Ross: Federal COVID economic relief programs reveal ‘we are a nation full of liars’

Aug 19, 2022, 12:53 PM

covid fraud...

Samuel Levine, Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hearing to examine Covid-19 fraud and price gouging, in the Russell Senate Office Building on February 1, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by BILL O'LEARY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by BILL O'LEARY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

This was a New York Times headline from yesterday: “Prosecutors Struggle to Catch Up to a Tidal Wave of Pandemic Fraud.” The story was written by our favorite NYT reporter David Fahrenthold, and it’s about the people who stole possibly billions from the program designed to keep unemployed people afloat when COVID hit.

Turns out it also kept a lot of crooks afloat. No surprise to us here in Washington. Our COVID aid program ended up being targeted by a Nigerian fraud ring that managed to make off with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ex-Nigerian official pleads guilty to pandemic relief fraud

But it wasn’t just Nigerians. Plenty of Americans did it too.

The COVID relief program revealed just how dumb it was for the government to operate on the honor system to get the money out as quickly as possible.

But it also revealed that we are a nation full of liars.

Oh, the lies on those applications! Non-existent businesses asking for small business loans. Fabricated tax documents. One guy filed dozens of phony unemployment applications and got $1.2 million in pre-paid debit cards for himself and his friends – and then posted a rap about it!

EDD stands for California’s Employment Development Department, which paid the benefits.

He rapped himself straight into jail.

But most of the investigations aren’t that easy.

The IRS may be getting 87,000 new employees – but what about the Postal Inspection Service? The Small Business Administration? The Labor Department?

The Times reports the Labor Department alone has opened 39,000 fraud investigations. The Small Business Administration has a pile of two million suspicious loan applications to check, and 50 investigators to check them.

You wonder why government programs require so many forms and documents? This is why.

No question – bureaucratic incompetence is a big problem, but the other big issue is governing a nation with so many liars.

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Ross: Federal COVID economic relief programs reveal ‘we are a nation full of liars’