A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.
—Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)
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.