In Ronald Reagan’s day, it was the welfare queen — a woman who used multiple identities to get rich by gaming the welfare system.
Six years ago, it was a surfer dude who bragged about using food stamps to buy lobster and steak.
And more recently, it was a retiree who was able to qualify for food stamps despite being a millionaire.
Some of these creatures are mythical, others (like the millionaire) real, but all were quickly embraced as anecdotal evidence of wider corruption in the welfare system. Rob Undersander, the Minnesota retiree who claimed to get food stamps in order to expose a loophole, was cited this week by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials in announcing a rule change that will lead to 3.1 million people losing food stamps. (Undersander is now a conservative hero, though no one seems curious as to why he went on to collect benefits for nearly two years.)
Champions of cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) suggest that the welfare system is broken, that the food stamp program is a runaway train of incompetence, and that we shouldn’t be enabling people to live off the government. Their suspicion: People are deliberately scamming the system — despite long-standing evidence that fraud is minimal.