Is welfare reform the best stimulus?

New York state lawmakers propose welfare 'vice' ban


This is a rush transcript from "The Five," June 15, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST: So, New York state lawmakers are proposing a ban on welfare recipients, spending their checks on vices. That means no booze, cigarette, lotto tickets or trips to casinos or strip clubs, which guarantees that Dana will never be on welfare.

Says the bill sponsor, a Republican, of course, because they're evil. "This common sense legislation would protect hard-working taxpayers from abuse."

Now, this is what I call a stimulus plan. New York just did more to make sure its men stay employed than 100 bail-out plans. Now, I don't believe in telling people how to spend their money but then again it's not their money. It's ours. This is the problem. Entitlement society has. If you're entitled to my money, I'm entitled I think to say how it's spent.

And here's a question any kid can answer. When did do you get off a merry-go-round? When it stops. Maybe when debit cards are no longer tickets to paradise, some folks might give them up.

But I'll admit, everyone is entitled to a good time. And perhaps I'm a bit jealous. Strip clubs, gambling, booze, it bothers me they're having a better time on my dime than I am.

And obviously, there will be an enforcement problem with this bill, which is why I'd like to volunteer Bob to help with that. He can cover strip clubs and casinos since both are part of his morning routine.

BOB BECKEL, CO-HOST: I work out.


BECKEL: Casino, it's --

GUTFELD: You burn a lot of calories on the stripper pole.

BECKEL: First of all, this bill is something that's been passed in other legislatures. It's going to be passed in all 50 because President Obama's bill that extends the middle class tax relief bill. That's where it was included, where it said states would not be able to get federal money unless they did take this gap.

So, we thank President Obama for this. And fact is that it's only New York state. It's really interesting. New York state -- all these horror stories emanate right out of the city right here. For those of you, I don't live here. The rest of them do.


ERIC BOLLING, CO-HOST: It's isolated the New York city and New York state, right, Bob?

BECKEL: Three-point-seven percent according to the official statistics.

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST: It's not a partisan thing, though, right? Everybody can look at this and say, well, of course, you don't think if you are paying for somebody to be able to eat or take care of themselves. But they should spend it on strip clubs --

BECKEL: Can you imagine an election year, anybody voting against this bill?

PERINO: Right. Who is going to say this? But how big -- when I reads this -- I'm like how big is the problem? That's pretty significant, 3.7 percent?

BOLLING: I think it's substantially higher than that, Dana. I mean, there's no way in the other word it's only three points -- 3.7 percent of the cases they find and they know about.


BOLLING: You know, Bob, you can take EBT card, walk down the street and go to any of these bodegas and say, I'll -- give me half the money on the card in cash.

BECKEL: I can go to the garage next door and buy ounce of cocaine.

What does that mean?

GUTFELD: Don't oust the garage.

BOLLING: Therein lies fraud. That's illegal. You don't count that.

BECKEL: With all the people on food stamps, let's keep in mind here, the vast, vast majority don't do that. In New York City, there's a con artist on every corner.

GUTFELD: But just the small percentage who do this, then clearly it's not a big deal if we stop it.

PERINO: Also the small percentage that are doing it are, you know, bad apples that spoil the bunch. They are taking from other citizens who could then --

BECKEL: And this will cost New York state tens of millions of dollars in federal money.

BOLLING: I have to point this out, your 3.7 percent includes only the issues, people they caught doing it.

BECKEL: Perhaps that's true.

BOLLING: You know -- Bob, you're smart guy, if they caught 3.7 percent, how much is actually going on? What do you think?

BECKEL: I would say maybe 10.

BOLLING: A third.


BECKEL: Maybe. Program this size like Medicare. How much does it do in Medicare? Probably 15 to 20 percent. I mean --

BOLLING: Why would it be any different? It's harder to commit Medicare fraud than it is to go and swap your EBT card.

GUTFELD: With the government, it's easy to commit fraud in just about every area.

GUILFOYLE: OK. Having worked at the prosecutor's office and hand the cases you would be surprised. There is so much more of it that goes on.

There's just a small fraction that they are able to get because it's reported, someone turns you in.

But it's very difficult to try and track it. That's why they're saying this is something that needs attention to try to curb it, because there is more out there we're not getting to. So, why would you be against financially responsible measures like this to make sure that there isn't abuse of the system?


GUILFOYLE: So, Bob, the people who really needs aren't using it --

BECKEL: The other states that passed it are California and Washington. This is not a partisan issue. I'd support the bill. I don't know any politician in their right mind who are against this bill.

GUTFELD: Don't you think it would help people, get off welfare and food stamps?

PERINO: Well, yes.

GUTFELD: The discretionary fund stuff.

PERINO: Sure. And then I was just actually thinking, Kimberly, when you are a prosecutor, how do you mostly find out about this? Is it because if you were on food stamps and you found out there was fraud and there was incentive to turn them in -- I mean, maybe that's a better way to try to get people to stop it.

GUILFOYLE: Jealous friends like Greg.

But people who see abuse happening and going on, the people who are driving Mercedes and nice cars and having food stamps, yes, that gets reported. But, again, it's just a small portion of it.


BOLLING: I do it very quickly. White board, quickly.

In America, we spend $927 billion in on welfare. It does not include the Social Security checks to elderly, 100 million people receive benefits.

That's $9,000 and almost $300 per person.

If family of four gets 37,000 bucks per year on average. The average working family makes 51 grand a year, $51,900 a year. After tax, it's 38.

How is this, Bob? They're almost set it up that's better off, you're better off financially to stay home and take welfare benefits.

BECKEL: So, why --


BECKEL: Therein lies -- there's Eric's white board.

GUILFOYLE: Are playing cards?

GUTFELD: On that note. He was doing a card trick but we're going to do it during the break.

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