Joe Walsh and Child Support: Do His Politics Matter?

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Illinois Representative Joe Walsh is having a rough week. The Congressman’s financial woes were splashed across the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday morning. “Tea Party Rep. Sued For $100,000 In Child Support”. To clarify, Walsh was sued in December 2010 for over $117,000 in child support by his ex-wife Laura. The two divorced in 2002 and Mrs. Walsh has taken her ex-husband to court various times to try to get child support for their three children.

The story was too easy, and timely, for reporters to resist. A Conservative politician who preached about the burden of debt we were leaving our children doesn’t have the decency to worry about his own kids. A man in the middle of the debt ceiling debate who has thousands of dollars of debt to his family. Really, those headlines just write themselves.

I hope that this intense scrutiny helps get Representative Walsh’s children the support and funds that they deserve. Once the court system has approved a child support agreement, mothers should have every right to demand that the money is actually paid. Laura Walsh has had to repeatedly go back to court to try to provide for her children.

But would anyone care about Laura Walsh and her children if her ex-husband wasn’t campaigning on family values and financial soundness? Would message boards be demanding that this “dead beat dad” be thrown in prison, if it weren’t for the irony of his political platforms? I’m not so sure.

Recently, we posted about an up-and-coming trend called “shared parenting”, with a 50/50 split being the go-to arrangement for divorcing couples. The people pushing for this new system maintain that child support is the worst part of the current family court approach. They paint fathers as the victims of a flawed system that makes them work second jobs while their ex-spouses live off their support. Never mind that the average child support awarded is $415 a month.

On Yahoo’s Shine, a user posted that they didn’t understand the reason for child support at all. The user asked, “Why should the non-custodial parent be punished for having a better job…?” While many of the comments were critical, plenty of people agreed. “If the parent the kids are living with can not support them with out the money of the other parent, they should not live with that parent.”

There’s a common stereotype of single mothers, mooching off their support or welfare, getting their nails done instead of feeding their children. This myth continues to make working moms feel guilty for the support they receive. It pressures them to justify every support dollar spent, to ensure both their ex and the world that they are using the money in the right way. It treats custodial parents as if they are guilty until proven innocent of misusing their support for selfish purposes.

Representative Joe Walsh’s situation is entertaining because it demonstrates the hypocrisy of politicians. But without his fiscally conservative platform, would we even notice Joe Walsh and his obvious lack of respect or regard for his ex-wife and their children? I don’t feel bad for Joe Walsh, but I do have sympathy for his family, both past and present, which is how he referred to them in his statement about the matter. I think that phrase is extremely telling. Joe Walsh’s ex-wife and his children didn’t cease to exist, they just stop mattering to him.

Would we demonize this man without the added political commentary? Or would he be just another dead beat dad, who ignored his family and responsibilities without consequence or guilt?