How do you get deadbeat dads to pay child support?  You threaten them with incarceration if they don’t pay.  But if the punishment has its intended effect you will find that the only deadbeats who actually receive the punishment are those for whom the punishment is pointless because they don’t have the money to pay.  They are the turnips.

“Deadbeats,” according to Sorensen, are parents who could pay but choose not to. “Turnips” — invoking the phrase, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip” — are parents who don’t have the money to pay. So what percentage of nonpaying parents are deadbeats and what percentage are turnips? Sorenson says most of those who end up in jail are low-income, and thus, “more likely to be a turnip than a deadbeat.”

Is that a bug or a feature?  That’s part of what the Supreme Court will decide in a case that was argued last week.

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