Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Welfare Fraud is Booming in California

Over at Cal Watchdog, Ali Meyer has an update on how the other half lives. By "the other half," we're of course referring to those Californians who are lucky enough to spend their days defrauding the government of welfare dollars while the rest of us foot the bill. Since California is the single largest provider of welfare in the country, with five times as many cases as the state of New York, and since we're one of only nine states that doesn't enforce the five-year limit for federal cash assistance, there are many, many people like this in the Golden State.

First up, Meyer reminds us that welfare cards issued by the California Department of Social Services were used to pay for $69 million worth of vacation trips outside the state over a three-year period, according to a report by the LA Times last year. More than $11 million of that was spent in Vegas alone. In addition, over $16,000 was withdrawn from cruise ship ATMs heading to ports like Rio de Janeiro and Beijing. While the Kindergarten Cop wisely signed an executive order prohibiting welfare cards from being used at casino and cruise ship ATMs, it only scratched the surface of the problem. When the CDSS conducted a survey of 310 welfare recipients in March, it found that only 60 were making any effort to find work, and only five "participated in activities that moved their family toward self-sufficiency." Moreover, the department was shaken by the revelation last year that one of its social workers, Trang Van Dinh, had used clients' information to file false tax returns, defrauding almost 200 program recipients in the process. In response, the CDSS issued ten proposals meant to curb welfare fraud in California; unfortunately, the number of fraud investigations has actually dropped since then. Finally, this year the Legislature rejected SB 417, which would've prohibited the use of welfare funds to purchase tobacco or alcohol.

Of course, the tone of the article suggests that these results are somehow contrary to the CDSS's intentions. We beg to differ with that. We don't think it's a coincidence that Sacramento doesn't want participants constrained from buying alcohol or cigarettes, that it refuses to follow federal guidance limiting cash benefits, or that recipients aren't required to look for work. Insofar as welfare programs are pretty much designed to produce dependence on the government and disinterest in personal initiative, this is what the CDSS is supposed to produce.

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