The hidden half of domestic violence
How to have eternal life
ACFC ANALYSIS -
Subversion of Fatherhood in Senate Bill 653
Thanks to Anna Franks for a copy of Senator Evan Bayh's Bill 653, the `Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2001'. President Bush has supported this bill, it already has limited bi-partisan support, and it appears to represent what is coming down the pike from the fantasyland of our great leaders inside the Beltway. While in some ways it represents a marginal improvement on current family policy, it does not address the core issues, and has such serious defects that on balance, we believe it will do more harm than good in its current form.
The full text is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/c107query.html, then enter in "S. 653" in the "Search" section. We will comment on a few of the positive and negative aspects below, and conclude with recommendations for a real fatherhood program, if the government ever wants to get serious about reversing the decline of American families.
After what has now become obligatory lip service to the importance of fathers in the "Findings" section, such as that the 25,000,000 children (now 36% of American children) who grow up without their fathers are: (A) 5 times more likely to live in poverty; (B) more likely to bring weapons and drugs into the classroom; (C) twice as likely to commit crime; D) twice as likely to drop out of school; (E) twice as likely to be abused; (F) more likely to commit suicide; (G) more than twice as likely to abuse alcohol or drugs; and (H) more likely to become pregnant as teenagers, plus (7) Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers, the "Findings" proceed to their real agenda with a wildly inflated claim from the fantasyland of the cult religion of the "domestic violence movement" with Finding (8):
(8) Between 20 and 30 percent of families in poverty are headed by women who have suffered domestic violence during the past year and between 40 and 60 percent of women with children receiving welfare were abused sometime during their life."
According to the 1985 National Family Violence Survey of the National Institute of Mental Health (and confirmed by dozens of similar studies), reality is that overall domestic violence is about 11% by men and 12% by women, with severe violence about 3% by men and 4% by women. Domestic violence is a serious issue whether it happens to men or to women, but wildly exaggerated and one-sided rhetoric, overwhelmingly biased against fathers, belies any pretense of legitimate concern for restoration of the institution of fatherhood in this bill.
With Section (8) above, the supporters of this bill announced early on that they are not yet prepared to deal with the reality on the domestic violence issue, but are willing to subvert a fatherhood bill by pandering the tendentious claims of a cult religion, and disgrace Congress by enacting those false and misleading claims into an Act of Congress. But it gets worse as you dig deeper into this bill.
SECTION 2, (13) - DENIGRATION OF MOTHERS?
Section (13) would establish as law the following bizarre statement, "The promotion of responsible fatherhood and encouragement of married 2-parent families should not-- (A) denigrate the standing or parenting efforts of single mothers or other caregivers." It defies comprehension by a rational mind, how fatherhood can be promoted by enacting false claims of the abusiveness of fathers into law, but anyone who thinks this bill is not actually a "Promotion of Motherhood" bill, should be compelled to explain how fatherhood can be promoted by establishing government censorship of the reality that a minority of mothers can be at least equally abusive, such as the tragedy of the mother who recently murdered her 5 children in Texas.
How can we seek to understand how such a tragedy can happen, if we are not allowed to talk about it, under a gag order imposed by Congress? Everyone knows that "mom and apple pie" are sacred cows in Congress, but if we are to accept Congressional censorship of anything that might be taken as critical of some mothers, why not also make it a crime to denigrate apple pie? Where does this end?
Apparently it's fine with the authors of this bill, if Federal funding is used to bash fathers with things like the notorious "Deadbeat Dogs" media campaign now going on in Alabama, but we dare not say anything that might be taken as critical of single mothers. If there was any pretense to promoting fatherhood, or even just establishing gender equality, this bill would ban Federal funding for denigration of single fathers. Reality is that there is no problem for Congress to address, of denigration of single mothers in America. Americans overwhelming bend over backwards to try to understand the most incredible acts by mothers, such as in the story in Texas. When Congress wants to get serious about promoting fatherhood, which this bill does not, it will ban Federal funding for the bigotry and ignorance of denigration of fathers, such as now going on in the Alabama father-bashing "Deadbeat Dogs" campaign.
Right now, this bill is dealing backwards with a non-reality that arises from the paranoid fantasy world of passive-aggressive victim feminism, which seeks to make sure that Federal funding is not used to bash mothers in the same way that they now bash fathers all the time.
SECTION 3 - THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN
Section 3 would establish media campaigns to promote "responsible fatherhood." Here we see the reason with the obsession that Federal funding not be used to denigrate single mothers - namely $25,000,000 a year that will go into fatherhood promotion media campaigns. We also see how jealously the domestic violence movement intents to monitor such campaigns buried in Section 3, 469C, (d), (3):
(3) CONSULTATION WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ASSISTANCE CENTERS- In developing broadcast and printed advertisements to be used in the media campaigns conducted under paragraph (1), the State or other entity administering the campaign shall consult with representatives of State and local domestic violence centers.
Similar "consultation with domestic violence centers" appears in other places in Senate Bill 653. This is where the teeth of the "denigration of single mothers" clause are bared - it is obvious that the purpose is to ensure that if a fatherhood program says anything the domestic violence propagandists don't like, such as repeating the findings of Congress (A) through (H) above, that their funding can be cut off. It is really quite incredible that anyone pretending to the promotion of marriage would support such language. They must have been asleep for thirty years not to be aware that most of the domestic violence cult network is dedicated to the abolition of traditional families by trashing fathers every way they can. In fairness, we note that a few domestic violence centers operate reasonably professional programs that attempt to provide equal services for both men and women. But reality is that most of these centers are hotbeds of radical activism dedicated to family destruction. Mandating "consultation" with ALL such centers amounts to putting fathers under the thumb of those dedicated to their destruction.
At best, some kind of media campaign might be able to be negotiated with local domestic violence centers, but all it could do is produce lip service and pabulum, while failing to address the real issues driving father absence, which all to often are the domestic violence centers themselves. At worst, requiring such "consultation" is a recipe for disaster, and a waste of $25,000,000 taxpayer dollars a year.
Given that economic distress caused by excessive taxation is a major cause of family breakdown, and excessive taxation is caused by the irresponsible way Congress wastes taxpayer dollars on self-defeating programs like this, it would be more honest to change the name of this bill to "The Irresponsible Congress Act of 2001." $25,000,000 may not seem like a lot of money to our great leaders, considering the billions they waste on other programs, but a low income family would be lifted out of poverty for $25,000 a year, so we estimate that the net effect of the money wasted on Section 3 will be another 1,000 families left in grinding poverty by this self-defeating program every year, or 5,000 families over the proposed five year life of the program. Even more families could be saved if Federal funding was banned for father- denigrating programs such as Alabama's. But instead this bill actually perpetrates father-bashing by trying to maintain the propaganda myths of the cult "domestic violence" movement, as "official truth."
SECTION 4 - FATHERHOOD BLOCK GRANTS
Calling for $50 million a year, Section 4 is the heart the bill, and we believe that some good programs could be structured under Section 4, especially if the same defect calling for "consultation" with DV centers was eliminated here. Although government job training programs have never been very effective, we believe that it is a step in the right direction to offer services to low-income fathers on an equal basis with low-income mothers, for "job search, job training, subsidized employment, job retention, job enhancement", etc. Even if the blatant agenda of this program is simply to prop up low-income fathers until they can pay child support, it is far better to offer some kind of help, than just continue beating up on such fathers. In some cases that might be all that is needed to enable some fathers to resume at least a marginal role in their children's lives.
But anyone who thinks this is a serious fatherhood bill, should consider the fine print at Section 4, 469D, (d), (D), (6), to wit:
(6) RESTRICTIONS ON USE. - No amount allotted under this section may be used for court proceedings on matters of child visitation, or child custody, or for legislative advocacy.
Despite some $400 million allotted to legal assistance for single mothers, included in the $3.5 billion flooding into the cult religion of the "domestic violence" movement under the recently enacted Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), section (6) guarantees that low-income fathers won't get a penny to balance the scales of justice. When Sections 3 and 4 are considered together, the net effect of Senate Bill 653 is a propaganda program to try to guilt-trip fathers into trying to being "responsible", and enticing fathers with a phony "government jobs" program, but without offering the slightest assistance establishing the rights that are inherently linked to responsibility, while assuring that this entire phony program stays firmly under the thumb of radical feminism.
One of the dead give-aways of the conceptual absurdity that underlies this bill, is buried in fine print in Section 4, 469D, (d), (2), (A), "Responsible fatherhood programs include ... teaching on how to control aggressive behavior." Quite aside from the fact that "anger management" is not among the Powers of Congress in the Constitution, Congress really ought to ask itself why so many millions of people are angry about current government family policy that it would even occur to Congress to malfunction by including this language in a bill before it in the first place. If Congress really wants to "control aggressive behavior", a good place to start would be to repeal the blatant discrimination of VAWA, and replace it with a gender neutral Domestic Violence Act that would end the destabilizing effects on families of the tyranny of crackpot victim feminism.
The best thing we can say for this program, is that at least it does not prohibit funding for frontal lobotomies, because that's the only way we see that fathers could be happy putting their necks on a chopping block, and entrusting their fate to those dedicated to their destruction. Given its focus on low-income inner city fathers, this bill amounts to deceitful 21st Century version of Uncle Tom racism that will keep fathers down on the farm picking cotton, with no right to be in the family at all.
SECTION 5 - A NATIONAL CLEARINGHOUSE?
Section 5 would appropriate $10 million over 5 years to establish a "National Clearinghouse" for the planned Media Campaign. It doesn't openly say what organization would be eligible for this $10 million windfall, but defines it as a "nationally recognized nonprofit fatherhood promotion organization" with at least 4 years experience in designing and implementing a national public education campaign, with an emphasis on "promoting married fatherhood as the ideal." Given that the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has been heavily involved in pushing Senate Bill 653, a lot of people might argue that NFI is not actually engaged in promoting fatherhood, but everybody inside the Beltway knows that NFI is the planned beneficiary for this $10 million windfall from the long-suffering taxpayer.
Incredibly, Section 5 provides that the "nationally recognized nonprofit fatherhood promotion organization" shall "coordinate the media campaign . . . with a national, State, or local domestic violence program." Given the obscure and ambiguous language of this bill, it's hard to say exactly what the Beltway bandits are up to this time. It's even harder to believe that anyone at NFI is foolish enough to think that they will buy "peace in their time", by trying to appease the National Organization of Women with this kind of language. If anyone at NFI imagines that they can promote marriage by jumping in bed with an organization whose leader openly states, "The truth of our lives is coming out as lesbians", they have the same hard lesson to learn that Neville Chamberlain learned at Munich trying to appease Hitler. For ourselves, we can only state that ACFC will have nothing to do with the deceitful and manipulative aggression against fathers and families of Senate Bill 653, unless and until the objectionable parts indicated above are eliminated.
CONCLUSION - A REAL FATHERHOOD PROGRAM
When Congress decides to get serious about dealing with the crisis of American families, it will enact several measures that ACFC has long advocated, and that do not require throwing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at a problem that has been largely created by the anti-father prejudice, ignorance and bigotry of previous hundreds of billions that have already been wasted in decades of the war on fathers. Almost all that is really needed to re-establish the stability of families, is equal protection and due process of law for both parents of every child, married or not, without any new appropriations at all.
1) ESTABLISH A REALISTIC GOAL OF CHILD SUPPORT. Sound management sets a realistic goal and establishes an effective plan that will actually accomplish the goal. The child support system has consistently failed to achieve its goal, in part because the goals are unrealistic. Most states under the influence of the "Income Shares" child support model, define the goal of child support as "to achieve the same standard of living that children would have enjoyed if the family was intact." While this sounds reasonable on the surface, a moment of thought reveals a conceptual flaw that we believe lies at the root of all the disasters that follow the Income Shares model. It is a law of economic gravity that two families cannot live as cheaply as one. If an absent parent is expected to support a custodial household at the same level they would if the family was intact, all too often there is NOTHING LEFT for the absent parent to live on. We believe that Federal government must accept that divorce and unmarried parentage have an inevitable negative effect on the standard of living of children, and insist as a condition of Federal subsidies, that each state define the goal of child support as "providing a standard of living comparable to that of non-intact families whose parents are in comparable economic circumstances." The unrealistic "Murphy Brown" myth that divorce and unmarried parentage are "value free choices", must be eliminated as a basis of public policy. This proposal would require no new appropriations to implement.
2) HOLD BOTH PARENTS EQUALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAYMENT OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE. All charitable and humane societies provide assistance to the poor, and our society must do so too. However, one of the bizarre features deeply entrenched in our current system, is that one parent typically applies for assistance that they have no obligation to repay, but the government attempts to recover this money from someone else who usually had nothing to do with the request for public assistance. One of the best ways to discourage unnecessary applications for public assistance, would be to hold the parent who applies for it, equally responsible with the other parent for eventual repayment. This would also greatly increase the chance of eventual repayment of public assistance. This proposal would require no new appropriations to implement.
3) ENFORCE QUADRENNIAL REVIEW PROCEDURES States are currently required to review their child support guidelines at least every four years to assure that they are fair and reasonable, and that child support awards are appropriate, but there is no penalty for failing to conduct an acceptable review. We have seen state review panels admit that there is no rational basis for their guideline, particularly for the Income Shares guidelines, but simply continue to use these flawed guidelines. We believe that the Federal government must set criteria for acceptable guidelines, and establish penalties for states that fail to meet acceptable criteria. This would require minimal administrative costs, and quite likely be revenue positive because of penalties, while increasing the fairness of child support guidelines.
4) BLOCK GRANT CHILD SUPPORT SUBSIDIES. We believe that many of the horror stories of false claims are caused by the current misguided incentive program that rewards states for collecting false claims. We note that "percentage" or "cost plus" incentive systems are recognized as inherently unethical in most professional fields, and believe that they have the same effect here. We believe that the current incentive systems should be replaced by a block grant program based on current expenditures that would stabilize current programs, and provide an incentive to efficiency, instead of an incentive to collect every last claim, whether or not it is fair and reasonable, or even lawful. A block grant program at current levels would be revenue neutral for now, and as the crisis of families subsides from other measures, it should eventually be revenue positive.
5) ELIMINATE CONFLICTS-OF-INTEREST. A number of private companies are now engaged in providing both child support guideline consulting and collection services. There is an inherent conflict-of-interest between being involved in influencing guidelines, and profiting from collections based on those guidelines. We believe that the Federal government should establish a policy that it will not contract with any company or individual for child support consulting services, nor will it reimburse states for doing so, if that company or individual is also engaged in, or has a business interest in, providing child support collection services. This proposal would require no new appropriations to implement.
6) PROSECUTE FRAUD IN FALSE CLAIMS. The ACFC Child Support Survey of over 2,000 non-custodial and non- custodial parents, confirming similar press reports and state audits, indicates up to a 54% error rate in child support claims. Causes range from clerical errors to what appear to be over-zealous or cultic ideological motivations. Whatever the cause, with increasingly automated seizures, it is an extremely serious situation when a parent cannot get an error corrected without making a Federal case of it, as is all too often case, because any seizure outside due process of law, undermines confidence in the legitimacy of government upon which social order depends. We note that when an over-zealous bureaucrat inflates collection claims to "qualify" for increased Federal incentive payments, this amounts to a fraud on the taxpayer in violation of 18 USC 242. A block-grant program per (4) above would eliminate most of the incentive to defraud the taxpayer, but we must recognize that empire-building bureaucrats will always be with us, and fraud that is also a crime against parents will never be entirely eliminated. Millions of American fathers have fought and died to defend the principles of limited representative government that made America great, but this nation will not long endure if it betrays that dedication and sacrifice by allowing fathers to be deprived of their property without due process of law. Whatever the cost of maintaining the principle that law applies to the rulers as well as the ruled, the cost of not maintaining the rule of law against a cult ideology motivated by old-fashioned greed and envy is certainly far greater. Fair and reasonable child support must be paid when due, but this policy must be balanced by strict due process of law, or the millions of family disasters that we have already seen will be magnified into total a national meltdown.
7) ADOPT PRESUMPTIVE 50-50 SHARED PARENTING. The Supreme Court has often held that a right to the care, custody and nurture of our children is one of the most fundamental liberty rights, and cannot be abridged without a showing of compelling state interest. The sole mother custody model of divorce, with visitation and child support by the father, is not inherently unworkable. It could and does work tolerably well in about 50% of cases where child support is fair and reasonable, and where the mother has sufficient emotional maturity and sense of responsibility to her children to facilitate visitation, and to resist temptations offered by minions of the courts and social service agencies that have grown up around the sole mother custody model of divorce. Reality is that although the "tender years" doctrine was long ago found unconstitutional, it survives sub rosa, rationalized as a "primary care-giver" doctrine. This blind prejudice is as open as ever to exploitation by those who would sabotage parent/child relationships to their own empire-building advantage. Theoretically, the sole mother custody model of divorce could work, but if the last thirty years have proven nothing else, it is that is that in millions of cases, once Humpty-Dumpty has been knocked off the wall, all the king's horses and men cannot put a father back in his child's life again in a meaningful way. We may need a revolution in our thinking comparable to overturning the "separate but equal" doctrine in public education, but we believe that it is long past time to recognize that if we truly want parental equality, we must establish the principles of equality of rights and responsibilities of a presumption of 50-50 shared parenting to the greatest extent practical, as the fall-back position of law, if the parents themselves cannot agree otherwise. The best way that the Federal government could take the lead in establishing equality in the family, without any new appropriations, would be to mandate adoption of a rebuttable presumption of 50- 50 shared parenting as a condition of Federal assistance to state social service programs, and to enforce penalties to the extent that states fail to achieve equality of rights and responsibilities in support of our children.
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JUNE is Domestic Violence Against Men Awareness Month