Joseph Waltenbaugh ’77 Reveals Flaws of American Welfare System

"The Elephants' Graveyard" book cover

Political discussions today are replete with criticisms of the American dependency class and the seeming inability of government bureaucracy to deal with the present day welfare state. But specifically what in the system is not working and why doesn’t it work? Why does an entitlement subculture exist and why is it growing exponentially? While these and other questions abound, answers and solutions appear few and far between, at least any that are substantive and practical.

Perhaps a better understanding of the problem can be found in a new book by Joseph Waltenbaugh ’77, The Elephants’ Graveyard: A Guide for Getting and Keeping Your Welfare Entitlements. Waltenbaugh uses a platform of humor to expose the fundamental flaws of the entitlement society and the failings of the bureaucracy that support it. “If you are going to write about something as dry as welfare,” he will tell you, “you need to make it funny if you expect anyone to read it.”

A 32-year veteran of the welfare system—where he held positions that included caseworker, administrative law judge, and regional director among others—Waltenbaugh uses his personal experiences in the welfare state and his interactions with some unique individuals to spin a tale of recipient welfare abuse and incompetent bureaucratic mismanagement. No preaching, just some disturbing truths sandwiched in among the humorous stories and unique characters.

Waltenbaugh began working in the bureaucracy of state government in Pennsylvania at one of the lowest levels in a county welfare office, and he advanced to finish as the director of one of the regional offices in the Bureau of Program Evaluation. He also spent several years adjudicating cases for three state departments as an administrative law judge in the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. He used his professional and personal insights into the culture of government dependency along with his interaction with some unique individuals and unusual situations to author the book.

Although he initially tried a few different formats, he finally settled on a lighthearted, almost farcical exposé in the form of a “how-to” or “self-help” guide for scamming the system. The results are entertaining and disturbing at the same time, and they herald a call to action for entitlement reform. “And for those not concerned about welfare reform,” he is quick to point out, “the book is actually a pretty good guide for beating the system!”

The Elephants’ Graveyard: A Guide for Getting and Keeping Your Welfare Entitlements is available in both print and Kindle from Amazon.com or on Waltenbaugh’s website.