Strip clubs to casinos: Payments for welfare may cause mental duress

Are you one of those pesky citizens who is always wondering where your tax dollars go? If so, you owe a bit of gratitude to Channel 9 News reporters in Denver, who recently did some investigative work on where welfare cash was being withdrawn from ATMs in Colorado.

What they found was that welfare recipients used automated teller machines over 222,000 times during a six-month period to withdraw $8.1 million, using their state-issued debit cards.

It turns out the 9 News investigation also found some pretty interesting locations for cash withdrawals made with state benefit cards: casinos, strip clubs, liquor stores and bingo halls.

The list might not tell us where all the money was spent, but it’s a pretty good indication of where a lot of these folks were spending their time. The station’s research disclosed that between May and November, $40,000 was withdrawn at ATMs in liquor stores in the Denver metro area alone.

Transactions were recorded at casinos in Black Hawk where, in one casino, more than 208 transactions were discovered, with people withdrawing about $15,000 in cash over the six-month period.

Presently, state law prohibits accessing state cash benefits from ATMs in liquor stores, bingo halls and casinos, but, curiously, not strip clubs. Apparently it’s better to be spending your state-supported free time at a gentleman’s club than at a bingo hall. This doesn’t make much sense, since at the bingo hall, you might be able to win our-your money back.

As you can tell, state law hasn’t had much of a chilling effect on people’s habits, which isn’t surprising since, according to the report, violating the law doesn’t carry any penalties.

To what extent some of these transactions are taking place here on the Western Slope was not addressed, but I’m hoping some intrepid reporter might look into it.

The old system of issuing food stamps was certainly rife with abuse. An acquaintance who used to work as an inspector overseeing some of those transactions told me he had seen entire criminal organizations devoted to laundering food stamps through grocery stores by trading cash for the food coupons at an obviously greatly reduced face value. My understanding was it was a pretty good business, with a high return on investment and was the subject of pretty meager enforcement.

President Barack Obama recently signed a federal law that requires all states to pass legislation to prohibit ATM transactions in these types of establishments, but I’m not sure that it requires them to place any penalties for violation and, unsurprisingly, some lawmakers are not even on board with that.

The Denver Post quoted state Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, as saying that blocking welfare access at some ATMs places recipients of the funds at an even “further disadvantage.” She wondered “why is it that the ‘haves’ are always suspect of and stereotyping the ‘have-nots.’”

It might interest Boyd to know that all ATM transactions involving state-supplied funds resulted in over $1 million in fees paid to evil banks and financial institutions. It’s unknown how much was returned to the state in the form of college tuition paid by exotic dancers receiving state-supported tips. That’s another investigative reporting opportunity.

We can be certain the amount of money spent in these programs will go up as the social-service recipient roles increase with claims for disability skyrocketing nationally. Many of the perennially unemployed, whose benefits have finally been exhausted, are now applying for disability.

This reportedly will reach a record expense of $200 billion a year, with an amazing 5.3 percent of the population between 25 and 64 projected to soon be collecting federal disability benefits.

Not only is the number increasing but a certain type of claim has increased, namely, benefits for mental health issues. Such claims are up 20 percent over just a few years, with 43 percent of new claimants now indicating mental distress as their disability.

The Social Security disability fund is forecast to run completely out of money by 2018.

The good news for the Obama administration: As people move from unemployed to disabled, they’re not included in unemployment statistics.

If all of this drives you crazy, you’d better have some good investments, because we are running out of money to take care of you.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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