“60 Minutes,” 57 Years too late
By Mencken’s Ghost
October 10, 2013
Until someone forwarded a You-Tube video to me of a recent “60 Minutes” segment, I hadn’t watched the so-called “news” show for over a decade. The segment reminded me of why I had stopped watching the show—along with the rest of the establishment news media.
The segment was about the massive fraud in the Social Security Disability program, or SSI, a program that was enacted 57 years ago.
Imagine that: fraud in a government program. The next thing that “60 Minutes” will discover is that the government is bureaucratic.
The time for the media to begin covering disability fraud was when the program began, not 57 years later when it is too late and the country is broke from giving welfare and entitlements to the masses, from giving welfare and entitlements to crony capitalists, from giving welfare and entitlements to the military-industrial complex, and from giving welfare and entitlements to the public school-university complex.
Clerks at Walmart understand that fraud, overuse and free-riding go hand in hand with government programs, because they encounter scam artists eight hours a day. But Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” was shocked to discover that people are feigning disabilities to get money from the government. Apparently, he couldn’t see this problem unfolding from his Manhattan media cocoon.
Even more amazing, the segment did not spotlight even one of the millions of SSI recipients who are defrauding the system, or to be more accurate, are defrauding their fellow Americans. Doing so would have violated a sacred precept of the news media: Never shame and embarrass a citizen who is using a government program to rip off his neighbors.
Having been steeped in malarkey about social justice in K-12 schools and journalism school, reporters believe that citizens who are successful due to studying hard in school, doing honest work, being industriousness, saving money, and leading moral lives, should do more for their fellow man, even though they are already net contributors to society and the public purse. At the same time, reporters with soft-boiled brains believe that those who don’t take full advantage of a free public education, who have moral turpitude, who walk away from their children, and who engage in fraud don’t owe their fellow man anything, even though they are net subtractions from society and the public purse.
It’s astonishing that such a twisted view of social justice prevails in American society.
In fairness, Kroft did confront an unscrupulous disability attorney. He also interviewed a couple of employees of the Social Security Administration, who confirmed that 25% to 40% of claims are fraudulent. It didn’t dawn on Kroft, however, to ask the employees if they had any moral qualms about working in such a corrupt system. You see, another sacred precept of the news media is to never teach a moral lesson. After all, moral lessons are by definition judgmental. For a moral lesson, one has to watch “Judge Judy” or reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Naturally, “60 Minutes” found politicians and do-gooders to make excuses for the fraudsters. Kroft went to the hollows of Kentucky to find them. The nicest building in one small town was the Social Security building, the irony of which was lost on Kroft. The excuse-makers lamented that the fraudsters had no other option but to go on disability, given the loss of industry in the area and the nation’s economic problems.
At this point, the third precept of the media kicked in automatically: never use a teaching moment to put issues in historical context and educate the populace. As such, Kroft didn’t take the opportunity to explain how a half-century of fiscal irresponsibility by both political parties has caused today’s economic mess. Instead, he kept the viewing audience uninformed, brainwashed, and hoodwinked about the root causes of today’s problems.
Townsfolk then described how local stores begin doing a thriving business when the disability checks arrive.
My in-laws are very familiar with the scene, for they live in a similar town in the hollows of the Allegheny Mountains in Penn. They see what people buy with their disability and welfare checks. They buy such non-essentials as gallons of soda, pillow-size bags of Cheetos, lottery tickets, cigarettes, and electronic gadgets. The in-laws know many of the fraudsters personally and thus know that they are far from being helpless victims. Many are simply ne’er-do-wells who know how to game every government program.
The fraudsters’ immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents were the opposite, as were my grandparents. To find work and improve their lives and the lives of their children, the immigrants left their mother country and crossed an ocean, carrying everything they owned in a valise or steamer trunk. Today, millions of Mexican immigrants cross the scorching desert of my home state of Ariz., carrying even less. Yet because today’s fraudsters were made in America, they don’t have the gumption to get off their double-wide butts and move to where the jobs are, even when the jobs are as close as the shale oil region of Penn. or N. Dakota.
Not only do welfare and entitlements keep them from moving, but so do government housing policies and subsidies, which encouraged them to buy houses they couldn’t afford. Now they are trapped in house they can’t sell, in a town with no work. But don’t look for a “60 Minutes” segment on the unintended consequences of feel-good housing policies and programs
My father-in-law understands the unintended consequences. He worked in the mortgage side of a local savings and loan all of his working life. Because he knew mortgage applicants personally, he knew which ones had the industriousness, thriftiness, and morals to make mortgage payments. All of that changed when the government allowed its crony capitalists at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with crony capitalists on Wall Street, to lower underwriting standards, to buy mortgages from originators, to package them into securities, and to sell them to gullible investors around the world. Mortgage originators like my father-in-law’s employer no longer had an incentive to scrutinize mortgage applicants.
When I watch “60 Minutes” again in ten years, it will no doubt have a segment on the economic and social collapse of America. The reporters will be bewildered about how it happened and why no one saw it coming.
Mencken’s Ghost is an Arizona writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.