by Michael Lowrey
Now that same-sex marriage is legal, the city of Charlotte is considering no longer offering benefits to the unmarried same-sex domestic partners of gay or lesbian city employees.
The underlying context here is important: Richard Florida and his concept of the “creative class.” Florida claims that those cities that can attract young adults in “creative” fields will prosper, those cities that can’t will stagnate. Among the things that creative types are suppose to like are places that are diverse… which Florida defines by a “Gay Index.” Unsurprisingly, many people in the LGBT community really, really, really like this theory, because it proclaims them the key to it all. And many local government types really, really, really like this theory too because it gives them a justification to spend money on certain types of economic development projects and not worry too much about how much it costs. Put it together and you get this:
Scott Bishop of MeckPAC, a lobbying group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said he thinks the city should offer benefits to domestic partners of both same-sex and opposite-sex partners.
“It depends on how inclusive they want to be,” he said. “If they want to remain competitive in hiring, they ought to extend domestic partner benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples.”
Competitive against whom? In the Creative Class construct that Bishop seems to be embracing, the answer would be the entire world for Creative Class talent. But is that really the case? Relatively few private employers extend benefits to unmarried cohabitating heterosexual couples and most that do aren’t looking for the same sort of skill sets that the city of Charlotte typically is hiring. (How many garbage truck drivers and firemen are on Wells Fargo’s payroll?) There is, of course, a cost to taxpayers to extending benefits to unmarried straight couples, and there would presumably be a lot more of them than the 17 or so same-sex partners that are currently enrolled for benefits. And that cost will just keep going up, as health insurance costs continue to skyrocket. Such costs though are pretty much irrelevant in a Creative Class framework… as are logic and basic economics.
One of the best criticism of Creative Class comes from the Left, and describes Florida’s Theory as little more than Trickle Down Economics: that it amounts to saying that we must pander to elites in order to help the less fortunate. So yes, I’ll dare to say it: MeckPac represents an elite seeking government largesse, under the theory that their receiving a bit of pork is good for the rest of us…