Your Monday editorial “Anti-Dad bias,” is the first substantial challenge to the divorce industry by a major newspaper and deserves to be pursued much further. This abuse of power goes far beyond media bias. The child support machinery has been expanded and perverted from a means of providing for abandoned children into a huge federal subsidy of divorce and single-parent homes. It also distorts public policy and criminalizes innocent parents.
Ostensibly created to recover welfare costs, child support enforcement on the federal level has failed and now costs taxpayers more than $3 billion annually. More seriously, it pays mothers to divorce or forgo marriage, thus creating the very problem it is supposed to alleviate.
Mothers are not the only ones who profit from fatherless children. State governments generate revenue from child support at federal taxpayers’ expense. By paying states according to the amount of child support they collect, federal programs give states an interest in more fatherless children. The more broken homes there are, the more revenue for the state.
One way to encourage fatherlessness is to set child support at onerous levels. Economists Robert and Cynthia McNeely write that increasingly punitive awards have “led to the destruction of families by creating financial incentives to divorce.” This criminalizes innocent fathers with burdens that are impossible to pay, and it creates yet another federal plainclothes police force with no constitutional authority. The “deadbeat dad” is far less likely to have voluntarily abandoned offspring he callously sired than to be an involuntarily divorced father who has been, as attorney Jed Abraham put it, “forced to finance the filching of his own children.”
These programs are virtually unassailable, not only because they balance state budgets, but because even family-values conservatives are reluctant to challenge destructive policies for fear of incurring feminist charges of defending “deadbeat dads.”
The child support deception offers a preview of where our entire system of welfare-state funding may be headed: expropriating citizens with destructive programs that create the need for more spending and taxation. It cannot end anywhere but in the further decline of the family and criminalization of more of the population.
Associate professor of government
Patrick Henry College
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