Oh if ever there was a story to feed the flames of welfare-recipient hatred, it's this. A Michigan woman who won a million dollars from the lottery and was still receiving $200 a month in food stamps was found dead in her home this weekend. She was found with her one-year-old daughter in her arms. Police suspect she may have died of a drug overdose.
Oh great. Bring up food stamps and you'll see people frothing at the mouth, insisting that welfare fraud is rampant and they're all cheaters ("except for my cousin/sister-in-law/mother that one time they lost their job and really needed it..."). And now here's probably the most heinous example of welfare fraud we've seen in a long time: A millionaire on food stamps. But I still say this story is the exception that proves the rule. Food stamps fraud is rare.
Food stamp fraud is actually down to one percent. It's still one percent too much, and obviously we'd all like to eradicate it completely. But it's nowhere near as common as some folks would like you to think. The vast, VAST majority of people on food stamps are on assistance because they need help feeding their family. Many actually work, but they earn so little they can't afford to pay for food and housing and childcare and medical bills.
When Amanda Clayton won the lottery she failed to report her winnings. But she was found out and was sentenced to probation in July. She paid back the $5,500 she owed. After paying for a few things for her family and setting up college funds for her two children Amanda was left with $67,000. She said she hated the attention her winnings brought her and didn't want any more of the money. So there you go -- looks like Amanda was less a conniving scam artist and more just a deeply troubled woman.
I just think it's a lot easier to get angry and blame welfare recipients than to take a clear, sober look at our whole system and ask some tough questions about why we pay people so little, why record-high corporate tax breaks and CEO salaries haven't produced real jobs, and what we can possibly do about it all.
As always, whenever you scratch the surface of an outrageous story like this there's always a whole lot of details that tell another, less outrageous, much sadder story. Another lotto winner made miserable by the burdens that come with winning. Another life out of control. Two kids who've lost their mother. I have only compassion for Amanda. There's no need for hate here.
Do you think winning the lottery causes people more pain than helps them?
Image via WXYZ.com