The issue of social stupidity needs a platform

Mike Royko

July 17, 1992|By Mike Royko

While the Democrats yammer about social problems, let us look at one. It is not earthshaking. But it shows what we're up against if we believe any political party is going to purge us of goofiness.

This social problem begins with Bob, a romantic fellow with an eye for the ladies.

More than an eye, unfortunately. Bob is one of those men who becomes a father, then makes himself scarce.

There are many men like Bob, which is why we have so many single moms and fatherless tykes and big welfare budgets.

So, what does society do about cads like Bob? Well, if we were a harsh society, a doc would go snip, snip, and Bob would no longer distribute his seed so casually.

But we can't do that. It would be cruel and insensitive. So society tries to make guys like Bob support his kids.

It happens that Bob has a regular job. He pushes a broom at the Chicago schools.

So Eileen, who has Bob's baby, got a judge to award her about $80 a week in child support.

Because Bob couldn't be trusted to send a check, the school system was ordered to deduct it from his pay and pass it along to Eileen.

But the checks stopped coming. Eileen called the school bureaucrats and asked where her money was. They said they'd look. After she missed 10 weeks of checks, the bureaucrats finally had the answer.

It seems that Bob is also paying support for a child he fathered in Missouri. Bob gets around.

So a bureaucrat pushed the wrong button on a computer and Eileen's money was sent to the mother of the Missouri child.

By the time the error was found, $815 of Eileen's support money had gone to the other woman.

Eileen told the bureaucrats that since they made the mistake, they should just send her $815. But they said they couldn't do that without a court order.

So Eileen got a lawyer and he went to court and asked a judge for an order. The judge said he didn't have to issue an order, since there had already been an order that Bob pay the child support.

Because Bob's money was the issue, Bob had to hire a lawyer. And, of course, the school board had to have a lawyer defend its position.

The case bounced in and out of court for months. Finally, a judge ordered the board to pay Eileen her $815.

Because this went on for months, the legal fees piled up. And somebody has to pay.

So the judge ruled that since it was the school bureaucrats who goofed, they should pay the lawyers.

The lawyers submitted their bills. Eileen's lawyer got $4,337.50. Bob's lawyer was awarded $4,230. That's $8,567.50 in legal fees.

Of course, it wasn't paid by the bureaucrat who hit the wrong key on the computer.

It comes out of the real estate taxes paid by Chicagoans. And while it might seem a trifling sum, there is another way to look at it.

The average Chicago homeowner's tax bill is about $1,300. That means that the taxes paid by the owners of about six or seven modest bungalows were used to pay the lawyers.

And that doesn't include the cost of the social agencies that have to chase guys like Bob. Or the salaries of the judges and other court personnel, who ought to have something better to do. Or the paychecks of the bureaucrats who can't hit the right button.

If given a choice, those bungalow owners would have found a better way to spend their money.

So let us examine this as a social problem. If we do so, we find that the root cause is individual stupidity. If we look close enough, that's the root of most of our problems.

First, we have Bob, who impregnates women, then takes a walk.

Then we have the women who allowed Bob to use them that way. Of course, it is their choice to use their bodies as they see fit, so it would be politically incorrect to criticize them.

And we have the bureaucrats who hit the wrong button on a computer and send Bob's money to the wrong woman. And we have the education administrators who won't admit to an $815 mistake and let it wind up in the hands of a judge and lawyers.

Then we have a legal system that allows a nickel-and-dime case like this to bounce around the courts for so long that the lawyers pile up fat fees.

So what is there in the new Democratic platform that addresses the great social problem of galloping individual stupidity?

Is there something in there that says, "Bob, if you can't keep your pants zippered, at least wear a condom. Those little taxpayers shouldn't be paying for your romps"?

Is there anything in the platform that says, "Eileen, if you can't be good, try being careful"?

And is there anything in the platform that says, "We believe that bumbling bureaucrats should pay for their mistakes, not the defenseless taxpayers"?

No, the Democratic platform doesn't address the single biggest social problem in America, which is individual stupidity.

But it would be too much to ask that a political party platform itself out of existence.

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