Would someone, anyone, please ask the governor and members of his chorus what they mean by the phrase “welfare.” Item by item and program by program, I want to know who they think is getting a free ride, for how much and for how long. Without a definition, a list, we are listening to scapegoating and empty rhetoric, rhetoric as empty as Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens.”

I want to explode some of their broad brush mythology with some facts, not anecdotes, but facts.

First, Maine has the lowest TANF payments in all New England at $485 per month. Second, less than 1 percent of recipients came here from other states. Third, the median length of time for families on TANF is 18 months. Fourth, the great majority of TANF recipients are single mothers raising young children on their own.

Lastly, 13 welfare fraud cases were prosecuted last year. A bit over $200,000 is being recovered, with half of that coming from two individuals. Maine’s newest addition to the state’s welfare fraud unit costs $700,000 per year.

Why make the poorest among us a centerpiece of this scapegoating? This is more than feeding raw meat to the governor’s true believers. This is all about covering the tracks of the massive tax reduction benefiting the top income receivers.

The fact is, there is no bogey man in the closet. There is no monster under the bed. Just like the so-called voter fraud campaign, this is all about lies and deception.

Stephen Aucoin, Waterville


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