The enduring myth of welfare cheats

To the Editor:

Welfare cheats. It seems that every conservative has a favorite story about how someone on public assistance is cheating the system. Food stamp cards used for fancy food, having babies to get more money, living off unemployment, phony disabilities claims; all these takers are wasting my tax money. It does not matter if these stories are true or not. Conservatives believe them, and they are mad. More proof, to them, that we are heading into a socialist hell.

There is no doubt, given human nature, that there are bad people out there cheating the system. Every government program, in fact any system involving money, can be cheated. And, until we as humans evolve to a higher level of spirituality, it will always be thus.

But why pick on welfare cheats, who in fact are very few in real numbers, and whose actual cost to the taxpayer is minor compared to say, actual tax cheats. Why not get mad about the people who really cost the taxpayers tens of billions every year? How about giant agribusinesses that are paid not to grow food? What about billionaire investment bankers who pay a lower tax rate for moving money around than we pay for actual work, or giant multinational oil companies that pay no tax at all while making huge profits on the American market? Where is the outrage?

The answer is simple. It’s called the golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” While the 1 percent grows even more wealthy and more powerful, they need a diversion to keep the voters’ attention off of them. It is a classic case of blame your troubles on the other. Powerful interests have been using this tactic since the time of Machiavelli.

The poor, the disabled, minorities, the slackers, the “takers” are the ones to blame. We are bombarded by story after story about how these cheaters are dragging this country into dreaded socialism. Whether it is right wing media or Paul Ryan, the story is always the same: those “other” people are cheating the government out of our tax money.

Of course the facts, those pesky facts, show just the opposite. Socialism is the distribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. What we have in the United States of America, however, is just the opposite. The middle class is disappearing, real income is decreasing, and the effective tax rate for the wealthy is at a historic low. The concentration  of wealth at the top is now greater than any time in U.S. history.

So the next time you hear a story about some surfer dude who is using his food stamp card to buy wax for his surf board, remember that someone of great wealth is paying a good-looking talking head to tell you that story, over and over and over again.

Louis Vitale


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