Make Them Pay

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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34 Responses

  1. cfpete says:

    Maybe I am missing something;

    What I really think is that this is a horrible strategy, one almost certain to backfire

    Who is proposing this strategy, except you?Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to cfpete says:


      No one is. I brought it up to illustrate one of the things that marriage does and that no other arrangement can duplicate. I also brought it up to show that apparently no one really cares about it, and that offering it to gays and lesbians would be no big deal.

      Perhaps I could have been clearer. I’ve been a bit snarky of late.Report

      • @Jason Kuznicki, I can’t think of any solid reason not to try to expand the gift tax exemption to homosexual couples, but I don’t know if I count as a Christian conservative or not.Report

      • cfpete in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki,
        No problem.
        True story: My sister, a judge*, just got married this past weekend. Let me first say that I love her because she is my sister, but to be frank, she is a complete bitch. She argues for sport. She is never wrong and I don’t know how anyone could live with her. That might explain why she is in her mid-fifties and never married. She has been with the groom for about six years and I can best describe him as a “kept man” – no scratch that – “punching bag.” He has no job and no ambition but there is also no sex and certainly no love. His job is to take her rhetorical beatings and in exchange he never has to worry about money.
        To the point, tax considerations were the only reason for marriage. She figures it will save her about $140,000 per annum in taxes through various maneuvers.

        So yes, same-sex couples should have the same capability for tax arbitrage, but hopefully, more normal relationships.

        *Don’t worry, she is a very fair and respected jurist. She just completely sacrificed the personal for the professional. In the rat race to partner, managing partner, and then judge; intimacy was left behind. I do think; the demands would have been much less on a man in her position.Report

  2. Larry Signor says:

    If I was being hounded and persecuted by idiots for my lifestyle choices, I would be a “bit snarky”, too. This is an excellent post. I had not considered this aspect of “marriage” tho I have been married for 30 years. I think you are correct, nobody really cares about the tax incentives, except the hate mongers who created DOMA. They, undoubtedly, knew the ramifications. I’m waiting for US to grow up and become Americans. The years are dwindling.Report

  3. Sam M says:

    “I brought it up to illustrate one of the things that marriage does and that no other arrangement can duplicate. ”

    Well, the COULD duplicate it, right? If there were a civil unions law, there is no reason it couldn’t include the same gift tax inclusion, right? Perhaps such laws do not include such an exclusion now, but they could. Right?

    That is, I am not sure how this issue is that different from things like hospital visitation and all the rest. There COULD be responses short of full marriage equality that address each issue.

    I am pretty sure many opponents of equality have no interest in these kinds of concessions for civil unions. But a person can make a logical argument for such concessions and against full equality.Report

  4. M. Farmer says:

    Not to mention government has no business controlling what an individual gives to another under any circumstances. And since we shouldn’t care either, we should tell our government to end this stupid law. It’s just one more example of how we are controlled and our property rights are violated.Report

    • Sam M in reply to M. Farmer says:

      @M. Farmer,

      Agreed in principle about getting rid of the gift tax, but it’s pretty easy to envision all kinds of shenanigans. For instance, why would I ever pay an employee? I could offer him a “gift” every two weeks equal to his salary. Presto, no taxes! I libertarian utopia I can support! Although… someone has to pay the soldiers and court stenographers. (I am not pure enough to support a privatized military and legal system.)Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    Most religious conservatives I think will be loath to enlist the IRS in their cause.

    Perhaps we could find a middle ground. We could have a special class of people whose job it would be to inform on their neighbors and coworkers and friends and whatnot to the government. (They’d be paid for their troubles, of course.)

    They could be, like, a secret department that provides some degree of state security.

    This would actually work for much more than suspected homosexual couples, but folks could talk to the government about neighbors suspected of all sorts of illegal things. Plus these informants wouldn’t have to follow the rigorous (and, quite frankly, nigh-insurmountable) levels of protections that Official Police have to follow.

    Hey, if they see a friend light up a doob at a concert, a quick text to the authorities could make society better for all of us.Report

    • M. Farmer in reply to Jaybird says:

      For after all, as the Bible says, We are our brother’s informant.Report

    • Jim in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, Religious conservatives unwilling to use an organ of the government to further their cause? Isn’t that exactly what this is all about?

      As it happens tax exemption for religious entities has repeatedly been the battlegorund in lots of political spats. There’s a rather liberal church in Southern California that the IRS has been on for years now. It’s not that rare. And in fact the IRS has pulled status on some right-wing religious organizations for their political advocacy.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jim says:

        @Jim, The Johnson Amendment is one of those amendments that just gets me all riled up.

        Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech…

        Without getting into the issues raised by Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, it seems to me that the very idea that tax exemption revocation be used as a threat against churches for things that they say from the pulpit is an *OBVIOUS* violation of the principles behind those found in the First Amendment.Report

  6. As a gay marriage skeptic–a person who believes it’s only meaningful to speak of marriage as something between a man and a woman–I have no interest in Jason’s proposal. And neither will the vast majority of Americans.

    But if those who doubt the wisdom of gay marriage are really bigots, shouldn’t Jason’s proposal be irresistible? The reason it isn’t, I think, is that most Americans don’t oppose gay marriage out of animus. They oppose it because they intuit that marriage is, by its very nature, oriented toward reproduction and child-rearing. They see that this natural connection has become increasingly tenuous in today’s culture. They see the widespread impacts of out-of-wedlock births and unstable partnering that are especially severe in minority communities. And they wonder about the wisdom of a movement that denies the connection between marriage and child-bearing altogether.

    “Love makes a marriage,” is a fine-sounding slogan for a political movement, but it is not a sufficient basis for a minimally healthy marriage culture.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

      @Matthew Schmitz, Doctor, the leg was green when the patient was wheeled in.Report

    • JosephFM in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

      @Matthew Schmitz,
      Ah yes, they

      Marriage is by its very nature, oriented toward the concentration of wealth via tying certain property rights to reproduction and child-rearing. It’s a subtle difference but an important one.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

      @Matthew Schmitz,

      If this tax immunity is not something that must be reserved for heterosexuals alone — if it’s okay to give it to homosexuals — then on what grounds is it different from the rest of civil marriage?

      Or, if it’s not okay to give the tax immunity to homosexuals, on what grounds do you justify their breaking the law?Report

      • @Jason Kuznicki,

        Many activists would be unsatisfied with just having all the rights of civil marriage bundled in something called a “civil union.” I don’t think that’s totally unreasonable. The name matters, too.

        On the specific question raised in your post, I wouldn’t be opposed to homosexual couples receiving such tax immunity under conditions like those proposed by my friends Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis (in a piece that Ross Douthat recently cited in a response to Andrew Sullivan):

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

          @Matthew Schmitz,

          You mean this?

          The federal government would offer civil unions (including most, if not all, marital benefits) to same-sex couples that have entered a civil union under their state’s law. That is what the supporters of same-sex ‘marriage’ (“revisionists”) get out of the bargain. At the same time, the federal government would enact legislation to protect religious organizations from being forced to acknowledge same-sex unions…

          So you want civil unions? Plus a footnote to the Free Exercise Clause saying, “We, like, mean it and stuff”?

          I frankly find it insulting to take such a bargain.

          Not because of the civil unions terminology — call it whatever you want, for the sake of argument — I find insulting the implication that what I’m really after happens to include forcing my opinions on churches.

          Taking a compromise like this implicitly grants the premise that I want something other than purely civil marriage.Report

          • @Jason Kuznicki,

            Interesting, I didn’t anticipate that objection. Any thoughts on (the indirectly related) case of Kenneth Howell?


            • Travis in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz, There is no evidence that any “natural moral law” exists, and there is even less evidence that homosexuality violates this purported “law.”

              There is a difference between teaching “this is what some Catholics believe about gay people” and “gay people are unnatural.”

              Seems to me that Professor Howell crossed that line, perhaps inadvertently.Report

            • Travis in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz, and to be clear, I have no problem with anyone teaching the former. But the latter has no place in a public university.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz,

              I recall having written something about it somewhere. But I think Travis is basically right. But thould he have been disciplined? I still think formal discipline here uncalled for. Students like everyone else just need to develop a bit thicker skins. The world does not exist to validate your particular view of it. And the very last part of the world that should validate your pre-existing beliefs is college.Report

          • North in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            @Jason Kuznicki, practically speaking Matthew I think the ship has sailed in most parts of the country and federally for civil unions. If, say, Bush W and his Congress had rolled out a practical civil union bill in 2000 for same sex couples after he was inaugurated (and somehow enacted it over the flailing dead bodies of his own right wing) then we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. The movement for full civil gay marriage would have had a great deal of the force taken out if its sails.

            However, conservatives and the GOP chose to roll for double or nothing. They pretended gays didn’t exist and to this day are silent on what should be done about them. They rolled the dice. The dice are rolling to a stop and it looks like the conservatives lost. Now suddenly conservatives are discovering a newfound affection for the compromise position? Games and politics and life don’t work that way. You don’t get to grab the hand of the roulette dealer after the ball has rolled hopelessly past your wager and say “I changed my mind; I’m going to just take half my wager and go.”

            Why on earth would gay marriage advocates, with full civil marriage victory visibly moving steadily (but slowly, so slowly) into their grasp suddenly accept a ten year old half a loaf?Report

    • @Matthew Schmitz,

      > The reason it isn’t, I think, is that most Americans
      > don’t oppose gay marriage out of animus.

      Most Americans who oppose gay marriage probably do indeed believe that they aren’t doing it out of animus. People are great at convincing themselves that their biases aren’t actually there. If I discard confirmation bias as a potential source of intellectual conflict, then well boy howdy my objections *can’t* be out of animus!

      > They oppose it because they intuit that marriage
      > is, by its very nature, oriented toward
      > reproduction and child-rearing.

      This is historically completely untrue, though, Matthew. If you intuit this, you’re not a very good scholar of the actual historical presence of marriage in human societies.

      Marriage, historically, is almost entirely about the orderly disposition of real property, particularly the real property that is entailed in one form or another. In many societies, now, today, affection is *still* regarded as a tangential factor in a marriage. This “marriage is about raising children” mantra isn’t a justifiable position in cultural anthropology.

      Now, of course, you can argue that marriage *ought* to be about reproduction and child-rearing, but then that fully discards a vast majority of the existing marriages. Already past child rearing age? We don’t need to put you in this protected category. Already done having kids? Never intend to have them in the first place? Find out after the fact that you’re biologically incapable? You don’t get to call yourself “married” any more, that’s for child rearing only.Report

    • Simon K in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

      a href=”#comment-70496″>@Matthew Schmitz, So you’re saying you want the law to remain as it is, but don’t want it to be enforced?

      As Jason says, that seems to demonstrate a contradiction, doesn’t it? It seems you’re tacitly accepting that actually gay couples are not in fact like two random people who share a house, and that the law should recognise that difference by acknowledging that they have some of the rights usually associate with marriage.

      Presumably that’s all the rights specifically connected to choosing to share property and legally consider yourself a single household, and none of those specifically connected to being able to make babies. Which is all of them. That was easy, wasn’t it?Report

  7. RalfW says:

    My very straight and living-in-sin dad will not be happy if he gets reported.Report