Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thought experiment on domestic partner benefits

I am still mulling it over, but here is a domestic partner benefit scheme I think I could support: An unmarried employee may designate as a co-beneficiary (in addition to any children) a person who resides in his or her household and and with whom he or she shares living expenses if 1) the person is a blood relative within some specified degree of consanguinity or has lived with the employee for more than six months and 2) the co-beneficiary is singe and someone that the employee could not marry.

For all those who want to accuse social conservatives like me of homophobia, I am perfectly aware that this definition would extend benefits to long-term same-sex couples but would not extend benefits to unmarried opposite-sex couples.

I assume that the entire left side of the Cheddarsphere will endorse my proposal.

18 comments:

Dad29 said...

Not so fast, Rick.

I'll assume you're talking about public employees...

Why do we assume that the 'partner' cannot obtain health insurance on their own by getting a job?

That's what my children have to do after they are not eligible for coverage under our policy.

Why are my children less-privileged than some "partner"?

jp said...

Do we need to define marry?

Rick Esenberg said...

Well, they aren't except presumably they become ineligible for coverage when they are grown and out of the house. But, under my plan, if you were single (and, therefore, not covering your wife) and living with and sharing expenses with a kid, you could cover the kid. My limitation only means that, once your kid is grown, you can only cover one other person who is sufficiently close to you and, if you are married, it must be your spouse.

While I appreciate the notion that this might be too expensive and might be opposed on the ground that it'll cost more than it is worth, I am more concerned here with defining a form of "domestic partner" benefits that is consistent with the marriage amendment and which does not further undercut marriage. My guess is that Fair Wisconsin and its supporters won't buy into it because, although it provides a road to coverage for same sex partners, it does not serve the goal of sanctification.

As far as what "marriage," I am referring to the union of one man and one woman pursuant to Chapter 765 of the state statutes.

todd said...

You don't answer Dad29's question.

Why do we assume that the 'partner' cannot obtain health insurance on their own by getting a job?

That is, why do you think benefits should be extended to gay couples at all?

jp said...

Have you defined "long-term as six months?

Rick Esenberg said...

Todd

I am not sure that I do. Maybe I'd even add a requirement that the co-beneficiary be unable to work due to disability or child rearing responsibilities. Part of the problem is that our provision of health insurance as a benefit of employment is a historical accident and is really inefficient.

As for why this ought to be considered, I heard during the debate on the marriage amendment that the state and employers needed to be able to do this to stay competitive. If that's so, this is a way to do it without violating the Constitution or further harming marriage.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Interesting. But why all the extra stuff? Why not: “An employee may designate as a co-beneficiary (in addition to any children) a person.”?

Rick Esenberg said...

Because we don't want "co-beneficiaries of convenience" and I do not want to extend benefits to cohabitating heterosexual couples. It isn't that I think that they are engaged in immorality, but, rather, that I think society ought to encourage and privilege marriage.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"Because we don't want "co-beneficiaries of convenience" and I do not want to extend benefits to cohabitating heterosexual couples."

Obviously. But why?

"It isn't that I think that they are engaged in immorality, but, rather, that I think society ought to encourage and privilege marriage."

And again, why?

Rick Esenberg said...

Because I do not believe society should be neutral between co-habitation and marriage. The decline of marriage is the single biggest contributor to social disfunction. If you could do one thing to combat poverty, the most significant would be to have kids raised in intact households.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"The decline of marriage is the single biggest contributor to social disfunction."

Interesting idea. I'm not sure I quite follow though. In America at least, the percentage of adults who marry is decreasing from what I know. And divorce rates are increasing. Yet "social disfucntion" is decreasing in nearly every way you could possibly quantify such a thing; Kids are smarter, more kids are in school and literate than ever before, fewer kids are living in poverty than ever, crime is down, lifespans are up, infant mortality is down, unemployemnt is low, average income is up. I guess my question is, what do you mean by "social disfuction"?

"If you could do one thing to combat poverty, the most significant would be to have kids raised in intact households."

Agreed, but what does that have to do with marriage? Do you have any data that suggests that [all else being equal] cohabitating unmarried couples are in poverty more often than cohabitating married couples? Do you have any data that suggests that [all else being equal] kids raised by unmarried cohabitating couples are in, or end up in, poverty at a higher rate than kids raised by cohabitating married couples? In sum, isn't the cohabitation part more important to the kids than the part about the weird ceremony in the expensive building, the white dress and the hokey pokey? And if so, shouldn't we reward the cohabitation part even if there is not mmarriage involved? Or is the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Is the thought experiment over? What element of marriage makes it important enough that it, and not loving cohabitation, is good for kids? What data do you have that supports that stance?

Rick Esenberg said...

Over? Never! When I was immersed in the marriage amendment debate, one of the things that struck me was how unequivocal the social science evidence was on the benefits of marriage. You can start here, but I've got a whole file full of this stuff.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Whoa, I'm not talking about the marriage amendment debate at all. The link you provided did indeed claim that cohabitation is not the equivalent of marriage but there was not footnote linked to that particular bit of information. There was absolutely no discussion of the methodology of any of the studies referred to. Would you be so kind as to pull from your file the study that says that (all else being equal) married parents are more beneficial to children than cohabitating unmarried parents are? It would be most helpful if that study included some information on its methodology.

Rick Esenberg said...

Actually it had extensive endnotes and you could run down the studies that are cited. There are more here and here.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

You are correct. What I meant was that there was no endnote associated with that particular bit of information. I mistakenly said footnote. Right now I don't have the time to track down and read every endnote in that article.

The two links you just provided are the same. I'm guessing that was just a mistake. The article you did link makes no claim about whether a cohabitating couple is worse at bringing up a child than a married couple, all else being equal. It certainly has no data on that topic. Anything else?

My point is that the real differences between cohabitating with someone you love and who is the other parent of your child and being married to someone that is the parent of your child are either (1) meaningless, or (2) differences created by the government.

Let's assume that the cohabitating couple loves each other, loves their child, makes an average income, is educated etc. Now let's assume that the married couple is also all of these things. Here are the differences that I see:

-The married couple gets certain tax breaks (and possibly some tax penalties too).
-The married couple may have an easier time getting partner benefits if only one parent works.
-Marriage is percieved as "the norm" for hetero couples in America.

Those are the only differences I can think of. Can you think of any others? Here are some differences that don't necessarily have to exist between the two couples, but I would bet do exist, statistically speaking:

-The married couple probably wear wedding rings.
-The married couple is probably more religious.
-The married couple probably had a moderate to big wedding ceremony at which the Hokey Pokey was played.

That's all I got. Can you think of other differences? I would suggest that none of these would have any effect on how kids are raised.

Data I've read suggests that the single biggest factor in keeping kids out of poverty is waiting to have kids. The data on this is huge and largely undisputed. As far as I know, so long as you wait, the marriage is just a detail. So here's my thought experiment:

If you want to use partner benefits and/or marriage as a way for government to take a non-neutral position based on what kind of households are best for kids and for fighting poverty, would you support partner benefits only being awarded to spouses over the age of 30? If not, why not? Would you support an amendment to the Wisconsin constitution that defines "Marriage" as a union between one man over the age of 30 and one woman over the age of 30? If your position is that the reason for treating partner benefits and marriage as you advocate is that it's best for the children, you surely agree with me that we should restrict marriage and partner benefits to those over 30, no?

DannyNoonan said...

"If your position is that the reason for treating partner benefits and marriage as you advocate is that it's best for the children, you surely agree with me that we should restrict marriage and partner benefits to those over 30, no?"

I assume that the entire right side of the Cheddarsphere will endorse this proposal.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"I assume that the entire right side of the Cheddarsphere will endorse this proposal."

That was my assumption too. But I guess not. It's almost as if the reason's for Mr. Esenberg's support of discrimination is for some reason other than "the sake of the children."