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New York State Governor David Paterson defended a program experiencing fraud on a massive scale by saying

tales of increased sales of video game equipment and televisions are just anecdotes. The program allows families who couldn’t otherwise afford back-to-school supplies to equip their children for a new year.


What’s clear is that the actual amount of fraud will never be documented because state officials said there is no way for them to see how families are spending the $200-per-child benefit.

Why should we expect to know what happens to our tax dollars? However, the people on the ground sure do have an idea what is going on:

Wegmans and Tops report that ATMs in their stores ran out of cash on Tuesday, the day the money was deposited to food stamp accounts. The county reports that employees at the Wal-Mart store on Hudson Avenue called the Department of Human Services to say they thought welfare fraud was going on because there was a run on high-end electronics.

Tops reported that people would go through the checkout to purchase a pack of gum in order to get cash back from their food stamp debit card and repeat the process, as only $40 is allowed at a time, said communications manager Katie McKenna. Registers ran out of money.

And then we have the standard defense of broken windows from an “economist”

Though all the grants may not be used for school supplies, getting cash into the hands of those who don’t have it stimulates the economy faster because they spend the money sooner than wealthy people, said economist and social worker Irwin Garfinkel, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

“In terms of the stimulus, you couldn’t do better,” Garfinkel said.

Just to see how much of a joke your political system is … these benefits were intended for families with children aged 3 to 17 to aid in the purchase of school supplies. However, children do not need to be enrolled in school in order for families to get the money.

I am not against welfare generally. My strong feeling is that if we are going to run a safety net program, then eliminate all government programs and have governments provide targeted families with cash grants with no strings attached. I would be happy and willing to deal with the “unintended” consequences of this much less paternalistic approach. It would also be immeasurably less expensive, and it would seriously reduce the entrenched apparatus of government employees, bureaucrats, system beaters, and other hangers’ on that rely on the existence of these elaborate programs to take advantage of us taxpayers. It is a built-in constituency for ratcheting statism. The point of the post is that such “fraud” is not the exception, that these unintended consequences are the rule. Furthermore, it should be increasingly obvious that the goal of most of the social programs New York State (or the US) runs is most certainly not to aid the poor. Books upon books have been written about this, “everyone” is aware that government programs work this way, “everyone” has a subtle understanding that politicians and bureaucrats are self seeking, yet still “everyone” seems to look to the government as some sort of noble enterprise. So rather than fight it, I actually would hope to see the larger welfare state come into being, I want to see price controls, I want to see single payer health care, I want to see oppressive carbon taxes, etc. and then I want to see the statists defend the horrendous results on, “just a few bugs or glitches,” or to parade folks like me around as “astroturfing story tellers,” and so forth. OK, so the human being in me does not want to see it happen, but the nasty and brutish element in me sure does. Good thing that we have social institutions and commercial society to help me keep that ugly guy at bay.

By the way, cash is cash. If you wish to help people, it seems awfully insincere to dictate what they are supposed to use it for. Is it still charity if this is the position you take?

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