Lewiston, Maine, Mayor Robert MacDonald has an idea to combat welfare fraud: publish a list of the names of welfare recipients on the Internet.
In announcing his intention to introduce legislation that would make publicly available the name, address, the length of time they’ve been receiving benefits and what those benefits are, MacDonald declared, “the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.”
Writing in the Lewiston Twin City Times, the Mayor announced his intent in the title: Enough is Enough: Mainers have a right to know how their money is spent.
In Maine there is a website that lists the pension amounts received by everyone who is issued a monthly check by the State of Maine. No privacy here because this is being paid out by the State; accordingly, taxpayers have a right to know.
Yet other recipients of state revenues are shielded. Yes, I am referring to those known as welfare recipients. Why are they treated differently than pensioners? (A rhetorical question).
The answer: our liberal, progressive legislators and their social-service allies have made them a victimized, protected class. It’s none of your business how much of your money they get and spend. Who are you to question it? Just shut up and pay!
Well, the days of being quiet are gone. We will be submitting a bill to the next legislative session asking that a website be created containing the names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected by every individual on the dole. After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.
Along with this bill, we will be resubmitting HR 368, which will bring local General Assistance into compliance with federal laws that limit General Assistance to a 60-month total lifetime benefit.
The response, as gauged by the local ABC station, was less than enthusiastic.
“To put them in the public eye degrades them — takes away from their privacy,” declared Lewiston resident Leland Haney.
Resident and welfare recipient Sheena Dingledine said, “Unfortunately, with today’s economy, it’s hard to get off the program because your money is going to rent and everything else that you need, and that little bit of food stamps we get is what keeps us alive.”
Another resident, James Wiggle, feared taxpayers might be emboldened by the information. “They’re going to feel like, ‘Oh, I have the right to go up to this person’s house, ring their doorbell and complain,’ which they don’t,” Wiggle told ABC.
MacDonald was undeterred. “I think it will discourage a lot of people from committing fraud,” he said. Citing Democrats’ mantra “transparency,” the mayor continued, “I mean, it’s taxpayers’ money, you know. They’re always talking about transparency. Well, this is transparency.”
MacDonald says his main concern is how much money government it spending on welfare and how the programs are attracting more people. “We’re, like, a haven for all these people,” MacDonald said. “They just keep coming and coming in.”
The mayor has asked one Democrat and one Republican senator to introduce the legislation in the state legislative session. However, if they do not, he said he is prepared to ask the governor, Republican Paul LePage, to introduce it himself.