This week, the infamous infomercial huckster Matthew Lesko turns 80 years old.
In the 1970s, Lesko first noticed billions of dollars of government giveaway money was there for the taking. He began cut-and-pasting government grant documents and publishing them as dozens of “self-help books” for free riders. His trademark was colorful green suits festooned with question marks and he went on TV to pitch his products.
His books became best sellers and within a couple of years, he had 30 people working for him to unearth the endless array of stipends, loans, loan guarantees, services, and subsidies that Washington creates.
Lesko came to symbolize the “free money” attitude that has permeated the thinking of many Americans. Remember Obama bucks and the free cell phones? His job has only become easier. When he started the federal budget was only $750 billion. Now it’s $6 trillion.
Lesko got rich off of government “free money,” but in his defense, Lesko was right that wealthy corporations and Washington insiders have the connections to locate the spending trough in Washington and push their snouts into it. He has simply democratized the idea of “free money” to lower-income groups.
Why should only “woke” activists know there are federal grants for teaching disadvantaged transgender youth to dance?
While he never suggests anyone commits fraud, Lesko never mentions just how much the programs he touts can be ripped off. Our friends at Issues & Insights have the drum roll: The Paycheck Protection Program saw $80 billion in fraud… More than one in five unemployment benefit payments were made improperly to the tune of $191 billion. The Small Business Administration fears it was bilked out of $400 billion in fraudulent emergency loans. Even Chicago gang members used PPP funds to buy guns.
By the way, the latest program giving away money may reduce spending. There is a new program to pay people to serve as COVID fraud bounty hunters.