By Timothy Imholt
During the past year or so I have written on a variety of topics that have appeared in everything from letters to the editor of local papers, to more national in scope websites, to, yes, BLOGs. One of the topics I have been passionate about is ending fraud in the EBT system.
Please take note that I did not want to end the EBT system or take that benefit from people who really do need it. I am a charitable person and if we can’t get the job done with local food banks we have to do it somehow. I would prefer this to be handled by charities but it is what it is. So let’s focus on at least getting the fraud taken out as a first step.
There are a host of problems with the EBT system as it stands. People get two cards (or more), dead people continue to use the benefit long after their passing, and even people who have left the country continue to receive and utilize their card.
I approached some state representatives here in Massachusetts about reforming the system with a high tech solution. That solution was even written about, and published in PJMedia.
Basically, the way these cards currently work is that it is a debit card that works to purchase food. When the user gets to the checkout they slide their card, enter their pin number and are on their way.
If someone knows someone else’s pin this can lead to fraud.
I wanted to go high tech. It is possible (and the card exists today) to put a finger print scanner on the card itself. So when sliding the card the person puts their thumb on the correct spot, slides the card, the thumb eliminates the need for a pin. Presto bango, no more fraud.
So, with all of this homework done I go to the Massachusetts state house and meet with two state representatives, one Democrat and one republican. Both very reasonable people. They pull in someone from the proper state agency to discuss it.
The person (a lawyer) from the state agency had a variety of reasons why they would think a legislative mandate would be necessary to enact this change. Well, great, you may thing, we have two legislators in the room, let’s get started.
That is where this gets interesting.
The two (remember, one D and one R) go and start kicking the idea around the halls on Beacon (Bacon?) Hill. The D meets a ton of resistance. The R also met a ton of resistance.
Could it be based on cost of the new card you ask? Well, no the new card only costs 10 cents more per card than the current one.
What could the problem be?
Well, simple. Money. No, not money spent on the card, not even the money spent on the programs filling those EBT cards with cash. It turns out its campaign money.
Let’s follow that money trail. The Democrats, in general, tout the program as a success in helping the poor and working poor. In general, I tend to agree that this does help some people (and has fraud in it that NEEDS to go away in order to protect the program for people that need it). On top of that, is where, if you look at the quarterly reports, a large group of campaign donations come in from people who want to expand that program. It could also cost them votes (according to the historic voting patterns).
Let’s flip to the other side. Republicans, some of them, raise money by screaming loudly about all of the fraud in the program. Why wouldn’t they get immediately behind a solution that exists, is known to work, and is used in parts of Europe already today to do exactly what I wanted to do? Well, fellow private citizens, if you can answer that you are smarter than I am.
Just for the record, I don’t own any part of that technology and stood to gain nothing from the solution being implemented, except for perhaps lower taxes, which I really would like.
It’s all about the money, and staying in office. Solving this problem means some folks have to go raise money with other ideas, of which they have none. Don’t let most of them fool you; they only care about your check clearing.
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