Tommy Thompsonís Reign Of Terror

September 22, 2002

by Dr. Stephen Baskerville

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.

The Clinton administrationís "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 governmentís 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 donít 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, "Weíre Looking for You, Child 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 are legitimate.

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 governmentís 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.

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Dr. Stephen Baskerville teaches political science at Howard University and is a Special Contributor to FCF News on Demand.

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