Thursday, November 06, 2014

A Great Video

I was talking to a conservative friend the other day (yes, I do have conservative friends) and he was complaining about “welfare cheats,” how this person bought something from him and didn't help him carry it upstairs to the apartment. My friend said that the “welfare cheats” just sat there and left him to carry it up all by himself and why didn’t this person have a job? My friend has medical problems that limits what he can do, his medical problems are not visible and looks very healthy, but when I pointed out that the “welfare cheats” could also have medical problems that are not visible he didn’t accept that. I didn’t want to get into a debate with him because I value our friendship and also I knew what I said would not change his mind so I let it drop.

Last year and article in the Atlantic Monthly they said,
It’s not easy to get agreement on actual fraud levels in government programs. Unsurprisingly, liberals say they’re low, while conservatives insist they’re astronomically high. In truth, it varies from program to program. One government report says fraud accounts for less than 2 percent of unemployment insurance payments. It’s seemingly impossible to find statistics on “welfare” (i.e., TANF) fraud, but the best guess is that it’s about the same. A bevy of inspector general reports found “improper payment” levels of 20 to 40 percent in state TANF programs -- but when you look at the reports, the payments appear all to be due to bureaucratic incompetence (categorized by the inspector general as either “eligibility and payment calculation errors” or “documentation errors”), rather than intentional fraud by beneficiaries.

A similar story emerges with everyone’s favorite punching bag, food stamps (or, as they’re known today, SNAP). Earlier this year, Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, both Republicans, introduced legislation to save $30 billion over 10 years from SNAP, purportedly by “eliminating loopholes, waste, fraud, and abuse.” Once you dig into their fact sheet, however, none of the savings actually come from fraud, but rather from cutting funding and tightening benefits. That’s probably because fraud levels in SNAP appear to be as low as with the other “pure welfare” programs we just touched on: “Payment error” rates -- money sent in incorrect amounts and/or to the wrong people -- have declined from near 10 percent a decade ago to 3 to 4 percent today, most of it due, again, to government error, not active fraud. The majority of food-stamp fraud appears to be generated by supermarkets “trafficking” in the food stamps. Beneficiaries intentionally ripping off the taxpayers account for perhaps 1 percent of payments.
When I hear someone talking about welfare fraud most of the time they are just quoting conservative media and never have researched the facts. The Republicans have claimed welfare fraud so long that we take it as truth.

We have to go back to our roots. If you read the colonial history you will find in the minutes of town meeting stipends being paid to individuals who could not care for themselves. I remember reading about one town in Massachusetts where a farming accident left a farmer unable to work and the town hired a person to work on his farm. In another town a widow who lost her husband in an accident paid her child support so that she could work. Our country has a rich history of helping those who are destitute but that history is now changing. I worry with the Republican controlled Congress they will gut the social services, programs like WIC, Head Start, TANF, and food stamps (SNAP). It seems to me that the Republican philosophy is “I got mine and screw everyone else.”

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