FACT CHECK: Are the claims made in an e-mail titled "New American Way of Life" accurate?
Claim: An e-mail titled "New American Way of Life" accurately describes a generous safety net available to Americans who opt not to work.
Examples: [Collected via Facebook and e-mail, August 2015]
Do you have any info on this article? I find a lot of it to be wrong, and no sources are cited. From what I understand less than 5% of the population abuses welfare, Pell grants barely cover college tuition and books. Who gets free cell phones? Does a mother of 2 really get $600 a month in food stamps? I've seen this posted 3 times today in my FB feed and feel it needs to be dispelled ------------------------ The Key to Success for Those Who Are Inheriting America in 13 Easy Steps!
How to get $75,000 in benefits every year from the US Government for you and your girlfriend?
Follow these proven and simple steps.
First ... get a girlfriend… 1. Don't marry her. 2. Use your mom's address to receive your mail. 3. The guy buys a house. 4. Guy rents out house to his girl girlfriend who has 2 of his kids. 5. Section 8 will pay $900 a month for a 3 bedroom home. 6. Girlfriend signs up for Obamacare so guy doesn't have to pay for family insurance. 7. Being a single mother, Girlfriend gets to go to college for free! 8. Girlfriend gets $600 a month for food stamps 9. Girlfriend gets free cell phone from US Government 10. Girlfriend get free utilities. 11. Guy moves into home but still uses mom's house to receive mail. 12. Girlfriend claims one kid and guy claims one kid on taxes. Now you both get to claim head of household at $1,800 credit. 13. Girlfriend gets disability for being "crazy" or having a "bad back" at $1,800 a month and never has to work again. This plan is perfectly legal and is being executed now by millions of people.
A married couple with a stay at home mom yields $0 dollars. An unmarried couple with stay at home mom nets $21,600 disability + $10,800 free housing + $6,000 free obamacare + $6,000 free food + $4,800 free utilities + $6,000 Pell Grant money to spend + $12,000 a year in college tuition free from Pell Grant + $8,800 tax benefit for being a single mother = $75,000 a year in benefits.
Any idea why the country is 18 + trillion in debt?
Welcome to the new multicultural diverse, fundamentally changed America, thanks to the ever popular and exciting, everyone is entitled to everything world.
Origins: The item reproduced above has been circulating online since at least April 2015, and after it was published the Miller County Liberal of to Colquitt, Georgia, on 19 August 2015 it received a boost in popularity due to the implied authority of appearing in print. (Although it was attributed to "John Tabb," an earlier version was credited to "Jeffery Rightmire.")
As is often the case with e-mail polemics focused on purported welfare abuse and taxpayer outrage, the "New American Way of Life" offers an implausible, far-fetched scenario to condemn those who use public assistance to make ends meet:
1. Don't marry (your girlfriend). 2. Use your mom's address to receive your mail. 3. The guy buys a house. 4. Guy rents out house to his girlfriend who has 2 of his kids. 5. Section 8 will pay $900 a month for a 3 bedroom home.
Points 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the forward pertain to the imagined generosity of the housing program colloquially called "Section 8," the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) assistance program that provides very low-income families with subsidized vouchers they can use towards paying a portion of their monthly rent.
While Section 8 is frequently derided in the fashion referenced above, it's very difficult to play the system in the manner described due to the low supply versus tremendous demand for housing and vouchers among those in need of it. Applicants typically have to spend years on waiting lists before Section 8 housing becomes available, and in many cases it takes years to even get one's name on a waiting list in the first place. Waiting lists for the program close to new applicants for years at a time on a not-infrequent basis, as a 24 August 2015 article in the Albuquerque Journal reported:
The waiting list for Section 8 subsidized housing will re-open on Sept. 1, after closing 28 months ago, the Bernalillo County Housing Department announced Friday.
But getting onto that waiting list is no assurance that a person will move into Section 8 housing anytime soon.
According to Housing Department senior administrative assistant, Craig Smith, the waiting list will re-open with 600 people still on the list, “and we expect to add thousands by the time the list is closed back down, though there is no tentative date when that will happen.”
The wait list was shut down on May 1, 2013, “because of sequestering of funds and budget cuts from the federal government,” in particular the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
So it's extremely unlikely the baby daddy landlord in this hypothetical scenario could simply make a residence available for the Section 8 program and then immediately rent it to the tenant of his choosing. He'd typically have to wait years for his preferred renter (i.e., his girlfriend) to get on a Section 8 waiting list, then more years for her to work her way to the top of the list, before he could double-dip by getting the government to subsidize his girlfriend's paying him rent to live in a house he owns. The baby daddy in this scenario (one who can afford to buy his own house) would probably be far better off financially if he simply lived in the house with his girlfriend, or rented it out to someone other than his girlfriend.
6. Girlfriend signs up for Obamacare so guy doesn't have to pay for family insurance.
There is a persistent misperception that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as PPACA, the ACA, or "Obamacare") somehow allows low-income Americans to "sign up" for free medical care and/or free health insurance. It doesn't. It does provide lower-income households with tax credits/subsidies for the purchase of health insurance, but one would generally have to be at the very lower end of the ACA income scale and select the least expensive type of health insurance plan available to avoid paying anything at all for insurance. (And even then, the family would still have to pay out of pocket for all the costs not necessarily covered by insurance, such as copays for office visits, diagnostic tests, lab work, prescriptions, hospital stays, etc.)
7. Being a single mother, Girlfriend gets to go to college for free!
If there is any guaranteed way for a "single mother" to obtain a college education for free, we've yet to locate it. Yes, federal Pell Grants can provide qualifying students with up to almost $6,000 per year towards the cost of attending college (depending upon financial need), but they aren't tied to one's status as a single mother. There are some grants and scholarships available for single parents to both help them afford school while they are in and and help them pay it off once they have graduated, but those types of programs are scant, and very, very few unpartnered mothers could get a free ride to any college on the basis of their status as single parents alone.
8. Girlfriend gets $600 a month for food stamps
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as "food stamps") is an often criticized assistance program aimed at combating hunger by financially struggling families. Eligibility for SNAP varies based on household size, but the maximum monthly allotment ranges from $194 for a family of one to $1,169 for a family of eight. Each additional family member after that can qualify a household for up to $146 more each month in benefits, or just under $5 per person per day. The household size posited here (a single mother with two children) wouldn't qualify for $600 per month in SNAP benefits.
The Department of Agriculture (under which the program operates) estimates a total annual program "loss" of about four percent. Despite widespread belief that the SNAP program is rampantly abused with little oversight, fraud in the program is aggressively investigated and prosecuted where applicable.
9. Girlfriend gets free cell phone from US Government
The Lifeline program (commonly known as "Obamaphones," even though the program was actually initiated long before the Barack Obama took office) requires phone service providers to offer monthly discounts on landline or wireless telephone service to eligible low-income consumers. The program does not require those providers to issue "free cell phones" to anyone (although some cellular providers choose to do so at their own expense).
10. Girlfriend get free utilities.
Various programs administered at the state level provide low-income families with financial assistance to offset the costs of essential utilities, but often only in emergency situations.
11. Guy moves into home but still uses mom's house to receive mail.
One might theoretically do this, but the person who deliberately falsified his residence address in order to live in self-owned housing that he was being paid to rent to another party under the Section 8 program would be committing a crime, not simply taking legitimate and legal advantage of government assistance programs.
12. Girlfriend claims one kid and guy claims one kid on taxes. Now you both get to claim head of household at $1,800 credit.
Whether or not taxpayers are setting out to craftily claim tax deductions to which they are not entitled, the IRS's head of household tax filing status indeed entitles the person filing to a higher deduction ($9,250 in 2015 versus $6,300 for taxpayers filing as Single or Married Filing Separately). It's important to bear in mind that that dollar amount is what taxpayers may deduct from their taxable income, and not necessarily an amount that they will receive back in the form of a tax refund.
And of course, if each parent is claiming one of the two children as a dependent, than the mother can't be legally collecting benefits (such as SNAP) for both children.
Girlfriend gets disability for being "crazy" or having a "bad back" at $1,800 a month and never has to work again.
For starters, one cannot simply declare herself to be mentally ill or have back problems, then sit back and collect disability payments for the rest of her (working) life. Such claims have to be documented by medical professionals as genuinely disabling conditions, and even then those living with disabilities find that securing benefits isn't quite so easy. Presuming the woman in this anecdote is fairly young, she would have to have accrued sufficient work credits to qualify for lifelong disability payments (an unlikely scenario), and then she would still have to meet separate criteria for a qualifying condition (which precludes having earned more than $1,090 per month in that year). The condition under which a person qualifies also must be one that limits ability to do any other work:
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, we see if you are able to adjust to other work.
We consider your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.
According to data from the agency, more than half of disability claims are denied, and the wait for hearings has increased (partly due to an aging pool of applicants). The anecdotal claimant's purported plundering of disability benefits also conflicts with her concurrent sponging of educational grants, as the usefulness of the latter is negated by the former: A full-time student wouldn't qualify for lifelong disability payments, and college would be unnecessary for the matriarch of a household who intended to remain home for life collecting benefits for her fabricated disability.
This plan is perfectly legal and is being executed now by millions of people. A married couple with a stay at home mom yields $0 dollars. An unmarried couple with stay at home mom nets. $21.600 disability + $10,800 free housing + $6,000 free obamacare +$6,000 free food + $4,800 free utilities + $6,000 Pell Grant money to spend + $12,000 a year in college tuition free from Pell Grant + $8,800 tax benefit for being a single mother = $75,000 a year in benefits.
Any idea why the country is 18 + trillion in debt?
As the excerpt above concludes, the figures bandied about in the e-mail encompass virtually all programs available to low-income Americans and extrapolates the fictional family described routinely accesses all of them. Some of the benefits described (such as free college for single mothers or free utility programs) don't seem to exist, and several of forms of assistance (such as Section 8 or disability) are not administered in the simplistic manner suggested by this item.
Furthermore, while this item asserts that the complex welfare hustling plan described here is "perfectly legal," several aspects of it involve defrauding the system in an expressly prohibited (and largely criminal) fashion. Were any family to hide assets or lie about household income on application forms, they would be subject to severe penalties and prosecution should their perfidy be unraveled. The scheme also rests upon the (fallacious) notion that access to assistance programs is easy to both maintain and retain.
Finally, the causes of the national debt are fairly complex. However, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and Defense broadly account for most government spending.
Last updated: 31 August 2015
Originally published: 31 August 2015