December 16, 2012

Our View: Lewiston mayor should fight poverty, not blame the poor

Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald has an unusual approach to public service. Last summer, he insulted a large number of his constituents by telling a reporter that immigrants should abandon their native culture or get out.

Last week, he decided to insult even more Lewiston residents, claiming that the schools were full of welfare cheats from out of state, attracted by Maine's too-generous benefits. These kids don't want to learn, he said, because they never plan to get a job anyway. It's a common complaint, but not usually made by someone in such an important position.

On its face, it's false: Maine does not have more generous benefits than its neighbors, and many more people on assistance leave the state because of our moribund economy than come here to receive benefits. As mayor, Macdonald should know that.

But Macdonald does make an important observation. Poverty does disrupt children and their ability to learn. Kids who come from homes where poor nutrition and financial insecurity are the norm have trouble focusing on schoolwork.

But that is an argument for fighting poverty, not telling people to get lost. All of Macdonald's constituents, including those who need help, deserve a better advocate.


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