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Saturday, April 14, 2012

WSJ: The Tax War Against Women

Wall Street Journal editorial, Winning the War Against Women: The Marriage Tax and Other Obstacles to Economic Progress:

The Democrats have found their kind of war. It's the "war against women" they have conjured for the Obama Presidential campaign run. Should be fun, but don't look for any of the combatants to speak for the realities of today's women. Still, there's an opportunity here for Mitt Romney, if he'll seize it. ... Mr. Romney's advantage lies in explaining to women why fat-boy government in general disproportionately hurts them, and how better policies are the path to genuine liberation.

Rarely noted in the "women's" debate is that most of this country's major institutions and laws were developed at a time of one-earner households. In 1950, only 12% of mothers with children under the age of six were in the labor force. That number is today more than 60%. Yet many women who now work are penalized by outdated policies that haven't kept pace with these big shifts in American society.

Exhibit A is a progressive tax code and the penalty it imposes on earning marginal, or additional, income. Most married women are second earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband's and thus often taxed at a high marginal rate. This "marriage penalty" has never fully been adjusted for in the tax code. A married woman working on an assembly line keeps less of her paycheck than the unwed man who does the same job. That's real inequality in pay for women.

You won't hear Democrats admitting this punitive tax burden—particularly when combined with child-care costs—is a reason many women can't afford to work, even if they wish to. And the expiration of the Bush tax cuts would compound this problem. To the extent Mr. Romney is offering a flatter tax code, with lower marginal rates, he is offering millions of women greater choice and a shot at more economic freedom. ...

Government creates myriad roadblocks for women's economic progress, but Republicans largely have failed to make that case. They've instead let themselves be dragged into the tired debate over "equal pay" and "women's rights" and "gender equality." Democrats love competing on these terms because it allows them to argue that the remedy always lies with more government, no matter the adverse consequences. It's no accident that the first piece of legislation Mr. Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Purporting to snuff out wage discrimination, this is mostly a litigation bonanza for trial lawyers.

Mr. Romney, and women, would be better off if the Republican brought this debate into the 21st century. What women need most in the economy we've got now is choice, opportunity and ownership. The Democrats want a war. Most women want a living.

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