Guy Fawkes and Child Support Payments in Maryland

A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.

Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)


November Fifth is known in Great Britain as “Guy Fawkes Day,” named in honor of the man who was caught trying to execute a plot to blow up the English Parliament in 1605.

American legislators sometimes neglect to do things so blindingly obvious that Guy Fawkes almost becomes a sympathetic figure!

This year’s candidate for the first Annual Guy Fawkes Award for Legislative Obtuseness (the “AGFALO”) goes to the Maryland Legislature, which just now is considering increasing Maryland’s state guidelines for child support payments – for the first time in twenty years!

According to the story in the Washington Post, Maryland (a) has the highest per capita income in the United States, (b) is forty-first in what parents pay for child support, and (c) obviously has no sense of shame). This affects half a million children in the state. Half a million!

The good news is that they’re considering raising the support payment guidelines; the bad news is that the legislation also contains a provision lowering the support payments for lower income parents!

But the issue is not whether Maryland should raise the payment levels, or should have done so in 2007 when the District of Columbia did. Or whether Virginia “does a better job” since theirs were raised in 1995.

The issue is far simpler than that: Should the vagaries of the legislative calendar and the shifting winds of politics determine whether kids in broken homes get fed? Viewed in this light, it becomes a design of government issue!

What does Maryland have that’s more precious than its children? How will Maryland take care of people who grow up in homes that can’t afford to feed and clothe them, or help them focus on education for the jobs of tomorrow?

Wouldn’t it also help keep families together, and keep the kids on track, if the parents knew in advance  that they faced stiff child support payments?  Those payments must have been a joke for the past ten years!

Now, what could be simpler than INDEXING the guidelines to the Consumer Price Index?  Or some other index that accounts for inflation? Is this so hard? It seems to work well for Social Security, and I bet it works well for the pensions of Maryland’s legislators and staff!

Given that the US Congress has somehow neglected to index the minimum wage, even though some foreign countries and even some of the states have done so, I sometimes wonder. (see this blog, page 33)

Are all legislators both (a) so comfortable within their work lives and (b) so worried about possibly getting divorced that they can’t see the damage they are doing to our image of effective government, much less the harm that’s done to poor individuals and the future of America?

For he’s a jolly AGFALO; For he’s a jolly AGFALO; For he’s a jolly AGFALO — Which nobody can deny!


[BTW, enforcing the child support payments is also a major problem that is not addressed here, nor is it addressed well in Maryland or elsewhere.]


ADDENDUM: I attended a public meeting about the proposed child support guideline revisions, and was subsequently quoted in the Annapolis Capitol newspaper.

One thought on “Guy Fawkes and Child Support Payments in Maryland

  1. It’s interesting to note that Guy Fawkes was a religious zealot who intended to destroy the government because the king had demonstrated and supported intolerance for Catholics. King James I was seen by Fawkes and his coconspirators as abusive governmental authority who promoted social injustice, hate and discontent.

    There are always people who will disagree with the dominant policy paradigm and who will work to undermine it – sometimes in direct and hostile ways, sometime in subtle, even passive ways. For the body politic and society in general, the more obvious the conflicts are better, healthier, than quiet, unnoticed, resistance. Unfortunately what we must guard against is the subtle stuff.

    Philip K. Dick wrote in A Scanner Darkly: “If you want to bring down the establishment, don’t blow up buildings. Blowing up buildings lets them know that they have an enemy. It is better to chip away at the foundations a little at a time until the buildings fall.” I would submit that the “failure” of the Maryland Legislature isn’t a failure at all; it is a manifestation of a new mind-frame about the role of government. Nearly 30 years after the Reagan Revolution, it appears that New-Deal/Great-Society liberalism is crumbling. We, Liberals, thought we had survived the great assault. We saw some buildings blown up and thought the war was over. What we failed to notice was that our children, our fellow countrymen and, indeed, we ourselves had grown to accept the logic born from the seeds of the conservative Counter-Revolution. I call it the Counter-Revolution because it was designed to undo the principles of the American Revolution that are most important to our wellbeing as a society.

    What the Counter-Revolutionaries have succeeded in doing is replacing the fundamental organizing principle of our society with a pale, shallow and largely meaningless concept. The Founding Fathers had maintained that “ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL AND ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH UNALIENABLE RIGHTS.” That idea, that equality is the original and preferred state of humanity was huge. The idea that there are human rights that cannot be taken and cannot even be given away was huge. But today, we talk about “freedom” not equality as the highest of political principles. When freedom becomes the benchmark those with power are justified in oppressing those without . . . all they are doing is maximizing their God-given freedom. When equality is the central political principle of a society, then government and the governed rightly focus on justice and balance – no man can become master and no man can be made slave.

    Unfortunately, The Right has convinced us that freedom is more important than equality. The King of England had said so too; he maintained that it was just and right that he had more freedom than a commoner did because he deserved it. Eighteenth Century American Liberal realized that freedom can only be maximized for the majority of people when every person is guaranteed legal equality. American Liberalism was built around the idea that justice demands an acknowledgement of and respect for the inherent dignity of every individual. When “freedom” becomes more important that the grounding principle of “equality” we set the stage for neglect and excess — Maryland and Madoff.