EBT Abuse: The Cash-for-Drunkards Program

From New York to New Mexico and across the dependent plains, welfare recipients are getting sauced on the public dime. Drunk, besotted, bombed. But while politicians pay lip service to cutting government waste, fraud and abuse, they’re doing very little in practice to stop the EBT party excesses. Where’s the compassion for taxpayers?

You see the signs everywhere: “We accept EBT.” Fast-food restaurants do. Clothing retailers do. Auto repair shops, liquor stores and even sushi joints are joining the club. “EBT” stands for the federal government’s electronic benefits transfer card, which is intended to provide poor people with food stamps and cash assistance for basic necessities. The two separate programs were combined into one ATM-like card designed to reduce the “stigma” attached to Nanny State dependency, and — voila! — an entirely new method of mooching was born.

If the idea was to eliminate the embarrassment of life on the dole, the social justice crowd succeeded phenomenally. Last weekend, the New York Post blew the lid off scammers who brazenly swiped their EBT cards “inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.” Out: Cash for clunkers. In: Cash for drunkards!

My home state of Colorado has seen similar abuse. Last year, local TV station 9NEWS reported that more than $40,000 was withdrawn from ATMs in metro-area liquor stores despite prohibitions against such spending. Colorado EBT users also splurged at Denver’s Elitch Gardens amusement part, Disneyland, Universal Studios in Los Angeles and on the Las Vegas strip.

In New Mexico, Jim Scarantino of Watchdog.org reported that in just a three-month period, EBT cards were used at multiple liquor stores, girly bars, smoke shops and casinos both inside and outside the state. Californians are notorious EBT fraud artists; some $70 million in EBT funds were withdrawn from outside the state’s borders over the past several years, including nearly $12 million taken out in Las Vegas. Watchdog.org kept tabs on government workers in Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin nabbed in EBT fraud rings and schemes.

Several state legislatures have barred EBT spending on these vices, along with tattoo parlors, lottery tickets and cigarettes. Last February, President Obama signed GOP-backed welfare reform measures into law aimed at closing the so-called “strip club loophole” and preventing welfare recipients from blowing their cash benefits on booze, porn and gambling. But that law doesn’t go into effect until next year. And many politicians are just shrugging their shoulders, muttering “Whaddya gonna do?”

Here’s a radical idea: How about making taxpayer protection a priority for once and, yes, getting serious about strengthening the stigma on bottomless entitlement dependency and entitlement abuse?

According to the Department of Agriculture, illegal food stamp use costs the public upward of $750 million a year. A report by the Government Accountability Institute last fall revealed that “few security measures are in place to monitor EBT card fraud. … Nationwide, the USDA has approximately 100 investigators policing over 200,000 authorized EBT retailers.” In Florida, the report noted, 63 investigators carry the burden of policing more than three million EBT users.

Excuse-makers for the welfare-takers emphasize that both eligibility fraud and EBT card trafficking fraud are minuscule. But a bottle here, a case there, a pole dance here, a lap dance there, and soon it all starts to add up. With food stamp rolls exploding under both Republican and Democratic administrations while enforcement resources shrink nationwide, EBT has taken on a whole new meaning: Exploitation of Broke Taxpayers. Shame.

  • snappa55

    The taxpayer is the target and they will never get any protection in this share the wealth atmosphere. People that have are hated, from the President down; it all starts at the top. Obama obviously has a grudge against the haves and he will use the have nots for his agenda; an agenda that is meant as payback, an agenda aimed at bringing America down. I feel no love coming from anything he does; just cold, calculating, narcissism. I expect in four years there will be a coronation not another inauguration.

  • Gizmo

    And yet I can’t even get HUD to finish approving a $45k note for a quadplex (720 FICO, by the way) because I’m self-employed & they don’t like my tax returns!!!

  • http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com/ JLM

    Perhaps nothing shows the contempt that American politicians hold the taxpayers in than the wasteful diversion of the tax dollars of the “makers” to the wastrel spending of the “takers”.

    The notion that my hard earned tax dollars are being spent to provide booze, lap dances and other nonsense makes me very, very angry.

    • EdR

      There was a picture floating around on the internet, supposedly by Bill Cosby, and the caption was, “You have an iPhone 5 and your kids are hungry?” Time to stop this abuse, and stop making it ok to be on the dole.

  • Switchlight13

    One group who represents 13% of the population is rewarded with Govt handouts cost us 30 billion dollars a year (Medicade for illegitimate kids + much more)) for their 73% out of wedlock birth rate. 73%??? That’s animal like.

    • newyorker

      Thanks for your bigoted remarks…Without people like yourself the Republican party would cease to exist..

      • Gizmo

        Bigoted?!? FACTS are bigoted?!?!? You gotta get your head out for some fresh AIR!!! Theres’ some chick on the internet screaming that “somebody’s gotta be responsible for my 15 kids”!!! And you’re saying that THESE statements are bigoted?

      • oldphardt

        Truth hurts….the more people deny themselves what is true, the deeper the hurt they think they need to feel. One day, they may actually waken to realities but until then, they will try to smear any of us who try to open their eyes to reality.As for bigots – you need to look at the followers of Reid and Pelosi to see real biggotry. They speak but do absolutely nothing FOR the oppressed and, by denying the children a decent education, they insure a ready list of those who will always need a government hand-out. These are the people who have taken freedom from far too many and not seek to take it from the rest of America – think not ?? Look at the way they want to tax ! If they win, we can afford no new businesses and no new jobs.

  • DanB_Tiffin

    I really like her “Here’s a radical idea: . . . ” in the third to the last paragraph. I don’t see that ever happening with liberals in charge or even close to in charge.

    I remember it was a task very dear to the heart of Ted Kennedy to take all stigma out of entitlement dependency. After all, that stigma hurt people’s feelings!

    • Snappa55

      Today there is no stigma. Obama is spreading hate not wealth. How long can you hear, it;s not fair that they have and you don’t before you get angry and start taking? Sadly, they are taking and nobody cares what they take as long as they are taking from those that have. Nothing is going to stop the bad behavior because it’s not viewed as bad; it’s viewed as, ‘you can do it why can’t I’? Today they can because Obama says they deserve to have whatever they want and the taxpayer pays!