Devaluing Marriage Is (Co)Habit-Forming
Test driving a car might be a good idea, but a marriage? Forget it. The National Center for Health Statistics says more couples are living together than ever--and the outlook for society isn't exactly rosy. Believe it or not, almost half of women are choosing cohabitation--not marriage--as their "first union." Casey Copen, the study's lead author, thinks this is the new norm for America, since only 23% of the same age group (15-44) is opting to marry first. Asian Americans were the only population that didn't show a spike in "trial marriages," while 57% more Hispanics, 43% more whites, and 39% more blacks all felt the cohabiting boom. "It's kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now," Copen tells reporters.
And while more couples are having trouble committing to each other, they don't seem to have the same trouble agreeing to kids. Almost 20% of women are giving birth in the first year of cohabiting. But unfortunately for these children, very few of their parents are sticking together. After 22 months, most partners go their separate ways. Within the first three years, Copen points out, only 40% of these women make the leap to marriage.
Of course, more people probably think they can shack up to avoid shaking up their finances. In 2010, with unemployment at historic highs, about a million new couples moved in together--a shift that analysts called "surprisingly large." And surprisingly devastating, based on FRC's research. Although they may resemble spouses, cohabitors don't behave like them. Studies from our Marriage and Religious Research Institute (MARRI) show that these adults are less engaged in the economy because they don't marry. Cohabitation also crowds out marriage. When more people live together over time than marry, the effects on the nation and its economy are disastrous, because of all the attendant goods of marriage that are lost.
These unstable relationships are also incredibly unhealthy for kids. FRC's good friend Chuck Donovan wrote an extensive piece when he was with The Heritage Foundation on the rash of cohabitors. In it, he highlighted a study by Rutgers's David Popenoe, which found that nearly half of Britain's cohabiting couples with kids broke up in the first five years (compared to one in 12 married couples with children). Research is clear: these couples are more likely to be unhappy, cheat, feel depressed, experience abuse, and divorce (if they ever do get married).
Unfortunately, if you want to fight the cohabiting explosion, don't expect help from the federal government. Instead of reversing the trend, President Obama is rewarding it! Under the latest tax deal, married couples are actually punished with higher premiums. For five years, marriage has taken a beating under this administration, which seems to have set its sights on penalizing, deemphasizing, and redefining the institution.
Of course, one of the biggest criticisms we hear from the same-sex "marriage" movement is that heterosexuals haven't done enough to strengthen their own unions. North Carolina leaders are doing their best to change that. The same state that voted to protect marriage last May is now moving to strengthen the ones they already have! A group of three state senators are pushing a bill called the Healthy Marriage Act that would require counseling, classes in communication skills and conflict resolution, and a longer waiting period for couples filing for divorce. Prompted in part by Mike McManus and our friends at the North Carolina Family Policy Council, the measure would ensure that couples have every resource at their disposal to save their marriages.
Hope and Exchange?
As if small businesses weren't frustrated enough, it looks like their only reason for supporting ObamaCare just flew out the window. This week, the Obama administration announced that its health care exchanges won't be ready in time for next January, when the law is scheduled to take effect. Instead of having several insurance plans to choose from--the one silver lining of this new health care marketplace--employers will be "limited to a single plan" until 2015. No competition means higher prices.
Senators like Mary Landrieu (D-La.) who voted for ObamaCare in part because of the promised options for America's 29 million small business owners, are angry. The delay, she told the New York Times, will only "prolong and exacerbate health care costs." More than half of the individual plans on the market don't meet the law's standards anyway, the University of Chicago found. The consensus is that those alternatives also will disappear--driving down options and driving up prices.
If the President is looking for apologists, he won't find many on the Left. Liberal writer Joe Klein blasted the administration for its inefficiency. "Let me try to understand this: the key incentive for small businesses to support ObamaCare was that they would be able to shop for the best deals in health care superstores--called exchanges. The administration has had three years to set up these exchanges. It has failed to do so. This is a really bad sign. There will be those who argue that it's not the administration's fault. It's the fault of the 33 states that have refused to set up their own exchanges. Nonsense. Where was the contingency planning?"
Meanwhile, taxpayers have plenty of reasons to rage against the bill, including plans to hire "tens of thousands" of ObamaCare "navigators" who (at a cost of up to $48 an hour) would "help Americans choose ObamaCare options." The sticker shock would be enormous in places like California, where officials are requesting up to 21,000 such "navigators." And with promises to provide "free" translators in every native language, the costs skyrocket. Apart from the "how much," the "who" is just as troubling. According to Paul Bedard in the Washington Examiner, the administration hopes to recruit these navigators from organizations like Planned Parenthood--and we all know what their idea of health care is!
The rule, which is available for public comment for the next few weeks, also includes a "voter registration provision," leading many--including Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.)--to question how this army of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and union activists would twist their access to influence people's party affiliation. With this administration, it isn't a question of whether they would abuse their power--but when!
** A trio of Eagle Scout moms just made a big splash in USA Today with a great op-ed, "Don't Force Boy Scouts to Give up Their Rights." Check it out here. Also, if you were waiting for Part 2 of the FRC interns' story at the Supreme Court, don't miss the conclusion to Cordell Asbenson's column on Truth and Silence in the marriage debate.
*** If you were at this year's CPAC, you probably didn't have the chance to hear much from Students for Life's Kristan Hawkins--not because she wasn't there, but because her panel was overrun by same-sex "marriage" proponents. Today, she speaks up about what she would have said if organizers had given her the chance. Read her column, "The Libertarian Case for Life" in Townhall.com.