From Welfare State to Police State

My aplogies for not posting this earlier, but here, one month after the fact, is a message by Stephen Baskerville that requires you to follow its links.

 My new article, “From Welfare State to Police State,” has just been published in The Independent Review. This is the first comprehensive scholarly treatment of the Title IV-D federal child support enforcement funding system. It documents how federal funding is tearing apart families, driving divorce and single-parent homes, creating fatherless children, demanding patently impossible child support levels, encouraging paternity fraud, and criminalizing innocent parents.

TIR is not an esoteric academic journal. It is highly influential in public policy debates. Please circulate this to your lawmakers, the media, and anyone else involved in the child custody and child support machinery. Glossy offprints of the article are available from the Independent Institute and make very impressive pamphlets to give to legislators.

Stephen Baskerville, “From Welfare State to Police State,” The Independent Review, vol. 12, no 3 (Winter 2008 ).
[Link to Article]

This subject is also treated extensively in Chapter 3 of my book, Taken Into Custody.

Stephen

A 22-page article may seem a lot of reading to some, but no one will understand the intricacies and complexities of the evolution and cancerous growth of the child support system unless he does.  Let there be no mistake.  There is a unifying ideology and much networking amongst bureaucrats and  judiciary activists in the developed nations that makes the problems described by Stephen Baskerville generic and universal.  Here are a few quotes from Stephen Baskerville’s article:

  •  Following ten years of welfare reform that was supposed to discourage unmarried childbearing and encourage marriage and two-parent families, these reports are perplexing news, indeed. Whatever the budgetary savings, welfare reform has failed from the standpoint of the family. The figures “clearly show that the impact of welfare reform is now virtually zero,” says Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, “and
    we are going back to the way things were before welfare reform” (qtd. in Wetzstein 2006).
    It has been well known since at least the Moynihan report in 1965 that welfare serves as a disincentive to marriage and an incentive to divorce and unwed childbearing. Yet no explanation has been forthcoming for why cutting back on welfare has failed to reverse the trend.
  • Ignored thus far is how expanding welfare-originated entitlement programs have extended the subsidy on single-parent homes to the affluent. Moreover, the perverse incentives create perverse behaviors not only among the population, but also by governments.
  • The welfare subsidy on single-mother homes was never really ended so much as it was shifted. Reformers essentially replaced welfare with child support, on the reasonable but largely irrelevant principle that fathers rather than taxpayers should be supporting their children (which is irrelevant for reasons we will see).
  • Child support thus transformed welfare from public assistance into law enforcement, creating a federal plainclothes police force with no clear constitutional authority.
  • In Maryland, government billboards announced, “We’re Looking for You, Child Support Violators.” Officials do not warn bank robbers or drug dealers that they are being targeted.
  • Perhaps the most striking aspect of this mobilization is that the initiative came entirely from government officials. No public outcry ever preceded these measures, nor did any public perception of such a problem even exist until officials began to say that it does. The public never demanded that government take action, nor was any public discussion of this alleged problem ever conducted in the national or local media. No government or academic study ever documented a nonpayment problem.
  • Perhaps the most fundamental disconnect between public perceptions and present reality is that whereas child support is invariably presented as a method for requiring men to take responsibility for offspring they have sired and then abandoned, it now functions primarily as a means by which “a father is forced to finance the filching of his own children” (Abraham 1999, 151).
  • Data and the research assembled by independent scholars indicate that the problem [of child support arrears] is not entirely what officials and the media claim it to be. In the largest federally funded study ever undertaken on the subject, Sanford Braver demonstrated that little scientific basis exists for claims that large numbers of fathers fail to pay child support. Braver found that government claims of nonpayment were derived not from any compiled database or other hard figures, but entirely from surveys of custodial parents (1998, 21–22 and chap. 2). The Census Bureau simply asked mothers what they were receiving. No corroborative data were produced because none exists.
  • Scholars largely agree that unemployment is “the single most important factor relating to nonpayment” (Braver 1998, 33; see all of chap. 4). One study team (Bartfeld and Mayer 1994) found that 95 percent of fathers with no employment problems for the previous five years paid their ordered support regularly and that 81 percent paid in full and on time. A federal pilot study commissioned by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) itself also found no serious problem of nonpayment. A full-scale government-sponsored study was planned to follow up the pilot, but OCSE cancelled it when the pilot study’s findings threatened the justification for the agency’s existence by demonstrating that nonpayment was not a serious problem.

Those excerpts are only from the first six pages of the article.  If you are not yet interested to read more, then there is no point in quoting more, but if by now you are interested and concerned about the issue, it would not do justice to the article to quote more excerpts.  Read the whole article (241 kB PDF file)

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