LePage the Con Man

I used to think Governor LePage was an angry goon. Now I see him as more of a diabolical con man.

In an apparent attempt to turn old news into new news, LePage came out firing (once again) at assistance programs with a sweeping statement meant to further stigmatize Maine’s most struggling citizens.

Releasing data which says that from from Jan. 1, 2011, through Nov. 15, 2013 roughly 3,700 EBT transactions took place at smoke shops, bars, sports pubs, and strip clubs (about 3,000 of them taking place at “smoke shops”)- LePage continued his war on welfare in typical cloaked fashion.

“This information is eye-opening and indicates a larger problem than initially thought,” declared the governor. “These benefits are supposed to help families, children and our most vulnerable Mainers. Instead, we have discovered welfare benefits are paying for alcohol, cigarettes and other things that hardworking taxpayers should not be footing the bill for.”

The only thing “eye opening” about the data is how remarkably low the level of fraud appears to be in a program that LePage is apparently hell bent on destroying based on his steadfast delusion that it is overrun by cheats and crooks.

In the time period in question there were a total of nearly 1.8 million overall EBT transactions. That puts the amount of transactions highlighted by LePage at a mere .2% of total transactions- but he conveniently left that little tid bit out of his release.

He also failed to point out (or realize, perhaps) that many “smoke shops” are in fact just convenience stores with fancy names that sell groceries and prepared food, which brings the .2% figure even lower in regards to overall fraudulence.

The governor has made a habit out of making misleading remarks about welfare programs, particularly EBT programs, like this in the past yet every time he does he acts as if he’s made some profound discovery. He uses terms like “shocking” and “eye opening” because he wants to ignite fires.

The scary thing is that with his first (and hopefully last, God help us) term coming to an end next fall it seems as if misleading moves like this are a calculated part of his plan for re-election.

That means that he thinks stunts like this will help to galvanize his supporters who, maddeningly, are still out there kicking.

Let’s hope that some of them are able to come to their senses and realize that they are being intentionally misled by the man in the Blaine House. He came out with this latest statement demonizing EBT users not in an attempt to quell fraud or save money- he did it to feign progress for his misguided agenda as he looks forward to next November with rising angst.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.