Maine the welfare magnet, what happens when the system crashes?

I wrote this post in 2009—Somali Migration to Maine: it’s the welfare magnet, stupid!   On some days, like yesterday, it is our top post of the day.   Maybe that is because the Sun Journal in Lewiston just two days ago published a big squishy piece about how Lewiston, the Somali epicenter in the state, is coping ten years after the Somali migration to Maine began.  And, maybe people are googling and finding our many posts on the subject.  You can read the Sun Journal story here.

I thought we had learned that the new conservative Governor of the state was reining in the welfare abuse, but according to a college student writing at the College Conservative welfare use and abuse is alive and well.    Although we all know that egregious cases of fraud like those witnessed by this young Walmart employee are not the exclusive domain of immigrants and indeed she doesn’t identify those customers shocking her in the last two summers as immigrants of any sort.  Nonetheless, what she tells us fits what we have learned about why so many immigrants have headed north—to Maine!

From the College Conservative  (Hat tip: Judy):

During the 2010 and 2011 summers, I was a cashier at Wal-Mart #1788 in Scarborough, Maine. I spent hours upon hours toiling away at a register, scanning, bagging, and dealing with questionable clientele. These were all expected parts of the job, and I was okay with it. What I didn’t expect to be part of my job at Wal-Mart was to witness massive amounts of welfare fraud and abuse.

I understand that sometimes, people are destitute. They need help, and they accept help from the state in order to feed their families. This is fine. It happens. I’m not against temporary aid helping those who truly need it. What I saw at Wal-Mart, however, was not temporary aid. I witnessed generations of families all relying on the state to buy food and other items.


The thing that disturbed me more than simple cases of fraud/abuse was the entitled nature of many of my customers.

Nearly 30% of Mainers are on some form of welfare!

Maine has a problem with welfare spending. Maine has some of the highest rates in the nation for food stamp enrollment, Medicaid, and TANF. Nearly 30% of the state is on some form of welfare. Maine is the only state in the nation to rank in the top two for all three categories. This is peculiar, as Maine’s poverty rate isn’t even close to being the highest in the nation. The system in Maine is far easier to get into than in other states, and it encourages dependency. When a person makes over the limit for benefits, they lose all benefits completely. There is no time limit and no motivation to actually get back to work. Furthermore, spending on welfare has increased dramatically, but there has been no reduction of the poverty rate. Something is going terribly wrong, and the things I saw at work were indicators of a much larger problem. Something must change before the state runs out of money funding welfare programs.

Check out the website we are directed to—Fix Maine Welfare, here, where we learn that Maine ranks second in the Nation in all forms of welfare usage.

Indeed, Maine is so far outside the mainstream in the extraordinarily high number of people trapped in its welfare system that not a single other state ranks in the top twelve for enrollment in all three major welfare programs. The state closest to matching Maine’s level of welfare system dependence is New York, which ranks 13th in Food Stamps, 10th in TANF and 4th in Medicaid. Maine ranks second in the nation in all three.

So what will happen when the system crashes—will Maine become Greece with rioting in the streets?  Remember Saul Alinsky and Cloward/Piven about bringing on the revolution by using the poor, here.

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