Marriage: Legal Costs and Benefits

I have suggested that advocates for legalizing same-sex marriage might be largely motivated by government financial benefits.

It is probably hopeless to disentangle the full costs and benefits that accrue to marriage and child-bearing from government policies (everything from welfare programs to tax codes). But a recent essay claiming that marriage accrues only benefits prompted some interesting counterpoints. E.g.,

The fact is that taxes make marriage extremely expensive for almost all successful opposite-sex couples, more so if they have children, even more so under the new Obama tax rates. Income tax liability is generally lower (not higher, as Arnold and Campbell assert) for unmarried earners, and lower still for single parents than married parents.

The only notable exception to the marriage penalty is for same-sex married couples in community property states, who (thanks to DOMA) divide their income 50/50 and file single or single head-of-household returns–which always saves them a bundle compared to any other tax status.

So gay marriage has in fact produced some handsome financial dividends for its practitioners.

What’s on my DVR

Series I’ve set to record.  Remember I can’t stand shows with laugh tracks, so none of those get on my list. Many of these are better than most movies, and almost all are worth re-running if you haven’t seen them:


  • Burn Notice – Fun action dramedy about former spooks.  Realistic detail in action and tactics, though quality has declined in recent seasons.
  • Person of Interest – Darker drama about a former special operators, also with fun and above-average action and tactics. [Feb Update: This season it’s my favorite action series.]
  • The Unit – Exceptionally realistic show about an active spec-ops unit, but only ran for three seasons; perhaps because it was plagued by irritating dramatic detours involving the operators’ wives?
  • Revolution – Contrived plots are redeemed by its blatant pro-gun message and survivalist intrigue.
  • Chuck – Entertaining action farce.

Police/Crime/Law Drama

  • Suits – Brilliant and witty characters make this legal dramedy stand out.
  • The Chicago Code – Excellent fast-moving police drama with an enticing subplot about battling machine politics. Cancelled because it cut too close to reality?
  • Southland – Darker action-packed police drama. [Feb Update: This season is too disturbing for my taste.]
  • Elementary – Interesting adaptation of Sherlock Holmes; very good so far.


  • 30 Rock – Worth watching for the characters of Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey alone.
  • Better Off Ted – Why, oh why, do they so often cancel shows I so love?
  • Community – Usually great, occasionally brilliant, ensemble comedy.
  • Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 – Krysten Ritter anchors this with comedic energy.
  • The Mindy Project – Comedy centered on the plight of a single, overachieving woman.
  • Modern Family – Excellent structure and cast make this a consistent winner.
  • The Office – Took some time to get used to the awkwardness of the characters that drive this comedy, but well worth it.
  • Outsourced – As good as anything else in this list; not sure why it was cancelled.
  • Parks and Recreation – Another consistent performer.
  • Scrubs – A great series that lived a full life worth revisiting.
  • Suburgatory – Not top shelf, but mixes in some fun satire.

Factory Shows
Ever since Mister Rogers gave us glimpses of factory production lines I’ve wanted more extended views:

  • How It’s Made – Manufacturing processes shown in detail.
  • How Do They Do It? – Almost as good, but diverges into operations and events instead of sticking to factories.

Colbert Report – Hilariously witty political satire … if you can get past the fact that Stephen Colbert is pandering to a live New York audience (which is predictably and irritatingly Liberal).

Cartoon Comedies

  • Archer – This no-limits comedy “for mature audiences” absolutely nails my sense of humor. I wish there were more like this.
  • The Simpsons – This wide-ranging satire has had varying quality over the years, but the total weight of comedic gold makes it worth mining its 500+ episodes.
  • Futurama – for when you’ve run out of episodes of The Simpsons.
  • South Park – typically each episode is built around a single joke, and frequently littered with unnecessary scatological humor. But the show hits it out of the park often enough to keep it in the queue.
  • Robot Chicken – Stop-action satiric comedy for generation X that sets new lows in obscenity.