Economically disadvantaged citizens of Lewiston, Maine, have reason to be concerned as Mayor Robert Macdonald seeks to pass legislation to "name and shame" recipients of welfare according to his column in the Twin City Times
In a weak "straw man" argument, the Maine mayor postures that "the public has a right to know how its money is being spent." Clearly few would argue with the Maine mayor on that point, however it doesn't logically follow that everyone who receives welfare should therefore be "named and shamed." The Maine mayor wants to publish online, not just their names and addresses, but the amount of time the unemployed have been receiving support. The Maine mayor's policies would put welfare recipients at risk of harassment, further isolation, and depression which, as Forbes reported in 2014 is endemic amongst the long-term unemployed. The public certainly deserves to know how many citizens lost their jobs, how many receive welfare, and what the costs are. Surely they don't deserve to know, as Mayor Macdonald wishes to implement in Lewiston, Maine, where an unfortunate soul lives weeks after they fell on hard times and had to turn to help.
The Maine mayor also seems to miss the point that poverty can be a function of failed policy. Rather than ask how society can further humiliate the unemployed, the Maine mayor should be asking how his policies can lift people in the city out of poverty through job creation. The Maine mayor's Democratic challenger, Ben Chin, told the Portland Press Herald that the comments amounted to a "political stunt."
"Mayor Macdonald has been in office for four years and he's done nothing to lower our poverty rate and make our city better. Instead, he likes to scapegoat and publicly embarrass people."The Washington Post reports that the Maine mayor has a history of controversy, once appearing in a BBC documentary where he appeared to criticize the Somali refugee community in Lewiston. The Maine mayor claimed these comments were taken "out of context."
The Maine mayor is not alone. Shame is a recurring theme in politics, with Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush calling for a "restoration of shame" in America, as reported in Slate. Apparently single moms are simply a victim of shame.
There is little evidence that shame, which Slate notes is doled out plentifully by the welfare system, returns people to work or reduces birth rates in poorer families. The Maine mayor and Jeb Bush should take note and direct their attention to creating jobs and encouraging the survival of "Made in America" brands, rather than heaping shame on those unfortunate enough not to have a job to go to in the morning.
[Image Source: Lewiston City Hall/Rbridges07 Wikimedia Commons]