Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Gender of the Debt: How Unconstitutional Gender Stereotypes Separated the United States From Its Foundation and Led It to $17 Trillion in Federal Debt

In this post, I'd like to summarize the connection between the gender stereotyping in federal tax and benefits policy and the $17 trillion federal debt (as of the end of 2013).

 First, let's look at a chart of the aggregate federal debt over time.

  Here's a look at what has happened since 1980, when Ronald Reagan took office.





















These charts were prepared by FactCheck.org in Februrary 2012.


What were the background policies of these Administrations related to gender stereotyping?

All of these Administrations have been functioning under a basic federal template of assessing lower tax rates on sole breadwinners and the greater earners in two-earner marriages, higher tax rates on the lesser earners in a marriage (or stay-at-home parents who try to enter the market for paid work) and distributing extra benefits to sole breadwinners and stay-at-home parents, albeit with some adjustments or reinforcements in each Administration that I'll outline below.  The template also, generally speaking, charges higher taxes to two-earner marriages and single people and gives them less in benefits. The primary components of this template, as I explained in more detail in earlier posts, such as this post, this post, and this post are:

(i)  The practice of fictionally merging earned income of two partners to a marriage into one aggregate fused earned income for the purpose of measuring taxes, thus in a system of progressive tax rates creating a "marriage bonus" or reduced tax rate for the greater earner in a couple, a "marriage penalty" or increased tax rate for the lesser earner in a couple, and a requirement that people in couples with incomes closer to equal each pay a "marriage penalty".  The opposite effect on each spouse in a marriage of two people with different levels of income is sometimes called the "stacking effect problem."  This policy of "income splitting" was introduced in the United States in 1948, when a post WWII Congress imposed it, over two vetoes by President Truman, in an effort to displace women from the paid employment they had pursued to support the WWII effort and back into unpaid or lower paid work, especially of the home and children.  Paradoxically, it was also an objection to states with community property laws fictionally splitting earned income in marriages.

(ii)  The practice of assessing the payroll taxes that support Medicare and Social Security on the basis of individual wage income only, but distributing benefits based on marital status and in a progressive manner.  This means that a sole breadwinner pays the same payroll tax rate as a comparably earning single person or person in a two-earner marriage, but s/he and his spouse receive substantially more in benefits.  Many of these sole breadwinner/stay-at-home parent benefits are unfunded, a problem that has become worse with the fact people are living longer and the Baby Boomers are a large demographic group. This policy was instituted in the 1935 Social Security Act in connection with other New Deal policies, including those that prohibited married women from earning income, built around a concept of men holding first entitlement to paid work and women holding primary responsibility for unpaid or lower paid work of the home and children.  It was adopted with slogans such as "a working wage for the working man".


(iii) The practice of assuming that women are the only parents responsible for meeting children's needs personally and that they are the only biological parents of children.  Especially for parents of children under the age of 5, this leaves women unable to earn income and creates demand for welfare programs. It also hides information about the effect of paternal neglect in creating developmental distortions and problems in children that are expensive to remedy.  This in turn creates demand for expensive federal spending, both during the child's childhood and later adulthood, including spending on wars of aggression, as one commentator I'll mention below has illustrated.  And, as more studies increasingly indicate, the effect of men's health on the DNA quality of the sperm as well as paternal age effect on the DNA quality of sperm, becomes hidden, thus preventing men from making informed choices about when in their lives they conceive their children and preventing problems resulting from these uninformed choices.  This has been a continuous policy at the federal level in health and human services programs during the 20th Century and has recently become reinforced in the Affordable Care Act.  Some of this may have been reinforced by a faulty "mother's choice" model for bringing a child in to the world that became popularized in the 1970s in connection with the Supreme Court's 1971 decision Roe v. Wade, rather than a "two-choice" model involving both parents, including recognition of fundamental rights of the child (a topic I'll discuss in an upcoming post).  Some of the problem may derive from the Roe v. Wade decision being based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and not the equal protection clause as well.

(iv) The practice of reinforcing biases against male preventive care in the health care system and of pathologizing women in the health care system.  These biases not only reduce men's longevity, by five years on average relative to women, but increase costs of caring for older men, who have accumulated chronic and other diseases that are preventable.  They also make women feel they are sicker than they are, causing them to overconsume health care resources, and fail to catch communicable diseases, such as sexually transmitted diseases, by treating only 50% of the population that is contributing to such disease.  This policy has been a problem for many years, but has recently become reinforced in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

(v)  An "intermediate scrutiny" standard for sex discrimination established by the Supreme Court in a series of decisions, beginning with the 1972 Reed v. Reed decision, rather than a higher standard such as "strict scrutiny".  This "intermediate scrutiny" standard has also become eroded to "rational basis" or less by some sitting Justices, such as Antonin Scalia.  Justice Scalia was appointed by President Reagan.  These lesser standards for evaluating sex discrimination have then made it more difficult for the electorate to recognize tax discrimination against women, health care discrimination against men on preventive care, and retirement benefits discrimination against both women who earn income and men who take personal responsibility for their children.


How do these policies correlate to the federal debt?  How do they cause the federal debt?  How was the federal debt increased or decreased during the Presidencies of Reagan to Obama in connection with modifications made to this template?

First, what happened prior to Reagan:

1.  The Civil War increased the federal debt substantially, as this historical chart by the Congressional Budget Office shows.


 (Unlike the FactCheck.org charts, this chart shows only debt held by the public, an omission of inter-governmental borrowing, which will become relevant for Clinton era policies discussed later.)  As I noted in a previous post, in the lead up to the Civil War, while some states were seeking to secede, some states that stayed in the Union, such as Kansas, perhaps in frustration with unconstitutional decisions made by the Buchanan Administration and the Taney Supreme Court, made gender stereotyping decisions in their state constitutions that conflicted with the United States Constitution, that in turn may have led to the heavy expenses of the Civil War rather than less expensive (and less lethal) methods for eradicating slavery. 

2.  As the CBO historical also shows, the 1935 Social Security Act, in connection with other New Deal spending, correlates with an increase in the federal debt.  Whether the Social Security Act caused an increase in the federal debt in the years prior to 1980 is more difficult to see.  Countering any view of causation is the fact the federal debt has returned to pre-1935 levels in some limited years since then, falling below those levels from the late 1960s until 1980, albeit still being relatively large on a historical basis.

3.  The CBO historical chart also shows WWII spending increased the federal debt enormously, but this debt was worked out or worked off precipitously from 1945-1950, and significantly from 1950 to the 1960s, with ever more reduction, at a lesser rate, from then until 1980 when it began to rise again.  [A relevant aside: Hitler was elected in newly democratic Germany after the Weimar Republic established equal rights for men and women, but not equal responsibilities, and after the Weimar Republic was only partly successful at dealing with big debts from reparations and other costs of World War I.  The Weimar Republic had also had destabilizing problems with intense attacks from both right wing and left wing extremists.  One of Nazi policies was "income splitting", mentioned above at item (ii)]

Next, what happened in each Administration after 1980, starting with Reagan, as the debt began to climb precipitously to today, with a small break in the late 1990s?

1.   During Reagan's Presidency, he cut some income tax rates and increased others, principally payroll tax rates.  [War spending?]  Nothing was done about the fiction of "income splitting" or the problem of the unfunded sole breadwinner/stay-at-home parent subsidies in Social Security and Medicare and the overtaxing/underbenefitting of two-earner couples.

2.   During George Bush's Presidency, he initiated the Gulf War.

3.   During Bill Clinton's Presidency, substantial tax reform in 1996 involved Newt Gingrich's  Contract with America reinforcing these policies.  While this was largely driven by Gingrich, at least one Clinton Administration tax advisor, Michael Graetz, has acknowledged that a "mistake" was made in not getting rid of the fiction of income splitting, according the book "Taxing Women" by McCaffrey.   The Clinton Administration also took the surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund that had been generated particularly by so many Baby Boomer and younger people being in two-earner marriages or being single, and lent it for general spending, with no plan for paying it back.  This is why the CBO chart above that only shows debt held by the public, rather than intergovernmental debt as well, can understate the problem.

4.  George W. Bush was elected on a platform of opposition to egalitarian marriage (usually associated with the issue of "same-sex marriage" although "same-sex marriage" equality currently just involves same-sex couples being subject to all the same tax and benefit distortions mentioned in this post) and reinforcement of patriarchal marriage (euphemistically labelled "traditional marriage", although it is not "traditional" for many in the United States, even tracing back to the founding, as this post discusses).  During his Presidency, he initiated a war of aggression, the Iraq War, and other military efforts that are estimated to have cost $4 trillion.  He also initiated tax cuts that substantially reduced taxes on sole breadwinners, particularly at higher levels of income, although he also (i) reduced one aspect to the "marriage penalty" problem for married couples with incomes between $30,000 and $130,000, and (ii) he partly reduced one aspect of the "marriage penalty" problem for families receiving the EITC.   Neither of these reforms addressed the "stacking effect" problem, however, that imposes a "marriage penalty" on the lesser earner and gives a "marriage bonus" to the greater earner.  He increased benefits in Medicare through the brand name prescription drug benefit.  He also initiated the process of big bank bailouts, shifting bad debt held by banks to the federal debt.  

5.  During Obama's Presidency, in conjunction with the House Tea Party coalition, first he reinforced the Bush tax cuts that (a) substantially reduced taxes on sole breadwinners at higher levels of income and (b) the part-reforms of the (i) "marriage penalty" problem for 2-earner married couples with incomes between $30,000 and $130,000 and (ii) "marriage penalty" problem for 2-earner married couples receiving the EITC.  He initiated a capital-earner tax to support the progressivity of benefits in Medicare.  After the voters chose him over Mitt Romney, he made federal rates more progressive for those with incomes over $200,000 (thus increasing the "marriage penalty" and "stacking effect" problem for 2-earner families above that level because nothing was done about the fiction of joint earned income).  He initiated a payroll tax cut (since repealed). He also continued and reinforced the process of big bank bailouts, shifting bad debt held by banks to the federal debt.  He ended the Iraq War.  He passed the ACA, with its bias that women are the only biological and psychological parents of children and against male preventive care.  He has made no effort to eliminate the fiction of joint earned income for tax measurement nor has he made much effort to deal with the debt-financed extra benefits payments and low taxes to sole breadwinners in Social Security and Medicare.  The Social Security Administration did release a proposal of moving to a "shared earnings" model for benefits, which would better recognize the higher payroll taxes that 2-earner families pay.  [The Senate Finance Committee is considering reform to tax policies that affect families, and has included removal of the fiction of "income splitting" in their discussions, along with other policy reforms that recognize women as earners but this reform still assigns a primary parent with responsibility for child care (while paradoxically given the child care tax credit to the higher earner), rather than modeling this on a concept of child care as the equal responsibility of both parents.]

[To be completed.]




































As I discussed in an earlier blog post, the conflict in the United States regarding gender stereotyping goes back to the founding days of the country and our Constitution is built around the the term "Person" (rather than "Man") in order to prevent such stereotyping.





Monday, October 14, 2013

Proposed Colorado Amendment 66: Pro or Con?

Colorado's proposed Amendment 66 will be on the ballot in a few weeks.  How would this amendment affect shared earning/shared parenting families?

Background and Summary of the Amendment:  

The amendment would add a progressive element to the state income tax, doing away with the current 4.63 percent flat rate. Taxable income of household (or individual income for those not married) up to $75,000 would be subject to a 5 percent levy; income over that amount would be taxed at 5.9 percent.

The measure would would attempt to make state and local shares of district funding more equitable by resetting the equation for funding lower-income districts.  It would pour $165.5 million into full-day kindergarten and $77.5 million into preschool programs. It also targets $100 million for education-innovation grants, such as expanded school days, and $381.3 million for student testing, professional development for educators, early literacy and school accountability.  It promises a net gain in funding for every district and financial transparency through a website that would allow the public to track spending at the school level.

It also intends to channel more money toward early-childhood education, at-risk students, English-language learners, charter schools and locally determined innovations such as longer school days and years.

How does the tax affect shared earning/shared parenting families?

(A) First, how does Colorado's current tax work?

Unlike the federal income and payroll (or Social Security and Medicare) tax, the state income tax is, generally speaking, applied to all types of income, from wage income to rental income to capital gains.  

Like the federal income tax, and somewhat like the federal payroll tax, Colorado allows the fiction of joint earned income measurement for married couples.  Even though there is a flat tax, because of the way the deductions work, two-earner married couples very often pay higher rates of tax than one-earner married couples with the same gross income.  The effect of the deductions can also mean that the lesser earner in the couple pays a "marriage penalty" or higher tax rate because of the marriage and the greater earner in the couple receives a "marriage bonus" or lower tax rate.  (I am oversimplifying this for the purpose of illustrating the effect of Amendment 66; you will want to check your own personal tax situation to know the details.) 

For this reason, as I've discussed in earlier blog posts, many shared earning/shared parenting families that are not already married may prefer to form a civil union.  Under a civil union, the tax on each partner's personal income will likely be measured for both federal and state tax purposes separately from the other partner, avoiding the distortions mentioned above.   As I've also discussed in earlier blog posts, this depends on the circumstances of each such shared earning/shared parenting family; the extra federal benefits (such as Social Security survivor benefits to the lesser earner in the couple if one partner's income is greater than the other) of marriage taxation may be of value to some families, or one or both partners may be employed by a company or a government (including the federal government) that offers other benefits that outweigh the costs of being taxed as a marriage.

(B) How would the Amendment 66 tax change affect things?

Because the Amendment 66 proposal would add a progressive element to the tax system, for married couples (in contrast to civil unioned couples) this makes the "marriage penalty" and "marriage bonus" problem in 2-earner marriages WORSE.  It will place greater pressure on families to put as much earnings as possible on one partner and to put as much unpaid work, including child care and other parenting, on the other partner.   It will also increase the accelerating pressure over time to do this that I've mentioned in other blog posts regarding the current federal system.  While there are many reasons progressive taxes are a good idea, to prevent the progressive tax working against its purpose, the fiction of joint earned income by married couples needs to be repealed at both the federal state level.

(C) Conclusion 

Regardless of whether they wish to see more funding or pay more tax to support public schools, most married two-earner families, including shared earning/shared parenting families, may want to reject the tax scheme of Amendment 66.  Civil unioned or nonmarried two-earner/two-parent families would probably be OK with it but, like married two-earner/two-parent families, would like to see broader tax reform that gets rid of the fictionalizing of joint earned income for tax purposes for married couples.

How does the proposed expenditure affect things?

(a)  Making state and local shares of district funding more equitable by resetting the equation for funding lower-income districts.  

This expenditure will not likely affect shared earning/shared parenting families differently than other types of families.

(b)  $165.5 million into full-day kindergarten and $77.5 million into preschool programs.  $100 million and other funds for local education-innovation grants, such as expanded school days and years.

This depends on the degree to which a shared earning/shared parenting family outsources child care.

Many shared earning/shared parenting families use child care and would prefer that schools include preschool, full-day kindergarten and school schedules that run year round without a summer break.

On the other hand, many shared earning/shared parenting families don't use child care as much as 2-earner families where only one parent takes most or all of the responsibility for child care and they may prefer more options for parental care rather than the tax system requiring them to pay for full-time care of small children.

(c)  $381.3 million for student testing, professional development for educators, early literacy and school accountability.  It promises a net gain in funding for every district and financial transparency through a website that would allow the public to track spending at the school level.  

This expenditure will not likely affect shared earning/shared parenting families differently than other types of families.


(d)  It also intends to channel more money toward early-childhood education, at-risk students, English-language learners, charter schools.

To the extend this funding goes to remediate problems deriving from paternal neglect early in a child's life, it seems unlikely to draw support from shared earning/shared parenting families.  Because they are doing the prevention of these problems themselves, they would prefer to see measures that address parental neglect (including "rights of the child amendment" as I'll discuss in a upcoming post or a "two-choice model of parenting responsibility" as I discussed in a recent post) rather than allowing problems from paternal neglect to accumulate and thus require expensive remedial measures. 

What are some of the problems that have been traced to paternal neglect?   Psychologists and sociologists have identified a range of emotional disorders, from ADD to autism/Aspberger Spectrum problems to alcohol and drug addiction.   Also, propensity to perpetrate or become a victim of violence has been traced to paternal neglect.  School performance also improves with paternal responsibility for meeting children's needs and declines with paternal neglect.

Some of these may have biological causes related to DNA degradation associated with ""Paternal Age Effect".

To the extent this funding is going to address problems of the children of illegal immigrants, who comprise six percent of Colorado's population, one objection shared earning/shared parenting families may have is to demand for services of illegal immigrants, at below-market rates, being related to paternal neglect.  In other words, in families that are two-earner, but not two-parent, is the lack of responsibility by one parent (usually the father) being carried by the other (usually the mother) who is then hiring illegal immigrants to do some of this work?   Some working mothers who do not have husbands taking half the responsibility may be hiring illegal immigrants for child care and chores?

(e) Conclusion 

On balance the expenditures in the law will help those shared earning/shared parenting families that outsource a lot of child care; those that like to do their own child care may not like it as much.  Many shared earning/shared parenting families may object to the lack of attention in Amendment 66 to the role parental neglect, particularly paternal neglect, may be playing in the need for expenditures to (a) educate children with developmental problems tracing from paternal neglect and (b) educate the children of illegal immigrants who are being employed, at below market rates, to do work that fathers do in shared earning/shared parenting families. 

*******

Overall Conclusion 

Shared earning/shared parenting families that are married, rather than civil unioned or not married, will likely oppose Amendment 66 because of its tax structure combined with the fictionalizing of joint earned income for married couples for tax measurement purposes, related "marriage penalty" issues and  the continued subsidy to sole breadwinners/stay-at-home parents already built into the Colorado and federal tax system.  

Civil unioned and unmarried shared earning/shared parenting families will face less tax penalty and pay less tax subsidy to sole breadwinners/stay-at-home parents and the structure of a progressive tax works in its best form when applied to them, so the tax structure in and of itself is not likely to be an objection for them. 

In the expenditures, shared earning/shared parenting families who outsource child care will like the ideas of longer school days, all-day kindergarten, and preschool.   Those who like to do more child care themselves will not be as interested in these programs.

Most shared earning/shared parenting families will likely object to the law's failure to get at problems of parental neglect, particularly paternal neglect, however, including how that may relate to (a) causing developmental disabilities in children and (b) demand for services of illegal immigrants.  These problems then in turn cause ever more increasing expenses for the public educational system and do not give children access to the good outcomes they could have if the paternal neglect problem were resolved.
























Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Two-Choice Dilemma of Having a Child

In this post, I would like to look at how the decision to bring a child into the world is made.

In a family that sees a child as having two parents, this is a choice that both parents make together.  Both parents agree to bring the child into the world or else it doesn't happen.  For shared earning/shared parenting families, this is how they see it and they also discuss how they are going to raise the child and how they are going to meet the child's needs, and both parents see themselves as responsible for all facets of these needs.

The law does not currently regard this choice this way, however.  In this post, I'll look at how the law currently regards the decision to bring a child into the world.  Then I propose an a "two-choice model" as a possible improvement, and will illustrate how a "two-choice model" would apply to several recent high-profile cases:

(A) Adrian Peterson's two-year-old child ("Tommy Tyke") with an unnamed mother ("Jane Doe"), who died after being beaten by Jane Doe's boyfriend, Joseph Robert Patterson.

(B) Samuel Nathaniel Bode Miller-McKenna, a child born to Bode Miller and Sara McKenna, who had a highly publicized dispute over the fetus and now the child.

(C) The case of seven children subjected to gross child neglect in Colorado where the first four children were found, placed in foster and then adoptive care, and then the parents (a 65 year old father, a 35 year old mother) had three more children they again subjected to gross neglect.  


How does our current political economy, including the United States Constitution and our legal systems, including the Affordable Care Act (and the unregulated health care system that precedes the ACA), see this matter?

1.  Many states in the United States provide that everyone, male or female, has the right to object to sexual relations, through the criminalization of rape.  In such states, married people may object to sexual relations with a spouse because spouses are not exempt from rape laws, although unfortunately in some Southern states in the United States, if a spouse can use forms of coercion other than a high level of violence, there is no law considering such coercion to be criminally prosecutable.  Some states in the United States were among the first jurisdictions in the world to remove marital exemptions to rape laws, while some states still have not reformed their laws and lag many foreign countries.  South Carolina is a prominent example, where force of a "high or aggravated nature" is required for a rape to occur, effectively meaning that other forms of coercion are not prosecutable.  

[Many activists in the United States would like to change the nature of this framework so that affirmative consent is actually required for sexual relations, including within marriage, rather than just an absence of an objection. One example is The Consensual Project.]

2.  Everyone, male or female, who does engage in sexual relations has the right to use contraception under Supreme Court rulings, including Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird.

3.  There are many very reliable methods of contraception.

(a)   Nearly every method available to women requires a doctor's care for fitting or prescription and insurance companies are required to include them unless the insurance coverage is provided through an employer that seeks a "religious exemption".    Outside the context of the "religious exemption" employer the ACA requires coverage of "All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity."

(b)   Some methods available to men, such as condoms, don't require a doctor's care.  Others, such as vasectomies, do.  The Affordable Care Act does not require insurers to provide any such care to men, although many insurers may do this voluntarily or men may pay for these services out of pocket.  Higher tech, reversible versions of birth control for men are reported under development in the press.  A possible male pill, called RISUG, is being developed in India and has been submitted to the FDA.  Many scientists think the only reasons more such methods don't exist is insufficient market demand.  The fact that paternity is now provable, and increasingly less expensive to establish, may help drive that demand, although it is curious that the ACA did not include any governmental support for developing such methods and also that physician-assisted methods such as vasectomies were not included in the list of items insurers must include.

4.  If a pregnancy does occur, the mother has the right to obtain an abortion under Roe v. Wade.
The father does not have a right either to consent to or object to the abortion.  In practice, many partners to a pregnancy do discuss their respective wishes, their ability to meet the needs of the child if born, and the father thus does get a say. 

5.  If the mother decides to abort the fetus, neither the man nor the woman has any further legal obligation.

6.  If the mother decides to have the child and does not put the child up for adoption, both parents have obligations to financially support the child, although enforcement of these obligations varies widely.  Under U.S. law, only the mother has the obligation to meet the personal needs of the child.    While financial support obligations can sometimes be enforced against noncustodial parents, legal standards of abuse/neglect usually apply only to custodial parents and there is not currently clear provision for a noncustodial mother or father to be prosecuted for neglect.

[The United States Constitution does not recognize children as distinct from adults and does not include any concept recognizing that children have needs they cannot meet themselves and who is responsible for meeting them.

The 1992 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a binding convention signed by every member nation of the United Nations and formally ratified by all but Somalia and the United States, declares that the upbringing and development of children and a standard of living adequate for the children's development is a common responsibility of both parents and a fundamental human right for children, and asserts that the primary responsibility to provide such for the children rests with their parents.]

What are some ways this framework could be improved?

One possible model could be a "two choice" model of parental responsibility.  This could involve:

(a)  A "rights of the child" amendment to the U.S. Constitution or state constitutions, perhaps along the lines of the UN Convention but perhaps updated to recognize that paternity is now readily and inexpensively proven and disproven, with basic and simple language expressing that children have the right to have their personal and financial needs met by their parents and that in the first or default instance, both parents have several (or independent) liability for meeting those needs.  This would mean that if the child's needs were not met, both biological parents would be liable and could not sue each other unless they had an express agreement that one or the other, or an adoptive parent or parents, was going to assume 100% of some or all responsibilities for meeting the child needs that were neglected.


(b)  A requirement that consent is required for sexual relations, not just absence of an objection. 

(c)  Amendment of the ACA (a) to require insurers to cover (i) male methods of contraception that require a doctor's assistance, such as vasectomies and (ii) paternity testing and (b) to support research and development into higher tech versions of male contraceptives.

(d)  When a mother decides to have a baby, then the question of the child's rights enter the picture.  Unless the mother expressly assumes 100% of the responsibility for the child, the father would hold such responsibility fully (as does the mother), and severally from the mother.  Or unless the father expressly assumes 100% of the responsibility for the child (or any aspect of the child's needs), the mother holds such responsibility (as does he) fully and severally from the mother.  The state could then have the right to stand in for child, itself or through a guardian ad litem to ensure that these several liabilities of the parents for meeting the basic needs of the child are met.

Has this type of view been discussed much in the upper reaches of policy development?  Two prominent married-to-each-other economists, George Akerlof (who won a Nobel Prize in 2001) and Janet Yellen, nominated on October 6 by President Obama to be Chair of the Federal Reserve, wrote an article called An Analysis of Out of Wedlock Births in the United States in 1996 about the role that lack of paternal financial responsibility for children has played in the feminization of poverty.  The article does not discuss the impact on children. The structure of the article also assumes no paternal responsibility for meeting nonfinancial needs of children.  Instead the idea is that there has been a decline in "shotgun marriage" or the social convention that if an unmarried woman became pregnant the father of her child used to be pressured to marry her and support her and the child financially via the marriage (or through divorce laws if one then ensued).  The "shotgun" in that scenario was usually carried by the father of the unmarried woman, presumably because he did not want to have to support financially the unmarried woman and her forthcoming child.  In practice, of course, many women supported themselves and their children in these situations as they do today, however, today we also have many federal programs designed to provide taxpayer support to unmarried women with children. The EITC is one example, and much has been written about how it can actually discourage marriage and even cohabitation between parents.  Like Akerlof's and Yellen's paper, the discussion focuses on marriage as a construct for men to financially support their children rather than any paternal responsibility for nonfinancial needs of children (either inside or outside marriage).  Currently the United States government program "Temporary Assistance to Need Families" or TANF, requires of its recipients that the state be allowed to step into the mother's shoes in collecting child support from a father, and this also reflects a view that the default is that custody (and thus responsibility for meeting the personal needs of the child) belongs with one parent and financial support with the other, rather than a default that both parents are severally responsible for meeting all needs.

(e)  Welfare programs such as the EITC could be redesigned to be child-centric.  They could be designed to remove any marriage penalty and to make the payment to the child, rather than to the mother, in the name of both parents (perhaps divided pro rata to their respective incomes).  In the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the child would have the right to be placed in each parent's care 50% of the time.   If the parents form an express written agreement to the contrary, for example, that the mother assumes all the responsibility for meeting the personal needs of the child and the father all the financial responsibility, then all payments on behalf of the child would go to the father since he has assumed financial responsibility.  Any failure by him to pay for the child's financial needs would make him liable to the child, with the state or a guardian ad litem able to act on behalf of the child. 
 
(f)  As I've discussed in an earlier post, and many others have as well, outside the context of the EITC, there are many other subsidies to patriarchal families (whether married or not), including to very wealthy ones, many of which are unfunded and contributing to the $17 trillion federal debt.  These could be eliminated.  Families can still choose the patriarchal style but they would not be subsidized in it and if there is a failure to meet the child's needs, the child (and the state or a guardian ad litem on the child's behalf) would have a cause of action against both parents for any need not expressly assumed by one or the other.

How would these ideas work as applied to some real life cases?

Let's look at a recent case in the news:

(A) Adrian Peterson's two-year-old child ("Tommy Tyke") with an unnamed mother ("Jane Doe"), who died after being beaten by Jane Doe's boyfriend, Joseph Robert Patterson.   Below is what reportedly really happened, with the modification of what would have happened under a "two choice dilemma" model listed in brackets.

1. Peterson and Doe reportedly had sex in a very short-term relationship that created the pregnancy that resulted in Tommy Tyke.  There is nothing reported in the news that indicates there was any objection by either Peterson or Doe to having the sex.  They each had the opportunity to use contraception and there is nothing in the news reports to suggest that either of them did.

[They would both have had the opportunity to consent to this rather than just not to object to it.  If one or the other did not consent, this could be prosecuted as nonconsensual sex. Peterson would have had higher-tech, reversible contraceptives available to him in addition to current male methods. Peterson would have received, for no copay and as more routine part of health care for men, analogous services to those currently required by the ACA for women: reproductive health counseling and screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.]

2.  Doe decided to carry the pregnancy to term and Tommy Tyke was born.  She did not notify Peterson until Tommy Tyke was more than a year old.  Peterson did not contact her during the pregnancy or later to see if a pregnancy had resulted or a child was born.

[Because it is a "rights of the child" model, since Doe decided to have Tommy Tyke, once Tommy Tyke is born, he would still have the right to have his needs met by both his parents, under several liability, unless the nonconsensual nature indicates one parent lacks capacity, in which case that parent could also be prosecuted for neglect of Tommy Tyke.

Prior to Doe notifying Peterson and while Peterson was not contacting her, there has been no express agreement between Peterson and Doe allocating responsibility for the child's needs.  During this time, both parents are liable if there was any failure to meet any of Tommy Tyke's needs.]

3.  Doe notifies Peterson in July 2013, when Tommy Tyke is over a year old.  Peterson says "how can I help?"  Peterson does not go to see the child.  There is nothing in the news reports to indicate any agreement was made between Peterson and Doe at this point allocating the responsibility, beyond possible financial support from Peterson.  It is not clear if Doe expressly agreed to assume all responsibility for meeting personal needs of Tommy Tyke.

[Without an express agreement to the contrary, during all this time both parents are fully and severally liable if there was any failure to meet Tommy Tyke's needs.]

4.  Doe leaves Tommy Tyke in the custody of Joseph Robert Patterson, her boyfriend.  Patterson was given suspended sentences a year ago for simple domestic assault and violation of a domestic abuse bond, both misdemeanors.  It has not been reported whether Doe knew this.  Patterson beats Tommy Tyke on at least one occasion.  Patterson calls authorities about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, October 10, to report that a 2-year-old was choking in his Sioux Falls apartment. Officers arrived to find the toddler unresponsive, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital.  Peterson goes to visit Tommy Tyke, for the first time, while he is unresponsive in the hospital.  Tommy Tyke dies in the hospital Friday, October 12.  Patterson was arrested Thursday, October 11, and charged with aggravated battery of an infant and aggravated assault. If convicted on the charges, both felonies, Patterson could face up to 40 years in prison and an $80,000 fine.  Doe is not under investigation.  Peterson is not under investigation.

[Without an express agreement to the contrary, during all this time both parents are fully and severally liable if there was any failure to meet Tommy Tyke's needs.  There was a failure to meet one of Tommy Tyke's needs, protecting him from violence by a babysitter or other custodian.  Both parents are liable for child neglect.  Doe may also be liable for child endangerment if she had any knowledge that Patterson was abusing Tommy Tyke and she continued to leave him in Patterson's custody.

Patterson and Peterson would both have had access to no-copay "well man" visits comparable to those women receive under the ACA, which in turn allows access to no copay depression screening and referrals that all adults receive under the ACA.  They would also have received no copay (a) reproductive health counseling and (b) counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence, both currently required by the ACA for women and not for men.]

[Ideally, with a "two-choice model" both Doe nor Peterson and everyone else would understand more clearly the implications of the choices each made all along this process and perhaps they would have had a child under circumstances where they could meet his needs and this tragedy could have been prevented.]


(B) Samuel (or Nathaniel) Bode Miller, a child born to Bode Miller and Sara McKenna, who had a highly publicized dispute over the fetus and now the child.

1. Miller and McKenna reportedly had sex in a six-week long relationship in San Diego April-May 2012 that created the pregnancy.  There is nothing reported in the news that indicates there was any objection by either Miller or McKenna to having the sex.  They each had the opportunity to use contraception and there is nothing in the news reports to suggest that either of them did.

[They would both have had the opportunity to consent to this rather than just not to object to it.  If one or the other did not consent, this could be prosecuted as nonconsensual sex.  Miller would have had higher-tech, reversible contraceptives available to him in addition to current male methods. Miller would have received, for no copay and as more routine part of health care for men, analogous services to those currently required by the ACA for women: reproductive health counseling and screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.]

2.  During the pregnancy, McKenna says she asked Miller to be an involved father, but he initially pushed her away. She released a text message from June 2012 in which Mr. Miller, explaining why he would not accompany her to an ultrasound, said, “U made this choice against my wish.”

[Because it is a "rights of the child" model, McKenna would not have to ask Miller to assume half the responsibility for meeting the baby's needs when born.  This would be the default unless one or the other parent offered to take full responsibility, with full understanding of what that requires, and the other parent agreed.  When Miller made clear he had no intention of following through on that responsibility, McKenna, or any party on behalf of the child, would be able to go to court to get an order on behalf of the future child holding Miller equally responsible both financially and for the work of meeting the child's needs.] 

3.    In October 2013, McKenna decided she could no longer do the firefighting job she had and began applying to colleges.  She was accepted to Columbia and moved to New York City.  By last fall, Miller was taking action to secure a major role in his future son’s life, filing a declaration of his paternity and interest in custody in San Diego.

[Under the "rights of the child" model, Miller effectively would be following through on his responsibility, but after a period of neglect and prior to the birth of the child.  During the period where Miller stated an intention to neglect the child, McKenna would have had an opportunity to obtain a court order.  If she did not do this, on might think she would be indicating an intention to assume full responsibility for the child when born.  From the child's perspective, however, she needs to expressly consent to this with full understanding of the responsibilities as set forth in the "rights of the child" amendment (or elsewhere if established in other law) for Miller not to have responsibility.   If she made such express consent, she would be entitled to have the baby live in New York after he was born.  If Miller then wanted to renegotiate the previous assumption of responsibility by McKenna, Miller would be required to move to New York to meet his responsibilities.  If Miller had not had the period of neglect, however, he might have a claim that the baby should live in San Diego after he was born, given that that was where he was conceived, and McKenna would have to live there to meet her responsibilities to the child unless Miller assumed them, with full consent and understanding of them.]

4.  The baby was born in March 2013.  McKenna names him Samuel Bode Miller-McKenna.   Miller then obtained permission from the California court to add Nathaniel as a middle name, in honor of his recently deceased brother, and he calls the boy Nate.

[Without an express agreement to the contrary, from this point forward as earlier both parents are fully and severally liable if there is any failure to meet Samuel's/Nathaniel's needs.  One need of children that is recognized in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is to be named.  Because these parents cannot agree on a name, a question is raised as to whether it meets the child's needs to have to hold both names.  If this is something that will harm the child, the parents could each be held liable for such harm unless McKenna expressly assumed full responsibility during Miller's period of neglect, in which case the name she chose would prevail.]

(C)  [Seven children subjected to repeated known cases of child neglect in Colorado; 65 yo father; 35 yo mother - to be completed]