Just do a simple web search, and, no, it doesn’t have to be Google, of “Obamacare divorce,” and you will see a growing number of feature articles on couples getting divorced, contemplating divorce, or choosing to co-habit instead of marriage. The most comprehensive article, which also includes a bunch of insightful links, can be found here.
You’ll be surprised (or not, especially if you’ve already gone all cynical on government’s ability to function efficiently) to see that certain folks would benefit from increased subsidies by remaining single or getting divorced. The linked article does a great job explaining all of the scenarios, so I won’t go into that here, but I did, however, want to encourage all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to not worship mammon over God by even considering such an arrangement.
Gaming the system by remaining single and living together is more tempting than it may sound, as I’ve actually encountered one occasion of a couple of seniors who wished to join the church who happened to live together outside of marriage. Why? Because they financially benefited from this arrangement. It was bizarre as I couldn’t fully comprehend the complexity through which this scenario was even possible. As sympathetic I was to their arrangement, they could not become members, primarily because the benefits of honoring God far exceed the extra few hundred dollars a month saved for not honoring Him. They, sadly, decided to maintain their arrangement and go find a church that would be sympathetic to their arrangement, or a church large enough to not even notice their arrangement.
All of this being said, the government does have a positive responsibility to reward good behavior, not to discourage it through a flawed system of taxes and subsidies. My single libertarian friend would also protest at this point and ask “Do you think taxes, credits, and subsidies should benefit those who are married with children?” – it’s a fair question. They would protest that the tax arrangement is very favorable to the married with children (no, not the horrible sitcom), and I can’t disagree, I receive a generous refund every year. I know they’ll recuperate it all when my kids are grown and out of the house and those deductions and credits vanish. But my single friend may remain single all his life, and his taxes rendered to Caesar will exceed mine in net over our lifetimes, even if we earn the identical salary. He goes his whole life without child tax credits. When the Bible talks about the role of government (Romans 13), it does so by generally defining the positive aspect of rewarding good behavior by punishing evil behavior, and not through incentivizing desirable behavior by redistributing someone else’s income. In other words, rewarding good behavior doesn’t necessitate government subsidies for certain familial arrangements, the type of car you drive, how well you divide your trash from the recyclables, etc. While I’m a fan of every tax break one can get, I do think the child tax credit and earned income credit are a form of social engineering. The cost of the government subsidizing someone with a middle class salary is far less through the earned income credit than the cost of welfare if that person was to fall below the minimum salary requirements for the EIC. The child tax credit is family friendly in theory because it costs more to raise kids and the government wants to pitch in and supplement our income because, again, that would be cheaper than these families crying out for greater subsidies in enlarging the welfare state. These policies are dubbed prudential and pragmatic at the same time, but they exceed the vision of State seen in the New Testament. Redistributing wealth for the very poor as a safety net may be debated, but to offer subsidies to those who are otherwise doing fine on their own seems to be a gross inefficiency.
So where do I stand? For one, I do claim the EIC and child tax credit, and will continue to do so, but am in theory an advocate of a simpler tax system that doesn’t discriminate against one’s social and familial arrangement. Taxes on earned income should be based on income regardless of whether it was earned by a single person or a parent of five, as with consumption tax, etc. Some will protest that this is a regressive tax system, but more on that some other time. I also want to note that there’s nothing stopping the State from removing child tax credits and, conversely, charging people a penalty for having kids because, after all, humans are bad for the environment. Look at China’s policies for such an example. Christians can think I’m anti-family for daring to suggest that the child tax credit should be removed, but that’s in theory because I’m opposed to the State having such power to engineer society one way or another. If we support statism when it’s friendly to us, we’ll have little credibility to oppose it when it’s not so friendly to us. I know that there are arguments from some that the State has a responsibility to the family to favor their status.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
The government’s positive responsibility to doing good is to essentially leave people alone to live their lives in a peaceful and quiet fashion, to be left to their own pursuit of goodness unaided by the government, except for the punishment of evildoers who seek to prey on the property, privacy, and peace of said people. Obamacare is just another example of a benevolent statism that seeks to engineer society in a beneficial way. Implementation of statism will always remove virtue from the private sector in the name of a public virtue. At some point, the State ceases to be so virtuous, and the individuals will have little to no recourse to restore a virtuous society. Paul is encouraging prayer that we can live our lives without the cradle to grave micromanaging of the State, that we can have as many kids as we desire, raise and educate them as we desire, rule over their health and care as we see fit, feed them as we desire, etc. Statism interferes, little by little, into the affairs of man by answering those questions that are best left to individuals and families, healthcare included.
© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.