by James Bovard
Like a drunkard pledging to drink one less pint of whiskey a year, President Joe Biden is promising to rescue Americans from COVID fraud.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) aptly labeled COVID fraud as “the greatest theft of American taxpayer dollars in history.” Congress and Presidents Donald Trump and Biden sought to spend COVID-relief money as quickly as possible while asking few if any questions.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz derided the “safeguards” for one of the most plundered programs: “Apply and sign and tell us that you’re really entitled to the money.”
Almost $200 billion in federal unemployment benefits were swindled, delivered to practically anyone in the world who filled out a form and concocted a false name. “Overseas organized crime groups flooded state unemployment systems with bogus online claims,” siphoning off millions of dollars, NBC News reported. Prison inmates, drug gangs and foreign racketeers easily plundered the program.
According to Team Biden, federal intervention is necessary to deter state-government bureaucrats from sending unemployment benefits to Nigeria.
Biden will soon propose legislative reforms to “require states to use the tools already at their disposal to identify fraud.” If only Washington’s Best and Brightest thought of that earlier!
In his State of the Union Address last month, Biden promised, “Every dollar we put into fighting fraud, the taxpayer will get back at least 10 times as much.” If that’s the case, wouldn’t fraud prosecutions pay for themselves?
A hefty “Sweeping Pandemic Anti-Fraud Proposal” Fact Sheet reveals ambitions for the White House:
For a mere $1.6 billion, Team Biden would “Formalize ‘Gold Standard’ meetings” that bring together White House and agency officials “so everyone could hear all concerns and issues at the same time, before major implementation started.” Instead of a high-falutin’ new initiative, why not simply guarantee fancy donuts for all attendees of those weekly meetings?
- Biden proposes to “invest $150 million to ensure lessons learned are applied going forward.” Is that $150 million necessary because federal bureaucrats are notoriously slow learners? Does that include buying “Hooked on Phonics” for every GS-12 in the Labor Department?
- How many times do taxpayers have to pay to end the same boondoggle? Biden is proposing major new funding to prevent unemployment fraud even though his American Rescue Plan already allocated $2 billion to curtail such abuses.
- Outlays include “$246 million for tiger teams” to “identify risks and implement fraud prevention solutions.” Are the bureaucrats getting gold-plated tiger costumes or what?
- Biden proposes spending hundreds of millions to prevent identity theft, including creating a “one-stop remediation experience for victims” at the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov. The FTC is the same agency that promised to block robocalls with its “Do Not Call” list — one of the biggest flops since New Coke.
- Some Biden initiatives would cost little or nothing, such as permitting the Labor Department inspector general to “easily access multi-state data to detect instances of multi-state fraud where the same identity is inappropriately used to apply for benefits in multiple states.”
Rather than squandering tax dollars on “tiger teams” and “‘Gold Standard’ meetings,” the best anti-fraud measure would be a COVID truth commission (recently recommended in these pages).
- Summon Trump, Biden, and a busload of lawmakers and top officials to testify under oath: Why did they approve COVID relief programs that were practically designed to maximize looting? What steps, if any, did they take to curb losses after pilfering reached epidemic levels?
- The most important lesson of the pandemic: Don’t trust politicians with boundless power. Exposing the profound bipartisan failure on COVID is the best vaccine that Americans can receive against being mercilessly plundered the next time pols proclaim a national emergency.
- James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a Brownstone Institute fellow