Welfare families are trapped in poverty by the uncaring Reagan administration's tight-fistedness…or so they say. But think of Alberta Kidd, a mother of six who hit one of the biggest slot-machine payoffs in history—$919,559. For the past year, Mrs. Kidd and the six little kidds subsisted—just barely, of course—on welfare. Now who would begrudge Mrs. Kidd her good fortune? But where does a welfare mother get the loot to bundle herself, two children, and a friend off to Atlantic City for a weekend of gambling? Can you imagine what would happen if Congress didn't restore some of Ronnie's draconian budget cuts? Alberta might not have had the money—our money!!—to gamble with.
No wonder the Social Security system is gasping its last breaths. It took Robert Harwell more than a year to get the bureaucrats and their intransigent computers to take back $20,000 that didn't belong to him. The Alabama native kept receiving disability benefit checks at the rate of $1,000 a month after he was no longer eligible. Harwell tried to return the money, but after months of filling out forms, all the civil servants did was say they couldn't figure out which office to send him to. His congressman finally intervened on his behalf, and Social Security grudgingly took its money back. "I thought I'd just have to tell them to come and get it, but it didn't work like that," Harwell said.
Isn't life just ducky now that Reagan and his team have taken an axe to the federal budget and slashed the expense accounts of high-level bureaucrats? Just ask high-flyer Reagan-appointee Lynn Helms, the top man at the Federal Aviation Administration. Helms spent $417,000 in federal funds last year toodling around the country in a government jet when he could have taken readily available commercial flights at a cost of $13,000, according to the Government Accounting Office. Another example of so-called fiscal conservatism: the Department of Transportation spent $61,000 flying an official to a Paris air show. A commercial flight would have cost $1,500. Rhetoric is rhetoric, and a freebie is a freebie is a freebie.
Att. Gen. William French Smith reached out and touched some of his employees—and the phone company got $30,000 richer. Smith, FBI Director William Webster, and department attorneys in six southern states had a nice two-hour chat in the most expensive conference call in department history. What's even more appalling is that the call wasn't secure and discussions presumably could have been picked up by non-Justice listeners. It would have cost one-third as much money to have flown the southern attorneys to Washington and back. But who's counting?
Oops! The secret formula for a highly profitable weedkiller was given to a rival company in an "honest mistake" by an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency. The trade secret for Roundup, the largest-selling herbicide in the world, was inadvertently disclosed last May to a Washington lawyer in response to a Freedom of Information request, according to the Monsanto Company, which makes the herbicide. Monsanto sued the EPA for releasing the formula but dropped the suit after the agency apologized and said it would never do it again.
A judge has sentenced John Thomas Harmon to 20 years in prison for the crime of biting and kissing the derriere of women he doesn't know. The Atlanta resident is awaiting trial on another charge of simple battery for allegedly kissing the rump of a woman last March as she walked in front of a downtown office complex. "This is a pitiful case," said Judge Hilton Fuller in passing the sentence with teeth in it. So John Thomas Harmon has 20 years to think it over while Abbie Hoffman remains free to torment Phil Donahue. Where's the justice?
Unemployment may not be so bad after all. It sure beats picking apples for a living. When the Vermont state employment agency asked 10,000 unemployed people if they were interested in some temporary harvest work, fewer than 400 said yes. In what has become an annual ritual, the apple growers ask permission to bring in foreign workers because there aren't enough Vermont pickers. The US Labor Department requires that growers try to find domestic help first. So this year, just like every year, the Vermont Job Service tries and fails to fill the spots. The months of going through the motions only serves to prevent hundreds of legal aliens who want to work from doing so. What if they had a harvest and nobody came?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".