Ethan: If Gov. LePage is so interested in moving people off welfare, why doesn’t he simply focus on improving our economy, instead of spending so much time coming up with ways to take away much needed assistance from low-income families?

Phil: Twenty thousand new jobs since he took office, is pretty good focus. Not to mention his persistence in convincing the Legislature to lower electric rates and bring more balance to this unelected regulatory system at the Public Utilities Commission.

Ethan: And yet we are still 39th in the country for personal income growth; 47th for economic growth; And 48th for our overall economy! We did beat Alaska, so I guess that’s some good news.

Phil: As you know, changing the policy and strategy after 40 years of Democratic rule is a long, hard task. It’s like turning an aircraft carrier around in Portland Harbor.

Ethan: While I appreciate that you still want to believe Gov. Joe Brennan’s policies from the 1980s are responsible for Maine’s sagging economic recovery in 2014, it is time for you to move on (not to mention, Joe had our economy cooking and wages rising).

Phil: It’s not Gov. Brennan I am pointing at. Rather the decades that Democrats controlled the public purse, the Legislature and the bureaucracy that gives us all sleepless nights as we work a third of the year just to pay our taxes.

Ethan: Do I need to break out the violin? You still seem to get plenty of vacation and golf time.

Phil: I also spend every waking minute meeting payroll, bank payments and delivering superior client service, knowing if I fail I’m bankrupt.

Ethan: I do the same for over 100 employees, but you don’t see me complaining. In fact, I am grateful for all the protection, infrastructure, education, etc., that my taxes are put toward. Look, I agree that turning our economy around is a long, hard task. But that’s my point. Instead of focusing on the economy as a whole, all LePage talks about is drug testing our poor, stopping immigrants from getting basic assistance, and kicking people off welfare if they don’t find a job that doesn’t exist. None of these things will help our economy one bit.

Phil: Here’s the juxtaposition. More people are near or at the end of their careers and there are not enough of us to fill the gap in our economy. America needs all able-bodied people to get up and go to work. I believe LePage is seeking to motivate folks to get back up on their feet.

Ethan: If you want to motivate someone to “get back up on their feet,” create good-paying jobs or provide job training so they can become qualified for jobs that already exist.

Phil: As long as your side sees votes rather human potential, politicians will fight over who should get free money to not work and who is being robbed of their duty to pursue life, liberty and happiness. I believe this is why LePage is working so hard to reduce the welfare roles.

Ethan: Welfare dropped in the 1990s, not because of welfare reform. It dropped because the economy grew. When the welfare roles rose back up, it was because of the recession, not fraud. Focus on the economy and everyone will benefit.

Phil: Sure, and good jobs come from a hospitable political climate toward job creators and an educated dependable workforce of able-bodied men and women. That’s Gov. LePage’s agenda.

Ethan: If that’s his agenda, no one knows. Because all he talks about is welfare fraud. He makes it sound like all our woes will be solved if we can simply kick a single mother off welfare for buying a pack of cigarettes.

Phil: You are missing the point. My upbringing my be an example. Both of my parents were disabled and I was taught to get up, ignore the labels placed on us and try hard to make things happen to better myself. Today I wonder where life would have led me if I was brought up in an environment where the path of least resistance was to call 1-800-Welfare.

Ethan: If you think living in poverty and needing welfare is “the path of least resistance,” boy are you mistaken. But let me ask. Are you saying that your disabled parents never received any outside assistance? No one helped them or your family financially, physically, or otherwise?

Phil: Of course, my grandfather left his job, started his own business and hired my dad who eventually became the second generation to run our family grocery store. Long hours and hard work. That created self-sufficiency and encouragement to make it on our own. LePage’s passion from the day he took office is education and an attitude of “if it is to be, it is up to me.” You both are on the same page.

Ethan: If you change that last word from “me” to “us,” then I am with you. But more importantly, encourage LePage to focus on jobs as opposed to welfare. Our economy needs it.

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