marriage is so detrimental:

  • In recent years, the percentage of intact households has been in steady decline. Nearly 80 percent of all adults were married in 1980. Today, that number has fallen to 52 percent. Combine that with the fact that 41 percent of children in America are born outside of marriage. The number tragically climbs to 71 percent in the African American community.
  • The collapse of marriage correlates strongly with child poverty. Parents who forgo marriage increase the likelihood that their children will experience some aspect of poverty. A child raised outside of marriage is six times more likely to experience poverty than a child who grows up in an intact family, and 71 percent of poor families with children are headed by single parents. By contrast, 73 percent of all non-poor families with children are headed by married couples.
  • The collapse of marriage costs taxpayers. Three-quarters of all means-tested welfare benefits is distributed to single-parent households. In 2011, the government spent $330 billion on assistance to single-parent households.

Put another way, marriage, a most fundamental and basic of institutions, is the antidote for so many societal ills, not to mention the positive benefits it has for individual men and women.  When the federal government attempts to usurp responsibilities that are best left to married people and families, it only does harm.

We won’t broach the whole subject here of which policies the government should adopt to promote marriage.  However, Heritage explains that the government can create an environment that is either conducive to (i.e. using resources to better encourage marriage and family life) or obstructive to marriage (i.e. marriage penalties created by the tax code and welfare programs).

All of this evidence suggests that the federal government will never be a better antidote to child poverty than the institution of marriage.  Similarly, the federal government cannot compare with marriage as a means of getting women out of poverty.  Nonetheless, there are ways in which federal government penalizes marriage.  Just look at the fiscal cliff deal; it made the tax code less favorable for married people than it had been after the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

Unfortunately, the federal government all too often creates (or exacerbates) problems and then imposes artificial, ineffective means of ameliorating said problems.  Simply put, the federal government penalizes marriage.

This cycle is also depicted by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is supposedly designed to help women.  Marriage is the context in which women are safest, when compared to other forms of intimate relationships.  Yet, VAWA does nothing to promote marriage, despite the fact that it funnels millions upon millions of dollars to a myriad of federal programs supposedly designed to help women.

To be clear, the federal government is not to blame for all of these problems.  There are numerous cultural factors and local issues at play as well.  Nonetheless, there are actions that the government can take – or refrain from taking – that create an environment more conducive to marriage, which is undeniably an invaluable institution.

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