Marriage is Taxing. Seriously.

Thanks to my friend J.P. for sending me this link , which is a commentary on this article regarding how the new healthcare legislation could affect – and penalize – married people  and those considering marriage.

The best snapshot of the disincentive to marry – and the penalty to married folks – under the new system is this paragraph:
Two singles would each be able to earn $43,000 and still receive help to purchase health insurance, but if they got married and combined their earnings to $86,000, they would be far above the limit. As a married couple, the most they could earn and still get government help would be $58,000, a difference of almost $30,000, or 32%. This looks like a substantial disincentive to getting married, or to working while married.
Ummmm…ouch.
The question becomes, why is this the case?  Is there a reason to penalize married folks, or to encourage single folks not to get married?  
I suppose that some folks might worry that if there are financial benefits to getting married, that some people will abuse this by getting married on paper, even if they are not truly married in any other sense of the word other than on paper.  Some people might be inclined to try and work the system.  
Lord knows nobody works the system as it is, right?
I can’t imagine this is a legitimate concern, though.  How many people are going to get married on paper just to cheat the system?   Anyone who cares about marriage probably isn’t, since it would be hard for them to explain it to someone else that they’re interested in spending their lives with.  Um, I really like you Jeff, and I see us together for the long term.  But I’m technically married to this other guy in Boise.  You know, to save on healthcare costs.  So I’ll need to get a divorce in order to marry you.  What?  You’re already technically married to some woman in Tucson?  No problem – maybe we should just leave these arrangements the same and move in together.  Or, we could both get divorced and then remarried to each other.
I find it interesting that our economy has become driven by the idea that both spouses should work, and that the double income should be used to purchase more stuff, yet now we’re penalizing people for doing exactly that.  Or more accurately, the government is creating a system to reward those who do this economically, but without marriage.  What could be the reasons for this?  Can anyone give me an economic explanation?  How about a legal one?  Could this be an effort to cut down on divorce litigation by reducing the incentive to get married in the first place?  There must be something obvious I’m missing.   I need another cup of tea, perhaps.

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