When the Washington Post published a story in 2007 about how dead farmers had received farm subsidies to the tune of over $1bn, most people were horrified (even "farm subsidy moderate" Rand Paul thought they should go!). Although the article made clear that "most estates are allowed to collect farm payments for up to two years after an owner's death," and that the payments weren't necessarily fraudulent, outrage ensued.
But a follow-up investigation by the USDA has found that all but about $1 million of the payments were completely above board. From the Associated Press:
A 2007 report that the federal government had paid $1.1 billion in subsidies to dead farmers sparked an outcry and has been frequently cited by critics who considered the payments a blatant example of wasteful spending. But a follow-up that found no fraud and determined nearly all the subsidies paid on behalf of dead farmers in recent years were proper has received little attention.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, just a little over $1 million out of the billions of dollars paid in subsidies in 2009 went to estates or business entities that weren't entitled to them.
"Very little money is going to individuals who have not earned that money. Very little is being paid in error because a farmer has passed away," FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess told The Associated Press. [emphasis mine]
Don't you just love how Mr Coppess uses the word "earned" there?
That's the real scandal of farm subsidies, readers. Not that they are fraudulent (although that is of course an outrage), but that they are, for the most part, perfectly legal.