In the Maine Democratic Party's second installment of The Clone Wars, we highlight Governor LePage's relentless attacks on Maine's poor and the shocking rise of childhood poverty and hunger under his watch. Maine's Republican gubernatorial candidates are poised to continue his policies, with one going so far as to say "going without can be a pretty good motivator".
In 2016, Maine had the second highest rate of poverty among New England states with more than 160,000 people across the state living at or below the poverty line. And what has Governor LePage done to help? Very little. In fact, he’s made it harder for Mainers to lift themselves out of poverty and into the middle class.
Bangor Daily News: “It’s a pipe dream to expect the LePage administration to show the same commitment to cutting poverty as it does to cutting taxes and undermining assistance programs.”
In a relentless, if not downright cruel, mission to reduce state spending, the LePage Administration fought to curtail assistance by instituting barriers to critical programs that help Maine people. “The results,” the Bangor Daily News Editorial Board wrote, “have often been disastrous”:
“...more than a third of families surveyed...went on to lose electricity or another utility service. Twenty percent reported being evicted, having to relocate or moving to a homeless shelter. And 70 percent reported relying on food banks for sustenance...”
In fact, in Maine, the number of households that experience food insecurity has increased, even as the rest of the country has seen a decrease.
Maine Public: “Maine now ranks 7th worst in the country for food insecurity, falling from its previous position as 9th worst.”
And the impact on Maine children has been catastrophic. According to the Maine Kids Count Book, the rate of children living in deep poverty in the state has increased in the past several years and the state now ranks third in the nation for the rate of hunger.
And for a state that is already struggling with workforce issues, Maine’s high rate of childhood poverty forecasts even more trouble,according to the President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and a former Maine State Economist:
“One-fifth of the 10- to 19-year-olds waiting to enter Maine’s workforce are living in poverty. That’s more than 30,000 who, based on current trends, will likely struggle to acquire the skills needed by today’s employers.”
But what about Maine’s Republican candidates for governor? What do Shawn Moody, Garrett Mason, Mary Mayhew, and Ken Fredette think about LePage’s track record on poverty? Well, to begin with, many of them contributed to it, helping usher LePage’s reforms into law -- and now all of them are pledging to continue it:
“Fredette has spearheaded initiatives ranging from stiffer job-seeking requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program… ‘All of the big arguments over the past several years, I was in the middle of’”
“Under the current administration [Mason said] ‘we’ve taken 70,000 people off the SNAP rolls, and we’ve started to chip down on welfare’ too.”
“Moody echoed LePage’s conservative message on welfare, saying empowering people doesn’t mean ‘just giving them things’ and that ‘going without can be a pretty good motivator.’”
Mayhew “is also willing to come a little closer than the others in emulating LePage’s style, at one point suggesting that her candidacy is for working people, not ‘couch-sitting, video game-playing, welfare check-collecting 25-year-olds.”
With tens of thousands of Maine people, especially Maine children and the elderly, going hungry, how can the Republican candidates justify continuing LePage’s harmful policies? Not only is it just wrong, but it’s detrimental to Maine’s future, especially at a time when we need to be ensure that we are preparing the next generation to enter the workforce. The last thing Maine needs is four more years of a cruel policy that will only hurt Maine people and our state’s future.