Claims of widespread welfare fraud are once again demonizing the poor, unemployed and disabled, despite a severe lack of evidence in the form of welfare fraud statistics, as to how much money or how many people are actually bilking the system.
During his 1976 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan introduced what would prove to be a persisting urban legend: the Cadillac-driving welfare queen.
The Gipper used comically overblown figures to tell the story of Dorothy Woods, a Chicago woman who scammed the welfare system out of $150,000. In reality, about $8,000 was actually received.
Politicians today still present welfare fraud as a bloated epidemic that has run rampant and unchecked.
Last year, Republican Wisconsin State House Representative Robin Vos issued a statement claiming thousands of welfare fraud cases were going uninvestigated. His evidence was paper thin, to say the least.
To make his case Vos pointed to a report that showed the number of people on Wisconsin’s FoodShare Program had doubled between 2003 and 2010. This, naturally, must have been the result of widespread fraud, and not an impact of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Welfare Fraud Statistics Get Blown Out of Proportion
Such claims pop up in every state. More recently, the Los Angeles Times ran a report showing $69 million in California welfare money was being drawn out-of-state. However, it isn’t illegal for a welfare recipient to use money out of state, as long as they get clearance from a case worker.
Indeed, fraud was an issue with the case, as $11 million of that money was actually used at casinos in Las Vegas.
Yet the piece went on to claim there was “fraud found” in 24 percent of Welfare Cases in San Diego County. That number however, might not be accurate.
The guy who gave the Times that figure, John Haley with the San Diego County DA’s office, revised his claim when speaking to Voice of San Diego, saying some of those cases could include other discrepancies, such as clerical mistakes on applications. Nonetheless, those discrepancies were folded into the original “fraud found” category used in the LA Times.
But is the small percentage of fraud that is being tracked enough to label the issue as “widespread”?
Well, accurate welfare fraud statistics are simply not maintained properly on a state-by-state basis, virtually allowing politicians and welfare foes to throw out any number that sounds good, like Reagan’s Cadillac story.
Not tracking these trends is a mistake on the part of any local government. Not producing and publishing accurate figures will allow the poor to continue getting a bad rap, while the frauds will simply keep on bilking the system.
At the same time, inflating figures for political gain will only lead to tighter restrictions on the application process, making it harder for needy families to get financial support.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com