his & hersmoney

A chain of two links

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Yesterday’s was a sunny post, optimistic and inclusive as befits the holiday. But now, when everyone is nursing a Love Hangover, and perhaps other sorts, it is time for The Rest of the Story. Let these two posts be married, to live and die and be buried but side-by-side for as long as the Coliseum should stand.

A thousand thousand old jokes were born of marriage. I was married by a judge but I should have asked for a jury, said Groucho. WC Fields was harsher still, I believe in tying the marriage knot, as long as it’s around the woman’s neck. With the masters consulted no need to quote further except to note the great philosopher, Al Bundy, favored gay marriage because, hey, why should they get off easy? So what’s it all about, Al-y? Isn’t it love? Of course, in part it is about love. But in part it is about money. It is also about the love…. OF the money, so the scales are a bit off center. On the love side of the ledger we can also ad hate; perhaps not of the unlucky spouse but hate of parents or self or humanity at large but yes, also of the person on the other end of this short, short leash. It’s not the ball. There is nothing wrong with a ball. It is the chain that chafes. Boy, does it. Along with love and hate we also file fear and aspiration; lust and loathing; drama, trauma, angst, pride, shame, pleasure, pain… indeed all the emotional concerns both positive and negative can be thrown in one basket and STILL the money and material issues that amount to money outweigh them, usually for both parties. Recall that tribe on PBS, where the teenage boys start making bricks, an arduous task, and they make brick on brick on brick and stack them up in a great pile. When they are ready the girls come around and inspect the bricks and the prettiest girl goes to the fellow with the largest pile of serviceable bricks. Then together they build a hut, move in and set about making more brick-makers and brick-inspectors. Is this profane materialism or divine honesty? It’s both, pensive lovers. It is both.

This is another reason that the crass, contractual nature of marriage is all that should be considered by the government. The gaggle of nepotism’s cousins are barely competent to do THAT so how can we lay on them the burden of defining what love is? And whether or not it lives precariously or is already in a basement freezer? Again we observe that the power couple of gals who led the charge for gay marriage in California, who did wed under its briefly held bowers, have now filed for gay divorce. For them to suffer the humiliation of such a public climbdown and endure horse-laughs from their hated enemies things must have been bad on the domestic front indeed. But that’s alright. We were talking about equality, weren’t we? As Al observed, we are all in the same fleet of two-man boats and well should be. Like grumpy marriage, gay marriage was and is largely about money.

The loot, babies. The Benjamins. Or, as things are concocted today, the stuff we would buy with the loot if only we could get our hands on it. Here we refer to perks. Bennies. The first benefit of spouses, no one objects to, that is the “right” to hold the other’s hand while they kick off or have their orifices re-plumbed. This means defining said person as next-of-kin. Who can complain about that? No one would except that the next-of-kin is more than a ceremonial post. One may be the beneficiary of life insurance or the default heir if there is no will. Are things like this REALLY on anyone’s mind? Brothers and sisters, you KNOW they are. And there is nothing wrong with that. If Barney Frank’s beloved is not legally recognized as his partner and heir it could well be some scurrilous nephew that empties his condo and safe-deposit boxes, perhaps even WITH a will, so there is nothing wrong and plenty wise in defending one’s wishes pre-mortem.  But is that all we are talking about? No way.

Inheritance is a transfer of what one person has managed to earn or accumulate by some means. So long as Property is a fact of our law and culture (no guarantee), the only controversy is among the heirs. But for an Average Joe, especially now with even modest estates looking oh-so-delicious to the feds and locals, he has much more potential to pay a continuing dowry through his various eligibilities. Like the young tribesmen who stack their bricks and grow their first beards the modern fellow; both the hunter and the hunted, presents an offer of support, shelter and ease in hopes of trading it. For love? Sure. But also for beauty, the other aspects of the lady being subordinate, even if we could divide the appreciation of beauty from genuine love. And we can’t. But instead of a stack of handmade bricks, today’s suitor presents a menu of benefits which he claims through his job or social position. Pay, which he contracts to share, is one but there are plenty others. Life insurance and other death benefits loom large. Is the wife wishing the husband dead? Only in extreme cases but with insurance we buy “peace of mind”, something with real market value. The big one is what? Healthcare coverage. Yes, our recent but eternal life partner; the medical industry or soon enough the Medical Bureau and how it treats her is a foremost concern of the wife or wifely partner. Ten years ago that value would have been $200 a month for a single; thrice that for a family. By ’09 that had doubled, it has increased 16% since then and threatens to continue to infinity. A company health plan promises to mitigate this storm that everyone anticipates, so adding to worth of the groom’s pile. And the prettiest girl goes to the one with the largest pile.

That is marriage skinned of pretense. So what of gay marriage? Yes, sadly, it is the same. How do we know? Check some of the peculiarities of the domestic partnership law that still obtains in California. To whom is domestic partnership available? Either to same sex couples OR when…

One or both of the persons is/are over the age of 62 and meet the eligibility criteria under Title II of the Social Security Act as defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 402(a) for old-age insurance benefits or Title XVI of the Social Security Act as defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 1381 for aged individuals.

See? It is eligibility for bennies that is the concern, NOT Social Security, the feds recognize no domestic partnerships… as yet. But does anyone think that lawsuit is not coming? No, but so what? The marriage for a pension is an institution older even than WC Fields, though he observed it. So, as with the other weaknesses and depravities of heterosexual marriage, those enjoying gay marriage are just doing the same sort of dirt already done. No big deal, yes? On moral accounts, agreed, but there are practical matters. Those who manage pensions of whatever sort consider life and death and marriage and divorce for their beneficiaries of thousands or hundred thousands in predicting how much they will draw out before they drop over. Increasing life expectancies have already thrown Social Security and nearly all other sorts of pensions for a loop. How much will domestic partnerships further deplete the accounts? Well, not zero. With a general gay population of 3% or so and those marrying much less than that, it may seem a pittance fractionally but still it will be many, many millions especially in, say San Francisco. Those millions will come from somewhere. If not from fellow drawers from the same pension plans, then, oddly, from YOU via the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corp which backstops pensions like the FDIC backstops deposits as an army of federal co-signers does for many things, in your name and on your dime.

Still, the domestically partnered are a tiny cohort. However the force of lucre, shrouded in love, will assure it doesn’t stay that way. In Marriage overturned we discovered that neither bestiality nor polygamy necessarily follow from gay marriage/domestic partnership, but other things certainly will. Note the definition of domestic partners in the Cali statute;

domestic partners are two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.”

The problem should be obvious. It is the elasticity. The only concrete terms up there are two and adults. The balance is really too vapid to be legally restricting. Elsewhere in the statute blood relatives who could not legally be married are excluded specifically but what does this leave? Does intimate mean only a sexual relationship? What is and is not, objectively, a committed relationship of mutual caring? Any attempt at exclusion must engage in subjective moralizing of the sort the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down as invidious discrimination. Likewise, as revealing as it has proven, is the prescription that only those over 62 can join an opposite-sex domestic partnership. That’s right out. So can asexual, non-romantic friends become partners? Yes, they can and will. Could a partnership be entered into where the spouse added on to those precious benefits rolls PAYS cash to the other? As long as they share a residence, meaning some real property, the answer is yes. The question of sexual fidelity is moot. A Gingrich or Kennedy would thrive satyrically as domestic partners paying serial prostitutes with their pensions and bennies. If you were wondering why neither Bush nor Obama nor any Clinton or nearly any federal Legislator has ever done much to make their preferences a federal reality, this is it. Civil unions, taken to their logical, legal fruition will wildly increase the liabilities of pension plans, health plans, educational trusts, veterans benefits, annuities and even lottery boards! And that is if domestic partnerships prove as durable as traditional marriage; a tin prison locked only with mutual intentions. If they turn out to be just a touch MORE cynical and mercenary, a touch MORE transitory, fungible and instrumental then it will easily add fatally to claims against already desperate accounts. Compounded.

So there are unavoidable costs associated with this expansion of marriage, however proper it may be. But we are all at the same reception, trapped in an infinite conga-line that dances to the trough to feed while we disdain to refill it with slops. As long as government and other “benefits” are the currency of the realm and the currency of love; enwrapped as they are with our humanity, inhumanity and all too stubborn avarice, we will be so… ’til the trough is emptied and the music stops. Equal Protection brings us Equal Destruction if a few years ahead of schedule, which works for me. Through the complex of claims and liabilities we are ALL married to ALL our fellow citizens, materially. Was it a shotgun wedding?

Too bad.

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