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Guardians of the public trust

Over the weekend, the computer system that drives EBT cards – in other words, food stamps – crashed during software maintenance.  This left the system down for a few hours… and almost instantly provoked near-riot conditions from the frustrated folk of Food Stamp Nation.  They were, to put it mildly, impatient with the situation.

In at least two Louisiana counties, the EBT system crash didn’t cause the food stamp cards to shut down.  On the contrary, it removed their spending caps.  The result at a few area Wal-Marts was euphemistically described in the media as a “shopping spree,” as store employees were instructed by management to keep the registers running, and “shoppers” tugged absurdly large piles of loot through the checkout lines, “paying” for them with the malfunctioning sky’s-the-limit food stamp cards.

Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review mourns the damage to civilization produced by the welfare state, which turned a sizable number of people into shameless thieves.  And as Cooke emphasizes, the offense was theft, pure and simple.  The ultimate victims are the taxpayers:

Uttering what has become the most widely reprinted quote from the scene, a witness told local television station KSLA that stealing food when presented with the opportunity was a “natural human” reaction. If this is true, it should serve as an indictment of the society that Washington, D.C., has created, and of the vastness of a government that has disconnected so many people from the real world. We are not talking here about a moral grey area, in which starving people saw and took a rare chance to feed themselves. Instead, we are talking about people who, over and above their normal allowance, elected to steal from the millions of people from whose paychecks the food-stamp program’s funds are forcibly taken — and on whose beneficence they rely.

It’s not just the looters who have been corrupted by the welfare state.  It’s the government itself.  Because as Cooke points out, these are electronic “debit” cards – they “debit” other people’s bank accounts – so there are logs of all transactions made in the affected areas.  It should not be difficult for our multi-trillion-dollar Leviathan State and its vast army of “essential” officials to swiftly determine which transactions were invalid, locate the offenders, and recover the stolen goods.  Furthermore, they should prosecute these people for theft, since they knowingly abused their EBT cards, and were extremely quick to do so.

But that’s not going to happen, is it?  And the people who overcharged their food stamp cards know it would never happen.  They have no fear of punishment.  They violated one of the numerous “laws” the system is unlikely to enforce.  If one of the offenders actually does make to court, his lawyer could have a field day pointing out how frequently taxpayers are ripped off, for far larger amounts, often by people who were millionaires before they gained access to the public treasury.  A guy pushing four shopping carts full of Wal-Mart inventory is nothing compared to the Obama cronies who ran Solyndra… or the cronies who feasted on all that ObamaCare startup money.

No one takes the public trust seriously.  Billions of dollars in waste and fraud are plucked from taxpayer pockets every year, with very little comment from either officials or the media.  Staggering levels of abuse are tolerated.  Much of our welfare state essentially runs on the honor system, from those notorious “free” cell phones to the big-bucks corporate welfare sector.  Once taxpayer property has been seized by government, the ruling class treats it with abandon, even contempt.  

Bloomberg News ran a story on Monday about the growing number of doctors and hospitals who demand patients pay their deductibles up front.  Take a look at the size of the deductibles in those crummy ObamaCare plans, consider the entitlement mindset of the subsidized enrollees, ponder how little the government cares when its programs are abused, and tell me that’s not a smart policy.

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