Second, it means strengthening marriage. Only half of American kids can expect to live with both biological parents at age 15 (compared with two-thirds of kids in Western Europe). That has calamitous effects on education and development. There are many cultural ways to strengthen marriage, but financially, the government could extend the earned income tax credit to single males. That would not only induce more young men to enter the labor force, it would also make them more marriageable.
Follow the bouncing logic: the problem is that too many marriages end in divorce. Therefore we need to make unmarried young men more “marriageable,” and to do that, we must encourage them to find work. Right now, they’re sitting around on the front porch knocking back forties, thinking to themselves, “Man, it’s just not fair that single men aren’t eligible for the earned income tax credit! Why should I even bother looking for work?” But as soon as we revise the tax code, voila! Multiple problems solved!
I sometimes wonder if David Brooks was born without an immune system and has had to spend his life inside a plastic bubble, imagining what the world outside must be like.
* * *
… update (updated again): a reader points out that McBobo is not only obtuse, but factually mistaken. According to the IRS website (PDF), single males are, in fact, eligible for EITC. (Shows you what you get for taking anything McBobo says at face value.) Several readers who have claimed the EITC in the past confirm this (though one questions whether the extra $300 really made him any more “marriageable” or not). I wonder if the op-ed page will run a correction, or stick to the Safire Standard: columnists deal in opinion, and while “an opinion may be wrongheaded, it is never wrong.” (This was after the Times’ previous public editor addressed the issue of columnist corrections, at least partly as a result of feedback from this site’s readers. More on all of that here and here, for starters.)
* * *
… another thought occurs to me. Since the solution Brooks proposes already exists, and yet the problem has not been solved, doesn’t his column essentially refute itself?
* * *
Max Sawicky has more on the EITC here:
Take two minimum wage workers, a man with no dependents and a woman with two. The man gets a very small EITC benefit — less than $400. The woman can get one exceeding $4,000. If they marry the combined benefits will fall significantly.
Conversely, suppose the woman has very low income. Both have a very small EITC benefit. If they marry, it goes up significantly, since the man’s earnings get the subsidy resulting from his taking on two dependent children.