Mean Maine Mayor Wants to Publicly Shame Welfare Recipients

In recent years, the Republican approach to fixing poverty seems to be, “If we embarrass poor people enough, maybe they’ll start earning money.” While you’re probably not going to get many economists to agree to this line of thought, Robert Macdonald, the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, just proposed that his state start publicly shaming welfare recipients.

Macdonald unveiled his new plan in his regular op-ed column in the Twin City Times. He argues that since retired state employees have their pensions published, printing the names of people receiving government assistance is also fair game. According to him, it’s all about the public’s right to know how its tax dollars are being spent.

Sign a petition telling Mayor Macdonald to drop his plan to shame the poor.

It’s not as though the public can’t already look up exactly how much money is budgeted for welfare. By specifically naming the people whose incomes are low enough to qualify them for assistance, the list will stigmatize them and leave them susceptible to harassment from disgruntled conservatives.

“Our liberal, progressive legislators and their social-service allies have made [welfare recipients] a victimized protected class,” wrote Macdonald in his column. He added sarcastically, “It’s none of your business how much of your money they get and spend. Who are you to question it? Just shut up and pay!”

It gets more preposterous when Macdonald insists that the list wouldn’t cause humiliation since people on welfare already “flaunt it in public.” (Yes, yes, think of all the people you’ve encountered proudly waving around an EBT card and loudly shouting, “I am on welfare!”) Some families have a hard enough time agreeing to accept assistance when they need it, so publicizing their economic setbacks will only add further shame to their current circumstances.

Macdonald’s supposed “transparency” crusade might be a bit more believable if he weren’t simultaneously trying to attack welfare from a couple of other angles. A couple of other laws he’s proposing are:

1. Limiting welfare recipients to no more than 5 years of assistance.

Statistically speaking, most welfare recipients are not on the program for that long anyway. However, given how many people spend their entire lives living in poverty, assuming that everyone can escape within a specified time period is foolish.

2. A woman who gives birth while already receiving welfare is cut off.

Republicans love labeling women receiving government assistance “welfare moms” and cling to a narrative that women have plenty of babies to get more money. Macdonald believes the solution is to automatically disqualify women who have babies while already on welfare. Considering that many in the GOP oppose access to birth control and abortion, I’m not sure what they want a woman in this situation to do; certainly it’s the baby who suffers when a poor mother can’t afford to take care of it.

Macdonald may have some clout as the leader of the second biggest city in Maine, but if he’s going to make his pet projects state law, he’ll first need a state legislator to sponsor his bills. So far, Macdonald has given copies of his bills to a handful of politicians, but none have formally agreed to take up his cause yet. “I’m a strong supporter for welfare reform, but I’m also a big advocate for privacy rights, so I would really need to study this more before saying whether I would support this or not,” Republican State Senator Eric Brakey told the Bangor Daily News.

Finding a sponsor is not the only obstacle. State Representative Drew Gattine, a Democrat, said that passing this law at the state level would be futile since existing federal laws would likely forbid publishing this information anyway. Gattine also points out that in a state of 1.3 million people, just 6,000 Maine families are on welfare, making the money spent on feeding the poor an insignificant portion of the overall state budget.

Let’s tell Mayor Macdonald to abandon these cruel proposed laws now with this petition. Shaming the poorest residents of Maine adds insult to injury – it is not an effective way to reform the welfare system.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

110 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y13 days ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y13 days ago

thanks

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John J
John J13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Don Z.
Don Z2 years ago

Victory!

The results of Tuesday's runoff election are in!

The voters have spoken!

Mayor MacDonald has just been re-elected to a THIRD TERM!

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Mary B.
Mary B2 years ago

Unbelievable stupidity based on unreal stereotypes. How did this horrible human ever get elected? And WHY do do many of you who sympathize with the poor still feel the need to justify your position? We ALL need money to live on whether some self rightous fool thinks we deserve it or not. There is no shame in being poor in a country where the government does not supply it's own population with the cultures currency. Businesses are not required to create enough jobs to put everybody to work and charities can't handle the need, so the social safety net has to. Of course there's generational poverty. We didn't all start in the middle class then fall off, most started in poverty and some managed to move up and away from the land and low paying jobs that will always need to be done. And maybe it's time to question this idea that YOUR TAXES are funding this.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

It won't work.
The people who truly do not want to work will not be bothered. Those who have had no other option will be affected the worst, when they are the ones most likely to get themselves back up and off benefits.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

It won't work.
The people who truly do not want to work will not be bothered. Those who have had no other option will be affected the worst, when they are the ones most likely to get themselves back up and off benefits.

SEND