Predators Have No Limits


            New Orleans       We were meeting for hours with Ramona Williams of MCUP, Mississippi Citizens United for Prosperity in Jackson, Mississippi, and one of her leaders.   We were all about the business and discussing how ACORN could work with MCUP, as a member of the Anthropocene Alliance, but it wasn’t just business on a Saturday morning.  We were all sitting on the patio of her house under the shade of several large trees.  She had barbecued ribs earlier.  It was good times.

I don’t know exactly how it came up.  Likely, Ramona mentioned some public figure in Mississippi that they had tangled with from time to time, and the person was one of the people implicated in the scandalous welfare rip-off scheme several years ago in the state.  Several people have gone to jail.  The former governor and NFL Packers star and Kiln, Mississippi native Brett Favre are both still trying to escape responsibility for their roles in the mess.  In Favre’s case for redirecting money to volleyball courts and charging fees for no-shows, and in the governor’s for allowing it all to happen.

Anyway, as mi companera and colleague, told me later, the discussion had triggered a rant from me, which had surprised her and might have been too close to the line.  Truth to tell, I probably was a bit strident.  I just could not believe that people would steal money designed to benefit people on welfare, especially in Mississippi, where the benefits are piddling, and it is almost impossible for eligible recipients to qualify.  Instead, in the criminal way that this money has morphed into a flat grant, ostensibly to give states more flexibility in supporting their lowest income citizens, too many governors and legislatures have made this a slush fund on the backs of the poor.  To me, this is about as low as you can go.  Having worked for welfare rights more than fifty years ago, this is personal to me still.

Probably, it’s just as well that we were meeting in Mississippi, because once I got back to New Orleans and began catching up on old papers, it just got worse, as I read about an even bigger rip-off in Minnesota.  The article was about an attempt to bribe a juror with a bag of $120,000 in small bills in the trial of a bunch of folks who stole $41 million.  She alerted the court and was dismissed as a juror of course, because she did the right thing, even as someone with this gang did the wrong thing.  The money stolen in this case was via a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future that was handling money for a government feeding program during the pandemic.  That’s not the half of it.  Prosecutors believe $250 million was stolen altogether and are going after dozens more who claimed “to have served nonexistent meals to nonexistent children.”

Unbelievable!  The Minnesotans make the Mississippians seem like small timers.  In this case, these predators were literally taking food out of the mouths of children.  Prosecutors claim they’ve recovered $60 million by seizing property, cash, and more from the criminals, but that still leaves almost $200 million in the wind that should have kept hunger out of thousands of homes.

Maybe this is even a lower place to go, but either way it’s a horror to imagine that people would do this.  Robin Hood had it right, but jail is almost too good a place for people who would steal from the poor.