CHELSEA — The nonsensical backlash aimed at Gov. LePage following his attempt to ban junk food purchases with food stamps puts on full display just how out of touch the Democratic establishment is when it comes to welfare programs.

Democrats continue to say they don’t want Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, benefits being used to buy junk food, but they oppose the governor’s effort to get the federal government to allow Maine to prohibit the purchase of those items with Maine food stamp benefits. There are countless items in any given supermarket that cannot be purchased with food stamps. It would be equally as easy for the food stamp system to reject the purchase of candy, soda and other foods of no nutritional value.

Democrats, including those who serve with me on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, know this. Any observer of the issue would recognize that simply prohibiting the purchase of junk food with food stamps is the quickest, easiest, most effective and obvious way to prevent junk food from being purchased with food stamps.

Instead, the liberal defenders of the welfare status quo want to continue to rely on the tangled web of government programs and bureaucracies that “educate” food stamp recipients about healthy eating choices.

In reality, we wouldn’t need all of those government programs if we simply said “no” to buying Mars bars and Mountain Dew with a welfare benefit that has “nutrition” in its name.

Democrats have unsuccessfully argued that healthy food is unaffordable and that needs to be our focus instead of stopping our tax dollars from going toward the purchase of unhealthy foods. But one look at the Hannaford weekly flier shows boneless chicken breast at $2.49 per pound, pork chops for $1.99, and apples and pears for 99 cents per pound. In contrast, Doritos are $3.99 and a 24-pack of Coke is $7.99.

Though Democrats love to regurgitate statistics about child poverty in Maine, they ignore that when some of Maine’s most significant welfare reforms were enacted, the number of children living in poverty actually decreased, from 54,000 in 2012 to 45,000 in 2013.

Furthermore, there were more Maine children living in extreme poverty in 2004, when our cash welfare caseload was 150 percent greater, than there were in 2014. The left’s “war on poverty” has failed miserably, and their weapon of choice – unchecked welfare spending – has proven its ineffectiveness. As it turns out, work, not welfare, is the greatest anti-poverty tool in our arsenal.

Liberal hyperbole about Gov. LePage “attacking” and “punishing” the poor is especially disingenuous. Gov. LePage has actually experienced extreme poverty firsthand. That’s why he believes benefits should only go to those who truly need them and not squandered on non-essential items.

Liberal politicians who pretend to stand with the poor against welfare reform should think about the homeless teenager in Lewiston who escaped domestic violence and eventually became governor of his state. Gov. LePage was lifted out of poverty by mentorship, education and hard work, not by a SNAP-funded bag of potato chips.

Mainers are tired of checking out at the grocery store, struggling to provide their family with nutritious meals out of their overtaxed paychecks, only to see the person in front of them use taxpayer-funded welfare benefits to buy cases of energy drinks and bags full of Cheetos.

Mainers are generous and willing to help their neighbors in need with life essentials on a temporary basis, but they’re not suckers, and they are tired of witnessing the abuse of a broken welfare system that was created by well-intentioned liberal politicians.

Critics of the governor constantly employ a misleading scare tactic, asserting that he is trying to end the food stamps program. Gov. LePage took a hard line against the federal government by telling them that if they refuse to let Maine reform the broken food stamps program, then he will examine options to return the federally funded, state-administered program to the feds and let them administer it here in Maine.

Democrats in the Maine Legislature say they want food stamps to fund nutritious food, not junk food. But instead of supporting the governor’s call for food stamps to stop paying for junk food by writing op-eds and letters to our broken federal government, they attack Gov. LePage for pushing a reform that we should all be able to agree upon.