Monthly Archives: June 2008

also in the mailbag

Nothing makes any sense any more. This is the rabbit hole, and I’ve fallen down it. There is not one single thing that cannot be screwed up by the government if you simply give them a task and ask them to complete it. “Take your time,” you say, “use all available personnel, set up a task force, think about it from all angles, and ask for outside advice if necessary.” The outcome will be the same as if you asked a bunch of chimps to randomly hit buttons on a computer keypad and printed out the result.

Here’s an example from my mail. A letter from the state’s child support enforcement unit to me as a recipient of (occasional) child support. I know it’s to me because it is addressed to Child Support Recipient – hey, that’s me, by golly! The state has decided that they must charge a fee for the services they render by collecting due, or past due, child support from delinquent parents. In my case, it’s Way Past Due child support which is being paid off in fits and starts; hell, the support arrearages are my retirement plan. Let’s call these delinquent parents “Dads”, for the sake of simplicity, since 90 % of child support is due from the male half of the population. Now, the “Moms”, or recipients of said support, only get involved with the support enforcement unit if the Dads aren’t paying voluntarily and must be forced to by court action. Furthermore, most of the Moms are using the support enforcement unit because they can’t afford attorneys to sue the Dads privately. The poor Mom appeals to the unit, has the case heard and, assuming they can find the guy, the unit sets a monthly amount and begins collecting it from the Dad, usually in the form of wage garnishment. The money collected is converted to a check mailed to the Mom and the unit keeps track of monies due (and past due) in behalf of the Mom.

It would all work pretty well, except that the Dads tend to change jobs a lot or spend long periods of time unemployed or being paid under the table, all of which make it difficult to keep track of them. These are not guys inclined to pay child support in the first place; that’s why the Moms had to resort to the enforcement unit. I have used the unit for a LOOONG time and can say with all truthfulness that another problem with enforcement is that the unit employees tend to be all-trusting with the information they get from the delinquent parent. The delinquent parent can go to a hearing and say anything at all in response to questions like, “Where do you work?” or “Where do you live?” – none of the information is verified that I’ve ever seen and this means that we get to have another hearing in a few months when the garnishment order goes to the – surprise! – wrong employer.

About ten years ago, I wrote a letter to the then-governor of Md., my local representatives, the child support enforcement unit, and my caseworker, suggesting that the delinquent Dads be made to actually pay the fines they are threatened with when they give faulty information or move or change jobs without notifying the court. It would not only encourage the payment of child support, but would help off-set the state’s expense in collecting the support. I’ve never heard of anyone actually having to pay the 250 dollar fine that is mentioned in the paperwork one fills out in child support court. (Once, while I was in court waiting for my ex to show up, I mentioned the fine to my caseworker, who responded, “There’s a fine for this?” I had to show him the paperwork he had just handed me. He did not remark on the fine to my ex, who was being hauled to court for the 6th time at that point for changing jobs and/or moving without notification to the court.) I wrote that another idea to get some off-set to the financial burdens of the state would be to charge interest on the amounts in arrearages. I mean, what other debt can a person run up without incurring interest? If the guy knew he’d be paying interest, he’d be quicker to pay the full amount in a timely fashion, and heck, if he doesn’t, let him keep paying into the child support unit until he’s 80 to pay off the interest. At least the state wouldn’t have to pay their expenses out of tax-payer pockets, but would have a self-sustaining enforcement unit. Just a modest rate of interest would garner a reasonable amount of money for the state.

I never got an answer to my letters. Unless the letter addressed to “Child Support Recipient” is it. The support unit has decided they need to collect a fee of $25 annually to help cover the expenses of searching for delinquent parents and managing funds for the recipients. This fee will be – choose one –  a) added to the delinquent parent’s back child support owed and counted as arrearages to be eventually paid off, or b) charged to the recipient of the child support by deducting $25 from one of the checks sent to her during the year.

Did you pick response a? Perhaps you were thinking that it’s the jerk who refused to pay child support and hid from his responsibilities, thus forcing the Mom to use the system, who should have to pay the fee?  You’d be wrong. The correct response is b, gentle reader. Because, and I’m just guessing here, the Mom is the easier target for the government. The Mom who rarely gets her child support, who can’t afford an attorney, is not going to make waves and risk losing her support altogether over $25 a year. She’ll take whatever she can get, and what the hell, she’s probably been paying the jerk’s bills for a long time already anyway, right? And she already knows how to do without; if she had the “with” she wouldn’t have had to go to the collection unit in the first place.

The other swell news in the mailbag is that Verizon has “accidentally” sold my unlisted number, along with address, to the publisher of the local phone directory.  Mine is one of  an estimated 12,000 unlisted phone numbers now included in the phone book. The directories have already been distributed, although Verizon is making an effort to collect the directories back from public pay phones and libraries and will publish a new phone book which does not include the unlisted customers. They can’t get the books back from the million or so residential customers, of course, so it’s kind of a wasted effort.  As a form of repentance, Verizon is going to give me a $25 credit on my next phone bill.  I wonder how much my number was worth to the publisher of the directory?  I wonder if I should be GRATEFUL that the $25 I lost to the child support people will be reimbursed by the phone people?  All I had to give up was some privacy and peace of mind; but with the Dems getting ready to cave on the FISA bill, privacy is a moot point, anyway.

Thank goodness the mail doesn’t come on Sunday. I need a break.

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Posted by on June 14, 2008 in Uncategorized


update on real i.d.

Several months ago, I e-mailed my Governor, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, regarding the Real ID Act of 2005. In response, I received a letter today from the Office of the Secretary of the Md. Department of Transportation written in his (O’Malley’s) behalf. Sending in the B Team, I guess, although I have to admit that most government officials – I speak from personal experience here – don’t even acknowledge receiving letters or e-mails. I did have one U.S Senator from Md. who answered an e-mail; with an e-mail on a topic unrelated to the question I had asked. The only other person who ever responded to an e-mail was Rep. Wexler, who is running for re-election in Florida, and who has without a doubt the most personable and pleasant staff imaginable answering public queries. So a nod to Wexler.
Anyway, I got a letter from the DOT of Md. – a real letter! on real paper! with a letterhead and everything! and they paid the going rate for postage! – which reads that while they “understand your concerns regarding implementation of the REAL ID Act in Md., Gov. O’Malley directed the Md. DOT and MVA to create a driver’s license and identification card that fully complies with the federal REAL ID Act and its associated regulations.” Some of the associated regulations cannot be implemented until around 2017 or so for the simple reason that the technology required by the law does not currently exist, but such a trivial point is mean-spirited nay-saying.  I mean, heck, the US Air Force has claimed Outer Space as part of its protectorate; why NOT go for broke? The letter explains that O’Malley wanted Marylanders to be able to use their driver’s licenses as “federally recognized forms of identification” and that the Md. DOT is currently evaluating the 300 pages of federal guidelines from the Dept. of Homeland Security that will govern the REAL ID program.  The sheer length of the missive obviously impresses them more than it does me.  Although it’s a tried and true means to getting a law passed: make the sucker so long no-one will actually read it before signing it.  Hey, it worked when the DOJ printed a long report explaining why there were no valid reasons to invade Iraq.  When asked if she’d read the whole report before voting yes to giving Bush go-to-war nod, Hillary Clinton snapped, “The report was over 200 pages long!  No-one had time to read the whole thing!”  (Actually, the 7 Senators who DID read the whole magillah all voted no.)  Then there is a lengthy paragraph discussing public safety and the need to prove residence and the curtailing of fraudulent use of ID’s (and,with no apparent irony intended, this paragraph makes it clear that state MVA employees will be deciding who is legal and who is not; so, yeah, THOSE are the people who should be making these judgments and keeping us all safe. I’m just sayin’.) Of course, there is nothing in the letter regarding O’Malley’s previous opinion, which he stated publicly, that the Real ID Act is an erosion of rights and troublesome legislation; the tone of the whole letter suggests that there was never a question.

In the end, I am thanked for my e-mail and assured the Gov appreciates hearing from me on this very important issue. Not enough to respond himself, mind you, but just enough to have someone many, many miles away from the Governor’s mansion send a letter! on real paper! with a letterhead and everything!

O’Malley caved. He always does eventually. Like all politicians, he makes a public statement on “his position” on an issue, then within a week or two, approves a law that reflects the exact opposite of said position.

If I were a doctor, I’d specialize in spinal replacement research. We’ve got a whole gang of public servants in all 50 states and Washington whose spines seem to have gone missing.

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Posted by on June 14, 2008 in civil rights, security state