Magazine article The CPA Journal

A Dagger in America's Heart: Public Policy versus the Family

Magazine article The CPA Journal

A Dagger in America's Heart: Public Policy versus the Family

Article excerpt

"Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread." This was Thomas Jefferson's assessment of the government's inability to manage agriculture. A similar assessment could be made concerning the American family: "Were we directed by government how to strengthen families, we should soon lack families." There is growing evidence that through its policies, government often works against, rather than for, the best interests of society, especially families.

The decline of the family is regarded as a key factor concerning the nation's social and economic problems. No other institution can adequately compensate when families fail in their role. Families are where children learn traditional values: honesty, trustworthiness, self-reliance, civility, concern for others, respect for legitimate authority, commitment, and love. The decline of the family has led to a decline of values. As a result, America has experienced startling social problems. During the past three decades, the rate of violent crime increased by 355%; illegitimate births, 428%; and teen suicide, 214%.

There are factors contributing to the decline of the family. The marriage rate has substantially declined while the divorce rate has more than doubled. Illegitimate births have increased from 5.3% in 1960 to 28% in 1990. Due to divorce and illegitimate births. a three-fold increase has occurred in the percent of children living in singe-parent homes. Research shows that single-parent homes are associated with difficult economic circumstances as well as psychological consequences to children, which include higher than average levels of youth suicide, low intellectual and education performance, and higher than average rates of mental illness, violence, and drug use.

Considering the many positive effects (e.g. lower rates of mental illness, violence, and drug use) associated with a strong family unit, one would expect that government policies would be profamily. Unfortunately, the opposite is often the case. Current tax law includes a marriage tax penalty, which is the extra tax at the federal level that a married couple must pay for filing via the married-filing-joint or married-filing-separate tables instead of filing as single taxpayers. The marriage tax penalty has the greatest impact on the lowest wage earners with children. …

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