|“Well, since we have such old-fashioned ideas, I thought I’d dress appropriately.”
Many conservatives seem to be trapped in a time warp. Their ideas and philosophies are based upon circumstances of bygone days. America was quite a different place 200 years ago. According to the 1810 Census, the population was only 7,239,881. There were fewer people in the whole country than today’s population of New York City (8,175,133). The country was then only 35 years old.
The prominent leaders of the day understood that it would take the imagination and energy of an enthusiastic population to tame the West and build America’s economic capacity. Transportation and communications capabilities did not encourage much dependence on a distant federal government. The most important political divisions were the county and the state.
What was most important of all was the free and open market that enabled those who were so inclined to become businessmen. The characteristic that was most admired was “rugged individualism.” Entrepreneurs able to overcome every adversity to achieve economic success met this standard.
There was no personal income tax to be concerned about for more than 100 years until the passage of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913. With limited public funds there was little capacity to provide benefits for the poor.
In 1810, 16.5 percent of the national population were slaves, mostly in the South. General acceptance of slavery created a cultural insensitivity to the abuse of human rights.
Of course the attitudes of most Americans have changed in modern times, but there are some outliers who insist that all the old concepts that prevailed when the nation began its odyssey to greatness are still the best.
Conservatives are waging a battle in Washington to cut government spending. They prefer that the cuts come from the entitlement programs that benefit those with moderate income. They assert that many of the programs are too expensive and are not secure against fraud.
Indeed, some people learn how to game the system to obtain benefits without being entitled to them. Procedures to detect fraud are often inadequate. Citizens are understandably displeased to see public funds paid in taxes by hardworking Americans being frittered away.
The State Auditor’s Office under Suzanne Bump is aggressively making public assistance fraud a high risk venture. Its report for the quarter ending June 30, 2011 identified over $1 million in fraud for the period and $4.3 million for the fiscal year. Cases of potential criminal liability are referred to the Attorney General or District Attorney Offices for prosecution.
Auditor Bump said, “Every dollar that’s paid out in a fraudulent claim, means one less dollar for those who are struggling to make ends meet.” However, the problem is even more serious than that. Fraudulent claims make the system more expensive and more subject to political attack. In Massachusetts, 65 percent of the fraud cases were in Medicaid. There is a strong push by conservatives to reduce government spending for health care. A high rate of fraud provides political ammunition to opponents of health care reform.
There is not the strongest moral inhibition against stealing from the government. Some taxpayers even believe that the receipt of fraudulent benefits is a deserved reimbursement on their tax payments. Given the conservative hostility against entitlements it is time to support fiscal efficiency to uncover fraud in public assistance programs.
Citizens should support the work of Auditor Bump’s Bureau of Special Investigations.