A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘fear’

The Child Support System Should Support Families, Not Government Coffers

Child support is considered an antipoverty program because it forces noncustodial parents to contribute financially to their children’s care.

dollar bondageBut it also operates as a government cost-recovery strategy by reimbursing states and the federal government for benefits paid to mothers on behalf of children. As such, families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families only receive about a quarter of the child support collected on their behalf. The majority of states keep all child support collected on behalf of these families, and fewer than half allow even a small pass-through of the child support they collect — typically $50 — to go to the child.

Child support orders are also proportionately very high given many men’s low incomes — 70 percent of the national uncollected child support debt is owed by noncustodial parents who have no quarterly earnings or who have annual earnings of less than $10,000.

disabled dadSome fathers pay up to 65 percent of their wages in child support and arrearages to the state. Such a high level of garnishment would severely strain almost any person’s budget, and drives many low-income men into severe poverty or the underground economy.

We now know that many low-income fathers want to contribute financially, but face barriers, including a lack of education and training, lack of employment and employment opportunities, race and class discrimination, criminal records and lack of credentials like a driver’s license, permanent address and previous work history.

Child support will never reach its full potential for providing income for our most vulnerable families without fundamental changes.

Child support payments should be passed through to the custodial parent in their entirety instead of being used to recoup government spending on children.

consentPayments should be set reasonably, with greater flexibility to adjust to the noncustodial parent’s income. Fathers can now request a review, but only if they know their rights and can navigate the judicial process, which the majority do not.

Fathers need to be armed with the training and skills to compete in this global economy so they can support themselves and pay child support. Training and employment supports can be either mandatory or voluntary, but they should be available.

slavery to childrenPunitive methods to coerce a “deadbeat” dad into paying, like incarceration, should only be used in cases where fathers demonstrate that they have the means to pay, but are unwilling to fulfill their obligations, not when they are unable to. The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement itself has said that “the average incarcerated parent with a child support case has $10,000 in arrears when entering state prison, and leaves with $20,000 in arrears. Not only is this debt unlikely to ever be collected, but it adds to the barriers formerly incarcerated parents face in reentering their communities.”

Kenneth Braswell is the executive director of Fathers Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible fatherhood and mentoring.

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The Brilliant Idea From Europe That Could Revolutionize Child Support

by Bryce Covert

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWalter Scott, a father to four children, was shot dead by a police officer later charged with first-degree murder while running away from him. One of the many questions some asked after the news of the shooting broke in the national press was why he might flee such an encounter. His family said it was because he owed so much in unpaid child support. “I believe he didn’t want to go to jail again. He just ran away,” Walter Scott Sr. told the press.

If this is why Scott ran, his fear wasn’t necessarily unfounded. At least one in eight incarcerated South Carolinians were jailed over the last decade after failing to pay child support, and across the country as many as 50,000 parents may end up behind bars for the same reason. This punishment is perhaps the most extreme end of the aggressive measures states use to go after noncustodial parents who don’t pay up, which also include wage garnishment, revoking driver’s and professional licenses, and taking away passports.

captiveBut this strategy doesn’t necessarily help the parents who need child support, usually single mothers, and does little to help the fathers get jobs that pay enough to allow them to send money to their kids. A jailed father can’t earn any income, but his child support debts often keep accruing. Many states don’t allow people to reduce or suspend their child support obligations while they’re in jail, so they end up leaving with $15,000 to $30,000 in debt. They also face a more difficult time finding employment when they get out.

Yet child support is a vital source of income for custodial parents, and single mothers are particularly likely to be poor, with more than 40 percent of them living in poverty. Among poor parents who actually receive child support, it makes up four-tenths of their income. But just 43.4 percent got the full amount they were owed in 2011; on average, parents are owed an unpaid $2,281.

So what could be done to better ensure single mothers get the money they need to help them raise their children while reforming a system that penalizes poor fathers who can’t pay?

black-dadThe best model is likely to be found in Europe. As of 2010, all European countries except the Netherlands guaranteed child support payments to custodial parents even if the noncustodial parent couldn’t pay or could only pay part. Sweden goes even further and has a guaranteed assistance program in which all custodial parents get a child support payment from the government no matter what, and the government then collects what it can from the noncustodial ones. Such a system seems to work — 95 percent of these parents get child support payments. This system “gets you a guaranteed minimum benefit whatever the nonresident father can pay,” explained Irwin Garfinkel, a professor of social work at Columbia University.

He thinks this model could significantly improve the system if the United States were to take the same tactic. “From the perspective of the children, I would say that’s the single most important thing that could be done,” Garfinkel said.

equal justice fraudAny such reform, however, would also have to be paired with changes to how we calculate what noncustodial parents owe. American fathers have the highest obligations among 14 of the richest countries, even if they are poor or unemployed (in eight countries, an unemployed father doesn’t owe anything). The U.S. is one of four that doesn’t exempt some portion of the noncustodial parent’s income for basic living expenses. Only five countries are so extreme as to jail fathers who don’t pay.

Garfinkel proposes making sure the obligation is always a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. “That would protect the fathers,” he said. “If you express the obligations as a percent of income, it would automatically reduce the amount of harassment possible.” If a father has no income coming in, then he wouldn’t be obligated to pay and wouldn’t keep racking up debts as many do now. Mothers would also benefit in the long run, given that even a poor father’s income is likely to eventually increase down the road.

stressed single motherA guaranteed payment program, particularly one that doesn’t always try to recoup the costs from low-income fathers who can’t pay, would not come for free. But Garfinkel thinks the amount would be negligible compared to the benefits reaped. Even if custodial parents were guaranteed a payment as high as $3,000 a year, he estimated it would cost the government about $10 billion. Compared to the overall federal budget, “it’s not a big number and it would make a massive difference,” he argued. Poor mothers would not just have more income to invest in their children, but the stability of steady payments could be even more beneficial for children’s development.

Strangely, part of the American system was meant to act somewhat akin to Sweden’s for the very poorest, but today ends up being counterproductive. When welfare was reformed in the 1990s, one change enacted ensured that if a custodial parent gets benefits from Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), any child support payments from the noncustodial parent are taken by the state, not doled out to the parent. “That was the basic concept of welfare,” explained Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, “that the state would pay public assistance and then collect child support and keep the child support to reimburse itself.”

stingy state 2Today, however, TANF payments are nearly all worth less than they were in 1996 and only reach a quarter of eligible families. Meanwhile, the system usually serves to discourage poor fathers from paying their obligations, given that they know their money isn’t going to actually make it to their children and the families aren’t usually getting an adequate amount of help from the state. As Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator at CLASP, a policy organization for low-income people, put it, “Why on earth would you pay money to go to the state?”

One state, Wisconsin, experimented with changing its program from one where it withholds all child support payments for welfare recipients to now being the only one that directly gives custodial parents most of the support the noncustodial parent pays. In 2006, it evaluated this change and found that it ended up increasing how much noncustodial parents paid and how many custodial parents got support. More states could consider doing the same, but they aren’t incentivized to: they would have to make up for the money they no longer took from child support payments.

rich guyThere are also some efforts across the country to change the way that noncustodial parents’ support obligations are calculated. Currently, when courts hear from a father that he doesn’t have a job or enough money to pay support, some states still calculate the child support payment on his supposed earning capacity or deem that he voluntarily lowered his earnings by taking a lower paying job or even getting fired. And, of course, there is the fact that if a father ends up going to jail over unpaid support, he can still keep accruing debt while he’s there. The Office of Child Support Enforcement proposed changes at the end of last year that would base child support orders on actual earnings and income, not imputed income, and allow incarcerated people to modify their orders rather than treating it as voluntary unemployment.

Some states have also experimented with incarceration diversion programs that would allow noncustodial parents to enter into employment services rather than go to jail. Texas has one of the longest-standing programs, which has increased child support payments and made them more consistent, even after participants leave the program. The challenge, however, is that there isn’t any dedicated funding available to states to create these programs beyond diverting money from the TANF block grant they receive.

Some advocates are aiming higher, however. Jacquelyn Boggess, co-director of the Center for Family Policy and Practice, wants to get rid of the system for the poorest parents altogether. As a paper Irwin Garfinkel co-authored in 2010 notes, “A serious problem with the public child support system is that at its inception, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement viewed itself exclusively as a law enforcement agency. As a result, fathers have been viewed as lawbreakers rather than clients.” The paper recommends shifting it to more of a social welfare agency than simply about the law.

Boggess’ group is pushing a recommendation to fundamentally change this dynamic: “Taking the poorest families out of the child support system and making sure their children get taken care of,” she said. She noted that the way the system works for these families now, both the custodial and noncustodial parents are assumed to be shirking. “Women are shirking [because they] need to get a job, and men are shirking so we put them in jail,” she said. Instead, she wants the system to “stop taking that perspective and take the perspective that they’re like the rest of us, they want to take care of their children.” That would mean instead creating programs for these families that would focus more on giving them a leg up: housing, income support, employment services.

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Scott: Another Victim of Fear & Child Support

reported by Moody Jim Rathbone

A black man (Walter Scott) was shot eight times in the back as he fled in fear from a white police officer (Michael Slager). He did so because he was afraid of being jailed by Bradley Amendment back child support. Video shows a North Charleston, South Carolina, officer apprehending Scott.

The Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston, claims that Mr. Walter Scott had been arrested 10 times for failing to pay Bradley Amendment mandated back child support. He had failed to show up for court hearings.

The family attorney said that the coroner had told him that Mr. Scott was struck a total of five times – three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear – with at least one bullet entering his heart. The story is that all this was the result of a traffic stop. In certain states, men are often taken to jail for nonpayment of child support following a traffic stop. Early news reports indicated that the police officer was in fear for his life. With his hands full of weapons and in pursuit of a fleeing man? Hardly. The video footage shows the reality behind the fatal bullying, as if the officer was doing little more than playing a video game.

murderer-Michael-SlagerScott’s death on Saturday fueled national outrage as an example of continued unjustified killings, another black man vanquished at the hands of police. The killing also highlights the injustice in the child-support enforcement system, which often punishes non-custodial parents who can’t keep up with child support with jail time. This blight of law disproportionately affects African-American men, a debtor’s prison that puts people in jail for something they can’t pay, even when half of a paycheck is being garnished.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has begun an inquiry into the shooting. The F.B.I. and the Justice Department are also investigating the incident.

The child support system in the United States has new blood on its’ hands. Walter Scott was like any other normal American seeking a better life. He had a job and was engaged to be married, after a failed marriage and 4 children. It’s very likely that the ex-wife and government were harassing him in a very large way. Fear of the system was well engrained in him. If the ex-wife was behind the acceleration in harassment, the ex-wife also has his blood on her hands, and now, children that will be on the government dole. Congratulations to Mrs. Scott, his poor children and a hopelessly broken punitive system. My heart goes out to any man, regardless of circumstances, that might be caught in a similar unconstitutional dragnet in this nation’s police state.

Scott-happier-times

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US Residents At War

equal justice fraud
by Moody Jim Rathbone

More and more U.S. citizens are fearful of the judicial system. This is not without cause. Because of corruption and both internal and external corporate exploitation, residents do not have ‘equal protection’ under the law. Except in criminal matters, residents are guilty under proven innocent. That is the inference of the ‘law.’

An inscription on the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. reads: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ Yet, prosecutors are immune to lawsuits while they are performing their jobs, even when they commit illegal acts. (Imbler v Pachtman, 1976)

The reality is that law has become a fluid tool of a ‘fascist state.’  Prosecutors and other agencies commonly file false charges against innocent individuals. In more than 90 percent of criminal cases, prosecutors use extortion by stacking charges in order to force plea bargains. Prosecutors needlessly harass innocent people and use the mainstream media to enhance their cases. Just watch a program like ’48 Hours’ and similar ilk, and you can see the flimsy and whimsy of the cases that pretend to ‘prove’ justice.  In this way, they are able enforce jury pool tampering. They violate rights and break the law with cases that hardly stand up. Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling where case law rules, US residents have had no way to hold them legally accountable. This case law is unlawful and unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped them.

It has been argued that the logic behind this Supreme Court ruling was that it would keep prosecutors from having to defend themselves against unwarranted and frivolous lawsuits. What the ruling accomplished was the creation of an elite class that is above the law and can act without fear of reprisal or accountability. The Supreme Court destroyed a covenant that the Founders held dear. Equal justice, which has always been challenged, no longer exists, nor can it.

From simple traffic tickets to land-use violations to arbitrary fines to false criminal charges, anyone can see that this nation cannot claim to be free – as an elite class remain above the law that they have created to control others.

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Web of Inquisitional U.S. Law Creating Criminals

we the peopleFor decades, Washington D.C. has been adding to the number of federal laws and regulations that carry criminal penalties. Now the number is so high, no one is actually sure how many there are. Experts say practically anyone could be convicted of some sort of federal crime. And it’s all too easy for anyone to violate one of these laws and never know it. Congress has made it dangerous just to be alive in America, never mind whether you are guilty or not. Like federal child support laws, it’s all a matter of inquisition. Common law is dead.

The truth is that anyone can fall prey to overcriminalization. Civil rights have become secondary to the Rule of Law and I don’t mean Common Law. This law certainly isn’t your grandfathers law. [protected] Legal misadventures happened to racing legend Bobby Unser beginning in 1996. Unser went snowmobiling in the Rio Grande National Forest on the border of New Mexico and Colorado.

He and a friend got caught in a blizzard and were stranded for two days and two nights. They barely escaped with their lives. But that was only the beginning of his ordeal. “Bottom line: Don’t trust any government agency,” he warned. “Stand as clear from them as you can. Stay away from them because they’re not there for your good.”

Unser found himself in the middle of a fight with the U.S. Forest Service, facing a possible $5,000 fine and six months in jail for violating The Wilderness Act. The agency accused him of illegally snowmobiling on federally protected land known as “wilderness area.” The racing champ claimed that even if he was in the wilderness area, it was only when he was lost in the snowstorm. With money in the bank and the idea of principle, Unser decided to fight the charge in court.

“Well, I estimate that we probably spent around $300,000, maybe $350,000 would be my guess,” Unser said. As for the government, they spent millions of dollars in their efforts for prosecute Unser. “At the time we went to court, they’d already spent up somewhere around a million dollars. What – it’s the taxpayers money. They didn’t really care how much it cost,” he said.

In the end, he lost and paid a $75 fine. Now the three-time Indy 500 winner has another title to add to his record: He’s been convicted of a federal misdemeanor for getting lost in the wilderness.

Like many others, Unser blames Congress and the men that run it for the growing number of federal laws.

But it’s not just lawmakers who are at fault. Federal agencies not only enforce the laws, but write their own regulations which also carry criminal penalties. With government involved in everything from the environment to employment to health, anyone can easily get caught in the web of federal laws. The numbers prove it. Between 2000 and 2010, close to 800,000 people were sentenced for federal crimes.

Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican – Texas is among a few lawmakers on Capitol Hill sounding the alarm about the disturbing phenomenon, saying that Congress should re-think stiff penalties on simple accounting errors when filing taxes. In the past 20 or 30 years the number of people in jails and prisons in American has gone up almost tenfold because every time you turn around there are new laws.

One solution is for the House Judiciary Committee to oversee any new regulation that carries a criminal penalty, but this may be akin to having another fox to watch the hen house. The attitude behind the penalties is that Congress wants to appear to be tough on crime, including doubling up where state law is sufficient. It wastes money and doesn’t reduce crime. Orwell’s classic book “1984” states the case where fear is predominant and the violation of federal law is likely. There isn’t enough public awareness or outrage! Sadly, this is already because of fear.
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