Entitlement Programs: Where is the Fraud in Benefit Programs?

MUNCIE, Indiana – When I saw the headline of a story coming across Indiana Economic Digest, “Where is the fraud in benefit programs?”, I thought, this will be another Gannett article spouting uninformed nonsense. When I clicked on the link and saw Michael Hicks name as the author, I was afraid it would be another free market attack on single moms with three kids.

Typically Mike is authoring research and forming opinions that support many of Indiana’s conservative policy decisions, so I figured Governor Mike Pence sent an email to Dr. Hicks asking, “Hey, I need more ammunition to cut entitlement programs in the state. Can you run one of your reports I can refer to in my speeches next month?”

So, when I saw this sentence right out of the box, Fraud or misuse of government programs is an issue that ebbs and flows with the size of the budget deficit. Not surprisingly, it is an issue of the day and one worth reviewing research”, I knew Mike was going to hammer welfare recipients.

The conservative legislature doesn’t need more ammunition since the rabid Tea Party members scream about the “moochers on the system” which are draining valuable dollars from the Middle Class. It’s a classic double standard which I’ll never grasp, but many republicans are convinced that minorities are “lazy non-whites who are gifted benefits and entitlements from democrats in exchange for votes.”

Where do they get these crazy ideas?

CATO Institute is one of the places…a conservative “think-tank” funded heavily by the libertarian Koch brothers. In 2013, they completed a white paper recently quoted on Fox News that blasted welfare recipients and told policy makers the benefits were too high, thus presenting a disincentive to go back to work. The video segment took the white paper completely out of context using stereotypical actors to suck in the viewers.

What’s hilarious is CATO’s white paper says in bold print in the introduction, There is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy or do not wish to work.

This doesn’t stop Fox pundits from tearing into welfare recipients to get their viewers all riled up. Feeding a bunch of rabid Tea Partiers who hate government because they see, “liberals handing out free candy to their base in exchange for votes” as the main problem for our deficit and everything else that plagues our world. We’ve heard them even call the welfare abuse, socialism and equate it to what is wrong in Europe.

It’s a political strategy and a business model of Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox) and Roger Ailles (director of political news) to get their base to vote a straight republican, mainly Tea Party ticket. This is 20-23% of our voting base.

Anyway, Hicks mentions that he worked for a research center which studied welfare recipients after the Welfare Reform Act in 1996. What he discovered back then, and what we’ve been talking about on Muncie Voice for the past two years, is the programs which exist today have requirements and rigid qualifications, so nobody is handing them anything. It doesn’t work that way. What Mike learned was, The big finding of several studies, including my own, was how many families quit the program because they were unwilling to meet the participation requirements.”

This doesn’t jive with the propaganda spread by Fox News and other conservative mouth pieces.

As Mike concludes on the topic of welfare abuse, My read of the research and my own published work on the matter suggest that fraud and abuse in this program is small enough that it should rank low as a policy concern.”

No welfare abuse worth noting. Surprised?

If you listened at all to Mike Pence, or Speaker Brian Bosma, or any number of Hoosier republicans in office, they’d all tell you it’s rampant requiring reforms.

What about food stamps?

Brian Bosma and ALL the republicans in office insist this is where abuse is rampant to support their policies demanding that all SNAP (food stamps) participants be subjected to psychological and drug testing to receive food stamps. You can read any number of posts on social media, or read the comment sections under news articles, and this is a rallying point for all rabid republicans – “I work hard for my money and I’ll be damned if I give it some lazy-ass moocher who takes free food stamps and sells them for drugs.”

They easily take the bait offered by the conservative mouth pieces and Fox news.

What did Michael Hicks find? According to Hicks, Several studies have focused on fraud and abuse, with fairly consistent findings that the total loss due to fraud is less than 1.5 percent.”

These numbers have increased because we’ve been in a recession since 2008 which caused millions to lose their jobs. Do you expect to issue food stamps under these circumstances? Of course. Any rational mind should reach this conclusion. Is it a result of Obama taking office? Of course not. He took office at the peak of the recession, so any president in 2009 would have increased the safety net to Americans – that’s what government is supposed to do when our economy heads south.

So, what about disability payments? There has to be fraud there because we hear about it all the time. I read it on Facebook often, “Well, my neighbor down the street brags about how she gets paid to stay home and watch TV because she has a bad back.” There’s lots of fraud there Dr. Hicks, right?

According to Hicks, Part of this may be due to a large number of Baby Boomers aging into their 50s, but the total growth in disability over the past decade comprises about 0.5 ­percent of all Americans. That includes about one-third of all Desert Storm veterans and perhaps half of recently returned veterans.”

What the hell? It’s still a lot of people though, right?

Hicks says, “These are big costs of course, but even if fraud comprises an unlikely 10 percent of new cases, it is a small number of folks.”

We are witnessing an entire ideology implode in this one article. Years of “welfare queens”, “young bucks” and “Obama Nation”, is beginning to sound like lies and rhetoric.

He saves the best for last – Medicaid and Medicare. I can almost hear the “AH-HA’s!!”

“This is where all those thieves are ripping us off!”

Well, Dr. Hicks writes, “Medicaid and Medicare fraud is where the real money lies, costing taxpayers some $100 billion a year or 10 percent of total costs. This is many times more than the highest estimate of fraud in all other programs combined.”

Yep, we knew it. The Middle Class has been decimated by the cheating bastards on Medicaid and Medicare. Isn’t that right Dr. Hicks?

Well, according to Mike, “Nearly all of this fraud is perpetrated by health care providers. Rural ambulance services and home health care services offer the most spectacular recent examples.”

What is going on in the Universe? Has Russel Crow’s movie about Noah shaken the Gods? Are we to expect an alien invasion any day now?

Paul Ryan (R) and his proposed budget hammers these programs as wasteful spending by the government. Conservative pundits tour the south and Midwest collecting thousands of dollars from convention goers who applaud and scream when they talk about the “lazy 47%” ripping off hard-working Middle Class citizens. Their whole propaganda machine just got smacked down by a “HICKS CBER Transformer”.

While the “47%” spouted by Mitt Romney to the 1%, and the targeted market campaign to Tea Party crusaders just got slapped down with facts, leaving an open wound the size of Texas, he backs up and pours the largest dump truck full  of salt into the wound by concluding, “If we really want to crack down on fraud in government programs and save money, recipients are not the place to start.”

For those of you wondering, we’ll be designing and selling a new t-shirt branding Dr. Michael Hicks as the new hero to the progressives in Indiana and all across the United States.

What about that CATO Institute report funded by the Koch brothers? Certainly, it had the same information at its disposal as did Dr. Michael Hicks with Ball State’s College of Business and Economic Research. According to its conclusion and recommendation, “States should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.”

No mention of the abuse by providers. Why?  Because those are the people who fund CATO Institute. Remember, the purpose behind these false reports and exaggerated news reports is to stir up a base into believing “a bunch of lazy blacks and white trash are voting for democrats in exchange for freebies and sending the bill to the hard-working Middle Class”. This is what liberals do for a living, right? All liberals figure out ways to spend taxpayer dollars in exchange for votes, and most of them are too dumb to run a business. Aren’t these the stereotypical “liberal” or “socialist” who is driving the economic bus over the financial cliff?

It’s all part of a political strategy to get votes. They know exactly what their voting base wants to hear, so they just twist around the truth, falsify findings, and their viewers repeat verbatim. . This is exactly how propaganda works. Simple.

While we’ve had loads of fun with this article, it’s actually a segue into another article expanding on the topic of Dog Whistle politics. After posting the interview on Muncie Voice between Bill Moyers and Ian Haney Lopez, one of our readers read Ian’s book and sent us research notes. It will explain why republican strategists, backed by millions of dollars from libertarian billionaires, use these false statements to rally their base into voting republican, mainly Tea Party republican.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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