« So Many Opinions, So Little Time

Massive government-assistance fraud right here in N.D.: Where is the outrage?

by Mike McFeely

We hear often, including from listeners of the Mike McFeely Show, how people on food stamps are cheating the system. How they are defrauding the government. How they are stealing taxpayers' money. How, if you give somebody on welfare a chance, they will cheat, lie and steal in order get free money. "Those people" will do anything to avoid work and skate by on the backs of hard-working American taxpayers.

You know, "those people." Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Funny thing, though. I don't recall a story in the local media about food-stamp or welfare fraud. I don't recall KFGO reporting about somebody defrauding the goverment of thousands of dollars worth of food stamps. I don't recall The Forum, or WDAY-TV, or Valley News Live reporting on a systematic, well-planned theft of taxpayer dollars in the name of welfare. Not saying it hasn't happened. Just saying I haven't seen a credible media outlet report on it. 

We do, however, have a report of alleged massive fraud being perpetrated by a couple of "normal" citizens of the great state of North Dakota. People who've probably sat in the cafes and bars of Cooperstown and chatted with neighbors with nobody thinking twice about it.

If one was to be bold, one might guess this pair of "normal" small-town citizens might have even griped about "those people" needing to get off their lazy butts and get a job and stop taking handouts from the government. But we don't know that. It's only a guess.

Federal prosecutors say Cooperstown potato farmers Aaron Johnson and Derek Johnson defrauded the government of about $840,000 by ruining their crop to collect insurance payments.

Documents say the brothers poured chemicals into their containers, added rotten potatoes and turned portable heaters above 80 degrees to spoil spuds stored in a Cooperstown warehouse.

The Johnsons then reported the loss to their insurance company as natural spoilage.

That, my friends, is the definition of ripping off the government.

It goes directly to my point that scamming the government out of our money isn't the sole domain of any group of people. Yes, there are some poor people who cheat on their food stamps. Yes, there are some minorities who commit welfare fraud. Yes, there are single mothers tempted by assistance. And, yes, there are even seniors, children and the disabled (the groups who receive the most government assistance) who have ripped off the taxpayers.

There are also well-to-do businessmen who presumably own of acres of land, and look just like everybody else in town, who are capable of stealing this country blind. To the tune of $840,000, which is a helluva lot more than some single mom could rip off with her EBT card.

So where is the conservative outrage over this story? Where are the judgmental citizens of the Red River Valley who call my program and scream bloody murder every time the subject of food stamps arises? Those same people who have my number on speed-dial and can't wait to stereotype anybody on assistance as lazy, drugged-up, good-for-nothing thieves don't seem to be quite as worked up about a couple of local farmers trying to pull off a nearly million-dollar scam.

I wonder why that is? I mean, this is a real story. The Johnsons are real people, actually accused of real fraud. 

My conclusion: It's easier to be angry about a ficticious person buying a non-existent steak with an invisible EBT card than it is to admit fraud is committed by many people who are quite real, quite successful and quite similar in many ways to the rest of us.

 Follow on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO