Too many people trapped on welfare

Please let me clarify something: I believe that a pivotal role of state government is to develop an economic climate that welcomes good, private-sector jobs so people can take care of themselves. Right now, we have too many people in Maine government who believe their role is to maintain people in poverty.

This is a clear difference of philosophy between me and Douglas Rooks, who challenged this position in a very emotional column in the Sun Journal (May 23).

Maine is quite generous with public assistance and we have no time limits on the benefits (as encouraged in the 1996 Clinton Welfare Reforms). As a result, we lead the nation in Medicaid enrollment, covering almost a quarter of our people. Maine is second-highest in food stamps and the second-highest in people receiving cash public assistance.

Maine is not a wealthy state, but we’re not the poorest either. Why does our government treat so many people this way?

When the 2008 American Community Survey results were released last fall, showing Maine’s shocking welfare enrollment, a state Department of Health and Human Services official confirmed that when anyone enters a regional office looking for any type of assistance, they are automatically checked for 22 programs. He boasted: “Our process is so well integrated with all of the programs, once they apply, they're screened for everything.”

We should be appalled at this attitude, because trapping so many people in state dependency robs them of their human dignity. It robs their children of the chance to grow and meet their own potential, and also it robs the rest of us of the contributions these people could be making in Maine.

Let’s be honest: nobody wants to be on welfare, and they certainly don’t want their children to spend a lifetime on welfare either. The problem is that Maine punishes those who try to earn their way out of the welfare system.

That is why I say that the state has designed a system during the last several decades that actually maintains people in poverty.

The rules put in place by politicians in Augusta make it too easy for people in Maine to get hooked on a wide assortment of welfare programs — and too hard to get off. In addition to the budget-breaking costs, other unintended consequences of our soaring welfare enrollment include a high tax burden, higher DHHS administrative costs, and a more difficult path for hardworking people who genuinely want to work their way out of welfare.

For example, one troublesome part of Maine’s private-sector economy is that there are so many part-time jobs without benefits, but these positions meet a demand created by the state’s welfare system. As strange as it sounds, too many good workers in Maine actually turn down extra hours or even refuse pay increases because they are earning the maximum amount the state will allow before punishing their success by dropping all of their welfare benefits. Yes, this is crazy.

I recruit companies to Maine for a living and had one business that wanted to move here and needed to hire about 300 people in full-time jobs, with benefits, paying $35,000 to $40,000 a year. At the last minute, they decided against Maine after their human resources director determined they would have a hard time filling these jobs. When I asked why, he answered: “We can’t compete with your welfare system.” This is the last thing a potential employer should have to worry about.

Maine has an obligation to take care of people who are unable to care for themselves. I am on the board of a low-income senior citizens’ residence with many people dependent on Medicaid, and there’s no better example of a population that needs and deserves our help.

The outdated welfare rules should be reformed and people should be encouraged to support themselves. The success of the welfare system should be measured by the number of people who no longer need help. Instead of a long-term safety net, Maine’s welfare system should resemble a “catch and release” process, where people can get the temporary help they need, some job training, and career guidance that will put them in the position to support themselves and their families.

Yes, our current system is too expensive, and we need to reduce the cost. However, we should be outraged that our current leaders have developed a system that has trapped almost 250,000 Maine people in poverty and robs their children of their futures.

Matt Jacobson is the president and chief executive officer of Maine & Company. He is also a Republican candidate for governor.

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RONALD RIML's picture

Insurance companies exist for Profit

- Not to provide a service.

Obviously Maine has demanded that more services be provided to it's citizens than the Insurance Companies can reconcile with their primary purpose of making a profit.

They don't thrive, therefore Mainers find themselves on Medicadie.

Is this a 'poor record by the 'state' as Mr. James alleges?

Or is it the inability of the free market system to adequately provide a health care system for our population?

Anyone with common sense knows that it is the later - for no other country in the world is trying to emulate our "Health Insurance for Profit" system of health care delivery which is unique to the Unites States, and which Theodore Roosevelt warned against.

Mark Wrenn's picture


Where does your funding come from? Is it from government grants? Don't you think it's just a bit hypocritical to rail against welfare assistance out of one side of your mouth while the other side is pleading for more assistance to pay your salary? Especially when you admit you've failed at bringing decent jobs to Maine?

RONALD RIML's picture

He's a Candidate - That's

He's a Candidate - That's Why!!!

If a candidate won't answer questions - then shitcan him!!!

RONALD RIML's picture

So a company finally admits

it was going to pay sub-welfare wages.....

Then why not set up in China or India in the 1st place, rather then set up here - then eventually close down and move the operations overseas.

Sure it was going to pay $35-$40 Grand with benefits. In a pigs eye it was!!!


Matt what about veterans and their rights returning for the services do you automatically cut them when it comes time to debate that effort? Due to to the stated information why did the company truly decide against Maine was it because that they offered a medical insurance coverage plan which would be greatly flawed over the mixture of Maine Care and other such efforts? When you state the information of welfare you seem to live in a caste system by yourself. What about those with life long disabilities or developmental delays such as myself? How, do we function in a society when we hear our Republican representatives acting against civil rights and other such efforts? Remember Jacobson there is also a small problem with cutting DHHS costs that includes losing budget funding for educational practices. Which also means that to make up the budget differences you simply advocate cutting every measure simply to appease and appeal yourself to a following. Since you blamed the welfare system for a failed contract was it really a failed contract or a failure as a businessman in completing a contract for businesses? It seems you complain about losing it when you could not maintain the business itself in moving to Maine and blamed it as most in sales do on the welfare system. You destroy children's educational opportunity and special education funding as administrative; realistically you failed Matt and could not make it any worse.

I'm appalled that the Sun Journal let you publish this as a last resort of maintaining votes. A failure in sales and bringing a company here is more realistically your fault then the welfare or educational systems fault. Administrative costs include the functions of investigating child abuse, back child support payments, funding for HeadSTART, and other measures. Thank you Matt for giving us a portion of your unrealistic world in retrospect I am a future educator and take what I do very seriously and after officially graduating I will be in the field.

Ed Enos's picture

Joe, you seriously missed the

Joe, you seriously missed the point. The point is that too many people use MaineCare and other state benefits for their benefit and pass that expectation onto their children. If you believe that 25% of Maine's population or anything approaching that are developmentally delayed or physically handicapped, then you are not looking around you. Gov. Baldacci's welfare state is too large, too expensive and much too inclusive. Working in health care gives you 1st hand look at people, 20somethings, etc, with "disabilities" who should be disenrolled and made responsible for their own actions and choices. However, no one is suggesting the truly needy should be disenrolled, or these programs cut.


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