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