Tommy Thompson's Reign
September 12, 2002
The government claims a
crisis of unpaid
child support. Leading scholars have declared these claims to be
everything from a "myth" to a "hoax." Yet some in the Bush
administration seem determined to continue the failed policies of the Clinton years.
Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson recently announced mass arrests of
parents he says have disobeyed government orders.
administration's "Project Save Our Children" illustrates that more political
chicanery is perpetrated in the name of children than any other cause. The secretary has
begun a "nationwide sweep" to arrest (what he calls) the "most wanted
deadbeat parents." By the government's own figures, however, the "worst of the
worst" amount to only 69 fathers worthy of prosecution.
Even assuming these few men
may be scoundrels, why don't authorities simply arrest them and be done with it? Why all
the fanfare from the federal government? Perhaps because these prosecutions are political.
"We will find
you," President Clinton would intone against fathers. "We will make you
pay." In Maryland, government billboards announce, "We're Looking for You,
Support Violators." No government warns bank robbers or drug dealers that the
government is watching them. This is not law enforcement: It is terror.
"More notable than any
one arrest," we are told, is the "message that the administration is
sending" that it will use federal agents to enforce divorce. In other words, the aim
is not to prosecute lawbreakers but to spread fear. Terrorizing citizens into obeying its
orders is not an appropriate role of government in a free society, even when the orders
In this case, the orders
are not legitimate. They are creations of a divorce industry eager to encourage divorce by
making it more lucrative. A
child support "obligation" is simply what judges and
bureaucrats decide a father must pay to have his children taken away.
Most divorces are filed by
women, usually with no legal grounds. Most obligors have therefore done nothing to incur
the imputed obligation, which is set by the same enforcement personnel who collect it.
These officials have an interest in separating children from their fathers, imposing
impossible child support burdens, and then arresting parents who inevitably fail to pay.
By the government's own
account, what is billed as "child support" is little short of plunder. Among
those arrested was a man earning all of $39,000 a year and ordered to pay $350 a week for
one child, almost two-thirds of his likely take-home pay.
These men have no hope for
a fair trial; they have already been pronounced guilty in the media by the Secretary of
Health and Human Services, with no platform to reply in their own defense.
The divorce industry has
corrupted local government throughout America. Now its poison is reaching up to the
highest levels of our government. The administration is soiling its hands in some of the
worst sludge left by the Clintons.
Stephen Baskerville is a
professor of Political Science at Howard University and a contributor to FCF News on