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October 3, 2000

Bush and Gore won't say the words 'single people'

by Thomas F. Coleman

During their first debate last night, neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush ever uttered the words "single people" -- not even once.

Gore continued his "family" mantra -- using that term at least 13 times during his remarks.  In contrast, Bush specifically referred to "families" once twice.

Gore spoke about "parents" four times, compared with Bush who used that term only once.

Bush spoke about "seniors" about a dozen times, while Gore mentioned this group only four times as such.

Bush seemed to use more generic language than Gore did.  The Republican candidate spoke about tax cuts for "everyone" and expressed concern on more than one occasion for "working people."

In what seemed to be an indirect appeal to single people, Bush talked over and over again about helping "younger workers."  Bush referred to "younger workers" at least nine times.

Since 40% of the overall full-time work force is unmarried, probably a majority of "younger workers" fall into this category.

Bush explained that he wants to give younger workers an opportunity to personally invest a small percentage of the social security tax taken out of their paychecks.  Money in this personal investment plan would be inheritable.

Under current law, the social security benefits of workers are forfeited when they die, except that the surviving spouses of married workers may continue to draw upon these benefits for many additional years. 

As a result, married workers receive a greater return on their social security investments than do unmarried workers.   This has a particularly harsh effect on African American workers since the large majority of these employees are unmarried and since, as a class, African Americans tend to die younger than Caucasians, and thus they collect fewer benefits.  The personal investment plan promoted by Bush would eliminate marital status discrimination from this portion of the social security program and would help eliminate some of the disparity between African Americans and Caucasians in terms of benefits collected.

Gore hammered away at Bush by criticizing his tax reduction plans, saying that the Bush formula would disproportionately help the top one percent of taxpayers.  Neither candidate mentioned the fact that under current law a wealthy person who dies can leave millions of dollars to a spouse without paying any estate taxes at all -- but an unmarried person who dies can be forced to forfeit at much as 60% of his or her estate in federal death taxes.

Bush's proposal to phase out the so-called death tax would have the effect of eliminating marital status discrimination in the current estate tax laws.  Gore's proposal to reduce estate taxes, rather than eliminate them altogether, would continue to exempt transfers to a surviving spouse while imposing a tax on transfers from an unmarried person to a friend or relative.

Both candidates were asked whether they would keep or repeal the FDA's recent approval of RU-486 -- the so-called morning after pill to terminate pregnancy.  It is likely that this pill will be used more by single women than married women.

Gore flatly stated that he supports the FDA decision.   Bush reluctantly said that although he did not like the FDA's approval of the drug, he would not seek to overrule it.

Bush did use the term "single mother" once during the debate, arguing that his tax plans would lower the taxes of these women.  Gore did not use the term "single" in any context.

In the final analysis, Gore seemed to focus his outreach to parents and families.  Bush, on the other hand, used more generic language -- appealing mostly to "everyone" or all "working people" and with a special emphasis on "younger workers."

Maybe in their next debate, one or both of these candidates will muster up the courage to use the words "single people."

Some 34% of Republican voters are unmarried as are some 44% of Democrats.  With numbers like these, it seems strange that the candidates don't speak directly to "single people" and solicit their support.

Thomas F. Coleman is executive director of the American Association for Single People.


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