A recent news report shows that in many states across the country inmates in state or federal prisons are receiving unemployment compensation. In Arizona, it was reported that $1.1 million was paid to prisoners in the last two years. In one case in Los Angeles, it was reported that an inmate’s two girlfriends allegedly cashed $20,000 in checks over a year and a half—then the inmate and other gang members used the money in jail.
I saw this covered on ABC Nightly News earlier this week and thought it was the most absurd story of government-agency inefficiency. That only lasted until I read a comment in the Talking Points feature in the Sunday Dallas Morning News. (I was a bit late in catching up with my weekend paper.)
A woman in Michigan was collecting $200 a month in food stamps after winning a $1 million state lottery jackpot. Her reasoning “I feel that it’s OK because I have no income and I have bills to pay. I have two houses.”
To their credit, the state agency has suspended her benefits, but that is little consolation to the people who were really in need who didn’t get help because she thought she was entitled to her food stamps.
These two stories illustrate just one of the problems with assistance programs. Ideally they would help only those who need help, but that doesn’t always happen. There are too many programs and too few people to oversee those programs to catch instances of fraud and misuse and put a stop to them. That makes it so easy for people to tap into the cash cow and to hell with the rest of the folks.
Something in a more positive vein that I read this week is a comment by former first lady Barbara Bush. She was asked about the current GOP campaign and this was her response, “I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life… I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word.”