Among them were people buying lobsters, steaks and giant birthday cakes; a man who bought supplies – hot dogs, ketchup, buns – for his hot dog cart business; and another who had been on welfare since 1991.
Her post has gone viral, garnering more than 2,600 comments in a week.
PBN: Why do you think people reacted so viscerally to your post? Although your column was quite interesting, abuse of the welfare system is already a much-talked about problem.
ROUSSELLE: I have no idea. I was shocked by all the attention that my post received. I’ve never seen anything like it. I think that the first-person account of what I saw was what made my post unique. It’s one thing to have an economist discuss the issues with welfare; it’s another to have a 20-year old former Walmart cashier describe actual examples of such fraud and abuse. Like one person said to me, I wasn’t painting a picture, I was describing a photograph. Most journalists do not have first-hand experience with what they’re reporting on. I did.
PBN: You say in the post that you’re not against temporary aid to help those in destitute situations that need to feed themselves. What three reforms would you suggest to curb welfare abuse?
ROUSSELLE: I would enforce strict time limits to welfare aid programs so they remain truly temporary. Maine has one of the highest rates in the nation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Family cases exceeding five years. I would create a tiered system that wouldn’t completely cut off benefits to a person if they managed to find a job that would put them over the eligibility limit for state aid. I also would be fully supportive of a drug test prior to receiving benefits; after all, I had to be drug tested in order to work at Walmart both summers, and my parents had to be drug tested to work at their jobs too.
PBN: You’ve received more than 2,600 comments. Have you read them all? Have any stuck out to you?
ROUSSELLE: I read them all up until about 500 comments, and then they started coming in faster than I could keep up. My English teacher from my senior year of high school commented on a news article about me, and he said he was happy I was able to apply what I learned in his class to the real world. That really meant a lot to me, as I know we don’t see eye-to-eye politically. I’ve received praise from several prominent conservative women: Dana Loesch, Michelle Malkin, and Ann Coulter, and that was awesome. I’ve also gotten a bunch of comments about my appearance (both good and bad), and seven marriage proposals. I thought the comments about my looks were out of line: my face has nothing to do with the issue of people committing fraud or abusing the system.
PBN: Where would you like to go from here? You’ve been featured in the Washington Post, Bangor Daily News, Boston Globe, etc. Any desire to advocate reform in Rhode Island?
ROUSSELLE: I would love to do political journalism for the rest of my life, but I have no idea what I’m going to do after graduation. I’ll work wherever I’m hired! This past week has been absolutely unreal. It feels like a dream. As far as Rhode Island politics, I’m admittedly not as familiar with the issues here as I should be. I think reform is needed in all 50 states.
PBN: As a “college conservative” what political issues have caught your attention in Rhode Island?
ROUSSELLE: I think illegal immigration is a national problem and Rhode Island’s approach to the issue has me scratching my head a little bit. I remember that Gov. Lincoln D. Chaffee repealed E-verify the same day that Maine’s governor enacted strict new reforms regarding illegal immigrants, which was quite the contrast between the two places I call home. I’m also very involved in the pro-life movement, which is more of a national issue than a local, Rhode Island issue. I’ve done work with my school’s pro-life club to raise money for the Mother of Life center, which is a pro-life pregnancy resource center in Providence that provides free help for pregnant teens and women.