Like many of us, Governor Paul LePage is frustrated by welfare abuse, but one of his most recent proposals to reform an undeniably flawed system is misguided and completely misses the mark of an otherwise noble goal.
Among his many other initiatives to rein in government spending and reform Maine’s welfare system, LePage sponsored LD 1411, a bill that would prevent people who qualify for the federal food stamp program from buying soda and so-called “snack foods.”
Sounds good, right? Not exactly.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as SNAP, is a federal program, administered by the US Department of Agriculture.
LD 1411 has garnered bipartisan support. One of the bill’s co-sponsors in State Sen. David Dutremble, a Biddeford Democrat. Others on the left share the governor’s concerns about nutrition and abuse of taxpayer funds.
The bill also seems to have overwhelming public support. A recent online poll in the Portland Press Herald showed that more than 80 percent of participants support the governor’s bill.
But despite the bill’s bi-partisan origins and its broad public support, we all ought to take a closer look at the proposal because it will actually do far more harm than good.
1.) The bill will not save a dime of taxpayer money. Instead, it will likely increase bureaucratic costs. Remember, the bill would not reduce benefits, it simply would exert more government control of an individual’s choice of foods.
2.) Because SNAP is a federal program, the state of Maine will need to get a waiver from the federal government. Considering the fed’s reactions to other waiver requests that were proposed by the LePage Administration, this hurdle seems unrealistic. Given the number of bills that the Legislature has undertaken, we should not be wasting time or state resources on a proposal that has zero chance of becoming reality.
3.) It’s not business friendly. In the unlikely event that LD 1411 finds its way into state law, it would add another layer of government regulations and complexity for merchants, including small and mid-sized grocers who accept federal food stamps.
4.) The bill is targeted as a punitive swipe at those who use food stamps. Yes, many people abuse the food stamp program, but many more truly need and deserve the benefit in order to avoid hunger. We ought to be more focused on investigating and prosecuting welfare abuse than penalizing everyone who is in an unfortunate circumstance.
5.) LD 1411 misdirects our outrage. As we debate LD 1411, we should also remember that food stamps cannot be used to buy alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Some Maine families receive a monthly cash benefit known as TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families). Unfortunately, that program has too many loopholes and is more commonly abused than food stamps.
6.) Nutrition? While some Democrats and Republicans like the idea of encouraging better nutrition, this bill will do little to reinforce healthy choices. It would not address many other products, such as sugar, corn syrup, powdered drink mix, cookie dough and ice cream. Our emphasis ought to focus on nutritional education.
7.) LD 1411 would prohibit the purchase of some healthy choices, including: bottled juice products and bottled water.
I applaud Governor LePage for his desire to control government spending. He is a fair-minded individual who two years ago set his critics aback, when he denounced a so-called video sting operation of two DHHS offices by right-wing activists. The media didn’t give him much credit, but it shows that LePage is far more human and fair-minded than the gross caricature his opponents have painted.
LePage knows a thing or two about being poor in Maine. He is a self-made man who grew up in an abusive home and found himself alone on the city streets of Lewiston when he was just 11 years old. His story and ultimate success is inspirational.
Our governor is the proverbial poster child for the “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd, and he wants to see other people succeed the same way he did. Hard work, determination and dedication to improving one’s odds for success.
Considering his background and his staunch fiscally conservative beliefs, LePage understands better than most folks that every dollar of welfare funds wasted represents one less dollar for programs, which are absolutely necessary and vital for Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.
I am a little bit like Governor LePage. I am a Republican who grew up in a mill town. But I also received food stamps at one very low point in my life. I doubt that I could have survived what the governor survived as a child, but I do know that a little bit of help and support from Maine’s taxpayers turned out to be a wise investment.
There is nothing I can do to stop it.
I am completely powerless. No matter how hard I work, how much money I earn or how hard I pray . . . I cannot stop it or even slow it down.
But I do a damn good job of ignoring it; of keeping myself distracted.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working extra long hours. I have four important projects consuming my career pipeline. Fortunately, the extra work provides me with an abundance of opportunities to remain distracted. There is always something to do; always another call that needs to be made or another e-mail patiently begging a reply.
Although I find a lot of satisfaction in my work, the recent uptick in demand has its consequences. I become too easily irritated and resent any of my other responsibilities.
Thus, even though I intellectually know that an invisible disease is slowly eating away at my wife’s brain, I expect her to be normal again; to have enough energy to get through the day without being tired.
Laura has one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Every day she works with families in complete disarray. She is charged with protecting innocent children from predatory monsters and is required to develop plans to help these families become whole again. She sees things that most people cannot imagine.
She could tell you stories that would curl your toes. She gets up every morning and faces each day, knowing that she is going to cross paths with the devil, who can take the form of a stepfather that gets his rocks off by molesting a three-year-old.
When she gets home, she thinks about dinner for her own family. She helps the boys with their homework; and she patiently listens to me complain about public policy issues that are as dry and uninteresting as a bowl of sand.
Before the disease took hold, Laura had boundless energy. Her laugh is still infectious. She would take the boys for long walks through the woods in search of spring toads. She is intimidated by nothing and was always ready for the next great adventure.
She can tile a floor, fix a taillight or set up a campsite and still have time left over to make a banana cream pie.
Laura has her own system of denial. She is not as good as me, but she does a pretty good job of keeping the disease hidden from public view.
You almost can’t tell… unless you watch a climb a set of stairs.
According to the National MS Society, more than 2.1 million people have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
We are luckier than most of these people. We have good health insurance, and Laura still has most of her mobility. She is not in a wheelchair.
And that’s the part that gets me: knowing that it’s just going to get worse; knowing that every day I lose just a little bit more of the person I love most in the world.
We generally don’t talk about MS or the way it impacts our boys, our marriage . . . our lives.
But each year — even it’s for just one day — we tackle this disease head on by participating in the annual MS walk, an event that raises funding for continued research and the ongoing search for improved treatments or maybe a cure for MS.
Laura was diagnosed with MS a little more than four years ago, and each year we have been blessed by watching Team Seaver grow in number and spirit. The annual event is held simultaneously at locations all over the country. Here in York County, the walk is held in Kennebunkport. It is encouraging to see other families living with MS; to witness their courage and determination.
But it is also haunting to see so many other people dealing with MS in their own families, especially when their loved one’s illness has progressed so much more. It’s sort of like seeing your own life 10, 20 or 30 years into the future.
This year, or team is hoping to raise $1,500. And here’s where it gets fun.
If you would like to join us in our ongoing fight against an almost invisible enemy, please visit the Team Seaver page.
Our team’s largest donor will receive a gift certificate for a full day (eight hours) of services by Seaver & Sons; whether it’s cleaning up your yard or using our truck and trailer to clean out your basement or attic.
Despite the snow on the ground, it is spring and think how nice it would be to have your windows cleaned or your deck stained once the warmer weather arrives.
The top-three donors to Team Seaver will all be invited to one of our famous back yard barbecues that includes lobster, steak and my own special blend of frozen cocktails.
Please help spread the word. Share the Team Seaver page with your friends and family, and please consider joining us on Saturday, April 27.
Pop Quiz: Name at least one individual who signed the Declaration of Independence.
If you answered John Hancock, congratulations you are in the majority.
John Hancock’s famous signature has been immortalized over time, becoming synonymous with integrity, courage and conviction.
When taking on the world’s most powerful army and navy; when telling a temperamental king to stuff it . . . well, that takes courage. The Declaration signers risked more than their reputation or the loss of some friends when declaring their independence. They put themselves at odds with those who had the power to imprison them, ruin their businesses and families and yes, risked their very lives by their willingness to stand up and be counted.
John Hancock’s name is the most visible signature on the Declaration. Its presence and boldness is unmistakable. It was signed by a man with no regrets and no fear of the consequences. It was dashing and principled, and thus it has become legendary.
But in today’s world of social media news distribution and opinion commentary, too many people prefer to protect their privacy by using monikers or posting their comments anonymously.
I can understand the reluctance to publicly stand behind your opinions, but I guarantee you that no one will name an insurance company ANONYMOUS.
Look, honey…there’s the ANONYMOUS skyscraper!
There’s been a lot of talk lately about what should or should not be confidential information; and newspapers large and small are constantly wrestling with ways to maintain a vivid online presence with reader interaction without being hijacked by anonymous posters who refuse to stand in the daylight and own their opinions.
A few days ago, I was contacted by the Lewiston Sun Journal because I applied for permission to post online commentary on that newspaper’s website. I was required to fill out a form with my name, address, e-mail and a phone number for authentication. Thus, if I feel like commenting on a Sun Journal story, the whole world will know who I am.
Being required to stand up and own what you say gives most people pause. You can’t be such a tough guy if other readers can quickly determine who you are.
I applaud and encourage rigorous, spirited debate on all public policy issues. Every debate is enhanced by multiple points of view, but if you don’t have the guts to sign your name, sit down, shut up and go back to watching Captain Kirk for a few more hours.
And finally, if you are completely gutless and must resort to sending anonymous letters, here are a few helpful hints from a writing professional:
1.) Buy a dictionary and use it;
2.) Double-check your grammar and punctuation;
3.) Do not lie, especially if you are pretending to be a “professional” writer and planning to correspond with other professional writers;
4.) If you are writing online, learn to use hyperlinks;
5.) Do yourself a favor: invest in a copy of The Elements of Style
Failure to follow these tips will guarantee that your scribbling will soon be widely circulated as the best joke of the day.
I am pleased to report that State Sen. David Dutremble (D-Biddeford) has gone where few politicians go.
Just a short while ago, Dutremble commented on my Facebook page to concede his faux pas.
Randy, I don’t say this often but you are right! I should have spoke with Rep. Casavant on my position first before answering any questions. I have since done that and spoke and apologized to Rep. Casavant today for not calling him first! Lessons Learned!
This, dear readers, is what we should expect from our leaders; the ability to stand up publicly and admit our errors. It’s called integrity, and Dutremble’s humility ought to be a benchmark for everyone who decides to serve in public office.
Somewhere, Babe Dutremble is smiling, knowing that his nephew is not perfect but has the courage and conviction necessary to hold the public trust.
Bravo, Senator Dutremble. Let’s put this one behind us and move forward to make Maine a better place to live, work and play.
Many of us actually look forward to seeing those ads, making the Superbowl a somewhat unique sporting event. When was the last time you sat on the couch, anxiously awaiting a television ad? For those of us in New England, the ads may be our favorite part of the game.
But should the Superbowl become politicized? Should the NFL ban political ads?
Before you respond, consider this:
Last year’s Super Bowl was estimated to have had the largest audience in TV history, with around 177 million people tuning in for at least six minutes of the game. That’s around 56% of the current U.S. population. By comparison, an estimated 126 million people voted in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As someone who makes my living helping clients deliver their messages, I am fascinated by the prospect of the Superbowl and its powerful viewing impact. And as someone who is also a self-described political junkie, I also can’t get enough controversy and political debate into my daily news feed.
But maybe Americans should have just one event that we can enjoy without political debate and controversy. Isn’t it enough that the country will be divided between those cheering tonight for the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers? Can’t we all just get along for just one night and watch grown men tackle each other on artificial grass?
Having one night without political debate — whether it’s about gay rights, gun control, abortion or climate change — could give folks on both sides of those issues a much-needed opportunity for an intellectual break, a vacation for the brain and an opportunity to come back to the debate well rested on Monday morning.
More importantly, moving the Superbowl’s focus back toward football would also allow all of us — Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and the apathetic — to jointly and collectively celebrate a shared common experience: something innocuous and innocent, like Doritos, Budweiser and the newest I-Phone.
As John Lennon urged us to do, imagine the benefits — if just for one night — that there was nothing to fight about.
Except, of course, which team gets to take home the trophy.