April 4, 2010
Conservatives shocked by National Health Care should be aware that many of the legal foundations for it were actually established by conservatives in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWOWA – H.R. 3734). PRWOWA was the result of the “family values” agenda defined in the “Contract With America,” which brought about the Republican landslide of 1994.
“Family Values” was a heartwarmingly captivating idea sold on a combination of moral values and slogans appealing to women, for which conservatives had no meaningful social policies to execute. After assuming power in 1994, legislation led by Newt Gingrich and Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson focused on getting government “off the welfare hook” without regard for wise pro-marriage social policy thinking of the day.
The two most important goals of welfare reform – reversing the trend of out-of-wedlock births and improving marriage rates -- went addressed or were fully contravened by PRWOWA. The two remaining goals of welfare reform -- reducing the number of women on welfare rolls and improving child support collections – became the primary goal. PRWOWA served but one obvious purpose: to convert welfare assistance into child-support entitlements.
The consequences of PRWOWA are nothing to brag about – which is why Bill Clinton claimed to have invented it after passage. Today, illegitimacy is at record levels. Marriage rates are static while cohabitation rates have increased dramatically. Poverty rates for single mothers and children have grown. Health care coverage was a major problem for unmarried individuals until two weeks ago.
PRWOWA transformed the welfare problem of the 1990’s into a much larger problem of truly uncollectible child support (we cannot take from the poor to give to the poor). Women are forced to work, and more children are raised by day care centers or a drug dealer down the street. Poor men must support two households or face imprisonment.
Until two weeks ago, PRWOWA was the greatest expansion of the Great Society since its creation by Lyndon Baines Johnson. Out of thin air, Republicans invented a monolithic hybrid federal-state apparatus entitling everything except marriage at the demise of marriage.
The most shocking aspects of PRWOWA were changes to federal law recently borrowed by powerful Democrat feminists, whose primary goal for decades has been to destroy marriage (and more recently to make health care the latest pan-feminist Federalist enterprise).
I urgently warned ranking Republicans that PRWOWA would be counterproductive and harm conservatives in the future, but they failed to listen. Had they done the right things, the foundations for Obama’s health care initiative would not already be settled law, and challenges to National Health Care would perhaps have much stronger footing.
Elements of PRWOWA in National Health Care
Here are just a few of the most disturbing changes in federal law conservatives created in PRWOWA that essentially came full-circle to power national health care:
• A state-level debt levied on an individual through no action of his (or her) own became a federal debt collectable by the IRS. No-fault divorce makes marriage the only contract at law that can be unilaterally terminated to the automatic benefit of the party terminating the Agreement. The tremendous array of federal entitlements for non-marriage, combined with child support entitlements, drives the culture of non-marriage and is scaring individuals away from marriage.
• Child support, which is a state-level debt, became a federalized debt under the I.C.C., despite the fact that few child support orders are against individuals in different states and that it is not an interstate commercial activity.
• No caps or checks and balances were placed on what states can order for child support or how they can be levied against other federal benefits such as disability payments. Federal incentives propelled states to maximize child support orders rather than ensuring they are appropriate given the periodic income of obligers. States were not required to adjust child support orders for individuals unable to earn the ordered amount of support. Today, millions of individuals are in prison solely because the economy collapsed and they are unable to earn what some welfare-state bureaucrat ordered them to earn. Those who are not in prison have moved into the exploding underground economy of crime, meth labs, drug smuggling, internet fraud, and other informal cash activities costing billions in losses, imprisonment, and interdiction expenses.
• States were required to withhold driver’s licenses, business, and other licenses for individual s having any amount of support more than six months overdue (FIFO basis of accounting). Passports were also cancelled. During economic downturns, individuals unable to quickly find equivalent re-employment have their means to acquire employment and get to work procedurally denied. This created an unconstitutional procedural trap in which government denies individuals the tools required to relieve the criminal situation they have been placed often through no action of their own. Small businesses are being eviscerated by this requirement.
• A massive federal system connected at the hip to subservient state-level Title IV-D agencies was invented. These hybrid federal-state agencies have sole powers to impute child support and collect it with powers far exceeding anything the IRS has ever enjoyed. This creation was a massive abridgement of the separation of powers and fraught with conflicts of interest. There is no meaningful Appeal of child support orders.
• Hybrid quasi-judicial agencies created in PWROWA are Original machinery operating at both federal and state levels, and accountable to neither. Due process appeals to federal courts are often denied for lack of jurisdiction. State courts defer to decisions made by tribunals or dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.
• States were required to implement federalized computer systems to track all individuals nationally and to collect child support. All child support became subject to a criminal enforcement apparatus and automatically intercepted.
• Corporations were required to collect these private debts via payroll deductions. Businesses become liable for debts they fail to collect. State agencies were empowered to seize business assets and dispose of them to satisfy child support obligations, regardless of how outrageous the obligations are. This is another element killing small business in America.
• Corporations were required to report “new hires” to Title-IV agencies to track individuals and collect personal debts.
• Judicial powers were conflated and given to state Administrative agencies. Administrative “tribunals” conduct judicial proceedings under lax expedited procedures to establish paternity and determine or modify child support orders. This is a conflict of interest and a fantastic abridgement of the Separation of Powers doctrine: a single agency makes the judgments it also collects. Tribunal proceedings are normally held telephonically at a location hundreds of miles away from the individual the proceeding is against – making introduction of documents, cross-examination of witnesses, and observation of witnesses demeanor impossible. This is a violation of long held due-process requirements requiring Hearing in the jurisdiction of the Respondent/Defendant.
• States were required to create “putative father” registries. They are actually “sexual intercourse registries” destroying parental rights. A man who fails to notify the state in writing that he had intercourse with a woman prior to birth of a child has no standing to file for custody upon birth of that child. The adoption industry wanted this to create an explosion of expedited adoptions earning private agencies approximately $25,000 per child.
• A combination of large stimulus funding and penalties was applied to purchase docile pass-through legislation at the state level and overrun complaints of those objecting to constitutional and procedural issues.
PWOWRA begat conservative losses after 1998
Republicans would not have lost the women’s vote, and Barack Obama would never have been elected if the majority of serious problems experienced by unmarried mothers and children had been resolved by rebuilding marriage in 1996. The grassroots would not have nervously sat out the last four elections as disaffected Independents, and conservatives would not have lost the House and Senate.
Now is the time for the Party to pick itself up, learn the lessons of the past 15 years, and move forward with Marriage Values policy. The Tea Party grassroots is too independent and intelligent to fall for cattle calls from faces who do not give a hoot about social policy and would do self-defeating things if elected.
The present cast of characters lined up for 2012 would simply give social policy committee chairmanships to the next generation of Paul Wellstones and Joe Bidens, handing liberals yet another landslide a few years down the road. The long history of creeping big-government football will end either with a “Marriage Values” awakening or the eventual collapse of a completely bankrupt America.
Setting Things Right with Marriage Values
America cannot afford another faux conservative revolution that will only leave us in a deeper dilemma a decade from now. Economic conservatives (who have long believed that social policy is harmless hobby keeping liberal ninnies and feminists preoccupied) must take control of social issues and join the Marriage Values revolution. Conservatives must work with us to produce better policy than ninnies and feminists do. I can say from personal experience this is not difficult to do.
Economic conservatives must fully understand that it is not possible to concurrently enjoy a robust economy, a balanced budget, and low taxation absent execution of active “trickle down” social policy. It is furthermore impossible to restore natural fundamental rights, sustainable communities, balanced budgets, a law-abiding nation, and free-willed personal responsibility absent the re-establishment of heterosexual marriage as the protected social norm.
Strong positive social policy positions are required to win the women’s vote. Candidates would be eminently wise to take up “Marriage Values” for the 2008 elections.
Marriage Values policies to be published publicly in the future by the Center for Marriage Policy are the foundation for a landslide fully capable of delivering what America wants and needs. There are eight simple and doable policies we must execute. The rest will take care of itself.
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David R. Usher is Legislative Analyst for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition and is a co-founder and past Secretary of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.