A study by the office of the Republican Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, has revealed that his constituents spend less than 1% of their welfare payment on commodities like alcohol and cigarettes.
The study tracked transactions made on electronic cards loaded with funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program between January 2011 to November 2013. Of the 1.8 million transactions made a mere 3,000 were made at bars, sports bars and strip clubs.
The study did not track what items were purchased, and conceded that some transactions could have been withdrawals made from ATMs on these premises.
LePage quickly moved to defend the results of the study and claimed they vindicated his blustering rhetoric when it comes to welfare, arguing that the results showed a problem that was “larger than initially thought.” This claim is curious at best when you consider that his own state Department for Health and Human Services said that the so-called fraudulent spending represents two-tenths of one percent of all welfare transactions.
According to thinkprogress.org, the findings seriously undermine LePage’s hysterical claims about frivolous welfare spending and people who receive benefits:
[box type=”shadow”]”Nationally, those who receive public benefits such as welfare cash assistance, food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, and others spend a bigger portion of their budgets on basics like food, housing, and transportation than those who aren’t enrolled in these programs. They also spend less on eating out and entertainment. Overall, families who rely on government programs spend less than half of what families who don’t rely on them spend.”[/box]
Governor LePage has been at the forefront of an increasingly vicious war on welfare being waged by the Republican Party, and in particular the extreme-right Tea Party faction. He recently claimed that 47% of people in his state were not working, when in fact the data shows that 65% of his constituents are either working or actively seeking work, and the rest are made up mainly of retirees, the disabled, students, and stay-at-home parents.
He called on the unemployed in his state to “get off the couch and get yourself a job” in 2012, at a time when job opportunities were at a premium and unemployment was high. However his most cynical move came when he placed a five-year cap on welfare benefits. It was estimated that 1,500 families in Maine with 2,700 children lost their welfare assistance.
Hysterical claims that the poor waste their welfare spending on cigarettes, alcohol and other commodities is not new in the war on welfare. It has long been used to distract attention from the real wasteful spending that takes place in America: taxes that are spent on a bloated military budget, including nuclear weapons; paying off the debt for wars that were paid for on credit; corporate welfare and subsidies, and tax breaks for the richest 1% of people in the country.
The question for the American public, especially its poorest and most vulnerable citizens is this: what is your breaking point?
h/t: Think Progress