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U.S. News Archive
February 07 - February 13, 2001



This page contains news for the period February 07, 2001 through February 13, 2001.  

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Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Confirmed bachelorettes are shaking off the stigma of their single status

A story published today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press focuses on a growing number of unmarried women who are pleased with this single status.

The story gives as an example Mary Ellen Sullivan who has been married and has been single.

When she was married, briefly in her late 20s, she got divorced.

When she was single, she got a round-the-world plane ticket and spent five months using it, including taking a bicycling trip through China. Two years later, she spent two winter months in paradise, a.k.a. South America and Tahiti. After that it was Africa, for two months every year, three years in a row.

She'll take Tahiti over matrimony.

``I realized that I wasn't really the marrying type,'' said Sullivan, 41, a free-lance writer who lives Chicago. ``I'm very independent. I just had too many things I wanted to do.''

If she were a man, Sullivan would be considered a confirmed bachelor. Happily unmarried women have no agreed-upon equivalent term, but they do have company.

More than 43 million single women live in the United States, and their share of the female population is growing rapidly. Between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of women who were married decreased from 66 percent to 55 percent, according to U.S. census data.

The story says that the decrease in marriage has been particularly steep among women considered to be of prime marriage age. In 1960, 85 percent of women ages 25 through 55 were married; by 1998, that figure had
fallen to 68 percent.

``It's a huge trend,'' said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.

University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite's new book reports that married women are statistically better off than single ones in terms of health, wealth, happiness and sex life, among other things.

``It's not about being anti-male. I like men. I adore men. But I'm happier when I'm outside a relationship,'' said Regena English, a 35-year-old divorced Houston woman who in 1998 created a newsletter for happily unmarried women called Leather Spinsters (leather as in tough, English explained). This month, she will send the newsletter to 213,000 women subscribers. There also is a Web site: www.leatherspinsters.com .

The story looks at Janice Baylis, 72, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Seal Beach, Calif., is one of them. Divorced for 15 years after a 30-year marriage, she revels in her single life.

"I have so much independence,'' she said. ``I have a couple of male friends, but at the end of the day, they go away. Men make much better friends than husbands. Once you're married to them, they seem to think that you're their property.''

Then consider Natalie Carpenter, 42, managing broker of a real-estate office.

``My counterparts who are married are always hiding things from their husbands; if they want to buy a fur coat, they can't just go out and buy a fur coat,'' said Carpenter, who was married for 17 years and has been divorced for four.

For some happily unmarried women, being single has brought the time and freedom to achieve professional success.

``It allowed me to focus on my career,'' said Linda Calafiore, 48, who founded the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago 17 years ago and recently sold it.

``There are tradeoffs; wining and dining and dancing are not always possible on Saturday night,'' she said. ``But I think, professionally and emotionally, it's made me a stronger person. It's made me totally self-reliant. I'm really not afraid of anything.''

``I believe in marriage,'' she said. ``(But) there are some people who are very good at marriage, and some who are not. I'm a good candidate to be a friend, a lover, a companion, but not that kind of steady diet.''

The story says that women who find themselves widowed or divorced often blossom on their own, as long as they have financial stability, said Pamela Stone, author of ``A Woman's Guide to Living Alone: 10 Ways to Survive Grief and Be Happy'' (Taylor Publishing, $15.95).

``There were so many women who told me they loved to be able to get up when they wanted . . . (and) stay up in the wee hours and knit or sew or read,'' she said. ``One woman painted T-shirts till 3 in the morning as Christmas presents and was heading toward a craft business.

``It's like metamorphosis. I think we've never really known how much freedom and joy there is in being single.''

Still, happily single women sometimes have a hard time convincing other people that they are genuinely happy.

``People begin to believe me about a year after they meet me,'' Horowitz remarked. ``The typical thing is, `She hasn't met the right one,' or `She's a secret lesbian.' Or people have all kinds of psychoanalytic explanations and say that I'll change my mind.''

Sullivan's determination not to marry perplexed a number of men she dated. ``At a certain point, men thought they would change my mind,'' she said. ``It ended several relationships.''

Then she met a man as independent and uninterested in marriage and children as she is. They have been seeing each other for four years, but have no intention of either marrying or living together.

``I need space,'' she said. ``More than even time alone, I need space. You don't get that when you have a family.''

The story asks whether single women are lonely?

``There's really three days of the year I feel lonely: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve,'' said Lisa Sewell, 39, assistant director of the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City and a Leather Spinsters subscriber.

``Yet, when I talk to my married friends, they're like, 'Oh, if I could just be home alone.' It's easier for me to go find people to hang with than for my married friends to be alone.''

So what does the existence of happily unmarried women mean for Linda Waite's contention that married women are better off?

Not a thing, Waite says.

Waite said she examined not just happiness, but measures like health and financial security. And even in looking at happiness, she said the existence of some happy singles does not refute the fact that marriage is statistically more beneficial.

``For both men and women, on average, married women are happier with life in general,'' she said. ``That doesn't mean that for any individual, that that person would be happier married. I am sure there are people who would be happier single than married.''


Monday, February 12, 2001

Arizona lawmakers trying to repeal anti-cohabitation and sodomy laws

A story published today in Planet Out reports that Arizona's House Judiciary Committee heard testimony February 12 on a bill that would repeal the state's archaic laws dealing with cohabitation, sodomy, and "lewd and lascivious" acts.  Committee members voted 7 - 3 to approve the bill, which now goes to the House Human Services Committee.

After hearing witnesses, three Republicans joined the Democrats in support of HB 2414, introduced by state Representative Kathi Foster (D-Phoenix).

Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, testified that HB 2414 wouldn't legalize adultery and wouldn't permit non consensual sex. She went on to question why conservatives support these laws, since they "invade the boardroom and bedroom." "It is not the job of government," Eisenberg said concluding her testimony, "to determine what sex between consenting adults is normal."

Marjorie Mead, a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women (NOW), testified that the group supports HB 2414, and that she was "astounded such archaic measures are still on the books."

Representatives Foster, Binder, Brotherton, Peter Hershberger (R-Oro Valley), James Sedillo (D-Flagstaff), Henry Camarot (D-Prescott), and Judiciary Committee Chair Roberta Voss (R-Glendale) voted in favor. Representatives John Nelson (R-Glendale), Steve Tully (R-Phoenix) and Marilyn Jarrett (R-Mesa) voted no.

Representative Foster, said she intends to go to the House Speaker and ask to have the bill heard before the Human Services Committee. 

Even though there are more single people, it's still a couples' world

A column published today in the Los Angeles Times notes that the ranks of single people have skyrocketed over the last three decades.

The marriage rate in the United States was 8.3 per 1,000 adults in 1998, a University of Michigan study found, the lowest since 1958. Since the advent of the birth control pill and the feminist movement, the proportion of women ages 25 to 35 who have never been married tripled since 1970. Some adults never marry, a rate that has jumped from 16% to 23% since 1970. Many of those who do, eventually join more than 1 million adults who divorce each year, according to 1998 figures. Single people, according to the latest Census data, head 46 million households.

Yet, the column adds, despite vast changes in cultural mores, there is still a social stigma attached to being single, agree psychologists and sociologists.

"People come to me and say, 'Why am I not with someone? What is wrong with me?' " said Helen Friedman, a clinical psychologist in St. Louis. "There is less of a stigma for people who have been married once and are divorced because there is some of that 'You are normal if you have been married at least once.' There really is an expectation in our culture that people will pair off, and it leaves people who don't feeling sad and blue."

The stigma is more than just an impression, argues Xavier Amador, a psychology professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York who is coauthor of "Being Single in a Couples World" (Free Press, 1998) with psychotherapist Judith Kiersky.

Amador and Hilda Speicher, a psychologist at the University of Delaware, conducted a 1998 study in which 143 participants were asked to read one of four short descriptions of a bank executive named Lee: one as a single woman, a married woman, a single man and a married man. The participants then answered questions about what they imagined each person was like. When portrayed as single, regardless of gender, participants' evaluations were significantly more negative. In particular, study participants rated Lee as less socially competent, moral and trustworthy.

Negative societal attitudes add to the sense of alienation that many single people feel living in a couples' world, said Amador. This may also explain why many studies have found single people to be more susceptible to depression, anxiety and various health problems.

"It is no wonder . . ," said Amador. "Their self-esteem is under constant attack. They are not only dealing with friendly fire from well-meaning friends and relatives who inadvertently make pernicious comments like, 'You're just not trying hard enough,' but often they are their own worst enemy."

Blame ancient cultural attitudes that have equated marriage with maturity, responsibility and goodness, and have led to public policies that promote it, said Amador and Friedman.

But such entrenched values cannot reverse the cultural revolution of the '60s, which de-stigmatized sex out of wedlock, the women's movement and climbing divorce rates, all of which have contributed to fewer people choosing to marry, according to a recent University of Michigan study. Adult children of divorce are less likely to marry, and divorced adults are more likely to live together than to remarry, the study found. Couples cohabit and bear children both before and in lieu of marriage. Some people function as a couple but live separately because of travel or demanding careers. Others opt for life as an unmarried person indefinitely.

"There are fewer reasons to go down the aisle," said Amador. "Many of the things that we were taught were available only in marriage such as intimacy, sex, parenthood and romance are now available without it. Some of the best reasons to marry are the only ones left: because you have a relationship with someone who is a partner in every respect and you want to share your life with them."

Unlike many books written for single people, Amador's book is not a treatise on how to find and marry a mate, although if that is what happens, he wishes you well. Rather, Amador and Kiersky espouse finding happiness in unmarried life. To do this, the authors ask the reader to examine personal attitudes about marriage (such as postponing buying a house until one lands a spouse).

They also impart lessons in how to outsmart one's inner voice ("How can I be a loser if millions of other people are single too?") and those well-intentioned but poisonous remarks from friends and family. So if on St. Valentine's Day, a friend or relative probes with the standard: "So, are you seeing anyone special today?" The authors suggest this quip: "I see you. Do you see me?"


Sunday, February 11, 2001

Conservatives want to push welfare moms into marriage

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that conservatives who successfully argued a few years ago that the nation's welfare system must aggressively push poor people into jobs are preparing to push something more personal: marriage.

They claim that the breakdown of the two-parent family is the root cause of welfare dependence, and that millions of Americans will remain trapped in poverty unless the nation fosters a culture of marriage in poor communities.

``All the data we have says that kids do best when they grow up in two-parent families,'' said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means welfare subcommittee, who plans hearings on the issue. ``We'd like to see a return to the family unit and to family values.''

Nationally, one in three children are born to unmarried parents. And among women with less than a high school education, 60 percent were unmarried when they gave birth.

The story says that one of the 1996 welfare law's central purposes was to encourage formation of two-parent families, but so far states have spent little time, energy or money to this end. That is partly because it raises sensitive questions about the role of government and partly because there is little evidence about what

Now debate is beginning over what changes are needed to that law, which must be renewed by next year, and conservatives are laying the groundwork for a stronger focus on marriage. Liberals have concerns, but they are not rejecting their ideas out of hand.

Among the proposed changes:

--requiring states to spend part of their welfare money on pro-marriage activities.

--encouraging caseworkers to talk to pregnant women about marrying the fathers of their unborn babies.

--judging state success based on reductions in out-of-wedlock births.

--teaching about the value of marriage in high school.

--sponsoring experiments to see what programs might produce more marriages.

Some welfare experts are not so sure about these proposals.

``Until we get more evidence, I'm not so sure we should be spending huge sums of money here,'' said Wendell Primus, a welfare authority at the Center for Budget and  Policy Priorities, who left a top welfare job in the Clinton administration to protest the president's decision to sign the 1996 overhaul.

``There are clearly some marriages that aren't going to work,'' Primus added. ``Government can't force two people to love each other when their relationship has broken

Sandra Robertson, an advocate for the poor in Georgia, suggests that poor women are perfectly capable of deciding when marriage is right for them.

``I'm especially surprised that the party that talks about wanting government out of our lives, of wanting government to stay away from social engineering, seems to have a   desire to do that for poor people,'' Robertson said.

Others worry that women may wind up pressured to stay in unhealthy -- even abusive -- relationships.

Talking about marriage would be a giant departure for welfare caseworkers, who used to simply calculate whether an applicant was eligible for benefits, said Susan  Golonka, welfare expert at the National Governors Association. Caseworkers have already expanded their duties to include job counseling, and adding marriage counseling would be another big step.

``There would be a lot of people who would be uncomfortable,'' she said.

The story points out that there is little pro-marriage activity in social policy today. Some fatherhood programs work to help fathers find jobs -- partly so they can pay child support -- and to participate in their children's lives. But co-parenting, not marriage, is the focus.


Saturday, February 10, 2001

Being a solo single on Valentine's Day

A story published today by the San Antonio Express News notes that not everyone celebrates Valentines Day, a holiday geared toward couples.  Many single-minded folks aren't part of a couple.

The story, which mentioned AASP, focuses on local singles like Tom LeSpade and Gloria Martinez.

It's not that he hasn't found Ms. Right. Actually, he did find her — twice. The first Ms. Right ended their marriage in 1997 after just one year. The second Ms. Right broke their engagement last year after three weeks.

LeSpade is not bitter or jaded about love. (OK, maybe a little.) He's heard this happens to lots of people. Besides, his buddies tease him for being such a catch. He's got a great job as an industrial-equipment sales rep in San Antonio. He's a good friend and a good son. And his Wrangler-model good looks won't keep him lonely for long.

But that's not it either. LeSpade figures it's time he started living life for someone else for a change. Namely, himself.

"I guess I'm finally learning you don't have to be in a relationship," says LeSpade, 28. "My goal when I was younger was a house and two kids when I was 30, but I don't think that's going to happen now. Now I'm not putting as much pressure on myself as I was before."

LeSpade's one of the millions of singles out there who are happy (yes, happy) living a life unencumbered by a significant other.

These self-assured singles aren't your typical soloists. They don't hold a relationship as the end-all-be-all to prosperity. Nor do they need someone to "complete" them a la "Jerry Maguire."

And the last thing these self-empowered individuals want is for you to feel sorry for them, or ask them what's wrong. They hate that.

"Right now, I'm extremely happy," says Gloria Quirarte Martinez, a 32-year-old program specialist for Hispanas Unidas, a local women's advocacy agency. "I have the best guy friends. I'm doing flamenco dancing. I'm really enjoying time with the girls. When I think when I was in a relationship, it seemed like doing these things was not possible."

Happily single for the past five months, Martinez says it's better to enjoy your life for yourself rather than waste it hunting (or waiting) for that special someone to validate your existence.

So don't expect that singles like LeSpade and Martinez will let a Hallmark holiday like Valentine's Day crimp their independence. The good-natured singleton doesn't have time for any lonely hearts clubs.

That's right, "well-meaning" friends, families and couples out there: The single life is the good life, too. You bet.

A choice, not a sentence

According to the American Association for Single People in Glendale, California, there are more than 80 million unmarried adults in the United States. Singles now make up more than 40 percent of the adult population from coast to coast. That's more than 25 percent of our nation's households belonging to single adults living alone.

"More and more, particularly with new generations and women, people are saying, 'I don't have to get married' and 'I don't have to be part of a couple,'" says Thomas F. Coleman, AASP executive director.

And while more singles aren't looking for love in all the wrong places (or the right ones for that matter), they're sure finding solidarity in pop culture.

Ross, Rachel and the gang still inspire the single lifestyle on NBC's "Friends," even as the core characters turn 30. Meanwhile, HBO's "Sex and the City" shows what thirtysomething women have known since time immemorial: Women love flying solo as much as men do.

But even as the singles revolution swells with pride, Coleman notes that social stigmas still threaten the blissfully unattached.

"Whether you're married or not, there's pressure to be in a couple," he says. "You hear people use terms like 'the other half' or 'better half' as if they're not a complete person unless you're a part of someone else."

Dr. Xavier Amador, a single New York psychotherapist, says he'd love to someday share his life with someone special, but that doesn't mean that the single alternative is an empty, "incomplete" place to be.

"It's really a choice, not a sentence," he says.

The story says that Amador was so fed up with people pitying him for being a bachelor in his late 30s that he wrote "Being Single in a Couple's World: How to Be Happily Single While Looking for Love" (Simon & Schuster, $12).

His point: Single people aren't love's lepers.

"Are we going to say these people are losers or immature? No, the culture has changed," says Amador, now 41. "There are not as many reasons to walk down the aisle as when our parents were young."

Wedded bliss — eventually

Amador notes that most single adults can (and do) enjoy a healthy love life, sex life and more financial independence without jumping into marriage to get them. If satisfied singles decide to get married at all, he says, they're usually doing so at an older age.

Coleman agrees. He says the average marrying age is up in the mid-20s, and will likely end up in the late 20s in the next few years.

"Men and women are going to college and want to get their careers going and so on," he says. "Even though there's a stigma attached to being single, more people are. But they're delaying marriage, not necessarily foreclosing it."

Martinez ended her four-year marriage in December 1997. She calls that time in her life a learning experience, one in which she grew apart from her husband. She maintains that her ex-husband was "a really good guy," just too adherent to "traditional" male roles.

"I actually prioritized my master's (degree) to my relationship," says Martinez. "It was hard because I was growing by learning, and my husband wouldn't come along with me for that."

LeSpade notes that, like most singles, previous experiences have only made him more selective in choosing a mate. And with a national divorce rate still around 50 percent, he figures it's better to be absolutely, positively sure before he invests in the next Ms. Right.

"Vows and oaths mean nothing," he says. "It's so easy to get divorced nowadays that my ex-wife got together with girls at work and filed with some divorce software. It was like 'fill in the blanks,' basically."

Amador, himself a recent divorcé, says it's tough to stay optimistic after a bad breakup or divorce, but emphasizes that these life experiences usually make singles stronger and wiser, not sadder or cynical.

"People see there are still many good reasons to get married, and they're pickier," he says. "There is less pressure, so they're becoming more demanding of what they want from a partner."  Amador is a member of AASP.

Singular gender roles

Thanks to those older-man-younger-woman romances we see in Hollywood, it's no wonder society doesn't rush single men to get married. Single women, on the other hand, must still deal with old-fashioned sexist dogma and double standards.

For example, the story suggests that readers consider Martinez. When she told her friends and family she planned to get a divorce, they did their best to change her mind and let her know what she had done wrong.

"My sister was a bit of feminist, and she was devastated," recalls Martinez. "My best girlfriend said the same thing. Mom thought it was a really bad idea. It hurt me that everyone was asking me to put my emotional state aside."

Since the divorce, Martinez says she still shrugs off the same "concern" at just about every family function. Even at her job, which involves mentoring preteen girls, the same questions plague her: Why don't you have a boyfriend? When are you going to get married again? Don't you want a baby?

Martinez's dilemma is common. Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, a family therapist in Washington, D.C., notes that today's single woman still gets a guilt trip for wanting other things in life besides a man. That guilt comes from family, friends and even from within.

"It really affects the self-esteem," says Lewis, author of "With or Without a Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives" (Bull Publishing, $18.95). "Single men desperately want to be with a partner, but they don't carry self-blame. With single women, there's an enormous amount of self-blame."

Lewis stresses that single women do have it better than ever, but the stereotypes remain. Men still base their self-identity on landing a great job and providing for a wife and family. Women still are raised with the idea of being emotional providers for the man, and must be the ones who take care of the relationship at all costs.

But even if women bear the brunt of singles stigma, Lewis says they're the tougher sex to handle it.

"Men tend to need women; women tend to want men," she says. "Women get their intimacy needs from other women. Men and women tend to turn to women for their emotional needs. In that way, (women) are more self-sufficient."  Lewis is a member of AASP.

That culture clash

The story suggests that the gender gap isn't the only obstacle singles must navigate.

"There's a cultural mandate," says Amador. "It starts from biblical times up to Western and Eastern culture. In Latino cultures, I think it's even more pronounced because family is such an important value. And one does not have their own family unless they have a relationship."

Maybe that's why it's so tough to go solo in San Antonio.

According to 1999 demographics from Claritas Inc., more than 55 percent of San Antonio is married. The American Association for Single People cites that 63 percent of Hispanic households in the nation contain a married couple. When you consider those figures and San Antonio's predominantly Hispanic community, it's no wonder so many local singles complain about the dating scene.

"This would be an excellent town to have a family, but it's not for singles," says LeSpade. "In Houston, you get a phone number in 30 minutes. In San Antonio, you could be out all night and be lucky if you meet somebody."

LeSpade isn't exactly exaggerating. The Houston Chronicle recently reported the city having the highest percentage of single people in the country — almost 2 million, or nearly half of Houston's population.

Martinez adds another wrinkle to the cultural fabric: Try being a single Latina in San Antonio.

"For me, I think this community, when it comes to Latinas, is superficial," she says. "I've noticed in San Antonio in social settings and business that, typically, it's men talking. Latinas tend to not talk. That's much more passive than I like to be. It's like there's pressure to follow these roles."

Emotional similarities

The story says that whether they're happy alone or not, singles have common complaints. But regardless of their age, culture or even sexual orientation, the blissfully single share some similarities besides frustration.

Happy singles take comfort in their self-awareness and emotional needs. They do things they feel fulfill their lives, usually in careers or hobbies they love. And they make deep, loving connections with friends and family members.

"I don't know how any single person would make it if they were alone without any friends," says LeSpade, who shares a home with two roommates. "You have to stay busy, not stay at home and mope."

Amador says the irony to those living a healthy, single life is that these very individuals probably won't stay single for long.

"When you're comfortable with who you are and accept yourself, you're just that much more attractive to other people," he says. "Those single people who are living rich lives for themselves often find someone nice to share their lives with. That's not a reason to be happily single, but it's a nice bit of icing on the cake."

So if you're on your own and all the Valentine's Day hoopla or couple talk bums you out, Lewis says its OK to feel sad. Just remember to move on and enjoy the singular life you're in control of.

"You have what you have for as long as you have it," she says. "Therefore, what is better than what you have?"

In other words, if you're in a relationship, that's great. If you're single, that's great, too.

Martinez prefers a different adage, one that keeps her smiling in her empowered solitude: Mejor sola que mal acompañada.

Translation: Better alone than in bad company.

"I think it's healthier," she says.

Friday, February 9, 2001

All income tax payers get relief under Bush Plan

Who benefits under the tax relief plan proposed yesterday by President Bush?

The answer, said Clint Stretch of the Washington office of the Deloitte & Touche accounting firm, is that "everybody who in fact pays income taxes gets something."  However, those who do not pay income taxes, such as workers who qualify for the earned income tax credit, do not benefit, he said.

According to a story published today by the Washington Post,  the full impact of the tax proposal would be several years off, because the plan's key features, including its rate cuts, would be phased in through 2006.

For example, for a typical two-income couple who have two children and earn $60,000 a year, taxes would fall $1,900 annually when the plan was fully in place, but only $380 in the first year.

The plan's primary feature is a reduction in the marginal tax rates applied to income at different levels, within ranges called brackets.  First, it would eliminate the top marginal tax rates of 39.6 percent and 36 percent. Marginal rates -- the amount of tax levied on each additional dollar of income -- would top out at 33 percent when the plan was fully in place.  Thus, a rate of 33 percent would apply to all taxable income above $166,450 for a couple and $136,750 for an individual.

At the same time, rates applied at lower income levels would be reduced. Income now taxed at 31 or 28 percent would be taxed at 25 percent, and the bottom end of the 15 percent bracket would be replaced by a new 10 percent bracket.

Thus, the first $6,000 of taxable income for a single taxpayer and $12,000 for a couple would be taxed at 10 percent instead of 15 percent, resulting in a saving of as much as $300 for the individual taxpayer and $600 for the couple. Income from that level up to $27,050 for a single person and $45,200 for a couple would continue to be taxed at 15 percent.

The bottom rate cut would affect the rich and poor alike. This is because everybody's income up to a certain level is taxed at the lowest rate. Then additional dollars are taxed at the rate applied to the next income bracket, and the process is repeated bracket by bracket until the top is reached. Then all income above a certain level is taxed at that top rate.

Much of the Bush plan's benefit for middle-income families stems from two other provisions: a doubling of the child credit and a new deduction for two-earner married couples. Currently, parents with adjusted gross incomes of less than $110,000 for a couple and $75,000 for a single parent can claim a credit of $500 for each child younger than 17. The Bush plan would raise the income limit to $200,000 for both married and single parents and raise the credit to $1,000. Fully phased in, this change would be worth an additional $500 per child to families already qualifying for it, and $1,000 per child for those currently over the income limit, Stretch said.

Another provision is designed to address the "marriage penalty," the twist in the tax system that causes many married working couples to pay more taxes than they would if they were single. Bush proposes a new deduction equal to 10 percent of the income of the spouse who earns the lesser income, up to a certain limit. Fully phased in, this would result in a maximum $3,000 deduction.</P>

One criticism of the Bush plan focused on its interaction with the alternative minimum tax. The AMT, enacted to prevent wealthy taxpayers from using legal tax breaks to wipe out their taxes, is not indexed for inflation and over the years has fallen on more and more middle-income taxpayers.

Tax plan at a glance

The Philadelphia Daily News published the following summary of the Bush tax plan:

*  Would reduce personal income tax rates and combine five current tiers of rates into four. Today's rates are 39.6 percent, 36 percent, 31 percent, 28 percent and 15 percent. New rates would drop to 33 percent, 25 percent, 15 percent and 10 percent. Many small businesses, from mom-and-pop stores to doctors' practices, pay the top personal income tax rate.

*  The bottom 10 percent rate, which applies to at least some of the money of all earners, would affect the first $6,000 of taxable income for singles, the first $10,000 for single parents, and the first $12,000 for married couples.

*  The $500 per child tax credit would double to $1,000. The extra savings would be exempted from calculations used to determine whether families must pay the alternative minimum tax. The credit now phases out at $75,000 for single parents and $110,000 for couples; it would instead phase out at $200,000 for both.

*  To reduce the "marriage penalty" - the extra taxes many couples owe when they marry - two-earner couples would be allowed a 10 percent deduction of the lower-earning spouse's first $30,000 of income - a deduction of up to $3,000.

*  The estate tax would be eliminated. Currently, it is levied when a person dies and transfers an estate worth at least $675,000, an amount that is scheduled to rise to $1 million in 2006. During the campaign, Bush proposed phasing it out over eight years. A story released over PR Newswire explains that the estate tax and the gift tax would be repealed for gifts made and decedents dying after 2008. Until then, each of the estate and gift tax rates would drop by 5 percentage points for 2002 and 2003, 10 percentage points for 2004, 15 percentage points for 2005, 20 percentage points for 2006, 30 percentage points for 2007, and 40 percentage  points for 2008. So, for example, for estates of decedents dying in 2006, the current 37% estate tax rate would drop to 17% and the 55% rate would drop to 35%. After  2008, there would be no estate or gift tax.

*  People who do not itemize would be allowed to deduct charitable contributions.

*  The 20 percent research and development tax credit, which has been renewed repeatedly since its inception in 1981, would be made permanent.


Thursday, February 8, 2001

New Mexico Senate votes to repeal anti-cohabitation law

A story published today in the  Albuquerque Journal reports that the state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to repeal a 1963 New Mexico law that makes it a crime for unmarried couples to live together.

Five Republicans opposed the bill. Some argued that abolishing the cohabitation law would weaken marriages and families.

Sen. Michael Sanchez, the bill's author, said the law "should have been repealed a long, long time ago."

Sanchez said he sponsored the bill after an unmarried Bosque Farms couple was charged under the cohabitation law last year.

In April, Richard Pitcher and Kim Henry were charged with misdemeanor charges of unlawful cohabitation after Pitcher's ex-wife, Vickie Avants, filed a complaint with the Valencia County Sheriff's Department. A magistrate judge dismissed those charges.

Attempts to enforce the cohabitation law have surfaced from time to time over the years, without effect. Several years ago, a sheriff in eastern New Mexico went house to house seeking to enforce the law.

The law, Sanchez said, prohibits an unmarried man and woman from living together in New Mexico.

Sanchez warned that the law could be extended to college students or roommates who share an apartment for financial reasons.

The bill passed the Senate by a 26-5 vote. It goes to the House for consideration.


Wednesday, February 7, 2001

California appeals court says sexual relationship not a bar to palimony suit

A story published today by the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a state appeals court has revived a Fairfield woman's lawsuit against a former lover and husband that might have netted her millions -- if she hadn't signed her rights away in a settlement.

A three-judge Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco said a Solano County judge erred in ruling that the woman's agreement to live with her lover, share their lives and property, and bear his children was simply a contract for sexual services.

That judge concluded that Celeste Della Zoppa was not entitled to share the assets acquired by her lover
during their living arrangement before they married in 1992.

The appellate court found otherwise, however, saying there was a "mutual commitment" that couldn't be invalidated just because sex was part of the relationship. The ruling sets a precedent for unmarried couples throughout California, lawyers said.

But it may be too late for Della Zoppa, according to her former lawyer, Brian Thiessen.

Thiessen said Della Zoppa became so demoralized by Power's ruling that "she basically gave up," fired Thiessen and her other longtime attorney, and negotiated a settlement with her former lover and husband.

The case is a descendant of the 1976 state Supreme Court ruling, involving actor Lee Marvin, that established the right to "palimony" -- property and financial support promised by one unmarried partner to another.

That ruling said such agreements are enforceable after separation unless they were based on sexual services. That was the defense raised by Joseph Della Zoppa, who owns garbage collection companies in Solano and Contra Costa counties.

He met Celeste Concannon in 1988, when he was 48 and she was 22. They moved in together a year later and, according to her lawsuit, agreed to share their lives and property and have children together. She bore a son in 1991, and the couple got married the next year. They had twin girls in 1996 and separated in 1998.

Her suit, filed later that year, seeks to enforce what she said was his promise that they would jointly own all property acquired while they lived together, holdings that continued to gain value during the marriage. Thiessen said millions of dollars were at issue.

Power dismissed the suit in 1999, ruling that the agreement to bear children showed that any premarital contract between the couple was based on sexual conduct and was therefore unenforceable.

The appeals court disagreed, citing Celeste Della Zoppa's testimony that child-bearing was only one aspect of the couple's "mutual commitment."




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