The boogeyman in this years’ election in Maine is welfare, which is curious because only one complaint about the public assistance system was made to the state representative of Maine’s richest community in four years.
“Jim” worked as the director of a neighboring city’s public assistance program for decades and was on the verge of a comfortable retirement when he called his state representative. “There is fraud and abuse of the system by people who don’t speak English,” Jim told her. “These people are collecting benefits they don’t deserve.”
Jim’s state representative agreed to set up a meeting with Jim and the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to hear more about this “problem.” Jim then fell off the face of the earth. Numerous calls made by his representative to him went unanswered. Email communication ceased.
Months later the state representative was running past Jim’s house. She saw Jim in his truck and asked, “why didn’t you follow through with the meeting I set up with the Commissioner? Why didn’t you call me back, Jim, or respond to my emails?”
Jim said he was not going to “get involved” after all. He was ready, he said, to enjoy his well-deserved retirement.
A welfare director living large on a retirement benefit supported by an assistance program he believed was corrupt but did nothing to fix is “ironic,” right?
Whose job was it to investigate the so-called abuse of this program, Jim? How exactly are we supposed to fix a “problem” no one is willing or able to document?
Isn’t the real problem, Jim, that we lack the integrity and moral compass to put the collective good ahead of our own?
What’s worse than welfare is a political system that no longer addresses the complicated problems we face as a society, but instead uses fear and myths to generate anger that is directed at the most vulnerable among us. What’s worse than welfare are individuals whose gaze is locked on their own reflection and who don’t see themselves as part of both the problem and solution. Personal responsibility is more than just a campaign slogan.