Maine’s Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage’s administration announced new “reforms” to the state’s welfare system. In classic Republican fashion, the governor decided that punishing the poor for being poor was the best course of action and said the state will now have an “asset test” for anyone who applies for food stamps. According to the new “test” if an applicant has more than $5,000 in the bank or owns a recreational vehicle, like a boat, snowmobile or ATV, they will be denied for food assistance.
The state will hold a public hearing about the new rule on October 6 and says that it will only apply to the applicants who have no children. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services reports that 8,600 households will be affected by the asinine rule.
When applying for food assistance, applicants are already required to disclose their earnings, but this new rule would make them also provide details about everything asset they have, except their primary vehicle and home. According to the Portland Press Herald:
Under the proposed rule, applicants would have to make additional disclosures and report their bank balances and ownership of specific assets, including snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, Jet Skis, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles and campers. Cash and the value of assets would be added together to determine whether the $5,000 threshold had been reached.
So, if applicants own anything even remotely fun, have savings, or combination of the two that equals $5,000, they will not be fed. Of the rule, he said:
“Most Mainers would agree that before someone receives taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, they should sell non-essential assets and use their savings,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a written statement. “Hardworking Mainers should not come home to see snowmobiles, four-wheelers or Jet Skis in the yards of those who are getting welfare. Welfare is a last resort, not a way of life.”
First of all, the worst thing to do is use all of your savings- just look at what happened to people during the recession. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but if you can help it, never, ever use all of your savings. The editorial board of the Bangor Daily News ripped LePage for his insensitivity: “It will do nothing to help poor Mainers escape poverty, nothing to save the state money, nothing to cut down on inefficiency in SNAP administration and nothing to address Maine’s growing hunger problem.”
The vast majority of welfare recipients are hard workers who have two and even three jobs and are still unable to make ends meet, because the Republican lawmakers in this country are content to let the working families of America languish in stagnant poverty while their corporate overlords reap the rewards. They oppose raising the minimum wage which would lift people out of poverty. They oppose free college for Americans which would allow us to earn a degree to find a well-paying job and not leave us in mounds of debt. A person should not be forced to sell their belongings because it hurts LePage’s misguided sense of superiority. These people that he is attacking are the same people who pay his salary and this isn’t the first time he has waged war on the less fortunate in his state.
Last year, more than 9,000 people were dropped from the SNAP program when they failed to meet the governor’s new work requirements. After thousands of people were kicked off of food stamps, the federal government reduced $21.6 million a year from the federal funding the state receives. The state budget isn’t even affected by the amount of people on government assistance, because the entire program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Democratic opponents of the new “asset test” say it is ridiculous and will discourage people from saving their money, especially since they cannot reapply for three years after being denied benefits:
“What’s next? Grandma can’t buy groceries until she sells her engagement ring?” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, co-chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
Rep. Richard Farnsworth, former chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said that the new rule is only an attempt to “shame people from using the SNAP program” and is “counterproductive” because it forces people to use their savings, thus depleting their safety nets.
“We have so many people who are food insecure and this is just another way to put more people in that category. This is morally unconscionable.”
This rule, proposed by a corrupt governor with regressive policies, is nothing short of class warfare against the poor. LePage, taking some off time from breaking the law, is targeting some of the low-income citizens in his state because that is the cornerstone of Republican policies. They wage war on the poor, while bending over backwards for corporations. Right-wing politicians pretend that they care about regular, hard-working Americans but their policies prove otherwise.
If LePage and the rest of the GOP would get behind raising the minimum wage and funding higher education, there would be fewer people on government assistance, but they oppose both of those things. They talk a good game when they are standing in front of their low-information voters, they manipulated the public to get themselves elected and then they proceed to rip apart the programs that are set up to help the Americans they hoodwinked into voting for them. At the end of the day, a person should not be forced to sell their belongings or spend all of their savings to prove to the GOP that they are “poor enough” to receive government assistance. That is ridiculous.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.