In the congressional scam typhoon we witnessed last week, one detail caught my eye 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 for a child to grow up in a 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 be depressed and commit suicide.
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 on this point. 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 Sen. 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 figures like Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene; when the party thwarts basic public health measures such as vaccines and masks; and when the party tightens ranks around former President Trump by blocking an independent commission to investigate the January 6 riot, well, people will doubt your good faith.
Republicans are also putting our democracy at risk by embracing Trump’s election fraud fantasy. This 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 TheBulwark.com Policy Writer. A union columnist since 1987, she worked in the White House under President Reagan and at the National Review. His books include “The Benefactors: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim To Help – And The Rest of Us.”