Government Poisons Whatever It Touches

Why is it government's job to force changes to marriage?

As the Supreme Court considers California's voter-approved ban on gay "marriage," some writers have expressed hope that the Court has learned not to inject itself into overly controversial issues.  In somehow unearthing a Constitutional right to abortion in Roe v Wade, for example, the court touched off a low-grade civil war in which real people die - and not just the fetuses.  In the earlier Dred Scott decision, the Court forced the North to confront the realities of slavery and touched off a Civil War in which hundreds of thousands died.

The Damage of Regulation

Government-anointed homosexual unions probably won't lead to anything quite as tragic as the Civil War, but it's a serious matter nonetheless.  The power to regulate is the power to destroy.  We've seen that in many areas of commercial endeavor:

  • Regulation has frozen general aviation.  It costs so much to get a new aircraft design approved that most basic designs are 30 and 40 years old., and the light aircraft that ordinary Americans might hope to buy are fundamentally unchanged since the 1950s.
  • Regulation has crippled nuclear power in spite of its zero-carbon advantages.  The uncertainties in the process of getting permission to put up a plant mean that nobody even wants try.  This is fine with environmentalists who want us all to freeze in the dark, but it's not so good for people who want to enjoy the benefits of modern technology.
  • Regulation drove down the value of the New York Stock Exchange to the point that it could be bought by a 20-year-old start-up which trades mainly in less-regulated overseas markets.

The Damage Done by Government "Help"

Regulation isn't the government's only tool to destroy social institutions - government help is just as damaging.

Consider K-12 education.  The federal government threw money at schools with the goal of improving students' test scores.  As a result, teachers are going to jail for faking their students' scores by changing answers, sometimes "earning" thousands of dollars in the process. Federal involvement in education is not permitted by the Constitution; the outcome suggests that it should be ended based on results.

Consider colleges.  Our government decided to help students get college degrees by lending them money to pay college bills.  Given that government was throwing money at them, colleges raised their fees to the point that many students now graduate owing far more money than they can ever hope to pay back.  Programs which were supposed to help students ended up transferring taxpayer money to colleges while leaving students worse off..

Government help to the poor destroys families.  In his article "Liberalism Versus Blacks," the great black economist and writer Dr. Thomas Sowell wrote:

The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals' expansion of the welfare state.  Most black children grew up in homes with two parents during all that time but most grow up with only one parent today.

How does this work?  Women know that they'll need help raising their children.  Back in the day when women depended on husbands for help, they'd demand marriage and commitment before taking the risk of being stuck with the baby.  Today, a woman's welfare payments go down if she's married.

Government throwing money at single-parent families has had the predictable result of making more of them.  As the Wall Street Journal put it:

Low and middle-income single moms would rather be married to big government than to a human being.  Big government incentivizes them with Medicaid, the child-care credit, utility assistance, the earned-income tax credit, Head Start, housing assistance, and other programs.  Human men must compete with Big Gov on the marginal utility of their income.

March 25, 2013, p A16

Broken College Market, Broken Marriage Market

This shouldn't surprise anyone.  Women have always favored rich men over poor men.  It's hard to figure out how much welfare benefits are worth because there are so many different programs, but people try.  Some estimates of the value of welfare income, various tax-free benefit programs, fee health care, etc., found that a family of four would need an income of  about $60,000 per year to have the same amount of disposable income.

Wikipedia says that median income of American families was $50,502 in 2011.  In other words, more than half of American wage earners earn less than they would need to have as much disposable income as a welfare mother.  Our government offers unwed mothers more money than most wage earners can.offer their wives.  Is it any wonder that women are choosing to have kids out of wedlock?  If they get married, their income drops a lot.

Although the welfare system destroyed black families first, the New York Times reports that most babies being born to white mothers under 30 are born out of wedlock.  A child born into a single-parent home has an 80% greater chance of growing up in poverty than a child with two parents in spite of all that government spending!

Throwing money at fatherless births multiplies child poverty but there's no way most men can compete with government in terms of providing stable, long-term support.  Women are voting with their wallets and raising fatherless children.

Government regulation kills socially useful functions, and government subsidies are equally deadly.

As for gay "marriage," history shows that societies with too many weak families fall apart.  Any government recognition or promotion of family structures other than traditional marriage will weaken marriage in favor of alternate structures which are known not to work.

Let's hope that the Court decides that this decision ought to be left to the democratic process.  If they do that, they'll reinstate the California ban gay "marriage" ban because that's what the California voters wanted - while permitting extremists in Vermont and elsewhere to tinker with the wisdom of millennia to their own demise and everyone else's cautionary edification.

Voters' decisions can be changed in the future, but as the ongoing Roe v Wade civil war shows, it's much harder to reverse a Supreme Court decision or negate the creation of a new and previously unheard-of "right".  Let's hope the Court stays out of this controversy and reaffirms democracy.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

Let's see, we're the greatest nation on earth. We are trying to change the word marriage, we pay people 99 weeks not to work with money that we have to borrow, we build turtle tunnels so turtles won't be run over, we murder innocent babies in their mother's wombs, we destroy education by decreeing that everyone has to have a college education to the point where college grads are bartenders, we pass laws making it illegal to be in this country without the proper paperwork but in the same breath demand that the government pay for their health care and education, congress has a favorability rating of 10% but incumbents are almost guaranteed re-election, so why are we so surprised by anything that our government touches. As Milton Freidman once said, "If government were to be in charge of the Sahara Desert there would be a sand shortage." I believe he had it right.

April 3, 2013 1:38 AM

The NYT recognizes that women make rational economic decisions. They are talking about child care that costs so much that women choose not to work - all their income goes to paying for child care.

They didn't mention that government regulation is a major reason child care costs so much, of course. Maybe it's all a plot to make it more likely that kids will be cared for by their parents.....

LOST in the debate between Anne-Marie Slaughter’s chronicle of the obstacles confronting career-oriented mothers and Sheryl Sandberg’s call to “lean in” is a crucial reality: taxes. Women — no less than other humans, it turns out — can be rational economic actors.


Most working mothers who pay for child care do so out of their after-tax income. This is not an issue for very well-paid women. Nor is it that relevant for women in poor households, since they most likely don’t pay federal income taxes anyway and are eligible for the earned-income tax credit, the government’s most effective antipoverty program.

It’s women in the middle class who are hit hardest by this treatment of child care. For these couples, increases in the earnings of the better-paid spouse — usually, still, the husband — directly discourage work by the lower-paid spouse. There are several reasons for this: the federal child and dependent-care credit, which is supposed to help with these expenses, decreases as household income increases; the lower-paid spouse’s earnings are taxed at a higher marginal rate because of the other spouse’s earnings; and child care is paid out of after-tax income.

Imagine two women on either end of this middle group, each deciding whether to return to work after having their first child. The first woman’s husband makes $25,000, and the job she is considering pays $25,000. The second woman’s husband makes $90,000, and the job she is considering pays $45,000.

If the first woman enters the work force, she and her husband will lose their entire earned-income tax credit of more than $2,500. Because of her husband’s earnings, a portion of her salary will be taxed at 15 percent. After she pays payroll and state taxes, her after-tax income will be close to $17,000. Say she lives in New York State, where the average cost of day care for an infant is just over $14,000 — almost every after-tax dollar she brings home will go to her child care provider.

Now consider the second woman. If she were single and without children, her after-tax take-home income would have been around $36,000. But because of her husband’s earnings, almost all of her income will now be taxed at a higher rate, 25 percent. After paying for child care, she will take home only around $16,000. This is not even factoring in the fact that many higher-paying jobs, just the type Ms. Sandberg wants women to lean in to, require longer hours — and the more expensive child care that entails.

Many women in these scenarios, where the costs of working outweigh the benefits, would rationally decide not to re-enter the work force.

April 4, 2013 7:22 AM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...