Chicago Sun-Times Trashes Joe Walsh for Wanting to Modify Child Support

February 22nd, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
If this is how they treat the once powerful and prominent, what hope is there for the rest of us (Chicago Sun-Times, 2/11/13)?

Yes, Tea Party member and one-term Congressman Joe Walsh is back in the news, and for the same reason as before – child support.  Back when Walsh was running for re-election, his ex-wife, in a move whose timing was none too subtle, filed court documents claiming he was behind on his child support payments.  Like flipping a light switch, every news outlet that wanted Walsh out of office immediately called him a “deadbeat dad.”  What else?  Walsh hastened to make some unconvincing claims that he had indeed paid what he owed or, if he hadn’t, it was all a misunderstanding.  His artfully worded denials failed to persuade, but out of the spotlight, he apparently paid what he owed, if indeed he owed anything.

Joe Walsh has always struck me as just short of a buffoon.  He looks like a Tea Party member with the IQ of a tea bag, so I can’t get too upset about liberals in and out of the mainstream media taking potshots at him.  Some people are just natural targets; they paint a target on themselves and then complain because folks aim their pea-shooters their way.  Such a person is Joe Walsh.  He got elected at a time of unique dissatisfaction with governing elites.  My guess is that we’ll never see or hear of Joe Walsh again.

But for now, he’s useful to those with nothing better to do than to trash former members of Congress and, in the process, take an unwarranted swipe at non-custodial fathers.  So, I think that’s the appropriate light in which to view the linked to article as well as others like it, like one in that paragon of journalistic no-nothingism, the Huffington Post.  It’s a two-fer – an out-the-door Tea Party member and a “deadbeat dad” all rolled up into one unattractive package.  How could the MSM resist?

What’s Joe Walsh done lately?  He had the gall to file a motion to modify his child support obligation based on a material change in his circumstances.  You remember those circumstances.  They’re the ones in which he served two years as a United States Congressman from the Land of Lincoln.  As such, he was paid the handsome salary of $174,000 per year and it was on the basis of that salary that his child support payments were calculated.  November changed that; Walsh was voted out of office.  That means he no longer has a job, although he’s been looking for one, according to him.

Now, my guess is that he remained an official employee of the United States government until his replacement was sworn in on January 3rd.  So Walsh’s filing to modify his child support in February was about as early as he could reasonably have done it.  He was making almost $15,000 per month; now he’s making zip.  That looks like a change of circumstances to me, but whether it is or not, Walsh and his ex have a right to have a judge decide.

Unfortunately, Walsh’s lawyer made a mistake.  She entitled her motion as one to “Terminate” child support.  She meant “Modify” child support and that’s what the motion actually asks for – modification, not termination.  Walsh of course acknowledges his obligation to support his kids.

Asked why the motion was titled “motion to terminate child support,” Walsh’s lawyer, Janet Boyle, characterized the title to the motion, which Walsh signed, as misleading.

“It probably should have been a motion to modify, that’s probably what I would have captioned it. My office used a word that is getting turned around here,” Boyle said. “That’s what we’re asking for, a modification, whether that’s modified to zero or some other number has yet to be seen.”

All of that is obvious enough and a completely normal part of the business of the family courts, but seeing an opportunity to trash a political opponent and a father to boot, the Sun-Times just couldn’t resist.

Walsh, a flame-throwing Tea Party Republican who was trying to land a radio deal and last week announced he was forming a new conservative SuperPAC, filed court papers seeking to end his obligation to pay $2,134 per month in child support.

But once again, Walsh insists he’s no deadbeat.

That’s sheer genius on the part of Natasha Korecki author of the Sun-Times smear.  Having interviewed Walsh’s lawyer and found out what the motion was really all about, she nevertheless claims he’s “seeking to end his obligation” to his kids.  He’s doing no such thing, and Korecki knows it.

She follows that by insinuating that a custodial father’s need to modify his child support order to reflect his loss of employment rightly qualifies him as a “deadbeat.”  That’s about as low-rent as it gets.  I guess she’d rather Walsh and every other non-custodial father just leave their orders unchanged, rack up huge arrearages, plus surcharges, plus interest.  Then she could point to the large sums owed and tut-tut some more about “deadbeat dads.”

Of course in Walsh’s case, all this is about politics.  Korecki and the Sun-Times don’t like Joe Walsh’s, and I guess it was an exceptionally slow news day, so they tried to breathe life into a non-story by using an attorney’s inconsequential copy editing error to trash the guy.  Pretty weak stuff.

But in the long run, there’s more to this than cheap Chicago politics, whatever the outcome of Walsh’s Motion to Modify.  The big picture is the concept of the “deadbeat dad” that has, unaccountably, made its way back into the MSM.  Not too long ago, I thought the press was starting to get it.  The advent of the worst economic times since the Great Depression would, I believed, encourage that trend.  After all, who would be so cowardly as to pile on fathers, when everyone in the country except the 1% was getting slammed by the economic downturn?

Not only that, but I thought the press was starting to learn some facts about non-custodial parents.  I thought they’d finally absorbed the fact that some 63% of non-custodial parents behind on their payments report earning under $10,000 per year.  I thought they understood that just getting a hearing on a motion to modify often took months during which arrearages built up and up through no fault of the out-of-work father.  I thought they sympathized with parents who’d been thrown out of work, but still had to hire an attorney and pay filing fees just to make a motion to modify.  Surely they were aware of the social science that shows that fathers care passionately about their kids and want to support and be with them.  I figured that, after years of shouting it to the moon by fathers rights advocates, the press understood that non-custodial fathers are far more likely to pay support if their children’s mothers don’t obstruct their visitation.  I thought they were aware of the fact that fathers do a lot better job of paying the support they owe than are non-custodial mothers, only 30% of whom are ordered to pay support by the courts.

But of course, I was wrong.  The press knows none of that despite the fact that there are multiple sources of information.  No, lazy, incurious and uncaring ”journalists” like Natasha Korecki are all too willing to recycle the same sad tropes about “deadbeat dads.”  Hey, it’s a lot easier than doing any work or telling the sometimes nuanced truth about the realities of the child support system.

Come to think of it, there’s’ a real story a real journalist could tell.  The depredations of the divorce and custody industry and its evil twin the child support industry could give a reporter a lifetime of scream-inducing material.  I wish Chicago stalwart Mike Royko were still alive and writing.  There’s a guy who’d feed off the outrages and venality of child custody courts, lawyers and their many hangers-on like a shark in a school of fish.  With Royko around, there’d be blood in the water, make no mistake.  He was an old-school muckraker that the powers that were legitimately feared.

Natasha Korecki?  Not so much.  Every one of the pigs snuffling at the divorce/child custody/child support trough are safe with her around.  They know to a certainty that she’ll never notice the real scandals, the real stories.  She’ll be content to misrepresent the behavior of the down-and-out and perpetuate the myths about fathers.

She’s far from alone.  It happens every day.  It’s a big reason why the divorce industry is so slow to change and millions of children go to bed every night without their fathers.

Thanks to Glenn for the heads-up.

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