Written by: Larry Elder
Posted: Jan. 11, 2013
The New York Post headline read: “Could You Spend $500 on Food at This Bodega? A Welfare Recipient Claimed To!” A few days later, another headline: “Welfare Recipients Take Out Cash at Strip Clubs, Liquor Stores and X-Rated Shops.” “They’re on the dole — and watching the pole,” wrote the Post. “Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs — where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers.”
Here’s how it works.
Welfare recipients receive Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, preloaded with specified dollar amounts for food and for cash assistance. The EBT card can be used to purchase eligible food products at stores pre-approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Swipe the card, enter a PIN, and the amount of the food purchase is deducted from the welfare recipient’s food allowance and is credited to the retailer. Some “welfare-ready” ATMs accept the EBT cards just like ATM or debit cards, dispensing cash.
But the Post exposed welfare recipients using the ATMs located inside businesses with names like Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; an East Village porn shop called Blue Door Video; The Anchor, a SoHo lounge; TriBeCa’s Patriot Saloon; a Bronx liquor distributor called Drinks Galore; and Club Eleven and Club Heat, both Bronx strip clubs.
In case welfare recipients want to know where they can find “welfare-ready” ATMs, the New York state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance lists some of these EBT-ready ATMs on its website.
The Post also disclosed a federal sting that found food stamp “purchases” of several hundred dollars per transaction made at low-end bodegas (aka mini-marts, corner stores, mom-and-pop stores), usually involving little or no foodstuffs actually changing hands.
Whenever there is a government program, there will be more waste, fraud and abuse than you find in the private sector. What a shock.
The real scandal is our tepid 2 percent growth in this fourth year of recovery. At 2 percent, the economy produces too few jobs to make a dent in the nearly 8 percent unemployment rate. Spending just on food stamps (now called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has gone from $37 billion in President George W. Bush’s last year to over $78 billion for 2012, an increase of 210 percent.
Compare this recovery to any recovery since World War II. Based on past performances, the economy should be generating twice the number of jobs and the gross domestic product should be growing much, much faster.
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