In an exhaustive piece, Slate magazine's Josh Levin tells the story of the woman whose life gave rise to the phrase: A one-time Chicago woman who went by dozens of names, bilking the federal government out of welfare payments, death benefits, food stamps and seemingly every other type of public assistance or benefit imaginable. (Levin recounts her entire life history and many names but for purposes of the story refers to her as Linda Taylor.) But some of her other misdeeds make her welfare fraud cases pale by comparison.
When I set out in search of Linda Taylor, I hoped to find the real story of the woman who played such an outsize role in American politics—who she was, where she came from, and what her life was like before and after she became the national symbol of unearned prosperity. What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined. In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. The detective who tried desperately to put her away believes she’s responsible for one of Chicago’s most legendary crimes, one that remains unsolved to this day. Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses.
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