We’ve heard lots of noise lately about welfare reform, and I enjoyed The Press Herald’s series showing abuse of the welfare system was not quite as rampant as many people thought.

I chuckled when the paper reported Nov. 10 (“State fights lower-level abuses of welfare aid”) that the attorney general had bent to the winds of public opinion and her welfare fraud prosecutor had made three spectacular indictments of individuals defrauding the system.

The paragraph that stuck in my mind read, “The Attorney General’s Office has historically pursued major fraud cases, including one in which it won a $4.2 million settlement from Pfizer and another in which an ambulance company billed Maine-Care $1 million for services it didn’t provide.”

Five days later I read with amusement, “Nutting chosen speaker of the House” and learned House Republicans had chosen a leader whose company had overbilled the state “at least $637,477 and as much as $2.3 million.”

Figures in the “lower level abuses” article were between $1,400 and $10,000. So if I use the largest figure there to recoup the smallest number in the other article, it seems the welfare fraud prosecutor needs to indict 64 small-time abusers to catch up to Rep. Robert Nutting’s wholesale abuse. I hope the prosecutor is planning on putting in some overtime, maybe working off the clock on those five furlough days.

Now we have a six-term representative with a history of welfare abuse chosen to lead the new majority.

At the end of it all, I want to ask all those people in the state who thought they were voting for change, “How do you like your blue-eyed boy?”

Or, in the words of Elvis Costello, “I used to be disgusted, but now I try to stay amused.”

Phil Gaven

South Portland

You reported recently on a number of cases of welfare fraud in Maine.

In one case, that of Leah Wright of Winslow, documents were filed as her benefits were about to run out, claiming that she was pregnant.

Pregnancy, as the article points out, allows a person to continue to receive benefits that would have otherwise terminated.

This is a case of fraud on two levels. The first (and obvious one) is that perpetrated by Ms. Wright. The more serious fraud is that perpetrated by the Legislature on the taxpaying citizens of Maine in providing benefits for poor women who become pregnant.

Getting out of poverty is a difficult task that is made that much more difficult if there are children involved. The situation is also that much more costly to taxpayers if there are children involved.

For those reasons, it is counterproductive to provide a benefit for pregnancy, since such a benefit would have the effect of making pregnancy that much more desirable.

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island

Losing politicians now understand voters’ feelings

We are still combing through the results of an election that left many independents and Democrats feeling angry and abandoned.

The sentiment I hear expressed on the street is that Eliot Cutler was not the “spoiler” in this election.

Rather than give the moderate majority of Mainers the lesser of evils, Libby Mitchell, Scott Moody and Kevin Scott put their own interests first. As a result, Cutler, the clear leader among independents and Democrats in the final weeks before the election, lost and Paul LePage won.

Your article, “An extraordinary experience,” seems to indicate Libby Mitchell was angry and extremely disappointed by voters who abandoned her at the polls.

I am over being angry, but the day after the election I might have responded by saying that from the beginning, the Maine Democratic Party’s leadership colossally misread voter sentiment.

I would have told their pollsters that they could have shown better results if they had calculated lemming populations on their final migration. I might have said that a Bill Clinton endorsement was not enough to guarantee my vote.

As for “blinking” at the polls, I don’t think eyes were wider open than the eyes of those of us standing in line who have seen suffering in the streets, had friends laid off, or for that matter been forced to lay off friends, lost health coverage, and so much more.

So if some of the political elite feel hurt and abandoned, maybe then they can get a sense of how a majority of voters feels when it comes to expecting more from their politicians.

Dan Steele


Lessons in leadership provided by students

I bet many business professionals assume they can’t learn anything about leadership from a group of high-school students.

Perhaps my own colleagues at Unum were skeptical when I announced that high-school students from the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program would facilitate our annual leadership development meeting last month.

But any skeptic, I’m sure, would be amazed by what these students taught me and my leadership team.

The group of eight students from South Portland guided more than 30 vice presidents and senior vice presidents through activities that challenged our communication skills, problem-solving techniques and personal perspectives.

After each exercise, the students led a dialogue that connected each activity to our roles as leaders at Unum. The students proved to be excellent coaches. Their planning was evident, their execution was superb and their insight was inspiring.

In their own unique way, they taught us what leadership really is.

I never doubted the decision to let the students from Jobs for Maine’s Graduates lead our meeting.

The JMG program helps high-school and middle-school students discover their individual talents, develop their skills and abilities, and seize opportunities to achieve their individual potential. Ironically, these students helped all of us with those personal goals.

On behalf of my leadership team at Unum, I sincerely thank these students for teaching us how to be better leaders. I expect they’ll be leading us again someday.

Chris Jerome

Senior Vice President of Risk Operations, Unum