While the Obama Administration promotes food stamps like there’s no tomorrow, the rolls are already higher than ever and so is the sort of fraud and corruption that often accompanies an out-of-control government program.
A record 46.3 million people—including some illegal immigrants—get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion, according to the agency that distributes the welfare benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This represents an increase of more than 16 million over the previous year, according to USDA figures. That’s because the administration is on a mission to eradicate “food insecure households.”
The effort includes a multi-million-dollar federal initiative to recruit even more food-stamp participants and hefty cash rewards for states that sign up the most people. A few months ago Oregon officials bragged that the USDA gave the state $5 million in “performance bonuses” for ensuring that residents eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.”
As if that weren’t enraging enough, this week the USDA Inspector General, the agency’s watchdog, revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash, according to USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong.
Fong was testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She told the panel that in the last five years 779 probes have resulted in 1,356 indictments, 944 convictions and 792 sanctions against individuals and businesses that have cheated the system. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, Fong said.
The inspector general provided lawmakers with a number of examples. Among them is an illegal immigrant store owner in Connecticut who got deported after being convicted of food-stamp trafficking. He reentered the U.S. to open several stores using fake names. In Florida a group of criminals defrauded the USDA welfare program to the tune of $6.2 million, Fong said.
Additionally, thousands of people who are not eligible for food stamps are getting them by lying or using the social security number of dead individuals. In a check of just five states, the IG found that 8,594 recipients were receiving “improper payments.” In one unnamed state alone, Fong said the ineligible collectors are getting about $1.1 million each month.
The IG pointed out that, when this sort of fraud occurs, “families do not receive the intended nutritional assistance and retailers profit at the expense of the American public.” It also does nothing to help meet the president’s goal of eradicating “food insecure households.”