Carey Roberts
August 14, 2007
Newark triple-murder reveals need for fathers
By Carey Roberts

"Enough is enough," thundered Newark mayor Cory Booker at Saturday's funeral of Dashon Harvey. The weekend before Dashon, age 20, and two of his friends had been forced to kneel against a wall at a nearby school playground and shot in the head, execution-style.

Dashon had been a student at Delaware State University, eventually hoping to become a social worker.

City Journal commentator Steven Malanga reveals the social pathology that lies behind those murders: "An astonishing 60 percent of the city's kids are growing up without fathers ... Studies have also found that about 70 percent of the long-term prisoners in our jails, those who have committed the most violent crimes, grew up without fathers." []

Just hours before Mayor Booker was venting his outrage, Robert Pedersen, divorced father of two, was preparing to depart on a 700-mile bicycle trek from Lansing, Michigan to Washington, DC. His objective: to share his story at an August 18 rally in honor of Family Preservation Day. []

As Pedersen was set to leave on his journey, he lamented, "I was not able to say goodnight to my children last night because the phone was never picked up despite a total of 4 calls. All I wanted to do was to hear their voice before having to leave on such a long and intense journey."

Kids yearn for the love and discipline of their fathers, and dads long to be with their children. So where on the road to a kinder, gentler society did things begin to go a-kilter?

The wellspring of the problem can be traced to the advent of no-fault divorce, relaxed sexual mores that gave rise to out-of-wedlock births, and the legacy of Great Society programs that diminished father's roles.

And a recent report by political scientist Stephen Baskerville reveals powerful incentives have now become rooted in the system. [] These inducements stymie reform and place families at risk.

The problem starts at the top with the Office for Child Support Enforcement, the federal bureaucracy that awards grants to states that propel the gears of their child support enforcement machinery.

Remember we're talking about a squeezing-blood-out-of-a-turnip problem — few low-income dads have the skills or job opportunities to make their child support payments. So revoking their fishing licenses and throwing them in jail becomes an exercise in social do-gooding that is more symbol than substance.

If our child support collection effort was working, the revenues collected from obligated parents should exceed the program's expenses. But they don't. According to a 2003 report from the House Ways and Means Committee, taxpayers actually lost $2.7 billion in 2002.

The OCSE sweetens the deal by dangling juicy incentives that are tied to the level of child support dollars collected. For example in 2002, child support programs brought $640 million to California and $228 million to Ohio.

It's those incentives that have made the system so destructive to families.

If fathers are awarded 50% custody of their children, they owe little or nothing in child support. If no child support dollars are channeling through the system, then the federal money dries up. This creates an inducement for states to keep children away from their fathers as much as possible.

The system has become so corrupted that bureaucrats brazenly speak out in its defense. Last year North Dakota citizens were debating a bill to promote shared parenting.

Then Department of Human Services head Carol Olson did her Chicken Little routine, claiming — falsely — that the state would lose $71 million in federal payments. Olson was saying in so many words that a father's love counts for less than being able to suckle on the federal teat.

The end result is a dissolution of the family and an unraveling of the social order. Of course that creates the demand for more welfare programs. As former Administration for Children and Families head Secretary Wade Horn explained, "My agency spends $46 billon per year operating 65 different social programs. The need for each is either created or exacerbated by the breakup of families and marriages."

So we're talking about a federal program that costs billions of dollars a year, fails to recover its own expenses, elbows dads out of the picture, subjects single moms to the vagaries of state-enforced neo-paternalism, harms children, and eventually rends the social fabric of our nation.

So as Robert Pedersen peddles into Washington and does a triumphant loop around the DC mall, the question remains, Will federal lawmakers take heed of the senseless tragedy of Dashon Harvey and his grieving parents?

© Carey Roberts


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Carey Roberts

Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and radical feminism... (more)

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