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“Paul ‘Rage’ LePage, Maine’s National Embarrassment”: GOP Governor Under Fire Following Racially Charged Comments

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), already facing possible impeachment in an abuse-of-power scandal, is no stranger to controversies involving race. Early on in his term, for example, the Republican governor got in a dispute with the Maine NAACP over his decision to skip events honoring Martin Luther King. In reference to the civil-rights group, LePage said, “Tell them to kiss my butt.”

Two years later, according to Republican attendees to a LePage gathering, the far-right governor complained that President Obama doesn’t emphasize his biracial heritage because the president “hates white people.” He later denied having made the comments.

This week, however, LePage went just a little further still. The Portland Press Herald reported on comments the governor made at a town-hall meeting on Wednesday night.

About 30 minutes into the meeting, which was rebroadcast Thursday night, LePage responded to a question about how he was tackling substance abuse in Maine. He began talking about how much of the heroin is coming into Maine from out-of-state drug dealers.

“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty … these types of guys … they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage told a large crowd. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

By way of a defense, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the governor’s spokesperson said in a statement to reporters, “The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant.”

Look, I feel bad for anyone who has to defend Paul LePage’s rhetoric; it must be an unpleasant and incredibly difficult job.

But if the governor’s office expects to be taken seriously, pretending LePage wasn’t making comments about race only makes matters worse.

On camera, and in front of a large group of people, the governor said “D-Money” is coming into his state from elsewhere – Maine’s population is over 95% white – selling heroin, and impregnating “young, white” girls.

Are we really supposed to believe LePage’s unscripted comments had nothing to do with race?

The governor’s rhetoric, not surprisingly, generated national attention quite quickly, and last night, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign issued a statement condemning the remarks.

“Governor LePage’s comments tonight are not only offensive and hurtful but they try to cover up the very real epidemic of drug abuse facing people in his state and across the country,” Hillary for America’s Marlon Marshall said. “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems…. Sadly, Governor LePage’s comments aren’t too dissimilar from the divisive, misleading and hateful rhetoric we’re seeing from Republicans across the country these days.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 8, 2015

January 8, 2016 Posted by | Maine, Paul LePage, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Humiliating Desperate People”: The Myth Of Welfare And Drug Use

Now, if you’re the kind of person who forwards apocryphal stories about voter impersonation and drug-addled welfare queens, this makes sense to you—obviously, if you’re on public assistance, you’re probably using drugs. But, if you’re the kind of person who takes facts seriously, this is a ridiculous idea.

While drug use is more common among women receiving welfare, the overall incidence rate is small; in one study, only 3.6 percent of recipients satisfied screening criteria for drug abuse or dependence. Among food-stamp recipients—another group targeted for testing—the rate is similarly low.

The myth of welfare recipients spending their benefits on drugs is just that—a myth. And indeed, in Utah, only 12 people out of 466—or 2.5 percent—showed evidence of drug use after a mandatory screening. The total cost to the state was $25,000, or far more than the cost of providing benefits to a dozen people. The only thing “gained” from mandatory drug testing is the humiliation of desperate people.

Which, judging from the GOP’s continued enthusiasm for the idea, is enough. In Ohio, for instance, state senator Tim Schaffer has introduced legislation that would establish a drug-testing program for the state’s welfare program. “It is time that we recognize that many families are trying to survive in drug-induced poverty, and we have an obligation to make sure taxpayer money is not being used to support drug dealers,” Schaffer said. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to this problem.”

If Ohio is anything like Florida, which also has a drug-testing program, Schaffer will find that the large majority of welfare recipients are neither drug users nor drug dealers. From 2011 to 2012, just 108 of the 4,086 people who took a drug test failed—a rate of 2.6 percent, compared to a national drug use rate of over 8 percent. The total cost to Florida taxpayers? $45,780.

The most colossal failure of this policy was in Arizona, which passed a drug-testing law in 2009. In 2012, an evaluation of the program had startling results: After three years and 87,000 screenings, only one person had failed the drug test, with huge costs for the state, which saved a few hundred dollars by denying benefits, compared to the hundreds of thousands spent to conduct the tests.

Of course, none of this has dampened enthusiasm for these laws, which is why Republicans in Michigan’s House of Representatives have passed a bill that requires tests if there’s “reasonable suspicion” a welfare applicant is using drugs or other illegal substances. Likewise, a Tennessee Republican in Congress wants to do the same. North Carolina lawmakers passed a similar law, but—in something of a surprise—it was vetoed by Governor Pat McCrory, who in a statement, said “This is not a smart way to combat drug abuse.”

It isn’t. It should be said, however, that the focus on cost and effectiveness obscures a broader point: Mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits is unfair and immoral. Drug use isn’t a problem of poverty; it’s found among all groups and classes. Indeed, if we’re going to test welfare applicants—who receive trifling sums of money from the government—it makes as much sense to test bailout-receiving bankers, loan-backed students, defense contractors, tax-supported homeowners, married couples with children (who receive tax credits), and politicians, who aren’t strangers to drug use.

In other words, if stopping waste is your goal, then drug screening should be mandatory for anyone receiving cash from the government, which—in one way or another—is most people. But Republicans haven’t proposed testing for church clergy or oil executives. Instead, they’re focused on the vulnerable, with schemes that would embarrass a Bond villain.

Trapped in its right-wing, anti-government mania, the GOP has become a party defined by its disdain for the poor, and esteem for the wealthy. It’s the reason Mitt Romney railed against the “47 percent,” built a convention around praise for “job creators,” and endorsed an agenda that reduces the debt by decimating social services. Indeed, when Republican politicians aren’t attacking the disadvantaged for their alleged lack of virtue, they’re calling for us to shred the “hammock of dependency,” as if low-income Americans spend their lives in comfort, resting on the government dole. To the Republican Party, a comprehensive health-care law—inspired by conservative ideas—is more offensive than a country where millions go without insurance and care.

In this GOP, at this time, it’s only natural that Republican lawmakers would go after welfare recipients. Since, to many in the party, they deserve it.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast, August 30, 3013

August 31, 2013 Posted by | Welfare | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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