Politicians are always talking about taxes. Some of them want to "soak" the rich; others want to raise "sin" taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. But I can think of one "consumer item" we'll never see a tax on: sex. But maybe we should. Sex—the wrong kind of sex, that is—is driving up the cost of government.
In a recent column, marriage expert Mike McManus explores the high cost of out-of-wedlock sex. For instance, over 7 million American couples live together. Four out of five of those couples will break up without ever tying the knot. But, McManus writes, if they've had a baby, many of those mothers and children will be eligible for Medicaid, housing and day-care subsidies, and food stamps.
Second, even when co-habiting couples DO marry, according to a Penn State study, they suffer a higher divorce rate than couples who don't live together first. On average, each divorce involves one child. And like the never-married mother, the divorced mom is often eligible for many government benefits. According to the Heritage Foundation, McManus writes, "13 million single parents with children cost taxpayers $20,000 each, or $260 billion in the year 2004." The total probably comes to $300 billion today, McManus says.
And that's just the beginning.
A child born out of wedlock is seven times more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, and end up in prison. They are 33 times more likely to be seriously abused.
And we've all heard of the high rates of STDs affecting America's teenagers—diseases that cost billions of dollars to treat.
So maybe we SHOULD consider a tax on non-marital sex—everything from one-night stands to living together arrangements. It's costing us a lot of money. And such a tax might indeed pay off the national debt.
All joking aside, these figures tell us we need to do more to bring down the illegitimacy rate—starting with giving teenage girls the tools they need to say "no" to premarital sex. We must also keep fathers accountable for the children they help bring into the world. And we must preserve traditional marriage—because redefining marriage to mean nothing more than a contract between two or more people of any gender would further undo the institution of marriage, with all resulting costs thereafter.
Mike McManus, who also is the founder of Marriage Savers, has a few more ideas: States ought to create a marriage commissions to encourage marriage over co-habitation. State welfare offices, he says, ought to "provide information on the value of marriage in reducing poverty and increasing wealth, happiness, and longer lives." And we ought to require public schools and publicly-funded family planning clinics to teach kids about the long-term benefits of rearing children within wedlock over co-habitation.
If we did all this, we could save hundreds of millions of dollars, McManus writes. Well, he's correct. I wish political candidates were brave enough to take on this issue, but they won't. Sex is considered the one great sacred right in our post-Christian culture.
But the evidence reveals what happens when we take it out of the God-given context of traditional marriage: poverty, disease, misery—and, yes, higher taxes for all of us.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: January 12, 2011