The original argument used to justify the implementation of government-enforced child support policies is a simple one: the citizens comprising society at large should not be required to support (via welfare, paid for with taxes) the children of other citizens. In essence, the idea is that single mothers depending on welfare handouts to survive are a financial problem for the state. Therefore, the fathers in these cases should be paying child support to reimburse the state for, or remove the need for, welfare expenditures. This idea is what got the whole process started.
This, of course, has morphed into the massive governmental child support enforcement machine we know and love today, with all its lovely denials of due process and erosion of civil rights. In all the righteous furor surrounding the ever more rabid hunt for deadbeat dads, there’s a calm and direct question that seems to be repeatedly overlooked. That question: Is it worth it?
Plain, simple, direct: has government-enforced child support achieved its goal? Ultimately, there are two scales that need to be compared to answer this question.
Scale 1: Add up the costs required for government enforcement of child support
-Salaries for state workers employed for child support enforcement
-Facilities costs for offices, utilities, IT assets, etc
-Administrative costs for running Family Courts at higher capacities to deal with child support cases
-Federal matching funds provided to states to incentivize aggressive pursuit of child support cases
-Welfare expenses paid in those cases where non-custodial income garnishment is insufficient to avoid welfare
-Costs to incarcerate noncustodial parents unable to pay, under ‘contempt of court’
-Miscellaneous expenses as discovered
Scale 2: Add up the costs required in the absence of child support
-Welfare costs for all child support cases that would require welfare
I ultimately have no idea what the result would be, having neither the time nor the expertise to perform this sort of investigative journalism on my own. As a taxpaying citizen, though, I’d be curious to know if the extravagant child support enforcement machine that we have built over the decades has actually saved me any money, or if I’ve avoided paying the bill for someone else’s children by paying an even larger bill to avoid it. Maybe some intrepid souls out there are brave enough to take up the challenge; or perhaps the state agencies involved will decide that it is in their best interest to show why they should continue to exist. Ultimately, the challenge is the same: justify your existence.