Fair is giving people what they need

By Reade Brower | May 01, 2014

“As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.” — Leonardo da Vinci, painter, artist, architect, (1452-1519)

“Rubbish” is the crux of comments online at VillageSoup and a recent letter to the editor describing a recent column of mine. The letter was published in last week’s paper and comments online take me to task for “beating up on the poor who are demonized regularly for finding themselves up against a political-economic model that continues to fail them with a media core who relishes in ‘making common sense’ out of their plight."

If creating a system that encourages self-respect, rather than hand-outs and generational welfare families is “demonizing the poor” than its author Mr. York, and I, do have some pretty large philosophical differences at the way we look at life.

I invite Mr. York to share a guest column on these pages outlining how his common sense approach would work. Until such time, I will continue to promote a system that encourages people with a hand-up, rather than a hand-out and, most importantly, creates some expectations and some self-esteem.

In his letter to the editor, he cites a Bangor Daily News article that reports EBT card fraud at a miniscule number and, if true, I’m glad to hear that. But why fight legislation that is motivated to provide safe guards and harsh penalties for the “few” who do abuse it? I’m sure most people don’t commit larceny, or larger crimes like murder, hi-jacking airplanes or robbing banks at gunpoint, yet we have pretty harsh penalties and laws for those that do. Would anyone suggest that because it is not a common place problem, we should allow those who commit welfare fraud or abuse the “hand-outs” not face full accountability?

Drug testing is common place for many jobs. Asking welfare participants to be free of substances is not anymore insulting to me than asking our pilots not to drink while flying, or drug testing for our servicemen or major league ball players. If society is paying the tab, I see no problem in creating reasonable restrictions and rules. Comparing a welfare EBT card user to a CEO at a corporation makes no sense to me, nor do I see the connection, Mr. York.

Accountability, self-respect and opportunity for all should be at the root of our welfare system.

The philosophy that guides me is based on fair, and the definition I learned a decade ago. That definition of fair simply states it as “giving people what they need." It was a fundamental change for me when I adopted this principle. I always believed that fair meant equal or the same; but now, in my book, that doesn’t work best. It was an especially hard concept to change as a parent with my children. My three boys are all just a few years apart in age, and I began my parenting career thinking everything had to be even to be fair.

What I came to realize is that, though my old definition passes the ‘common sense’ test, it fails as the best way to help each of them rise to their full potential, which is where I think the weight of my foot should be in helping my children. They are all unique with individual strengths and different needs.

In the case of the needy in our society, I can be clear that my utopia has everyone being fed, everyone being helped, and everyone given the opportunities to reach their potential.

I believe in a workfare system because it meets people where they are and it allows them to learn skills with a self-respect component that our current perpetual welfare system simply doesn’t encompass.

I believe in education; this should also be part of any welfare system and should include childcare if it helps get generational welfare recipients self-dependent.

Instead of criticizing my opinions with hyperbole that doesn’t address the problem, I would encourage Mr. York to tell us how to create a system that helps the poor in a “big picture” way.

Between politicizing and injecting criticisms that don’t address the problem, there needs to be some change. That’s the same point I made for our health care system reform. Though the Affordable Act Care is far from a perfect solution, it at least moves the ball and makes an attempt to create a “fairer” society where meeting the needs is at the core of the policy.

By the way, I can’t believe that our state of Maine and its Gov. Paul LePage continue to veto extending health care benefits to those who were missed by the new health care laws. With the federal government willing to pick up 100 percent of the tab, it makes no sense to me that our Maine legislators can not, or will not, override that veto and put this injustice to rest. I have heard the arguments against taking the 100 percent aid package, but every time I listen, I just cock my head and wonder “what?”

Andy O’Brien wrote a column in The Free Press a couple weeks ago about the Single-Payer Health Care System law that was implemented in Vermont in 2011. This is too complicated to talk about in a paragraph, but it is another step towards a society that meets people where they are by humanizing them and creating a system where we take care of each other.

Isn’t that a nice idea…..

Turn the page!

Turn the Page. Peace out; Reade

Reade Brower can be reached at reade@freepressonline.com.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Victoria Bucklin | May 05, 2014 09:45

Mr. Reade, I am pleased to read your thoughtful and common sense approaches to some of our most pressing challenges. To help you understand "the arguments against taking the 100 percent aid package", I recommend the following site: http://wpri.com/2014/04/29/ri-taxpayers-face-52m-tab-for-soaring-medicaid-enrollment/. We are fortunate to have the experiences of other states guide us in making decisions that will not jeopardize our ability to help the truly needy in our society.

Posted by: paula sutton | May 03, 2014 10:21



Thanks for the thoughtful follow up.  Have you heard that Maine is being fined several million dollars because we failed to meet federal workplace participation guidelines ?   This is another example of how we can continue to improve the system by requiring individuals applying for welfare to show proof that they tried to find a job before applying for benefits.   I regret that a piece of legislation designed to address this situation was not passed in Augusta .

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