Tax Dollars for the Dead -- $1 Billion Worth

By Tad DeHaven

The Office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has released an appropriately timed report on federal subsidies that have gone to the deceased. From the introduction:

In the past decade, Washington sent over $1 billion of your tax dollars to dead people. Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills.

In some cases, these payments quietly gather in a dormant bank account. In many others, however, they land in the pockets of still-living people, who are defrauding the system by collecting benefits meant for a now-deceased relative.

Since 2000, the known cost of these payments to over 250,000 deceased individuals has topped $1 billion, according to a review of government audits and reports by the Government Accountability Office, inspectors general, and Congress itself. This is likely only a small picture of a much larger problem.

As a Cato essay on fraud and abuse in federal programs discusses, these problems are endemic because the federal government is a “vast money transfer machine.” While federal subsidy programs should be cut because they harm the economy and are unfair to taxpayers, Coburn’s findings of pure waste represent one more reason to pursue terminations of federal programs.


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