A single Michigan mom on welfare was spending money on state lottery tickets, resulting in a $700,000 jackpot which she failed to report to the Michigan Department of Human Services so that she could continue to take food stamps, resulting in calls for a redundant law forcing state lotteries to report lotto winners to DHS.
What’s wrong with this picture? It is a wonderful illustration of how government works – or doesn’t work – in America today.
“I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do,” said Amanda Clayton’s mom, Euline Clayton, of her suddenly-rich daughter’s use of food stamps (see Brother Calabrese nearby). “But it’s nobody’s business if she’s not breaking the law.”
But she is breaking the law which is why DHS Director Maura Corrigan cut off Clayton’s food stamps upon hearing of the 24-year old’s lotto winnings.
“Under DHS policy, a recipient of food assistance benefits must notify the state within 10 days of any asset or income change. DHS relies on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status,” said Corrigan in a statement. “If they are not, and continue to accept benefits, they may face criminal investigation and be required to pay back those benefits.” A department spokesman “while unable to address this specific case – confirmed that big asset gains make recipients ineligible for welfare.
So how come Michigan Rep. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow are drafting more laws to prevent lotto winners like Clayton from doing what’s already illegal (Zorn’s bill actually came after another case of a Bay County man getting food stamps after his $2 million lotto pay day in 2010)? Because of the “Do Something” reflex that demands a politician react to an embarrassing headline.
This is how America gets new regulations, creating more paperwork – whether they are needed or not. Indeed, a mandate that the State Lottery report winners to the DHS – a responsibility already required of welfare recipients – puts the state on a slippery slope to extending welfare liability to employers as well as recipients.
If the State Lotto has to report winners, why not force employers to report the hiring of welfare recipients to DHS? If welfare queens aren’t reporting their lotto winnings, how do we know they are reporting new job income?
Which begs the question of why we have state-sponsored lotteries at all. Gambling rings were once prosecuted by U.S. law enforcement for running rackets that preyed on the poor. Today, government itself runs gambling enterprises – lotteries – that prey on the poor. So while the state of Michigan should be assisting Amanda Carney to get off welfare, it is instead advertising that she buy lotto tickets – costing money that should go to her children and time she should be spending getting a job.
You think getting welfare recipients off food stamps is hard? Wait until we mandate America’s middle class gets free contraceptives. Your government at work.