In an episode of their podcast “The Daily” this week, The New York Times said that, “when it comes to pandemic aid, the United States government made it shockingly easy to commit fraud.”
The admittance comes on the tail of a grand jury recently indicting dozens of people in Minnesota for stealing almost a quarter of a billion dollars (yes, billion) from COVID relief programs. But this incident is really only the tip of the iceberg it seems.
On the podcast, Times reporter David Fahrenthold said, “When you write about the fraud that happened against pandemic programs starting in 2020, it’s hard to think of any other episode in at least recent American history where so many people stole so much from the US government or so many people — just make it more broad, so many people broke federal law all at the same time.”
Ultimately over 5 trillion was spent on COVID relief programs, and the dollars went in a lot of directions. But the Times says three programs were the most vulnerable to fraud: the federal unemployment benefits program, the Paycheck Protection Program, and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
The truth is we still have no idea just how much fraud occurred under these programs. Many of them used an honor system at the time that merely required people to declare under perjury they had been harmed by COVID and the lockdowns.
But to give some idea of the scale, the Labor Department’s Inspector General estimates that the amount of money stolen just from unemployment benefits could be over $45 billion. As for the other two programs, hundreds of people filed applications under N/A as their names and still got $10,000 grants just for applying.
And while it should be easy to go back and prosecute people who lied on their applications (the IRS has records of who actually owned businesses, lost money, etc), the resources are likely not there to do so. On the podcast, the Times reporters said, “there are so many of these cases that it’s far beyond the capacity of even federal law enforcement to chase them all at once. Just to give you a sense of the caseloads, the Small Business Administration Inspector General, they have a staff of a few dozen. They got more than two million loan applications that the Small Business Administration sent them saying, like, hey, we think these things may be full of identity theft.”
The reality is, it would cost a lot more than the $10,000 many of these people swindled to investigate and prosecute them—meaning this is not only one of the largest cases of fraud in US history, but one where most will likely get away with it.
So was the takeaway by the Times that the government shouldn’t be involved in such programs, that it will always mismanage and abuse funds? No, of course not! I kid you not, with a straight face, this reporter said, “I don’t think anybody thinks that we shouldn’t have done this because so much of it was stolen. I think the people credit the $5 trillion for stabilizing the economy, even lowering child poverty overall.”
Sir, who, WHO credits COVID spending with stabilizing the economy?! Literally everyone recognizes the lockdowns and stimulus spending created the record high inflation we’re now facing. Not only that, it represented the largest wealth transfer from the working class to the elite in our entire history. Stimulus spending largely went to large corporations and special interests, and as discussed here, to fraudulent activities.
And herein lies the issue with the mainstream media. They’ll do all the evidence gathering, very good research, and then still come to conclusions and opinions like this.
The COVID stimulus spending was one of the greatest scams in history and we’ll be paying for it for decades to come. Libertarians like Thomas Massie were the canaries in the coal mine who warned about this from the very beginning, but we won’t hold our breath waiting for them to admit we were right—nor can we expect them to heed our advice next time.