Gaming the System

“A fool and his dough soon split, so when you come across a fool, get all that you can get.” – Dr. Dre in “Been There, Done That”

It’s not often we quote rap lyrics on our show or in the Company Memos, but this one seems to fit. In light of two recent incidents, I’m wondering, are we fools?

First, Philadelphia schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. She was let go of her job and given a huge buyout, $905,000. Now she wants to collect unemployment benefits of $573 per week. You heard her lawyer, Dean Weitzman, very eloquently explain that through the years she contributed to unemployment, and now that she is unemployed she wants to get her money back. Employers are the ones who actually pay that money; but it may have been a question of semantics. Weitzman negotiated her severance deal. And since Ackerman was not fired for cause, she was let go, she is entitled to unemployment benefits.

Then there’s a couple in Seattle. They receive $1200 per month in various forms of assistance. They get state and federal disability, as well as public housing vouchers. And they live in a beautiful lakefront home (inset). It is 2,500 square feet. It has gardens and its own boat dock. Its assessed value is $1.2 million. And these people are on government assistance. And it’s not just that they live in a fancy house they inherited, the couple took lavish trips to France, Russia and Turkey. Now federal authorities are suing, saying the couple did break the law, illegally collecting $135,000 in assistance meant for poor families.

But even if what they did was “technically” legal, as is Ackerman’s unemployment claim, it’s greedy. There seems to be an attitude in our society lately to take whatever you can get, as much as you can get, from whomever you can get it. But the government is not some big amorphous entity with money to spare. The government is us. Its money comes from us. And when people take it without needing it, it hurts us.

These are just two recent examples of the fraud and greed that exists within our system. But over the years we’ve brought you many more. And I’m sure the abuses of the welfare, unemployment and pension systems will continue to roll in. And while they do, we will bring them to you.