The Wall Street Journal has left-wing reporters and right-wing editorial, and here is an op-ed opinion. I am quoting it in full, as it is behind a paywall:
Making It Easier to Skip Paying Child SupportThe proposed changes are here. Comments were accepted through Jan. 16, 2015.
The Obama administration seems more focused on absent parents’ interests than on their children’s welfare.
By Robert Doar
March 9, 2015 7:20 p.m. ET
With little public attention, the Obama administration has been changing America’s child-support enforcement. The most recent Census Bureau report found that in 2011 fewer than 50% of single mothers had child-support orders — down from almost 60% in 2003. At least part of this decline reflects the administration’s shifting the focus from helping single parents with children toward helping absent parents who say they can’t afford payments. This is good news for delinquents, but bad news for children already coping with not having two parents at home.
Making absent parents (usually fathers) provide financial help for their children used to have bipartisan support and plenty of media attention. Begun in 1975 and strengthened by the 1996 welfare reform, child-support enforcement is one of the few antipoverty programs that stresses personal responsibility over government dependency. State child-support enforcement agencies — with federal funding — use wage garnishments and other techniques to hold absent parents responsible for contributing financially to the care of their children.
Reimbursing the government for welfare payments to poor single mothers used to be a primary goal. But increasingly the program has shifted from “cost recovery” to distributing the vast majority of collections to families. In 2013, 95% of the $28 billion collected was distributed to custodial parents to help pay for the daily needs of their children and to reduce their need for government assistance. For such families living below the poverty line who receive child support, the income from collections averages 45% of their family income. These numbers make child-support enforcement arguably the most cost-effective antipoverty program, collecting more than $5 for every $1 of administrative cost.
Despite its success, the program has always had critics. In the past especially, orders for monthly child support were often out of line with what some low-income parents could be reasonably expected to pay. Arrearage balances could grow so high that they condemned parents to a lifetime of debt.
Over the years, however, much progress has been made in addressing these problems. Child-support programs have found ways to reduce arrears and to “right size” payment amounts for noncustodial parents who were willing to accept responsibility but had no way of paying excessive arrears or payments. This evolution has not been fast enough for the Obama administration, which is why it has diluted the focus on personal responsibility by emphasizing “arrears forgiveness,” and “discretionary enforcement,” for absent parents.
This also may be why the administration has proposed a major update of federal regulations governing the program—without seeking congressional approval. The administration is expected to announce the final rule this summer, when states will need to comply or face possible sanctions from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Some of the proposed changes are positive. One provision would let state child-support programs use federal child-support funding to implement job-training programs for some of the unemployed parents from whom they are trying to collect. Washington used to tell states not to use child-support funding for jobs programs. The Obama administration has decided to change that.
Other changes are problematic and reflect the administration’s ambivalence about a program that once operated on the principle that paying child support should be like death and taxes—something that cannot be escaped. Federal regulations discouraged child-support programs from categorizing cases as “uncollectable.” The administration’s changes will make it easier to give up on such cases. Since states can earn additional federal funds if their collection rate increases, one way to collect more on a per-case basis is to close the hardest cases. Now states would have an incentive to do so.
Other new provisions would limit the agency’s ability to determine the income of delinquent parents. Some people will go to great lengths to hide, or avoid earning, income that could be used to pay child support. The ability to ask a court to consider what the absent parent could be making, or appears to be making based on his standard of living, gives the authorities a stronger hand with evaders.
Authorities used to have help in this effort under a provision of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which requires single applicants for cash welfare payments to participate in court and administrative proceedings to establish child-support orders. Since the late 1990s, however, the number of TANF recipients has declined dramatically as poor single mothers went to work and sought assistance from other government programs (food stamps, Medicaid, housing help). While some advocates have suggested imposing the child-support requirement on recipients of these other, non-TANF forms of assistance, the administration has shown no interest.
In the past, President Obama has emphasized parental responsibility and the important roles that fathers play in their children’s lives. As White House officials conduct their final review of the proposed new child-support regulations, they would be wise to make the final product match the president’s rhetoric.
Mr. Doar is the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He served as the New York state Child Support Enforcement director from 1995 to 2000.
No, I do not agree with taking away a man's drivers license in order to extract welfare reimbursements. I guess the Democrats like it because it expands the welfare systems, and breeds losers who vote Democrat, and the Republicans like it because it punishes deadbeats and is not considered a tax.
I question whether any man should ever have to pay for a child that he has no say in rearing. I think that the whole system is immoral, because all the incentives are wrong.
"Child-support programs have found ways to reduce arrears and to “right size” payment amounts for noncustodial parents who were willing to accept responsibility but had no way of paying excessive arrears or payments."
"Willing to accept responsibility". In other words, "we'll reduce your payments to something you can actually pay and not put you in prison today IF you will sign this document admitting that you are liable for the full amount and waiving any future right to dispute it."
Yes, being soft on dead-beat dads just means being more practical about extracting money.
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