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Hi there. My name is Asher Platts, chair of the Maine Green Independent Party, and this is something new we’re doing, a weekly address, focused on State Issues.
It’s our hope that you will share this video widely by reposting it on your social media networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, and emailing it to your friends and relatives.
Governor LePage has repeatedly made it clear that he thinks that what poor people need more than jobs, housing, food, or education, is lots of “tough love” and punishment for being
down on their luck.
One part of his recently introduced Welfare Reform bill would ban convicted drug felons from receiving public assistance.
This is the exact wrong approach and is based in an illogical belief that more punishment will lead to the desired outcome of lower incidents of crime, and lower incidents of drug use.
We can look to real world results for a scientific approach to public policy. Rather than punishing drug users, Portugal set an example for the world in 2001, when they decriminalized all drug use, and started dealing with drug addiction for what it is-- a disease, not a crime. The result? Addiction rates in Portugal are the lowest in Europe, particularly when compared with countries with the strictest drug laws.
Furthermore, it is immoral to further punish convicted felons, who have already served their time and may have even reformed their behaviour. It is immoral to permanently punish people for transgressions made in the past.
By denying TANF benefits, we are prohibiting women who may have had non-violent drug offenses in the past the ability to provide food for their children during times when they are down on their luck.
LePage’s wrongheaded drug policy is destined to increase crime and drug use by increasing desperation for food, housing, and thus more crime and violence which all citizens will bear the brunt of.
Maine was recently voted most peaceful place to live, let's keep it that way-- by ensuring that food, housing assistance are accessible to those who need it most-- instead of creating a permanent criminal underclass.
I feel it important to emphasize that the Green Party is the Party of Economic Justice. We do not accept donations from corporations, so we do not serve any interests but the interests of the people. We pride ourselves on being a party made up of a diverse variety of economic backgrounds, and that we have low-income people in places of leadership.
In full disclosure, I myself am a low-income person and an EBT recipient. EBT is not a free ride. One must carefully budget to make sure that they have enough food for the month. Where Paul LePage has proposed that we prohibit EBT from being used to purchase soda, I would be willing to trade the right to buy soda for the ability to purchase necessary items, like soap, toothpaste, and shampoo, which are not available to EBT users.
Soda is unhealthy, and costs money in the long term through increased incident rates for diabetes, and other obesity related health issues, which translates into increased medical costs.
In fact, it would be fair that if EBT users are no longer able to purchase soda using public funds, then ALL Public money should be prohibited from purchasing not just soda, both also bottled water. Bottled water is a product of manufactured demand, invented by marketing teams at soda companies when soda consumption peaked in the 1970s, is often nothing more than bottled tap water itself, and is sold with a markup of 200,000%, using public water, often without paying a dime to the public for extraction, despite the fact that water does no stop at the edge of property lines, and problems with disturbed water tables, drained wells, and more, have been recorded here in Maine. There is no reason that Augusta should be paying to have Maine’s water, a public good we the people already own, sold back to us.
The Green Party supports a minimum income, where everyone receives a stipend that they can cover bare essentials with. If the Maine State Legislature were to expand EBT to cover necessary items like toothpaste, soap, and toilet paper, and open the program to everybody --rather than making recipients jump through hoops, Maine could achieve that goal.
And since social spending has a strong fiscal multiplier effect, the money being spent on food and necessary items would go to local shop keepers, growing our state economy. If Governor LePage is serious about growing Maine’s economy, I would suggest rather than focusing on punishing the weakest among us, he should be focusing on creating incentives to use EBT to purchase from local farms and retailers, such as giving double benefits for purchases made at farmer’s markets. Some of the Green Party’s 10 Key Values are decentralization, and local economies. A Green Party administration would put the focus on small farms, local economies, and making it easy to maintain a healthy diet.
We can end poverty, and help everybody out while doing it. We need to ask ourselves why we aren't doing it.
In closing, I would like to give congratulations to all the municipal office holders in the Green Party who won their elections this past year. Also, I want to say how proud I am of our presidential candidate, Jill Stein. Stein was the first-ever Green Party candidate to qualify for FEC matching funds, and got the highest total national vote total as a Green since Ralph Nader ran in 2000. I want to also express my gratitude to Maine’s Green Voters. Maine had the largest percentage Green Voters of all 50 states.
There are many local offices opening in 2013, and I would encourage any Green Party activists who are interested, in running for office. Jill Stein’s campaign managers Ben Manski and Tia Nowak, are going to be coming to Maine this March to lead a course in best practices for running a strong campaign. Please contact me if you are interested in running for office, at [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Here’s to a Green 2013!