Where from, the Dead-beat Dad?
By Stuart A. Miller
Deadbeat, or beat-dead? As is so often the case, government agencies do more harm than good.
Puffed up Politicians
1995 Maryland - There has been much talk about "dead-beat dads." I cannot recall a subject that causes politicians to puff up and appear as self-righteous and pompous as the dead-beat dad issue. I suppose that is because it is a basic element of human nature to care about children. I assume that those who are publicly seen as allegedly looking out for children's best interests, feel noble.
But, many children have grown up in abject poverty and become some of our nation's greatest leaders. Because they had one thing that was more important than money, both parents. Children love, need and want both parents, regardless of the parent's financial resources. Unfortunately, this is not a view shared by the welfare system.
A recent news program highlighted the plight of a young family where the husband, Mark Smith, (not his real name) lost his job (as a result of downsizing) and was being evicted along with his wife and daughter. They believed our welfare system, which their taxes supported, would help with transitional housing until the father's new job started in six months. They made the mistake of applying for assistance.
The government provided transitional housing. One week after settling in, however, social workers arrived at the door. They told Mark that he could not stay. If he refused to leave they would have to evict his wife and daughter. Mark left and stayed in a shelter for alcoholics and drug addicts. Shelters for homeless people were full. He got a temporary job in a restaurant to feed his family and to save for the down payment on their new apartment. Because the shelter had curfews, he could rarely see his family.
In the meantime, the government courted the mother with wonderful gifts of AFDC and food stamps. One day, the sheriff appeared at Mark's place of employment and served him with a warrant to appear in court to have child support assessed against him. The mother had not asked for child support. Social Services did. Mark was prosecuted like a criminal and lost. The judge assessed child support based on what he was capable of making, not what he was actually making, because "the father must repay the government for it's outlay."
Mark could not pay the amount ordered because it was more than he was making. He was hauled back into court for being a "dead-beat." A wage-withholding order was issued to his current employer and his prospective employer. Finally, when his new job was to begin he did not have the money for a down payment. Further, he could not get a loan, even with his new job, because the government had entered his past-due child support on his credit record. The wage-withholding order and the fact that it would take years to pay off his child support obligation persuaded his employer not to make him a loan. Mark eventually committed suicide.
There are several ironies in this story. The most egregious is that not only did the government create a permanent welfare recipient, (not to mention driving someone to suicide), but it threatened not to support a family in need, just like the "dead-
beats" they denounce. The next time you see politicians preening their feathers and vilifying "dead-beats," remember Mark Smith and remember who was responsible for his situation. Most importantly, remember who threatens to abandon families in need and then pursues the father for being a "dead-beat." Finally, ask yourself "Why?"