Monday, September 16, 2013

The Corporate Media Bias On Public Assistance Fraud

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been doing an ongoing "investigative reporting" series about public assistance fraud.  The corporate media does occasional stories or series of stories like this to promote the corporate agenda that public assistance is bad and should be cut based on these anecdotal stories.

The paper wrote about how the public assistance system works on the 'honor system,' which can be abused.  They have also written about how it's all the federal government's fault for "pushing bonuses" on states to ease the process of being enrolled and for retaining people on public assistance.

Most recently, they snarked on Scott Walker for saying action would be coming regarding the fraud but not offering any details to use as red meat for the conservative Teapublican base they pander to.

But there are some things that one will not find in all of their reporting, things that somehow eluded their in-depth look at what is going on.

The first overlooked item is that many of the people that are receiving benefits - whether it be food stamps, energy assistance or Badger Care - are the working poor.  They are the people that work at Walmart, Aurora Health Care, fast food restaurants and yes, in some cases, even for the public sector, whose pay is so low that they are eligible for benefits.  If these places paid a living wage, this would cut back on the number of people who need assistance and thus make it easier to make sure fraud doesn't happen.

Another thing that is overlooked in all of this reporting is how the individual systems are being managed.

The gentle reader will not see any mention that while Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he left the Income Maintenance Program extremely short-handed, expecting five workers to hand the work of thirty.  This was, as one might suspect, a thinly-veiled attempt to manipulate the system so that he could privatize it.

But despite his intentional sabotaging of the program, fraud investigators were able to find fraud and recoup the money.  The glowing example of this by far is a now retired county worker named Cindy Jaeger who had single-handedly recovered $5 million in just three years.

Because of County Executive Walker's maleficent and inept management, the Income Maintenance Program eventually was taken over by the state in order to avoid a costly class action lawsuit.  And now that Walker is governor, he is again in charge of the public assistance system.

And just like he did as county executive, Walker is setting up the program for failure.  While the county had a unit of people working on investigating fraud, Walker had just one person for the entire county for a long time.  When the stories started to break about the fraud that was being allowed, Walker hired a few more workers to do these investigations.  Sadly, the people that were hired were hired based on who they knew and/or to whom they were related rather than their qualifications.  (On top of that, these new hires were paid more than the one existing fraud investigator who has apparently left the job for someplace that will respect him.)

Also like the old days, Walker is still leaving the systems short handed.  In Milwaukee County, the state is still pulling workers from their assigned duties to hand the call center or do walk-ins as well as other duties while their own work is piling up, delaying assistance to the people who have a genuine and desperate need for assistance.

The paper's reporting also includes no mention about how Walker was working with the current County Emperor Chris Abele (Milwaukee's version of Mitt Romney) to kick out the food pantry and as well as oust the Hunger Task Force, who has committed the double infraction of helping people - especially those who speak a foreign language - in getting services as well as reporting infractions by the state.

In summary, while what the paper does report might be true, it is far from the whole truth.  They are only reporting what fits the corporate agenda and nothing else.  Especially not anything that what they don't want the people to know about.

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