Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) has proven that the Tea Party still lives under the delusion that they can get whatever they want by making mountains out of molehills.
Similar to the Tea Party's phenomenal overreaction to the amount of voter fraud in America, LePage has taken a page from Rick Scott by touting a study by the state department of Health & Human Services, which shows recipients of social programs like SNAP and TANF using money from these programs at places like bars, smoke shops, and strip clubs.
What LePage conveniently overlooks is the actual number of such questionable transactions. According to the Bangor Daily News, they account for 0.2% of the total money spent from these programs.
Paul LePage is hyping the findings anyway.
"Any amount of abuse in the system that takes away from the truly needy needs to be dealt with," a spokespoerson for LePage told the Daily News. "We're not uncovering anything new. There are always going to be bad actors out there. We’re simply saying, 'We've got an eye on you.'"
According to LePage, the numbers are actually much larger than the study implies.
"This information is eye-opening and indicates a larger problem than initially thought," LePage said in a press release. "These benefits are supposed to help families, children and our most vulnerable Mainers. Instead, we have discovered welfare benefits are paying for alcohol, cigarettes and other things that hardworking taxpayers should not be footing the bill for."
Back in reality, however, the 0.2% rate of abuse is likely an exaggeration.
The Daily News notes that "the state does not track what is purchased in EBT transactions," and that "those transactions include purchases at the checkout counter and withdrawals from on-premises ATMs."
LePage cannot prove on paper that any benefits are being used to buy alcohol or cigarettes; only that they are being spent in locations where they can be brought.
The problem isn't that welfare recipients are abusing their benefits. It's that not enough poor people in Maine will starve to death before they have the chance to vote against him.