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Author Topic: Child Support Propaganda Haunts Michigan Papers  (Read 2469 times)

joni

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Child Support Propaganda Haunts Michigan Papers
« on: Jan 07, 2004, 12:38:32 PM »

http://mensnewsdaily.com/archive/g/gay/2004/gay010204.htm

Child Support Propaganda Haunts Michigan Papers

January 2, 2004


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by Roger F. Gay
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Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has been in office for one year. He promised to make child support collection his top priority. Just as knowledgeable observers would expect, the promise was followed by a year of lying and corruption. Three recent articles in Michigan newspapers illustrate why he, and others like him, get away with it.

On December 18, 2003 the Detroit Free Press carried an article by staff writer Dawson Bell entitled ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE COX: ONE YEAR IN OFFICE: Honing political skill, hunting deadbeats. "Deadbeats" is a familiar reference to people who have not paid all the child support that has been ordered.

Anyone looking for an unbiased analysis would be in the wrong place. You only need look at the last paragraph, which reads: "But one thing we do know. He's easily the best Republican attorney general Michigan's had since Frank Millard."

Mr. Bell gives readers false hope with a section entitled; "Varied reviews," which then begins by saying "Virtually all observers agree there's not much downside for Cox on child support." That may be true, unless of course you happen to pay attention to the swollen throngs who see nothing but a downside to Cox on child support.

Mike Cox runs a private organization called PayKids that takes corporate donations from companies interested in child support collections. He has simultaneously been using his influence as Attorney General to lobby the state legislature to set up a system that would provide private child support collection agencies with lucrative state contracts.

On December 29th, The Macomb Daily published an article by Gitte Laasby, Capital News Service entitled; Cox zeros in on $7 billion in unpaid child support. The title copies misleading promotional information from the Cox website.

"Deadbeat dad" propaganda has been the subject of scientific investigation and the source of plenty of work by fathers' rights advocates. Although never supported by an ounce of honest evidence, proved and reproved false again and again, such bizarre claims are still common political fodder for dishonest politicians and their supporters.

One paragraph typifies the old-fashioned approach applied to Macomb County. "Deadbeat parents in Macomb County," the article claims, leaning heavily on the name-calling ethic, "owe about $17.3 million in estimated arrears at any given time, and Michigan is third-worst of all states for uncollected child support. Statewide, parents owe about $7 billion in back child support to 650,000 Michigan children and to the state."

By population, Michigan is the 8th largest state in the country; but adjusting for that, and reasonably for its claimed status as especially bad, one might expect at least $200 billion in past due child support owed nationwide. That's more than five times the total annual child support owed in the United States, including the amount "owed" (so to speak) by the 80-90 percent of fathers who pay regularly. The GAO has reported Office of Child Support Enforcement estimates that the total accumulated unpaid child support since the federal government first became involved in 1975 is less than $100 billion, and several analysts who have focused on child support (including me) believe that number is too high.

Claiming 650,000 children are owed child support in Michigan would imply around 25 million in the United States. With currently around 7 million (male and famale) custodial parents due child support nationwide (including those who receive regular payments), that would be around 3.5 per custodial parent; but if considering only those not receiving child support, the number might be somewhere closer to 25-30 children per custodial parent.

Obviously something is wrong with the statistics and something wrong with writers who repeat such dribble and newspapers that print it.

The article goes on to build up Mike Cox's image with an attack on noncustodial parents. Cox's press officer Mike Doyle complains that the public's misperception of the problem is partially to blame. "People kind of see deadbeat parents not as criminals, but people who are doing something unethical in not paying for their kids' support," he said.

'Another problem is that collecting support "wasn't a terribly high priority" to county prosecutors and the former attorney general,' parrots the article before a quote from the press officer drops entirely off the reality truck.

"For too long, these deadbeats have been able to avoid paying child support without too much fear of any kind of pursuit by law enforcement. The attorney general is trying to establish a credible threat that they will be prosecuted for a felony if they don't pay," according to Mr. Doyle.

It's one thing to claim such programs are "for the children" but entirely another to shape the promotional campaign for an audience under 5 years old. You can't expect people much older than that to be unaware of the huge and extremely expensive government program aimed at the so-called "deadbeat dads" that started more than a quarter century ago; the continuous threats, and overzealous enforcement efforts.

It might seem possible that too few people understand, because so few "news" outlets let on, that the program has not had any effect on compliance. That's because fathers (85 percent of the statistically understood noncustodial parent population are fathers) were paying well before the program began. The primary cause of non-payment is that a significant portion of parents who owe child support cannot pay as much as they have been ordered to pay for various reasons. One of them is that some of the so-called "deadbeats" are actually dead.

People get behind in every sort of payment, house payments, car payments; whatever payments there are, people get behind even when they don't want to. It's only when it's child support that corrupt public officials get away with treating it as a crime. What's worse is that the enforcement program shut down the legal mechanisms for obtaining proper adjustments to the amount owed when appropriate. The amounts owed as child support are extremely random, typically unrelated to children's needs and the parents' ability to provide. But that's just the circumstance that results in the appearance of need for enforcement, as the past-due amounts continue to rise.

Some payers encounter problems and later make up for it, or at least start paying again. Cox attributes every payment of a past-due amount to his personal efforts, a claim that could never stand up to scrutiny. Writer Gitte Laasby regurgitates without question: "With $1.4 million in overdue support payments collected so far, the attorney general has surpassed the $1 million mark he was shooting for by the end of this year."

It's not particularly interesting to know that some people are behind, but paying. That's happened every year for as long as there have been child support agreements and orders. All people like Cox need to know in order to meet or beat their own projections is what the statistical average is. It's likely that more than $1 million in past-due support would have been paid without Mike Cox or any special child support enforcement program at all for that matter. That's just part of the way things work out in real life.

On the same day that the Capital News Service article ran, The Macomb Daily also published an article entitled Macomb officials skeptical of child support crackdown by Chad Selweski, one of its own staff writers. At first the article seems to finally present a challenge to Cox's propaganda machine; but it stops short of the serious truth.

The article isn't so much about criticisms of Mr. Cox's involvement in child support as it is about his defense, repeating the same bizarre statistical misinformation as the Capital News Service article.

'Sheriff Mark Hackel sees the situation differently,' Mr. Selweski tells readers. 'He calls Cox's program a "duplication of effort" with no clear strategy. The state would reap more benefits, he said, if it helped fund enforcement programs in Macomb and other major counties.'

That's right. It turns out that local officials want the state's Attorney General to turn over more of the funding to them. Not a word from any real skeptics, who according to Michigan's newspapers don't exist.

Roger F. Gay


 

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