Albert Gore invokes the phrase “working families” like a Buddhist chant. Indeed, he hailed working families seven times in his nomination acceptance speech. “I will fight” for working families, Gore bravely promises on the campaign trail. This raises a few basic questions:
Who actually opposes working families? Are “powerful forces” really trying to cleave parents from their children and mothers and fathers from each other? Whom precisely does Gore plan to fight? Second, isn’t nearly every family a working family? With unemployment hovering near 4 percent, the U.S. has precious few “resting families.” Perhaps Gore has watched too many Merchant-Ivory movies where non-working families in Edwardian mansions fritter away the hours recovering from extravagant costume balls.
Here in America, even the super-wealthy work hard. Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, have seven children. Is theirs a working family, or do Spielberg’s high-budget, Oscar-winning films somehow direct themselves as he lounges around his Tinseltown swimming pool in a daiquiri-inspired daze?
Most important, Gore’s rhetoric discounts voters like me. I’m single and have no kids. And I’m not alone. According to the Census Bureau, 46.6 million American adults never have been married. Among those who eventually choose matrimony, the average groom waits until he’s 28 to marry a typically 26-year-old bride; first weddings between thirty-somethings are common. Thus, the number of single Americans grows. And yet, by obsessing over working families, Albert Gore neglects nearly one quarter of Americans over age 18.
Now, I support moms and dads who work. When I was a lad, my mother and father were employed, so I guess I grew up in a working family. Back then, we just called ourselves a family.
Nonetheless, Albert Gore’s working-family fetish borders on discrimination based on marital status. Gore grants tax cuts, for example, like a dog owner training a litter of puppies. Dance on your hind legs, and you, too, might win a Milk Bone dog biscuit.
“I’ll fight for tax cuts that go to the right people,” Gore told Democratic conventioneers. The “right people” usually are married with children.
Rather than reduce income-tax brackets, Gore makes taxpayers jump up and catch targeted tax breaks in their teeth. Among many things, he proposes a $500 tax credit for day-care expenses. Parents could receive tax-free college savings and a partial deduction for their children’s college tuition costs. He also would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for larger families and those with two-earner couples.
Single people willing to leap through hoops could see limited tax relief thanks to matching credits for deposits in retirement savings accounts and 25 percent of health insurance premiums, in some cases.
Robert McIntyre of the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice does not consider Gore’s a genuine tax-cut package. As he told me, Gore offers “a whole bunch of spending programs run by the IRS.” The Tax Foundation’s Bill Ahern said by phone: “The welfare system is being transferred into the tax code in all its complexity, as if the tax code were not complex enough.”
Meanwhile, universality is central to George W. Bush’s income tax-cut plan. Taxpayers would save money, independent of marriage, parenthood, or whether their family works or relaxes.
Bush’s proposal includes some pro-family specifics — doubling today’s $500-per-child tax credit — but does not slight singles.
The bottom rate would plunge from 15 percent to 10, slashing taxes for low-income earners by one third. A single, minimum-wage worker earning $10,712 annually would enjoy an income-tax cut of approximately $148.
The 28 and 31 percent rates would fall to 25. A single, male, median-income worker earning $36,252 would see a Bush income-tax cut of $396.
Finally, the top rate would drop from 39.6 percent to 33 percent. “On principle, no one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government,” Bush explains. A single earner with $100,000 in an annual income would save $3,231.
Gore’s constant nagging about so-called windfalls for “the rich” conveniently forgets that those with higher incomes will see larger nominal tax savings because they pay bigger tax bills.
Bush’s plan to allow Americans to invest 2 percent of their payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts would provide participating taxpayers additional savings.
Before Gore re-erupts over working families, he ought to consider the price he may pay for overlooking the 24 percent of American adults who happen to be single. On November 7, we just might leave him at the altar.