bunt sign

February 16, 2000

How many votes do you think Alan Keyes won in last night's "debate" in South Carolina, by being the only one of three candidates trying to force the examination of substantive issues? Bush and McCain were so focused on each other and their respective campaign strategies that they looked like a couple of kids on the playground fighting over whose ball it is. "He started it!" "No, he did!" How embarrassing will they find that when they look back in their dotage? Keyes comes out the winner by default. With nothing to lose, he gave the discussion what little weight it had. He's even right about McCain's daughter. If the anti-abortion posture they all want to take is absolute, how does he justify giving someone a pass just because he thinks it should be her ... what's the word, now? ... choice? It would be to laugh, were it not to cry.

The Company has just four people on the payroll, outside of the Boss, his kid and me. This week's mail has brought me wage-garnishing notices for two of the four. This must be a common phenomenon, because it keeps happening, at least with the people we hire for general construction labor. I've had to withhold wages for three or four other employees over the last couple of years, either for back child support or for delinquent taxes. It's one of the less appealing aspects of doing payroll.

I try not to judge these guys. Since they work mainly on job sites in other parts of the state, I rarely get to meet any of them in person, so I don't know their stories. Maybe they have good reasons for not meeting their obligations. It can't be easy, on the low hourly wages we pay and our irregular work schedule. I can see someone believing that he's truly in over his head. He could really think that he needs the money more than his kid does.

But I look at the names on the forms I get from the district attorney's office. The names of the children, and the names of the mothers trying to raise them without the fathers' help. This is what becomes real to me. I have no knowledge of the circumstances of anyone involved, and that's not my business anyway. I assume that the facts have been examined by someone with the wisdom to make the proper decision — or if not the wisdom, at least the intention of doing the right thing. Even if I have a case where wisdom and intent haven't been enough, and the conclusion has been wrong, I'm willing to trust a system that tells me a child's welfare is its primary concern.

It's a hassle for the payroll clerk. There are guidelines to follow and calculations to make. It requires several extra steps in the payroll process, and I can be fined if I make a mistake. But I wonder more about the reason this is so often necessary. I wonder how a man can get so far behind in payments to the mother of his ten-year-old child that she is obliged to make the effort it takes to go to court and get a judgment against him. I'm sure he isn't thinking about his child when he's buying a round at the corner bar with money that morally and legally belongs to that child. At least, that's the picture I get in my mind when I'm going through this process.

But, as I said, I try not to judge.

previousbunt signemailnext