House Republicans’ Defense of Marriage is an Attack on Safety Nets

The Democratic party are such a gang of mendacious loons, right-wing hacks, and smarmy villains that you sometimes forget how anti-human and full of shit the Republican Party is. The line that they’re somehow more tolerable because “at least they’re open about it!” is not only bankrupt but also just untrue.

See a recent resolution in the House introduced by the Congressman from Wisconsin’s Sixth District, Glenn Grothman. H.Res.399 expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives that welfare programs discourage marriage and hurt the institution of the family in the United States.” The standard blather about the institution of family hits our eyes in the first sentence, but we should be charitable here; some people actually believe this stuff.

Representative Grothman, with ten other Republicans, has a more cynical aim though. Through a string of “whereas,”’ the resolution makes the case, and effectively, that many means tested welfare programs discourage parents from marrying because of the negative consequences two incomes would have on their eligibility for these benefits. To whit, means-tested programs “determine eligibility and allotment of benefits by counting individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption as members of the family unit, thereby excluding non-parent cohabiters’ income from consideration and discouraging cohabiters from marrying for fear of a loss of benefits.”

That marriage is beneficial for children has been increasingly confirmed by research. David Ribar, a professorial research fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne writes, in a paper for Princeton University’s Future of Children program, that “reams of social science and medical research convincingly show that children who are raised by their married, biological parents enjoy better physical, cognitive, and emotional outcomes, on average, than children who are raised in other circumstances.”

This House resolution makes the case that parents are choosing to remain unmarried to keep receiving benefits. Where it becomes bankrupt is in its solution. Acknowledging that marriage can result in households losing as much as $30,000 a year in benefits, the Representatives resolve to “[support] action to change benefits or end programs in order to eliminate these penalties.”

This is an absurd proposition! Eliminating the programs might make co-habitants more likely to marry because of the simple fact that it wouldn’t cost them any benefits, but that’s only because there would not be any benefits left to lose. The resolution supports a path whereby the aim is not to improve the material conditions that make households chose not to marry for fear of losing their needed benefits, but instead to encourage marriage. A couple living together does not suddenly earn more when they join in the bonds of holy matrimony; their need still exists.

The resolution therefore is then, on its face little more than a moralizing edict. It doesn’t ask why people in love might be so desperate and in need of aid that they will not risk losing their benefits to formalize their love. It instead says that higher rates of marriage are necessary because of the improved outcomes for children, while ignoring the effects of the economic situation a child is raised in have on him.

But this is so often the motivating factor between right-wing moralizing politics. It would be naive for us to think that Representative Grothman is well-intentioned but blind, so devoted to the sacred institution of marriage that he does not see the real problem. Instead the truth is only that this is policy motivated by a right-wing ideology that rejects spending and a social safety net altogether. Don’t be fooled by these Representatives’ false love for marriage; all they really care about is cutting entitlements.

The committee that the resolution is referred to illustrates well the real goal. Rather than sending it to Appropriations with the thought that maybe marriage could be promoted through tax incentives or positive reinforcement, the resolution instead is headed to Ways and Means. It’s nothing but a question of budget.

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