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Marriage and the (Forgotten) Middle Class Welfare State by Daniel Bier

Jason Kuznicki, in his wonderful post on marriage and the state, included this baffling chart of how the marriage penalty/bonus affects couples jointly filing tax returns:

Kuznicki points out that the penalty/bonus part is just an inevitable artifact of the progressive income tax system. The math just works out that way.

But, my friend Sean J. Rosenthal points out, the chart also shows Director’s Law: “Public expenditures are made for the primary benefit of the middle classes, and financed with taxes which are borne in considerable part by the poor and the rich.”

George Stigler, channeling the work of the great Chicago economist Aaron Director, coined the term in a 1970 article in the Journal of Law and Economics.

The logic of Director’s Law is:

Government has coercive power, which allows it to engage in acts (above all, the taking of resources) which could not be performed by voluntary agreement of the members of a society.

Any portion of the society which can secure control of the state’s machinery will employ the machinery to improve its own position.

Under a set of conditions… this dominant group will be the middle income classes.

Stigler went on to describe the Public Choice calculus for a wealthy modern democracy. In a society like ours, with our electoral institutions, the interests of the middle class will always have the biggest sway on public policy, since most people fall in the middle of the income distribution, rather than at bottom or the top.

Politicians will (and must) try to gratify the middle’s desires and shift the costs somewhere else — i.e., the rich and the poor and future generations, since they have relatively less influence on public policy. (Though this general rule is not to say that there aren’t also policies that primarily benefit the poor or the wealthy.)

This explains a lot of features of public policy that don’t fit with the normal “welfare is all about the poor” or “the rich run everything” paradigms.

For instance, Obamacare’s insurance scheme is basically all a big subsidy for older, relatively wealthier middle class people at the expensive of younger, poorer people. The other half of Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion, increases eligibility for Medicaid up to 400% of the poverty line — that safety net is catching some pretty middling fish at this point.

Medicare and Social Security, the marriage penalty/bonus distribution, college student loans, tax write-offs for mortgage payments and employer-sponsored health insurance, small business favoritism, and a host of other policies are essentially giveaways to the middle class, at the expense of the rich and poor.

Nonetheless, we should expect politicians to continue harping on the plight of the middle class, stroking voters’ fears and concerns about the “shrinking middle,” promising to “rebuild the middle class,” pass “tax cuts for the middle class,” save “Main Street,” and on, and on.

And who could ever be against helping middle class? Nobody. And that’s how we end up being content with a marriage policy that punishes poor (and rich) working couples, even while pundits bemoan the state of marriage.

Update #1: As with many later developments in economics, Frederic Bastiat anticipated Public Choice by more than a hundred years. In his Selected Essays on Political Economy, recently republished by FEE, he wrote,

When, under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices.

Now, is it the most unfortunate who gain in this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating.

Update #2: I see that Director’s Law was first mentioned in the Freeman, before Stigler published on it in JLE, in John Chamberlain’s coverage of the 1969 Mont Pelerin Society meeting in Venezuela.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

The Gay Attack on American Values

In societies around the world, homosexuals encounter not just resistance, but the threat of death for their sexual orientation. In the West we regard this as barbarian and it is. I concluded long ago that gays—using their own term—have no choice over this sexual aberration from the norm of heterosexuality.

In America, gays—male and female homosexuals—represent about 3% of the population. That leaves 97% in a majority and that majority is now under a full assault on their traditional values concerning marriage—intended only for the opposite sexes—and in some cases on their religious faith that deems homosexuality a sin.

In recent years we have seen gays achieve a legal status for same-sex marriage, thus undermining centuries of tradition that understands marriage to be for the purpose of procreation and as the keystone of society. We have a President who changed his mind from his 2008 political campaign and announced that he not only approved of gay marriage but that his administration, the Department of Justice, would not enforce the Defense of Marriage law passed by Congress.

The Obama administration has pressed hard to alter the military that went from “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” under the Clinton administration, to the present status that sees no problem in the close living conditions under which heterosexual and homosexual troops must live and work together. This was always regarded as a problem of unit cohesion in the long years leading up to the 1990s and it likely still is. In a similar fashion, the infusion of women into combat units poses problems that the military understandably avoided for most of the last two hundred and twenty-eight years of the nation’s history.

The passage of Obamacare has posed significant problems for religious groups that oppose abortion and related practices. It has particularly affected Catholic institutions and, most recently, the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who do not want to signal any concurrence with the law as it is written. The Supreme Court has granted that some respite, but their issue and others will surely have to be addressed by the Court at some point.

In Massachusetts, a homosexual legal group has filed papers to force a Catholic school to hire a man who is “married” to another man. As reported by MassResistance.org, “Back in July, Matthew Barrett of Dorchester applied for a job as the food service director at Fontbonne Academy, a Roman Catholic girls’ high school in Milton, Mass, and was subsequently offered the job. When he filled out a pre-employment form listing his ‘husband’ as an emergency contact the school told him that ‘the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. We cannot hire you.’”

“Barrett claimed to be shocked by the school’s action,” noted MassResistance, “But it appears that he was purposefully dishonest. He told the Boston Globe that he was raised a Catholic and that he was informed by school officials during the interview process that employees are expected to follow Catholic doctrine. However, he did not tell the school that he was openly involved with homosexual behavior and was in a ‘gay marriage.’”

MassResistance regards the case as “the beginning of the homosexual movement’s legal assault on conservative churches, particularly Catholic, that have steadfastly refused to modify their religious convictions and comply with the homosexual movement’s demands on society. Up until now they’ve been largely left alone. But that is about to change.”

As the Boston Globe noted, “Barrett’s complaint, which may be the first of its kind in the country, comes at a time when religion-based schools in the increasing number of states where gay marriage is legal have been scrutinizing hiring and firing practices to ensure they conform with the pillars of their faiths”

“School administrators,” the Globe reported, “have been fired from Catholic schools and universities in Arkansas, California, New York, and Washington, among other states, after marrying their same-sex partners or announcing plans to do so.”

Bennett Klein, the lawyer for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination, asserts that “Our laws carefully balance the important values of religious liberty and non-discrimination. When Fontbonne Academy fired Matt from a job that has nothing to do with religion, they came down on the wrong side of the law.” It has everything to do with the free practice of religion.

“We’re seeing religion-affiliated entities more and more trying to push the line toward discriminating against gay, lesbian, and transgendered people,” said Klein.

No, it is the homosexuals who are pushing the line against religious groups who believe that their belief in God and their faith precludes the destruction of the construct of marriage is a sin against mankind and society.

It is 3% of the population demanding that 97% toss aside their faith and their values to accommodate the aberration called homosexuality. And, yes, it is an aberration because homosexuality cannot be interpreted as “normal” in any species.

MassResistance correctly says “This is madness and should not have any legal leg to stand on.”

If the homosexual assault on values and practices that have existed for centuries in the Catholic Church and in other religious faiths succeeds, the whole of our society will suffer for it. The Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion—murder—has resulted in the deaths of millions of unborn children who had a right to life.

Now, in Massachusetts and other States where same-sex marriage is deemed to be legal, the whole of the nation’s defense of marriage is under assault.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

RELATED COLUMN: Questions You’re Asking About Cakes, Gays, and Religious Freedom

REPORT: Child Obesity Caused by Single Parent Households

In 2010 Michele Obama made it her mission to address the “child obesity epidemic”. The goal of Mrs. Obama is to reduce child obesity from the current 20% of all children to 5% by 2030. WebMD reports, “To accomplish this, the plan makes 70 recommendations for early childhood, for parents and caregivers, for school meals and nutrition education, for access to healthy food, and for increasing physical activity.”

According to WebMD, “Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI.”

“U.S. kids haven’t always been obese. Only one in 20 children ages 2 to 19 was obese in the 1970s. But around 1980 child obesity began to rocket to today’s stratospheric level: Nearly one in three kids is overweight or obese, and nearly one in five is frankly obese,” notes WebMD.

What is the cause of this stratospheric increase in child obesity? ANSWER: Single parent households.

In July 2010 the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reported, “Prevalence of childhood obesity and its complications have increased world-wide. Parental status may be associated with children’s health outcomes including their eating habits, body weight and blood cholesterol.” [My emphasis]

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the years 1988–1994 provided a unique opportunity for matching parents to children enabling analyses of joint demographics, racial differences and health indicators. Specifically, the NHANES III data, 1988–1994, of 219 households with single-parents and 780 dual-parent households were analyzed as predictors for primary outcome variables of children’s Body Mass Index (BMI), dietary nutrient intakes and blood cholesterol.

The NHANES survey found:

  • Children of single-parent households were significantly more overweight than children of dual-parent households.
  • Total calorie and saturated fatty acid intakes were higher among children of single-parent households than dual-parent households.
  • On average, Black children were more overweight than children of other races.

The study results implied a strong relationship between single-parent status and excess weight in children. The NHANES survey states, “Parental involvement in the development of school- and community-based obesity prevention programs are suggested for effective health initiatives. Economic constraints and cultural preferences may be communicated directly by family involvement in these much needed public health programs.”

Mark Mather from the Population Reference Bureau reports, “In the United States, the number of children in single-mother families has risen dramatically over the past four decades, causing considerable concern among policymakers and the public. Researchers have identified the rise in single-parent families (especially mother-child families) as a major factor driving the long-term increase in child poverty in the United States.” To read the full report click here.

Data from the Sarasota County School Board shows that since President Obama took office the number of children who are classified as obese is Sarasota public schools has risen as the children progress from Grade 1 – to Grade 3 – to Grade 6. The cohort obesity numbers go down at Grade 9. For example, 15.7% of students in Grade 1 in the 2008/2009 school year were obese. In 2011/2012 school year 18.8% of students in Grade 3 were obese. An increase of 3.1% of students in grade during school year 2008/2009 18.8% were obese. In Grade 6 that cohort increased to 20.1%. The Grade 6 cohort in 2008/2009 data was 21.5% and in 2011/12 dropped to 17.6%.

Public schools do not keep data on obese children who live in single parent households. 

Many are questioning whether the First Lady is addressing the root cause of child obesity – single parent households. Some see this health initiative as expanding government control of parents and children. Setting caloric standards is the first step in setting eating limits. Limits lead to control of food sources, leading to the redistribution of calories. Should not we be focused on the rising number of single parent households?

Perhaps it would be better for the First Lady to focus on increasing the number of traditional two parent families? After all, she has a traditional family and her husband and children all have normal weights according to the BMI calculator.

JUST FOR FUN:

As an aside, Watchdog Wire looked at some well known public figures and calculated their BMI scores.

Using the BMI calculator we determined that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, who is 6′ 3″ tall and weights 236 pounds, is overweight. If Tebow gains 5 pounds he will be categorized as “Obese Class 1”. In fact the entire New York Jets offensive and defensive lines are obese.

Muscle Chemistry lists the height and weight of actors. Those in Hollywood who are overweight according to the BMI calculator include: Whoppi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Sylvester Stallone is rated as Obese Class 1.