"Look, welfare fraud is going to happen," says Kyle, who worked in a government benefits office. "It's one of the reasons that caseworkers have a job. Do we come across cases of fraud? Sure. Are they perpetuated by criminal masterminds? Nah. Criminal masterminds import drugs and manipulate real estate. Welfare fraud is more like 'not mentioning some income for a couple months.'" Or people keeping quiet about some under-the-table work they've been doing, collecting a few hundred extra bucks, and then, usually, getting caught.
As it turns out, the majority of welfare fraud is committed not by the poor people who receive the benefits, but by managers and government officials misappropriating welfare funds. Even so, welfare fraud only accounts for an estimated two percent of the budget -- significantly less than virtually any private sector business. And it's a hell of a lot harder to scam the government out of free money than it is to scam, say, a private charity or a food bank (who don't have the resources or authority to vet the people they're helping).
Think scamming the government's easy? Head over to the DMV and try nabbing some "extra" licenses.
As for the anecdotes about welfare/food stamp recipients getting caught buying steak and lobster at the supermarket, proving that they actually live better than us working folk? Well, people on government assistance spend less than half as much money as people who aren't on it, which is so obvious we shouldn't have needed statistics to convince anyone. Meanwhile, 83 percent of food stamps are going to households with children and/or disabled or elderly people. That's not exactly the image of shiftless poverty barons that has been so popularly associated with welfare over the past few decades. If the scammers are out there, they're not the ones draining the budget. Likewise ...