How bad is the economy in suburban Detroit?
If you asked 24-year-old Amanda Clayton, of Lincoln Park, she might say something like, "It's so bad, I have to continue using food stamps despite winning the lottery."
Detroit news station WDIV has reported that Clayton is still using a state-sponsored BRIDGE card to buy $200 of food every month, despite taking home an approximate $500,000 lump sum from a $1 million jackpot last fall.
"I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn't, I thought maybe it was OK because I'm not working," Clayton told the station when confronted.
She later justified her decision by saying, "I feel that it's OK because, I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay. I have two houses."
At one point in the interview she said, "I'm still struggling."
Tell that to the millions of Americans who don't even have one home.
Tell that to the single moms who work two jobs just to keep food on the table for their kids.
They'd likely have plenty to say about it and their statements would be anything but empathetic.
The crazy thing is Clayton is not the only person who's stayed on public assistance despite a financial windfall. Fellow Michigan resident Leroy Fick, 59, of Auburn, took home a lump sum of $850,000 and was surprised when he learned he could still pay for food with the government's buck.
"I'm going by the rules and if they need to change the rules, they can change the rules, but I don't see I'm doing anything wrong," he said on an episode of Fox and Friends back in 2011.
Fick and Clayton are right: They're not technically doing anything wrong, according to current federal and Michigan laws.
However, the Michigan House and Senate and both passed a bill that would require the state to cross-check the names of lottery winners of prizes over $1,000 with names of individuals receiving assistance.
The Michigan legislature is trying to do the right thing. Now it's time for the federal government to do the same thing.
Entitlements and interest take up about 65 percent of the federal budget and it's time to have a serious discussion about both.
The main discussion should include a plan for people on entitlements to have an opportunity to stand on their own two feet.
Second, loopholes should be closed so people cannot milk the system.
Furthermore, how will Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security be modified so they can stay viable going forward?
For the sake of future Americans, those discussions need to happen sooner rather than later.