Food stamp fraud not something to be dismissed

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: August 26, 2013

FOOD stamp fraud is on the rise nationally. Yet Matt Bruenig, writing for The American Prospect, proclaims fraud is “not even a problem” and “totally fine.”

“I don't care about it and neither should you,” Bruenig writes.

Most Oklahomans likely disagree. Taxpayers support food stamps as a last-ditch effort to ensure the truly poor don't go hungry, not to provide recipients with “mad money.”

Here's how the fraud occurs. Those with food stamp cards use them for phony purchases. The cashier rings up the bogus purchase, and then provides cash equal to the purchase amount, with the cashier typically taking a cut.

Bruenig argues this shouldn't upset people. He notes an individual who spends $300 per month on food, but then gets $100 in food stamp benefits, has therefore freed up $100 in personal funds that previously went to food. The fraud, he argues, has the same effect. But fraud allows the recipient to not only free up $100 of his own money, but also redirect money donated by his neighbors (taxpayers). That cash can then be used for less-beneficial purposes.

When The New York Post conducted an open-records review of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, it found welfare recipients used EBT cards to make cash withdrawals at porn shops, strip clubs and bars. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that debit cards with welfare funds were used to withdraw $4.8 million in casinos and $12,000 in strip clubs over a three-year period. Such cases are one reason Oklahoma lawmakers voted this year to ban the use of welfare cash cards at strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores.

Liberals rightly insist being poor doesn't make one a criminal or drug addict. But there's no denying that certain behaviors reduce income mobility and make you more likely to be poor. People who commit fraud often commit other crimes; substance abuse is common in those circles.

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