Child Support Propaganda in an Election Year

April 22, 2004

by Roger F. Gay

It's that season again! This is an election year, so every half-witted politician and bureaucrat is out to maintain or sweeten if possible their share of pork from the taxpayers' pocket. Nowhere is the special-interest machinery more worn than in delivery of child support propaganda. I don't suppose child support system promoters will tire of telling the same old lies until editors tire of publishing them.

In Iowa, the Department of Human Services says it's "turning up the heat on parents delinquent in child support payments, and the efforts are working." Nothing new. Vehicle registrations are being sanctioned and contempt of court charges are brought against parents who get behind.

According to the agency, "In fiscal 2003, the recovery unit collected $1.4 million in child support payments in Washington County." But what the record actually shows is that parents paid $1.4 million in child support payments in Washington County in 2003. The word "collected," which seems to justify the expensive, hard line enforcement regime, is nothing more than an inaccurate word choice. Nationwide, the percent of what has been ordered that is actually paid has decreased in recent years. Impounding vehicles and throwing parents in jail doesn't cure unemployment or child support orders that are too high to pay. It only exacerbates the problems real people face in real life.

The Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel reports on the Department of Child Support Enforcement's efforts to collect by denying hunting and fishing licenses to parents behind in support payments. Again, not a new ploy, but who's paying attention? The response? "Our waiting room is jampacked every day with people coming in to set up payment plans," according to the department's director, John Hayes. "It's incredible." Yes, I would think so. "Incredible" (as in implausible, shaky, unconvincing, preposterous, unbelievable) is exactly the right word. Wake me for the next Elvis sighting. (Indianapolis, Indiana) reported a bit of overzealous behavior by child support enforcement officials, but you wouldn't know it was overzealous by reading the account. A Boone County man who was behind in making support payments took out a $21,500 loan to buy a car and made the mistake of depositing the money in his bank account. Before he could turn the money over to the car dealership, it was confiscated by support enforcement. It is in fact, not legal to force a parent to borrow money for child support.

Rationalizing the theft, Boone County Prosecutor Todd J. Meyer argued; "This case is a good example of the hundreds of cases we see each year where noncustodial parents are making the wrong decisions and have their priorities way out of whack." The fact that the man has a $21,500 debt and no car to drive to work to make the money it takes to pay support apparently didn't cross the apparently foggy mind that resides in that little pin-head. In his wacky world, everyone should blindly support bureaucrats who feel compelled to make personal decisions for others.

Back in Milwaukee, a man who was ordered to pay $1,293.75 a month is facing a life sentence for not making the payments. No word yet on whether a court might consider reducing the sentence because there is no rational connection between the needs of his children and the monthly amount he was ordered to pay. Experience says - no - they probably won't take that into account. If awards were set at reasonable levels, the state would receive less federal funding.

Roger F. Gay

Roger F. Gay is a professional analyst, international correspondent and regular contributor to, as well as a contributing editor for Fathering Magazine.
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