You Didn't Pay Child Support? We'll Make it Harder for You to Work
By David Henderson
“No one benefits from making it more difficult for an individual who owes money to make money.”
When I teach my Cost-Benefit course, I give out a problem set early in each quarter in which one of the questions is the following:
Name an activity that the government is currently engaged in that you think should be eliminated and give your reasons why. Or name an activity that the government is currently engaged in that you think should be kept and give your reasons why. Or name an activity that the government is not currently engaged in that you think the government should be engaged in and give your reasons why.
My goal is to get a quick read of how the students make an argument, bring evidence to bear, etc., and then to give quick feedback. Early in October, one of my students gave the following answer and I got her permission to post it without naming her. I’ve edited it slightly. Here it is:
President Obama has introduced several ideas during his presidency for increasing job opportunities, but many of them require increased spending by the federal government. One of my own ideas would require a change in state legislation and no additional outlays or additional tax credits.
In many states, people who owe back child support are at risk of losing their driver’s licenses as well as their professional licenses. My brother has fallen into this trap several times over the past 5-10 years. Curiously, when his driver’s license was suspended, he was denied several jobs due to his being “irresponsible” and not being able drive a vehicle. This is an obvious Catch 22 because, without a job, he cannot pay the child support or pay to reinstate his license, and he will continue to be unemployed, which, in turn, leads to lost revenue for the federal government. Although my brother has never made much money, if he had been a lawyer or doctor and lost his practicing license due to back child support, the lost revenue would have been even greater.
The government should remove this punishment for failure to pay child support. No one benefits from making it more difficult for an individual who owes money to make money. According to Wikipedia, 1,372 drivers’ licenses were revoked in Tennessee in 2000. These individuals “owed more than $13 million of back child support.”
I am not an expert in state law for child support nor do I know who pays what. In the case of my brother, I know the mother was still paid a portion even though he failed to make the payments. From my knowledge, the state paid her.
Suspending a driver’s license has adverse effects on the individual who owes money, the custodial parent, and whoever is paying the back child support (whether it be the state or federal government). Many custodial parents rely on child support payments, and when their income falls because they are not receiving the money, the federal government loses money in two ways: first by losing the income tax revenue the custodial and non-custodial parents would have been making and second, by having to provide benefits (unemployment, WIC, etc.)
With our current economic situation, the government should focus its attention on removing federal and state rules and regulations that are counterproductive. Changing state legislation on child support laws would not wholly correct our situation, but it would at least help people obtain and keep jobs. As noted earlier that would ultimately increase the government’s revenue and decrease some of the expenses that the governments pay in unemployment and welfare benefits.