When theft is a means to pamper a state worker

Stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family is one thing. Stealing to feed your habit is another. Either is understandable despite their varying degrees of wrong.

What is harder to accept are those who steal because they feel entitled. These are the embezzlers who take vacations, buy luxury cars and season tickets to the Cardinals with the loot they take from employers and government. We just saw charges claiming a credit union employee underreported $12 million in loans, a doctor’s office manager hacked accounting software to pay bills and himself, and a state worker created fake claims.

Of this group, someone who steals at their government job deserves a special brand of disdain.

Charges state Amy Mueller, 40, of Highland took $160,000 as a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Human Services. Tax dollars intended to help the needy survive instead went to an extended spa day — tanning, nails, massage and for further stress reduction, vacations.

When your employer is the government and uses other people’s money, it might be easy to slip into that mindset yourself as a government employee. It might be easy to see yourself as entitled and deserving of pampering.

Yet the bigger crime is a system with so few checks and balances that it allows an employee to get away with taking $160,000 before theft is detected.

When your financial survival is on the line, you zealously watch inventory and the books. When the money is the comingled funds of millions of taxpayers, eh, not so much.