Welfare recipients are spending our money at strip clubs, liquor stores, casinos, and amusement parks. Granted, this is outrageous, but it is not the fundamental injustice at hand.

Colorado’s 9News recently published a report detailing unorthodox uses of the state’s welfare system. The station investigated transactions “involving Colorado Quest cards, the state-issued debit cards welfare recipients use to access cash at ATMs.” The news outlet reported that welfare recipients withdrew more than $40,000 at liquor stores and around $15,000 at casinos; made more than a dozen withrawals at strip clubs; and made dozens of withdrawals at Elitch Gardens, Disney Land, and other amusement parks.

In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported a similar situation in California, revealing that welfare recipients had spent millions of taxpayer dollars on trips to Las Vegas and Hawaii.

Really, though, these sensational instances of welfare spending merely illustrate some of the obvious consequences of forcibly transferring wealth from those who earn it to those who do not. People who are forced to pay for other people’s “needs” have no means of monitoring the spending of those who receive the loot or dictating how they may spend it. Once someone forcibly seizes your money, you lose control of it. (By contrast, people who voluntarily contribute to charity tend to keep a sharp eye on where their money goes and can stop providing it if they think it’s being ill spent.)

Americans’ outrage, however, should be directed not at how welfare money is spent, but at the fact that it is forcibly taken from producers to begin with. Individuals who produce wealth have a right to the fruits of their labor; they have a right to save, spend, invest, or give away their money as they see fit.

When the government seizes wealth from those who earn it and gives that wealth to those who did not, the government violates the producers’ rights—and it does so equally whether the recipients spend the loot on casinos and strip clubs or on electricity and spinach.

The proper object of outrage here is not that some welfare recipients spend “their” money on strip clubs, but that welfare exists at all.

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Image: iStockPhoto

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