NYU Press

Law professor Daniel Hatcher’s new book, “The Poverty Industry,” makes the case that agencies and governments profit off denying services to America’s most vulnerable citizens. On June 29 at Busboys and Poets, Hatcher talked about state governments’ misuse of funds meant for foster children, disabled people and people living in poverty.

“It’s all about the money, unfortunately,” Hatcher said. “It’s not about helping [people].”

He told the story of a social worker in Westchester, NY, who took $16,000 in survivor benefits from a child whose adoptive mother had just died. However, he said that most abuses of funds meant for the disadvantaged are by people in leadership positions, not those working with foster children or impoverished adults.

Hatcher said that because states are unwilling to raise taxes to pay for necessary programs and services, they take revenue meant for people who don’t necessarily have the power to put up a fight.

“Funds are being diverted from those of us who need it most,” Hatcher said, noting that the solution to the problem is not to cut the aid, but to stop the misuse by the agencies that are taking from those who should receive the aid. According to Hatcher, these practices are not only immoral, but irrational too. When agencies increase their budgets by taking money meant for clients, they don’t get more funding from the government, because it looks like they don’t need it.

In 2013, Hatcher wrote in the Baltimore Sun that the state of Maryland had hired a contractor, Maximus, to identify disabled or parentless foster children. Maximus would then file for federal benefits on behalf of the children and divert the money to the state budget’s general fund. After examining public records, Hatcher wrote that Maryland may have used foster children’s assets and other funds to reimburse the state more than once for the same costs. The State of New York and the Department of Justice later awarded Maximus contracts.

Hatcher said that denying funds to the people they’re meant for is a breach of fiduciary duty, which many state laws forbid. He hopes that people will pressure their states to stop misusing these funds. “I think with awareness, we have the potential to bring change,” he said.

Another speaking engagement with Hatcher is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14 at Potter’s House cafe, 1658 Columbia Rd. NW.