Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Marriage penalty debate still rages on, and off

I would recommend visiting Catherine Rampell’s op-ed on p. A17 of the Tuesday Washington Post, “Victimized by the ‘marriage penalty’”; online, it’s “’Marriage penalty’ takes the bite out of working families”, link here. The marriage penalty was a big policy debate issue in the 1990s (when I was writing my first "Do Ask, Do Tell" book), and it has never really been resolved. 

The “marriage penalty” tends to penalize couples where both spouses earn about the same, as the next earned dollar is taxed at a higher marginal rate.  It would now apply to same-sex couples if legally married.  In fact, in the old days (from the 1970s all the way until about 2010 or so), it was widely understood by gay couples that many were better off in tax situations if they couldn’t marry because of the penalty, even though lack of equality hurt in so many other ways that are well known.  In practice, the possibility of a marriage penalty can be a deterrent to many couples tying the knot.

For couples already married, it may hinder a spouse’s returning to work and being able to earn more later, as the children’s college education approaches.  It may, as the article pointed out, hinder caregiver pay. 
It always rankled me, when I was growing up, that the world would have expected me to be “sexually attracted” to someone who would be totally economically dependent, as was my own mother.  Remember the old days of the “family wage”? 

Picture: Birds do show "family values" 

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