Linda Taylor

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Linda Taylor
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Linda Taylor (1926–2002) was a career criminal from Chicago who came to public notice in the 1970s. During his 1976 Presidential Campaign, Ronald Reagan made it a point to mention her as merely a "woman in Chicago" who "used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000[note 1] a year.”[2]

However, that was not what actually occurred. In what economist Paul Krugman called "a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud”,[3] she was actually found to have used four names to scam the government out of only $8,000.[2][note 2]

Of course, any amount of welfare fraud is obviously bad, however, the massive disparity between what Reagan claimed and the truth of the situation is rather notable. Reagan made it sound like this woman was some massive fraudster (and by insinuation somehow representative of welfare recipients), scamming the government out of thousands of dollars using every loophole she could possibly find. In truth, although $8,000 is not nothing, it was still only slightly more than five percent of what Reagan claimed she had taken. In spite of the fact that this story bears no relation to what actually occurred, Reagan also turned her into the face of "welfare queens," people (usually African American) who take money from good hardworking men and have no interest in finding a job or getting off the dole.[2]

Reagan used this to his benefit, with Bryce Covert noting in an article for The New Republic that "Once in the White House, Reagan’s tall tales were used to justify real-life changes… Congress would pass $25 billion in cuts to programs that helped the poor. An estimated 408,000 households were cut off from AFDC, while millions more saw their benefits reduced."[4] Also the Reagan administration managed to pass supply-side economics-based laws that gave massive tax breaks to the wealthy and deregulated industry.


  1. Assuming we use January 1976 as the basis for this calculation, that would be $832,060.25 in January 2024 money.[1]
  2. Using the same metric as before, we can find that would be $44,376.55 in January 2024 money.[1]