Absurdistan in America

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In
Iowa, the government has confiscated the savings of 11-year-old
Rylan Nitzschke. Rylan saved $220 from chores and shoveling snow,
but that now belongs to Iowa. Why? Rylan's father allegedly owes
child support (to Rylan), and his father's name was on the boy's
bank account.

OK,
so this is a mistake, and Iowa will return the boy's savings, right?
Wrong. State officials have no intention of returning the money.
After all, they receive federal funds for each dollar they collect
(and for each father they incarcerate). Rylan's piggy bank helps
balance the budget.

As
Congress prepares to pass the Welfare Reform bill, the Washington
Times reports that child support enforcement officials are ecstatic
over provisions that will allow them to plunder and criminalize
more citizens, using children as the justification. Yet no evidence
indicates that there is, or ever has been, a problem of unpaid child
support other than that created by the government. The child support
“crisis” consists of little more than the government seizing people's
children, imposing patently impossible debts on parents (and others)
who have done nothing to incur those debts, and then arresting those
who, quite predictably, cannot pay.

Now
this dishonest and discredited hoax is creating a Western version
of "Absurdistan" — the name given by East European dissidents
to the Soviet dictatorships that were not only repressive but, at
times, simply buffoonish.

West
Virginia officials cleaned out the bank account of an 85-year-old
grandmother whose son allegedly owed child support. The son paid
in none of the $6,450 taken from the account, which comprised her
life savings. She was also charged a $75 processing fee.

Canada
has a name for such grandmothers: "deadbeat accomplices."
These are grandparents, second wives, or other relatives, who can
be forced to disclose and part with their savings to government
officials.

In
California, minor boys raped by adult women must pay child support
to the criminals who raped them. "State law entitles the child
to support from both parents, even though the boy is considered
the victim of statutory rape," the district attorney’s office
says. One boy was drugged before the sex. Kansas courts have likewise
held that "the issue of consent to sexual activity under the
criminal statutes is irrelevant in a civil action to determine paternity
and for support of a minor child born of such activity." So
much for not letting criminals profit from their crimes.

The
elderly can also become targets of rape-for-profit. A disabled 85-year-old
man, sexually assaulted by his housekeeper and awarded damages for
the assault, was ordered to pay her child support, and his pension
was garnished. The court denied him access to the child.

According
to the Keystone Cops who enforce child support, a "child"
is not a dependent minor but any recipient of their chivalry. “We’ve
got some 40- to 45-year-old u2018kids' running around who are owed child
support,” says Nick Young, enforcement director in Virginia. In
Ohio, a 77-year-old great grandfather who had always paid on time
was told he owed $45,000 in back child support and had his wages
garnished, even though his youngest child was 46 years old.

In
Canada, runaway children sue their parents for child support. In
California, a 50-year-old divorce lawyer successfully sued his own
parents for child support because, he said, depression rendered
him unable to work. Startlingly, such suits were probably intended
by a legislature dominated by trial lawyers. Judge Melinda Johnson
observed that the statute is "unambiguous," and an attorney
notes, “The statute didn’t come about by accident.”

In
Canada and Australia, stepfathers are now ordered to pay the custodians
of their stepchildren. Stuart Miller of the American Fathers Coalition
comments wryly that such rulings open the door to multiple marriages
to obtain multiple child support proceeds from multiple men without
the inconvenience of multiple children. In fact, this is already
happening, as judges allow "double-dipping," whereby both
the biological father and stepfather are ordered to pay full child
support to the same custodian for the same children.

Child
support has little to do with providing for children. Its purpose
is to redistribute money — and power — among grown-ups. Iowa officials
say the only way Rylan's father can prevent the looting of Rylan's
savings in the future is to give the boy’s money to the adult with
custody.

But
the miracle is that Rylan bothers with chores at all. Rylan's father
"owes" his son money, according to the government, not
because Rylan earns it through hard work but because his mother
divorced the old man. Rylan can simply demand the money of his father,
and the state will make him cough it up. Why teach youngsters to
work when you can teach them to sue.

Indeed,
some states now force fathers to pay college tuition. So kids, don't
work to save for college or study hard for a scholarship. If you
can convince your mother to divorce your father, the government
will force Dad to pay at the barrel of a gun. Once fathers can be
forced to pay law school tuition the machine will be completely
self-financing.

States
create instant deadbeats simply by increasing burdens. In Virginia,
the author of sharply increased guidelines, William Rodgers of William
and Mary College, tells officials that if they do not like his formula,
he would “create a schedule to suit.” Presumably Dr. Rodgers proposes
the guidelines he considers fair and reasonable. But if Virginia
officials prefer guidelines that are not fair and reasonable, he
can provide those too. This is Groucho Marx government: “Those are
my principles. If you don't like them, I have others.”

Thus
does child support simultaneously corrupt both public ethics and
private morals, turning children into cash prizes and even "cash
crops." One girl tells a Toronto newspaper of her savvy career
plans: “I’m going to marry a really rich guy, then divorce him,"
she says. "But first I’m going to have his kids, so I get child
support.”

September
24, 2003

Stephen
Baskerville, PhD,
[send him mail]
teaches political science at Howard University.


        
        

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