Thursday, May 11, 2006
How polygamy affects your wallet
You may or may not agree with polygamist Warren Jeffs' lifestyle, and you may or may not think he is indeed the dangerous criminal the FBI says he is, but would you believe Jeffs and his followers are costing you money?

"Their religious belief is that they'll bleed the beast, meaning the government," said Mark Shurtleff, Utah's attorney general. "They hate the government, so they'll bleed it for everything they can through welfare, tax evasion and fraud."

It makes some sense. Polygamists have multiple wives and dozens of children, but the state only recognizes one marriage. That leaves the rest of the wives to claim themselves as single moms with armies of children to support. Doing that means they can apply for welfare, which they do. And it's all legal.

"More than 65 percent of the people are on welfare ... compared with 6 percent of the people of the general population," Shurtleff said.

Shurtleff hasn't filed charges against Jeffs or his organization, but he's investigating Jeffs for "cooking the books," avoiding taxes, and even setting up offshore accounts.

One thing we do know is that Jeffs and his followers have not been paying their fair share of property taxes.

A judge appointed accountant Bruce Wisan to take control of the group's $110 million trust. Wisan's biggest challenge: Collecting more than $1 million in overdue property taxes from polygamist property owners living in Colorado City, Arizona, where Jeffs' church is based.

"They've received benefits of living on trust land for free," Wisan said. "They didn't pay for the land. In many cases it was community efforts that built the house. So all they have to pay are utilities and property taxes and I don't think that's unreasonable."
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 2:47 PM ET
  27 Comments
Although they apply for welfare, don't they have to list the father, which hopefully they will go after? Why isn't there accountability? I guess this answers my questions on how they get healthcare. They don't seem to be hiding to me.
Posted By Anonymous Teresa O'Hara, Alexandria, VA : 3:04 PM ET
Randi -

This reminds me of how the government was finally able to bring Al Capone to (some degree of) justice. He was arrested and convicted of tax fraud. He was responsible for countless heinous crimes, but in the end it was money crimes that brought him down. I don't find anything wrong with this, in fact it's a great part of the US system of justice. Bad people do bad things, and its good that we have a number of ways to get them off the streets.

Prosecuting crimes of this type would take a lot less toll on the innocents involved, and since only one wife can be legally married to one man, most would not even be eligible to be prosecuted as someone who participated in the crimes.

Money talks, and it carries a big stick.
Posted By Anonymous David, Freeland, Michigan : 3:11 PM ET
I find it ironic that so many of the "starve the beast" types receive so much governmental largesse. Whether it is Utah polygamists or right-wingers whose education came from state universities and public schools, theirs is a philosophy of think as I think not as how I do. Utah is among the most dependably Republican of all states. One wonders how many polygamic Republicans are supplementing their lifestyle with taxpayer funded welfare.
Posted By Anonymous Hudson Henley, Dallas, Texas : 3:13 PM ET
All the more reason to make this either legal and regulated OR Enforce The Laws They Are Breaking. I love the way our government whines about people taking advantage of them when they do NOTHING to stop it!

Polygamists, Illegal Aliens, Drug Runners, Terrorist, Big Businesses, are all taking advantage of the largest super power in the world. What a joke!
Posted By Anonymous Scott - Green Bay, WI : 3:13 PM ET
Our healthcare system is also greatly taxed in caring for their children, many of which have neurological issues related to imbreeding. In Arizona, Neurologist, Dr. Daniel Tarby has spoken with NPR relating his experiences with the neurological side of of the birth defects that he has seen coming out of this population specifically in his 15 years experience with treating their children.
Posted By Anonymous Brittany, Flagstaff, AZ : 3:20 PM ET
I loathe abuses that are carried on in the name of freedom of religion. The polygamists of Warren Jeffs' sect are committing acts of pedophilia and child abuse, among other things. It just amazes me that the legal authorities have turned a blind eye to all of this for so long.

If the only way Jeffs and his followers can be stopped is to prosecute them for tax violations, so be it; these people definitely merit prosecution.
Posted By Anonymous Karin Cozzolino, El Segundo, CA : 3:34 PM ET
And we were worried about illegal immigrants draining the system.
Posted By Anonymous Luz, Los Angeles, California : 3:36 PM ET
Pres. Roosevelt is the one who started all the "government largesse," and I quote,
"the time has come [this in 1935] for national gov't to provide security against major hazards and uncertainties of life..," thus guaranteeing benefits to widows, children, the elderly and disabled.

Fast forward to 2006. Has the "welfare system", expanded too widely?
Posted By Anonymous Tina - Chicago, IL : 3:51 PM ET
It would seem that every aspect of this 'lifestyle' is unlawful. Unlawful means illegal or criminal. What else needs to be said?
Posted By Anonymous R Stockton Ft Worth TX : 3:51 PM ET
For the organized compounds, there needs to be a clearing of them. I'm not advocating a Waco style gun battle, but the federal and state governments need break up these cultish compound groups. They are a drain on society at large, not even to mention the heinous acts of rape, child endangerment, and inbreeding. Warren Jeffs himself looks inbred, and likely is in order to have the "prophet" title. The compound cults are disgusting.
Posted By Anonymous Donna, St Louis, MO : 3:55 PM ET
Tax exempt status granted by "the beast" to the churches and, of course, therefore to the polygamist churches, is the basis for tax evasion in this case. All religious institutions should be taxed just like all citizens are taxed, based on their income. Religions are nothing more or less than a large number of special interest corporations.
Posted By Anonymous Jake Baronet, Alamogordo, NM : 3:59 PM ET
All the comments so far are right on, only leaving the fact that Jeffs can hide in a fortress in TX after years of being allowed to break the law in many states while our intel/enforcement community is engaged in accumulating massive amounts of phone records that they could not possibly process. Same old lack of Homeland Security, slam-dunk intel, and non-enforcement of the laws we have to get a vote.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 4:00 PM ET
Not all polygamists believe in "bleeding the beast". My family does not receive welfare and we have a pretty good standard of living. Our 'lifestyle' is actually legal in some states so long as only one of us has a licensed marriage to our husband.

We need to disassociate polygamy, Mormons, FLDS, child abuse, arranged marriages, and oppression. They don't have to go together and thousands of families like mine are proof as none of those things apply to us.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Sacramento, California : 4:20 PM ET
Something needs to be done, and quickly, to dismantle these types of groups. It's bad enough they are draining our welfare system and not paying taxes, but now we hear accusations of child molestation occurring in some of these communities. I shudder to think about what else has to happen before authorities take action.
Posted By Anonymous Despina, Charlotte, NC : 4:20 PM ET
"Fast forward to 2006. Has the "welfare system", expanded too widely?"

By Jove, I believe Tina is ON to something here! You should rush immediately to party headquarters and tell them to completely do away with the entire welfare state. Get rid of social security while you're at it. That's always a big crowd-pleaser. Why, it's such a winning strategy that the November elections would be a shoe-in and the GOP's hold on both houses would be assured in perpetuity.

*snort*
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 4:41 PM ET
I have a cousin with five children (by three different fathers) who lived off of welfare for many years. I didn't see her often but at any family gathering, she made it a point to joke about "bleeding the government" and how welfare was her way to "fight the Man."

As far as I'm concerned, unless you're disabled, elderly, orphaned, or can support your family without working, you should have a job! You can talk about hating the government all you want but I think you're just lazy, and I despise laziness. You need to work like the rest of us, and if your religion forbids it, then I guess you gotta be poor.

And if you're stupid enough and selfish enough to bring a child into this world without any means to support it, your child should be taken away from you, bottom line.
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Baltimore, MD : 4:42 PM ET
It seems to me that the government has made it easy for people like this to abuse the system.

The solution is to legalize polygamy and when each man is legally and financially responsible for all of his wives and the children he produces, he might think twice about having more children. This would take care of the welfare problem.

Making ALL religious groups pay taxes would eliminate a lot of other problems too. Religions are no longer isolated groups of people who need protection from tax laws. All religions are money making "corporations" which are involved in all facets of life. An example is all the money Christian religions are giving to their pet political causes. Tax them all and monitor them closely.

And finally, if the U.S. government would enforce existing laws equally, these "religious leaders" would have a more difficult time manipulating their followers. There are laws already in place to protect children from child molesters. Enforce those laws equally whether the abuser is Warren Jeffs or a Roman Catholic Cardinal.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 4:47 PM ET
Living in Utah, this topic comes up quite a bit. One thing that has always been questioned, is why does the government not do anything to stop this? Why are the leaders and followers not prosecuted?

There have been many reasons that have been given to the public. reasons ranging from, "Because of the large quantity of followers, there is not enough room in jails/prisons", to "Because of the loyalty that the individuals have to the "cult", there is no one that will testify". Both example answers I can see some truth to. But one question that I have always had is, knowing that a large majority of local businesses are either funded by the vast amounts of money that the so called prophets have, or even run by polygamists. How many local government officials also practice polygamy, and are they preventing prosecution?
Posted By Anonymous Greg, Riverton Utah : 4:48 PM ET
How are these people any different from the non-polygamists that continually drain the welfare system with multiple babies and baby-daddies? This goes on in America in every city and every state. If you're against polygamy, fine, be against it. But for the love of God, let's not pretend that it has anything to do with abusing the welfare system. That seems to be the American way.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Charlotte NC : 4:54 PM ET
Anderson, you should have stuck to your family business - fashion designing. Designing interesting news topics is clearly not your forte.
Posted By Anonymous Bill Bartholemew, Gainesville, Georgia : 5:03 PM ET
I think this is sad...I don't understand people sometimes..like...I know its important to have an open mind and try to look at different points of view, however, its very unfair to Amercian Society and degrading toward women, and well....in my opinion it doesn't say much for the man either!!!
Posted By Anonymous Jessica, Columbia,KY : 5:12 PM ET
This is a ridiculous argument. You need to make a minimal effort to be logical as a journalist, instead of just demagoging the issue. There are lots of people with many children, collecting welfare. One doesn't need multiple wives, or even be married to have many children. Look at professional basketball players! These are independent issues. If you don't want people to be on welfare, deal with that issue. Polygamy should not be illegal. If people want to have 10 wives, why do we even care? I don't want to have any wives! They can take mine!
Posted By Anonymous Vince Lenard, Ithaca NY : 6:17 PM ET
All these people are doing is taking advantage of several systems that are easily abused. There are millions of people on welfare that probably don't deserve to be. Or getting free medical treatment/care when they haven't paid into the system that is supporting them. Like many systems in America, the people that run them are either too short staffed to notice the abuse, to "bleeding heart" to say no, or just too dumb.

IF poligamy were legal, these so called "Men" would be legally obligated to take care of their own spawn. Since it isn't, we all are obligated to take care of them by virtue of our "systems" for protecting people from their own stupidity.

Smart people only have children when they know they can take care of them on their own...stupid people pop out spawn like there's no tomorrow because they know that someone will help them out. AND WE ALWAYS DO.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Seattle, WA : 6:21 PM ET
CNN's reports on Warren Jeffs with the Salt Lake Temple of the LDS Church in the background is extremely irresponsible and terribly inaccurate. Warren Jeffs and his followers are not allowed to enter that or any LDS temple. Jeffs and his followers are not generally located in Salt Lake City or its vicinity, and are in no way affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: they are specifically excluded membership, and their beliefs and practices are greatly in disconformity with the LDS or 'Mormon' religion. The Mormon Church has prohibited all polygamous marriages for over 117 years. This inaccurate news coverage is the equivalent of reporting on the sexual abuse of some Catholic priests with a background image of a synagogue. It is appropriate to verbally correct this inaccuracy, and use an image of a structure connected to Jeffs' religion instead. Furthermore, Jeffs' beliefs should certainly not be characterized as "Mormon fundamentalism" since they are in stark contrast to Mormon fundamental doctrines.
Posted By Anonymous Gregory Gordon, Sandy, Utah : 6:47 PM ET
I didn't see the program, but that Mormon Warren Jeffs sure is crazy. The Mormon's have enough money to keep supporting people like him, and still build nice shopping malls in SLC.
Posted By Anonymous Martin Harris, Harmony, Pennsylvania : 10:41 PM ET
1) So polygamists are a great drain of the taxpayers money. Are you kidding? If every polygamist was on welfare, I would doubt it would equal a millionth of a percent of the federal budget. Do not get me wrong, I am not pro polygamist. But, this type of writing using simple emotion to get someone to agree with the writer's viewpoint is irresponsible.
Posted By Anonymous Chad, Salt Lake City, UT : 12:45 AM ET
Any bleed of the welfare system is bad. All those "little" bleeds, even by a few polygamists, need to be stopped. They add up, period. No man is above the law, God's or man's. Mr. Jeffs twists religion to suit his needs and extremely twisted thoughts. He deserves what's coming.
Posted By Anonymous Tim, Chicago, IL : 7:13 PM ET
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