Commentary

Welfare Extravagence Undermines Portland as Budget Fight Looms

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Checkmate, Mr. Mayor.

With the revelation that Portland’s homeless shelters have knowingly been giving shelter to frequent stayers who have more than $20,000 in their checking accounts, Mayor Michael Brennan has effectively been muted in all discussions of Governor LePage’s budget and General Assistance reform.

What’s that you say? Portland would be hit hardest by the elimination of revenue sharing? Well, Mr. Mayor, you probably should stop letting those wealthy one-percenters mooch off the system.

Brennan’s defense is that these individuals probably have mental health issues or drug addictions — as if that excuses this blatant example of the welfare state gone awry.

For starters, Brennan doesn’t know these individuals or their predicaments. His excuse is mere speculation. He doesn’t even know the immigration status of Portland’s General Assistance recipients — let alone their medical conditions.

Secondly, just because they may have mental health issues or drug addictions doesn’t mean they can’t help pay for services they receive. Quite obviously, some of these individuals ought to be forking over some of their savings to cover the cost of their services — regardless of whether their afflictions extend beyond the typical poor life-decisions of most shelter occupants.

Brennan’s sputtering excuses can’t obscure the spectacular failure of welfare policy that has occurred on his watch. The mismanagement has led to Portland consuming 63 percent of all General Assistance spending, despite being home to just 5 percent of Maine’s population.

Brennan’s sputtering excuses can’t obscure the spectacular failure of welfare policy that has occurred on his watch. The mismanagement has led to Portland consuming 63 percent of all General Assistance spending, despite being home to just 5 percent of Maine’s population.

Means-testing, immigration status checks, cost-sharing — all of this flies in the face of Brennan-led Portland’s anti-poverty strategy, which so far has been to lure the poor with easy-to-get handouts and register them to vote.

The only non-coddling action he’s taken is to ban them from traffic medians. Wouldn’t want the underclass spoiling the vistas of the city’s commuting lawyer-lobbyist class, now would we.

Rather than simply agree with the LePage administration that there is a problem in need of a solution, Maine’s liberal chattering class has attacked the messenger.

“What are we supposed to do, leave them out in the cold to die?” they ask.

No one is suggesting that, of course. But liberal talking points are most always flaming arrows aimed at straw men of their own creation rather than actual arguments or problems.

Every median-stander is entitled to be let in the first night. This is a dictate of both conscience and law. But after that first night some evaluation of need and capacity to pay is in order.

The liberal imagination is particularly ingenious when it comes to defending government programs. The welfare lobbyists told us last year that it’s easy to imagine someone withdrawing EBT funds at a strip club and using the money to buy diapers.

Now the same crowd says it’s easy to imagine the government pumping disability checks into some unmaintained bank account that the shelter user has no knowledge of. A bit more plausible, yes, but, if true, how is this not a cause of outrage? How is this — allocated taxpayer resources never alleviating the problem they are intend to solve — not a bipartisan cause for concern?

Perhaps it’s because Portland liberals are too busy smearing conservatives to do anything other than sanctimoniously feign concern for the homeless.

Try as they might, liberals can’t gloss over the failure of Portland and its shelters to act in the best interest of both the homeless and the taxpayers.

The city needs to get it’s act together — and quickly — as LePage has scored a major victory in the budgetary fight for true fiscal reform.

The blank checks that have underwritten Portland’s reckless and ineffective anti-poverty policies are about to come to an end.

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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