For The Children?
By Stephen Baskerville
November 05, 2002
[This article was published at Freecongress.org and at CNSNews.com.]
California Governor Gray Davis recently vetoed a bill that would have restored due process of law to thousands of wrongly-accused men. These men must pay the state's crushing child support for children whom DNA testing shows they did not father. He did it, naturally, "for the children."
Or so he says. More likely he did it for the federal money. In fact, Governor Davis confesses the bill would put California "at risk of losing up to $40 million in federal funds."
Given California's zeal in jailing men who cannot pay impossible child support burdens, it is inescapable that innocent men will go to jail to fill the state's coffers. (The state will then get more federal funding for the prisoners.)
Most child support orders are entered by default. The men never have a chance to prove their innocence and never know they are accused of fatherhood until they are ordered to pay. By then it is too late.
The injustice of forcing men to pay for children they did not father has kindled public indignation. But it is only the tip of the iceberg.
Child support was created for men who abandon the offspring they have sired, a relatively small number. But it has been hijacked by special interests and turned into a subsidy on divorce, forcing millions of men to pay for the stealing of their own children. In the case of false paternities, child support often subsidizes adultery.
States also receive federal payments based on how much child support passes through their hands. Officials therefore have an incentive to squeeze child support out of any parent (or non-parent) they can find. Like most states, California makes a tidy profit. Through federal taxes, we are all paying to subsidize divorce, unwed motherhood, and adultery. Our taxes make family breakdown profitable for state governments.
Those who defend the government enforcement of paternity fraud, wax eloquent about how fatherhood is more than just a sperm donation. A father is the man who has acted the part in the lives of the children, they say. But this too is dishonest.
Coerced child support is only required once the government has separated the children from their fathers, not while they are together. Nothing prevents the government from permitting the victims of a deception to continue living together as father and children. Many men are willing to do precisely this and to provide for the children as they see fit, like any other father. The issue is when can the government impute and enforce a financial obligation to any father, biological or not, who has done nothing to incur that obligation.
As often happens, one lie and one violation of rights necessitate even more. In their efforts to suppress the truth, governments in Britain and Australia are attempting to criminalize DNA testing in the privacy of one's home. This is merely one more step in the criminalization of fathers' relationships with their children.
No policy based upon lies, deceptions, and false accusations can benefit anyone: it cannot be good for the children, and it cannot be good for government ethics.
None of this is really "for the children"; it is for the grown-ups. Governor Davis does not love other people's children. But his government can make money off them. Once the government can exploit children for profit, the government will get children wherever it can find them. And no child is safe.
( Stephen Baskerville teaches political science at Howard University.)
Copyright 2002, Free Congress Foundation