On Elections and Welfare, the Integrity Consensus Is Dead - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
On Elections and Welfare, the Integrity Consensus Is Dead
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When the Texas Legislature took up an election integrity bill that mostly restored the pre-pandemic status quo, Democratic legislators fled the state to deny a quorum. When Georgia passed a bill with modest election integrity reforms supported by a majority of black Georgians, the Biden administration sued the state, citing discrimination.

If requiring voters to have photo ID, expanding weekend voting, and preventing ballot drop box tampering inspires sit-ins, walk-outs, and meltdowns, just wait until they find out what Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, and South Dakota have been doing for years.

These states, and others, do the unthinkable — they check the eligibility of food stamp applicants before enrollment. Shocking, right?

Of course, common-sense integrity measures in elections and welfare programs have earned bipartisan support in the past. This integrity consensus starts from first principles of good government.

After all, we all want fair elections that inspire trust in our bedrock institutions. And we all want welfare programs that preserve resources for the truly needy without wasting money on the ineligible.

But that integrity consensus is dead.

Nothing illustrates our crack-up more clearly than the Biden administration’s recent announcement that it would withdraw the Trump administration’s proposed rule to close the Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) loophole in food stamps.

Yes, this would make the whole country look more like the places where they actually check the eligibility of food stamps applicants. And yes, it was one of the most significant welfare reforms of the Trump administration.

But it’s the kind of program integrity reform that Joe Biden — who cast himself as a common-sense moderate unafraid of bipartisanship — should have embraced.

Through the BBCE loophole, a majority of states have created a scheme to maximize food stamp enrollment by minimizing program integrity.

Here’s how it works. State agencies offer food stamp applicants welfare brochures and hotline numbers funded by the state’s cash welfare program, call these brochures and hotline numbers “benefits” of the cash welfare program, and call the food stamp applicants “beneficiaries” of the cash welfare program.

Why do this song and dance? Because states aren’t required to check the assets of a food stamp applicant if the food stamp applicant is a “beneficiary” of a state’s cash welfare program.

It has all of the creativity of a Ponzi scheme but none of its illegality. Under current federal regulations, states can even enroll millionaires on food stamps without breaking the law.

This is state-sanctioned fraud — fraud by design. And it isn’t a colorful but isolated problem. Millions of Americans have enrolled on food stamps despite having assets that make them ineligible, making them less likely to work and more likely to sink deeper into long-term dependency.

The Trump administration proposed closing this loophole by requiring that for states to skip eligibility checks for cash welfare beneficiaries, the state had to provide a real cash welfare benefit and not just a brochure.

Ironically, some critics said closing the loophole would actually increase administrative costs as state agencies would need to spend time checking assets. Even if we put aside the quaint notion that state agencies should just always check eligibility for publicly funded programs, this gets it backwards because it doesn’t account for lower enrollment.

Arguing that checking assets will cost more time and money than not checking assets is like arguing it takes less time and money to bring all the animals in the world onto Noah’s Ark because it takes time to sort out a pair for each species.

In other words, volume matters.

Some states already understand this. Even as the integrity consensus crumbles, they’ve closed the BBCE loophole on their own and are protecting program integrity for the truly needy and getting more ineligible, able-bodied Americans back to work.

Just wait for that news to get out.

Scott Centorino is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

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