Is welfare corrupt? Of course it is, and in a damning report last week, the Massachusetts state auditor, Suzanne Bump, rounded up some of the scams:
Welfare payments issued to recipients long after they were listed as dead. Multiple recipients using one Social Security number – and multiple Social Security numbers being used by one person. Electronic benefit cards from Massachusetts being used in places like Hawaii, Las Vegas, and the Virgin Islands. Tens of thousands of blank EBT cards missing from state welfare offices. Repeated requests for "lost" benefit cards to be replaced.
In a report that covered only a two-year period, Bump's investigators identified at least $18 million in illegal or suspicious welfare payments. "It pains all of us," Bump told reporters, "to think that the program's integrity is not being maintained."
If this sounds familiar, it should. Blistering exposés of welfare fraud and abuse, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, have become almost routine.
Over a 22-month period in New Jersey, that state's comptroller disclosed last week, prison inmates collected almost $24 million in unlawful welfare benefits – including $10.6 million in unemployment checks and $4.2 million in food stamps. TV reporters in Florida documented the use of welfare benefit cards in strip clubs, liquor stores, bowling alleys, and bingo parlors. A 65-year-old cashier in New Hampshire was fired last year for refusing to let a young man use an EBT card to buy cigarettes.
The new Massachusetts audit, meanwhile, followed an earlier report by the state's inspector general, who estimated that the state is squandering $25 million a year on improper welfare payments. And before that was a national investigation by the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program. It uncovered fraud in every state it reviewed.
Is welfare corrupt? Is it ever. And yet the infuriating waste of taxpayer funds is only the beginning of the corruption.