What if the federal government forced couples to pay 20% of their annual income just to get or stay married? And suppose a couple could avoid this tax if they either got a divorce or never got married in the first place?
Does it sound like good public policy to force a couple earning, say, $60,000 a year to pay $12,000 just for being married?
That's more or less what we demand of millions of low-income Americans who receive government welfare benefits. For most couples on welfare, getting married is among the more expensive decisions they will face as newlyweds, because saying "I do" will reduce the benefits they receive, on average, by 10% to 20% of their total income.
Here is their idea for a solution:
it's time to eliminate the marriage penalty for low-income Americans. Our proposal is simple: Don't make them pay it. We should allow newly married couples to continue to receive all of their benefits for the first three years of marriage, thus mitigating the marriage penalty currently paid by lower-income couples. This adjustment should give newly married couples a sufficient grace period to realize the economic benefits of marriage – and save some money to stabilize their financial situation – before government benefits cease.
They suggest trial programs in several states and cities across the country. Perhaps they already have places in mind. But if not, this looks like a very worthwhile program for churches with an inner city presence to volunteer themselves for. Most Catholic dioceses, for instance, have some poor parishes, as well as better off parishes. Some diocese should volunteer to partner suburban parishes with inner city parishes to offer them the support, information and guidance they need to take advantage of the temporary end of the marriage penalty.