Christine Rousselle’s Forecaster Forum in the Dec. 21, 2011, edition concerning welfare and why you vote Republican prompted me to respond.

Most people agree that our country, as well as most of the world, is going through a very difficult economic period, but there is certainly not universal agreement on the causes of our dilemma. Many Republicans and tea party independents blame big government, deficit spending, and entitlement programs; Democrats and independent Occupy Wall Street supporters (a majority of Americans, according to most polls) impugn Wall Street, deregulation, increasingly skewed income distribution, and the “entitled nature” of the very wealthy.

Rousselle’s experience as a cashier at Walmart exposed her to customers who abuse welfare. But many studies reveal that these people make up a small minority of welfare recipients. Most of the people who qualify for benefits work many hours, usually at minimum wage – they are the working poor.

To understand what “is going terribly wrong,” you need exposure to a much broader landscape than Walmart provides. It might be a revelation to visit food banks, homeless shelters, and government welfare and unemployment offices and talk to Americans, many of whom once thought of themselves as middle class, who are now jobless and experiencing poverty, often for the first time.

Especially in an election year, it is important that we question our assumptions and ask who benefits from the policies we advocate. Whose interests do Republican policies really promote? Not mine, and I suspect not yours either.

William B. Fritzmeier
South Portland