The Deadbeat Goes On

The attorney wears a simple blouse, and her straight brown hair is as no-nonsense as her demeanor. She rests her head in her hands and, in a monotone, cross-examines a man as if reading from a list.

He looks fortysomething and vaguely collegiate in a sagging tweed jacket and argyle socks. A substitute teacher for the Broward County School District, he earns $10.67 an hour, but he can't count on those wages -- nor can his ex-wife count on him making the court-ordered child-support payments for the child who, during the course of this contempt hearing, is never mentioned by name. He has no pension plans, IRA accounts, or stocks. He has no assets, he says, save a 1988 Honda Prelude for which he paid $500 in cash. He lives with his mother. He has no coin collections, no tools, no firearms. He has nothing he can liquidate and doesn't expect an IRS tax refund. The attorney's questions are comprehensive, but when they garner a grand total of zero, she doesn't seem surprised.

If the setting were a courtroom, this might be a scene from a courtroom drama. Instead it's a dim and dispiriting hearing room on the fifth floor of the Broward County Courthouse. Here, down a crowded corridor painted a sickly shade of yellow, everyday tragedies play out predictably, like last week and the week before, another rerun in a season of reruns. The man is one of many only-the-clothes-on-my-back noncustodial parents (NCPs) summoned to contempt hearings because they fail to pay court-ordered child support.

Inside the hearing room, General Master Phillip Schlissel sits at the head of a long, rectangular table. He wears a tie and blue button-down shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his forearms. Together with a court-appointed attorney and a cast of mothers and, less frequently, fathers, Schlissel attempts to impose financial order upon social, cultural, and emotional chaos. In this case Schlissel directs the NCP to cough up whatever cash he can. The man takes his wallet from his back pocket and hands a few worn bills across a wood-grained table to a matronly, middle-aged woman with a tidy hairdo and sensible shoes. He is her ex-husband, the father of her child, but her face registers nothing, no expression of familiarity. When she primly collects the cash and flattens the bills, she doesn't look him in the eye. A lawyer notes the denominations and registers the amount: $27.

The next case is similar, but the noncustodial parent is much younger and crumples in the hard chair with a scornful scowl. He wears baggy jeans, an ample sweater, and Nike Air sneakers. He isn't sure how long it's been since his last payment. "It's been a while," he mumbles.

In fact it's been so long that a judge has issued a bodily writ of attachment -- a civil warrant for his arrest. He didn't know about the writ, he says, but when the handcuffs come out, nobody looks surprised. Only paying the purge order can release him. Wrists joined in front of him, the man bows his head. He is arrested and, with a judge's approval, will be taken to jail.

Schlissel's goal is to discern why and how the noncustodial parents who come before him have failed to pay child support for the umpteenth time and what, if anything, they can pay. Though child-support enforcement hearings are held only a few days a week, each day is packed. In a typical week, 250 cases are slated to be heard -- although some are canceled because participants don't show up. Schlissel is scheduled to hear 25 cases in the morning and 25 in the afternoon, so he has to move through them quickly.

"We're overloaded," he says.

Nonpaying parents may be hardened, but they're still human, and as a day in Broward County Court's child-support enforcement hearings attests, they sometimes fork over at least some cash if you threaten to jail them.

This is the reasoning behind Florida Senate Bill 400, which would make failure to pay court-ordered child support in excess of $5000 a felony, provided the noncustodial parent involved can pay. Massachusetts and Wisconsin have similar laws, and other states are considering them. The bill addresses a little-known Catch-22. According to Florida statutes, failure to support your children is not a crime unless a court order is in place. And if a court order exists, as in the hearings described here, failure to pay constitutes a misdemeanor under existing law and can carry a sentence of as long as six months in jail -- a penalty that has been used only once, according to DOR spokesman Dave Bruns.

As it stands parents may go for years without paying child support, and the odds are pretty good that nothing will happen to them. SB 400 and its counterpart in the house, HB 349, would be last resorts in the worst-case scenarios, but they would do nothing to expedite most of the roughly 380,000 slow, costly, and often fruitless child-support collection cases handled each year, nor would they do much to help track down Florida's worst child-support evaders -- 20,579 of whom are in Broward County -- who dodge and weave and disappear, sometimes for years, sometimes forever.  

The bill will have little effect on a pernicious problem: intermittent payees who pay only as much as will keep them out of jail. It might not help nine-year-old Joshua Banks, who is owed more than $19,000 in child support and going to need braces soon.

And it won't address what Broward County activist Sean Gentile says is a system that frustrates and humiliates the very people it was meant to help. The new bill is no panacea; bound together with child-support enforcement are complex questions about the economy, the family, law enforcement, and what it means to be a dad.

Still, proponents contend the message the bill sends to nonpaying parents is as important as its substance.

"We've got to do something," reasons Florida Sen. Jim Horne (R-Orange Park), who cosponsored the bill with Sen. Walter G. "Skip" Campbell (D-Tamarac). And as any custodial parent can tell you, when it comes to child support, something is better than nothing.

Sherelia Carey looks younger than her 27 years, but she has the quick, purposeful stride of a woman who has spent years in a hurry. Businesslike at first, by the time she has made her way through the schoolyard and up the wood-railed ramp to portable 82, she reveals a subtle pride. She went to this school, she notes, like her mother before her, and now her son, Joshua. "Half of my family goes to school here," says Carey. Opening the door, she glances over her shoulder and allows a smile. "So it's a tradition," she decides.

Portable 82 is Carey's classroom, and she has decorated it with images of black leaders and bright paper cutouts demonstrating the arithmetic she teaches. The students are gone today (it's a teacher's workshop day), and in their place sit Carey's mother, Cynthia Stanley, and her aunt, Betty McIntyre, who also work at the school as teacher's aides. Huddled over the child-size tables, McIntyre and Stanley eat sheet cake off Styrofoam plates from a bridal shower just held for Joshua's teacher.

"I thank God for them," Carey says of her mother and aunt, "or I wouldn't be able to make it."

When she found out she was pregnant, Carey was 18 years old and had already broken up with her boyfriend, Tony Banks. She decided to raise her son herself, with the help of her family. Carey says she didn't collect child support, or any form of support, from Banks; it's a point of pride for her that she has never collected public assistance, either, relying instead on her tightly knit, matriarchal family. Carey's grandmother and mother took care of Joshua while she worked as a teacher's aide and attended night classes at Nova Southeastern University.

Carey kept up this grueling schedule throughout school, eventually earning a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education in 2000. But in late 1995, the curriculum required her to complete an unpaid teaching internship. Joshua, who was five years old by then, was headed to kindergarten and needed back-to-school clothes. Anticipating the lost wages and added expenses, Carey knew she wouldn't be able to make ends meet: "I needed help."

She smoothes her blue Bethune Elementary T-shirt. Her fingers are graceful; her nails are painted gold to match the lettering on her shirt. Joshua, now nine years old, is going to need braces soon. When she recounts the conversation with Banks that started a five-year struggle, she lets out a world-weary sigh. "I said, "I'm not working right now; could you just get him some T-shirts and socks?'"

When Banks refused Carey reluctantly plunked down a $25 filing fee and opened a child-support enforcement case with the Department of Revenue. The state's version of the Internal Revenue Service, the DOR took over enforcement of child-support cases in July 1994 from what was then known as the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, as that department's agencies were dispersed amid welfare reform. The changeover marked a shift in the philosophy of child-support enforcement: A task once seen as a social service is now simply a matter of collection. "We process remittances," says the DOR's Bruns.

In April 1996 the child-enforcement division of the Broward County courts granted an order that requires Banks to pay $238 per month in child support. Though Carey had never requested it, the case also established back payment due; a court can demand retroactive arrears for up to two years prior to the date support was established. (Despite repeated attempts to determine his whereabouts, Banks could not be reached for comment for this story.)  

Although Banks never disputed paternity, a factor which can slow a case considerably, the court order didn't prompt Banks to pay anything. The ensuing contempt hearing in September 1996 kicked off half a decade of arrest warrants, driver's license suspensions, and in the few instances the DOR was able to verify Banks' employment, income deduction orders (IDOs).

Such orders are the most effective of the DOR's arsenal of collection methods. The IDO requires an employer to deduct child-support payments directly from the employee's check. Once an employer confirms the parent's employment, the DOR sends notice to garnish a portion of the wages. In 1998 a new-hire registry was set up to identify noncustodial parents with open cases at the start of employment. Despite the fact that some employees quit their jobs when they find this out, the method accounts for 58 percent of all paying cases in the system. Further, between the years 1999 and 2000, the amount of money collected through IDOs has increased by 21 percent.

However, the IDO is hardly a fail-safe collection method. For one thing NCPs quickly learn to work under the table, a practice more easily accomplished in temporary jobs, day labor, and trades and in large urban areas with significant gray-market economies. An individual worker may go to extreme lengths to evade an IDO, sometimes leaving a more lucrative job in favor of lesser-paying, under-the-table work. "Some parents know how to beat the system," says Senator Horne. "It's sort of like a fraternity. They've figured out how not to pay."

Banks was ordered several times to get a job; when he failed to do so, he was found in contempt of court. The DOR suspended his driver's license; the same fate befell some 30,000 others last year. The general master set payments ranging from $300 to $1600. Under threat of incarceration, Banks made the payments, though they were often late.

Once when Banks was found in contempt, the hearing officer inexplicably never set a purge. The result: On October 2, 2000, after four years of dodging the law and his parental responsibility, Banks walked free, with only another admonition to get a job. All the while his arrears continued to mount. In three years the DOR sent IDOs to eight different employers; none of these orders produced a dime.

Surprisingly, in Banks' case, the one DOR method that did yield payment resulted from a bold move by Banks that backfired -- twice. The DOR is empowered to intercept IRS tax refunds, a tactic that proved successful on the two occasions when Banks attempted to claim his son as a dependent on his IRS tax return, even though he did not have custody and did not pay child support.

"They snatched that check so fast," Carey says with a laugh.

For the most part, however, she has seen little of the money Banks is ordered to pay. In five years he's amassed more than $19,000 in arrears. Meanwhile Banks engaged an attorney and successfully sued for visitation rights.

Though Carey understands that visitation and child support are legally separate issues, she, like many custodial parents, finds such bifurcation tough to accept. To her it feels as if poor mothering is criminalized while poor fathering receives tacit approval.

"What if I didn't take care of Joshua?" she wonders. "What could happen to me? They'd put me in jail."

Under the proposed legislation, Banks could face felony conviction, though Carey believes he'd first make a payment. "He's not gonna sit in jail. His family would get him out," she says. "If he knows he's going to go to jail, that's when he pays." So far the legislation is unclear about what amount of payment would forestall a felony conviction.

Carey has since married, and with her husband has another son, Lashon, who is five years old. Carey's husband would like to adopt Joshua, but Banks has refused to allow it. Furthermore she says Banks and his family have called her a traitor to her race for going to the DOR to settle the dispute, an outlook that suggests a deep-seated distrust of government.

"They said, "The white man is pimping you,'" Carey remembers. ""You're like a prostitute.'"

At this the women break into peals of laughter. "The white man?" Carey scoffs. "All colors work in that office. It's not the white man. It's your not being a man. I don't care what color you are," she says, "if you're not paying child support, you're not being a father to your son."  

To think of it, Stanley gets particularly riled. "These men lay down with the women, get their pleasure, and where are they?" she cries, eyes wide, arms outstretched in exasperation. "Where are they?"

Her daughter is more pragmatic. "I just wish one day he'd go to work," she says. She is waiting for a date to be set for the latest contempt hearing and anticipates a better outcome because, at her request, a judge will preside over her case. When Stanley asks how she knew to do that, Carey goes to her desk, picks up a yellow business card, and hands it to her mother.

"I've got an activist," she says.

Sean Gentile works as a freelance video assistant, but as she likes to point out, she's an artist at heart. One of her creations is a child superhero named Teresa Serenity. With bobbed jet-black hair, Teresa Serenity looks a lot like a young Gentile, who herself resembles a young Anjelica Huston.

But Gentile is not about serenity. She talks loud and fast and fidgets impatiently when it's her turn to listen. At five feet, nine inches tall and usually wearing high heels, she often looks down on those around her.

In fact Gentile's Cleopatra eyeliner and penchant for reinventing herself bring to mind another superhero: Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. After all Gentile sees her struggle to reform the state's system of child-support enforcement as a battle of good versus evil.

In November 1999 Gentile, who is now 35 years old, sought child support for her newborn daughter, Rose. She was outraged by the slow, bureaucratic process and the "shocking, gross, inhumane" treatment she says she received at the hands of workers in the DOR's Broward Service Center.

She first got in touch with the Palm Beach County chapter of ACES (Association for Children for Enforcement of Support), then struck out on her own, founding FAMILY (Fathers and Mothers Instituting Laws for the Young) from her Fort Lauderdale home.

At first she acted locally, taking the Broward DOR office to task with calls, letters, and visits. But Gentile didn't just stuff a suggestion box; she complained directly to the workers themselves and to their supervisor, Broward regional director Nancy Tango. In fact, Gentile proudly adds, she was so unrelenting in her efforts that she was barred from the office.

"The staff told me, "Look, do not call back this office. Don't come around. We'll call the cops.'" She lets out a raspy laugh.

Tango would not comment for this story, but Dave Bruns says Gentile has intimidated the center's employees. "The staff there feels really beat up," he says. "She has been contentious, confrontational.... She has scared some of our employees."

Gentile is blasé about her detractors: "Nice-nice doesn't get you anywhere in this life."

In some ways she's right. Gentile now receives court-ordered child support for Rose, whose picture she held up throughout the support hearing. Despite this victory she's not about to back down. She wants the system changed yesterday and has a lot of ideas about how to do that. At least one has already been implemented.

"I asked them to put a procedural board on the wall," she says. They did that, she acknowledges, "but they didn't define the procedures."

The DOR's Bruns admits the effort was incomplete, but Gentile puts it another way: "They did it half-assed," she says, her Worcester, Massachusetts, accent now in full-blown, long-vowel mode, "and you can put half-assed."

Gentile also requested DOR post director Nancy Tango's picture, name, and contact information on the wall of the Broward office, much the way portraits of smiling supermarket managers are displayed inside their stores. Gentile's request was not honored, nor was her subsequent suggestion that they hang her picture instead.

But while employees at the Broward CSE office are tired of hearing from Gentile, she's found other means of self-expression. For one thing she's honed her pitch to the press.

"I don't want to talk about "deadbeat dads,'" she says, brightly introducing her cause. "That is so boring." (Given the objections raised by fathers' rights groups, it's also controversial.) Instead Gentile wants to talk about her ideas for new school curriculum and other programs that would encourage men not only to pay child support but to be fathers to their children. She thinks NCPs should get more incentives for paying child support, like tax incentives, or if that's not feasible, maybe discounted tickets to amusement parks like Boomers! or freebies like Blockbuster coupons.  

"See, this is nouveau thinking," she says, winding up for a hard sell, "This is new."

Gentile, who last year changed her first name from Elaine, eventually got some press, including a few short Sun-Sentinel articles and a mention by Miami Herald columnist Rekha Basu. The Sun-Sentinel also published an angry letter Gentile wrote lambasting the DOR. Bruns penned a rebuttal, and the newspaper printed that, too.

Gentile photocopies her clippings and sends them to her growing mailing list, which includes elected officials such as Senator Horne, cosponsor of the felony child-support bill. A few days before he was scheduled to present it before the senate's criminal justice committee, Horne's office invited Gentile to testify before the committee. She accepted and the next day went to the airport and paid more than $400 in cash for a ticket to Tallahassee.

At 12 minutes to two o'clock, Gentile races into the senate office building at the state capitol. A day-tripper, she didn't bother with baggage or even a purse and is now left holding the translucent plastic garbage bag she "borrowed" from an airport restaurant. In it, she carries her jeans and FAMILY T-shirt, car keys, and a pink plastic hairbrush.

In the airport bathroom during a stopover in Tampa, Gentile had changed into a dark blazer and skirt with a pale pink knit top and bright fuchsia lipstick. "I'm going for a soft look," she had explained with a grimace. "It isn't me."

Now transformed and transported to an unfamiliar place, she looks lost, adrift in the throng of lobbyists, legislators, and the media. Men and women with briefcases and manila folders confer in clusters in the hallway around her. But Gentile doesn't flounder long. She spots Horne's secretary, Carol Jinks, who swoops over to Gentile and propels her through the crowd. Dressed in a proper cobalt blue skirt suit, her ash blond hair in beauty-shop curls, Jinks is an old-school politico.

Gentile's arrival completes the list of those set to testify on behalf of the bill. Jinks whisks Gentile around a corner in the hallway outside the wood-paneled hearing room, plants a hand on each of her shoulders and looks her squarely in the eye:

"NO male-bashing," she orders, her voice low amid the din.

Gentile protests the implication, but it's no use; the hearing is about to start. She finds a seat near the front, next to Matthew Munyon, executive director of the Florida Commission on Responsible Fatherhood, and smiles broadly. Behind them the middle rows of the small auditorium are filled with high-school students on a field trip. A young man in a suit and gold-framed glasses reads a paperback copy of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

When Senator Horne introduces the bill, he lays out the reasons it's needed: 60 percent of cases have a court order; there is no way to extradite on a civil charge; noncustodial parents often duck the law for years, racking up huge arrearages and evading the system.

"I think we have a system that's nearly out of control today," he declares. "I believe it's akin to abandonment of children." But Sen. Kendrick Meek (D-Miami) expresses concern that jailing offenders would keep them from being able to earn money to pay the bill.

"I'm just going to be brutally honest with you," he says. "I don't think this is going to get you where you want to be."

(Later, Sherelia Carey's family is surprised to hear of it. "You tell me Kendrick Meek said that?" cries Betty McIntyre, her eyebrows arched in disbelief. "I voted for him. I need to get a hold of him.")

When Gentile takes the podium, it is as if she never heard Meek's remarks. She doesn't address his point, perhaps because doing so would necessitate veering from the speech she's scribbled in a red Mead Memo notebook. "I am outraged because our child-support enforcement is a zero. And it's a zero because the chief judges and child-support enforcement officers don't care," she begins.

Her testimony teeters between pep-squad boosterism and virulent accusation. She points out that stealing a grocery cart is a felony, while failing to pay court-ordered child support is not even a misdemeanor. "We need to take action now," she exhorts the crowd.

Afterward the room buzzes softly with nervous laughter and murmurs. With a stern look on his face, Sen. Victor Crist (R-Tampa) responds: "Folks come here from great distances. This is a professional process. I want to go on record, and I need to be clear: One of them turned me off completely by her accusation that I don't care. I know every one of the people up there, and they all care.... Be mindful of that."  

In the end the bill passes unanimously; it has since undergone a few minor changes. Some form of the bill is expected to be signed into law before the end of the session.

Outside the senate chamber, in the crush of suits spilling into the hallway, Gentile looks confused. Her next stop is the Department of Revenue, but she gets delayed. Waiting for the elevator, she holds court in front of the students who have come on a field trip. She gives them numbers to call to voice their support of the bill and to learn more about child-support enforcement. The students take her cards, stare at the yellow rectangles, and gather around with interest that suggests they've had firsthand experience with child support. The conversation is quickly shut down by a chaperone, who explains to Gentile that they aren't voters yet but schoolchildren here to observe.

Outside the senate building, Gentile's exuberance boils up, as if she has finally processed the experience. "I shamed 'em!" she cries, elated. "I looked in each one of their eyes, and I shamed 'em!" A reporter comes over to interview her, and she repeats her cry. "I shamed 'em! Did you see that?"

The man Gentile would meet later that day works in a formidable gray building surrounded by a green lawn, near the crest of a hill within walking distance of the capitol. At the controlled entrance to the building that houses the Department of Revenue, he appears, less formidable than his office, a slight man with hair going from gray to white and an intense gaze magnified by thick glasses.

Near the window in his large corner office sits a photo of a girl jumping a horse. It's his daughter, Vicky, who is 14 years old "going on 30."

In a white shirt, black slacks, and a thin black tie, Dave Bruns could be a civil servant or a math teacher. He sounds like the latter, his speech measured with the patient cadence of someone who is used to repeating things in different ways until he's understood.

He starts with a story problem. When his department took over child-support enforcement in 1994, it inherited a system riddled with inconsistencies and hamstrung by an ancient mainframe computer system. It was the product of a time when child-support enforcement was a social-service task. Caseworkers juggled 900 to 1200 cases each, and because they had to see each case through from beginning to end, they had to be experts in every aspect of child support. A study showed that caseworkers spent 51 minutes of each hour on the phone with parents rather than actually working on cases.

"It was clearly broken," Bruns says of the old system.

Welfare reform hadn't helped with record-keeping, either. Each time someone was enrolled in welfare, a child-support enforcement case was opened, too. But as people went on and off welfare, the system didn't always keep up. Some outdated cases never got deleted, while duplicate cases were filed. As a result there was no clear way to determine how many individual parents CSE was attempting to serve, a problem that still plagues the DOR today.

"You could tell how many cases were on the system but not how many people," he explains.

In addition the involuntary nature of many CSE cases made them particularly hard to resolve. In public-assistance cases, the government had an interest in collecting support, but since the money would not be returned to custodial parents, most of them had little interest in helping the process.

For one thing, a custodial parent may have forged an informal agreement with the noncustodial parent -- say, a couple packs of Pampers or a $20 bill a month -- and would likely lose that if the government came to collect. CSE spends roughly a dollar to administer the program for every $3.50 it collects. The process has another price: Such government intervention can be seen as a betrayal of trust between custodial and noncustodial parents, considered so intrusive that it serves to kill any equanimity that may remain. In general, once a CSE case is opened, the door on a relationship is closed.

"The system does what it can to drive these people apart," Bruns laments.

If a couple is legally married, the State of Florida presumes the husband is the father. If a couple is not married, as is the case in 46 percent of all CSE cases, paternity must be established. In order to improve collection efforts among unwed parents, the DOR implemented affidavits available at the hospital that can be signed by the man who claims to be father. Once signed, the document establishes legal paternity, is virtually irrevocable, and is recognized in court. In many instances the alleged father is not present at the time of birth and subsequently refuses to acknowledge paternity. As a result, the DOR is one of the state's largest consumers of genetic testing, with more than 33,000 tests conducted each year on 11,000 test subjects.  

If a woman says she is not sure of the father's identity, the DOR turns to a cardboard wheel. Bruns picks one up off his bookshelf and demonstrates how it rotates to establish the likely date of conception. Spinning the wheel pinpoints likely days of conception, and the parent is asked to name partners within that time period. When and if those partners are located, each can be court-ordered to submit to a DNA test, the positive result of which is considered proof of paternity in any U.S. court.

Once paternity is established, the noncustodial parent is interviewed to determine his or her finances. If an interview cannot be conducted and there's no reason to believe the NCP is unable to work, it is assumed he or she makes minimum wage. A packet providing such documentation is prepared for attorneys working under contract with the DOR. They file the court action with the corresponding clerk of courts, and the case passes from the DOR's jurisdiction to the courts.

Then a hearing date is set, usually in about two months' time. The hearing is held by a judge or hearing officer in family court. A final order from the hearing may take as long as two weeks to be filed.

Once cases clear that hurdle, they may still be a long way from collection, as Sherelia Carey and thousands of other parents know all too well. (They are mostly women -- in 96 percent of CSE cases, the custodial parent is a woman. "There's this perception that dads are becoming custodial parents more frequently," says Bruns. "We don't see statistics to back that up in Florida.") The DOR can set up payroll deductions and intercept IRS tax returns, lottery winnings, and workers' compensation and unemployment benefits. It can also put liens on assets; those on vehicles are particularly effective.

Furthermore, as a result of a recent law, the DOR has a new tool. With the help of participating banks, asset enforcement allows the agency to freeze and seize financial accounts. About $5 million has been seized since January 1999.

While he notes that the DOR's 58 percent collection rate is well above the national average of 26 percent, he concedes, "That's not good enough. We could be doing a lot better."

The DOR's motto is "More money to more children more quickly." Still its efforts are hindered, Bruns notes, by the fact that two-thirds of nonpaying noncustodial parents are not able to pay. Most of the so-called "deadbeat" dads, he says, are "not deadbeat, they're dead broke."

In that case SB 400 would have a limited effect.

"We don't think [the felony bill] would be used that much but we think it'd be an effective deterrent," says Bruns.

Indeed, at its core the child-support dilemma is fraught with socioeconomic issues more complicated than any collection method can address. The DOR's employees may be gaining ground, but if they're fighting alone, it's a losing battle.

"It's every decent person's responsibility to support their child," Bruns says. "That's the fundamental bottom line."

He's talking about fatherhood now, and his otherwise flat Southern drawl quivers with righteous indignation. "The problem," he says, venturing vaguely into the vicinity of blame, "is some people are irresponsible. And it is not within the power of government to make irresponsible people be responsible."

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