Mayor Proposes Law Requiring Identities Of Welfare Recipients Be Made Public On State Website

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

robert-e-macdonaldLewiston Maine Mayor Robert Macdonald advocated enacting a state law that would require welfare recipients’ “names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected” be enumerated on a state website that is made accessible to the general public. Mayor Macdonald claims that because recipients of public pensions, they are government employees, that if this information is public record then the people have a right to know where the money is being spent on welfare recipients.

It is rather difficult in reading the mayor’s letter to the editor of the Twin City Times to accept his notion that his actions are in the public’s interest to see where tax dollars are paid, when he simultaneously makes many references disparaging recipients and those who advocate their plight. Yet, he claims to support privacy rights in other respects.


Here is an excerpt of the mayor’s letter as it appears in the Twin City Times.

Enough is Enough: Mainers have a right to know how their money is spent

September 24, 2015 | Author editor

By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston

It’s time for a major overhaul of the many laws and policies dealing with confidentiality, laws that dictate how federal, state and local government are run.

A person’s medical records, financial statements and other personal information should be blocked from busybodies who seek it out of curiosity. This type of information should remain protected.

Recently, a friend asked if it would be possible to locate a gentleman he had known for many years and was now terminally ill. He sought to contact the man with the hope of providing him help and comfort in his final days. I called an organization I felt could locate the man.

I was told, correctly, that they could not give out that information. I asked if I left my friend’s name and number, could it be passed along to the person if, in fact, they knew him. I was told, again correctly, this would not be possible.

I bring this to the reader’s attention in an attempt not only to show the foolishness of these laws, but the fear they strike into the average law-abiding citizen.

In Maine there is a website that lists the pension amounts received by everyone who is issued a monthly check by the State of Maine. No privacy here because this is being paid out by the State; accordingly, taxpayers have a right to know.

Yet other recipients of state revenues are shielded. Yes, I am referring to those known as welfare recipients. Why are they treated differently than pensioners? (A rhetorical question).

The answer: our liberal, progressive legislators and their social-service allies have made them a victimized, protected class. It’s none of your business how much of your money they get and spend. Who are you to question it? Just shut up and pay!

Well, the days of being quiet are gone. We will be submitting a bill to the next legislative session asking that a website be created containing the names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected by every individual on the dole. After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.

From the beginning the mayor’s arguments break down. He claims that medical information should remain protected from “busybodies who seek it out of curiosity” but then goes on to preach that every welfare recipient’s information should be made available to these same busybodies he claim are interested otherwise in health records. He does not seem to recognize that income information in general is not a public record for individual citizens, and there are numerous federal and state laws that consider public assistance as a form of income on par with that received from wages or investments. In fact, it is a violation of fair credit laws to deny a loan or extension of credit because a person’s income is derived, or partially derived, from public assistance. Individual incomes of private citizens is not a public record, yet Mayor Macdonald proposes that a certain classification of income must be divorced from the privacy rights of other forms of income. And, when coupled with his political, partisan rants it seems clear that he believes recipients of welfare benefits have a lesser expectation of privacy due to their economic status.

In an attempt to justify the publication of this private data, he makes a false comparison with those in public employment. Public employees’ wages and benefits are subject to public disclosure laws on account of their employment with the state. In fact, on a state level all public spending is subject to disclosure. One of the original reasons for this is that there have been incidents of corruption where public employees were given compensation that amounted to unlawful enrichment. In the case for welfare recipients the amounts spent for the various benefits are made in aggregate, without reference in to individual recipients, with the intent on maintaining privacy.

When balancing the need for disclosure versus individual privacy it is hard to advocate a legitimate government need to expose the privacy rights of individuals.

In another disingenuous aspect of Mayor Macdonald’s position is that he believes, correctly, that medical information should remain private but the logic he involves is that many individual expenses for medical treatment are paid to those on public assistance. He demands a granular accounting for expenses paid by taxpayers but many of the benefits paid on behalf of public assistance are in the form of medical expenses. Should those also be made a public record?

Moreover the presence of this information prevents individuals in totality from having privacy with respect to their income and where they reside. This information can be used to harm individuals on Macdoald’s List.

Many recipients of assistance have been victims of domestic violence or other situations where their location may be used by those wishing harm to locate them and commit crimes. We have also seen where states, in a similar analogue, published the names and residences of those having Concealed Pistol Licenses in an effort to exert what can only be described as a measure to deter individuals from having these permits. The listing lead to several burglaries where felons now knew the residence of each CPL holder, who likely owned a firearm, and thus created an efficient means to steal their property.

A lesser effect would be a means for which potential creditors, and landlords could bypass restrictions on discovery of income sources by referencing these lists when considering extending credit or residency to the recipients.

Mayor Macdonald needs to educate himself on the importance of maintaining equal protection of all citizens and not as a means to attack a demographic of individuals whom he believes are deserving of shaming. His actions are also another example of politicians taking away rights at any opportunity they see fit, especially in a failed attempt to benefit them politically.

By Darren Smith

Source: Twin City Times

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

81 thoughts on “Mayor Proposes Law Requiring Identities Of Welfare Recipients Be Made Public On State Website”

  1. phillyT,
    In the real world that’s called, ‘busy work’. As long as you have candidates that CAN be bought, you will always have buyers.The currency might change but the product remains the same. Seriously, since when did a lack of money deter drug addicts from getting drugs? Something will be exchanged and they will get theirs.

    You’ll get your politician and their standard photo op with the ‘victims’ they are saving and offstage will be the “consultant” advising them how to work around the law that was just passed.

  2. Gotta start somewhere. Getting the money out and restoring voting power to the actual people would be a start.

  3. Interesting that you omitted any reference to the constitution. If you’re not going to hold government to a constitutional standard, then nothing will change. Your new law eliminating any one of those items will already have a workaround before the ink drys. Your list of 5 will be a list of 10 in short order.

  4. Cool. I would love to see the names of the shareholders of all the government contractors and grant recipients posted. Are we talking social welfare, corporate welfare or both?

  5. Here you go:

    1. Undo corporate person-hood
    2. Undo Citizen’s United
    3. Reform gerrymandering in all 50 states
    4. No revolving doors for lobbyists or Congressional members OR staff. Finish your term? Go home.
    5. No money changing hands. No gifts. No trips. No paid speaking events. Nothing.

  6. phillyT,

    So you admit that your government is bought and paid for. So what do you do about it? Go after the buyers or the sellers? Round up the addicts or the pushers?

  7. “Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature … If the next centennial does not find us a great nation…it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.” – James Garfield 1877


    We the People have the government we deserve. We have 320 million people in this country and I doubt 10% of them have a clue what government is supposed to be doing. We have some smart people within this blog and they cannot agree either. We began with the expectation of limited government and the rule of law; we have since abandoned the absolutes of either of those ideas and replaced it with the uncertainly that comes with idealizing the rule of men above the rule of law.

  8. “The only reason those tax breaks are legal in the first place is that corporate lobbyists and groups like ALEC wrote the legislation in the first place.”

    Wrong! Writing legislation and making it “legal” are not the same thing. I expect the electors to seek favors from the elected, this is not where our country fails. We fail because the elected dishonor their position and grant the favors in exchange for continued power, prestige and wealth. We fail as citizens by continuing to elect these same dishonorable public servants. Rinse, wash and repeat.

  9. When we finally get around to undoing the horror that is corporate person-hood, and Citizens United, and gerrymandering rules, we may have a shot again at government for, of, and by the people. Until then corporations and the top 5% control everything.

  10. “Conservatives might be ethically compromised, uninformed, or—if liberals are in a generous mood—mentally unstable, but they can’t be for real. At least, that’s the sense I increasingly get from the Left these days. Blame it on social media.

    When a group confuses its politics with moral doctrine, it may have trouble comprehending how a decent human could disagree with its positions. This is probably why people confuse lecturing with debating and why so many liberals can bore into the deepest nooks of my soul to ferret out all those motivations but can’t waste any time arguing about the issue itself.”

  11. The only reason those tax breaks are legal in the first place is that corporate lobbyists and groups like ALEC wrote the legislation in the first place. You cannot honestly think that’s a fair way to govern. Of course the corporations are going to take advantage of those breaks, they paid to get them!

    And of course, DBQ, people like supporting the things they like. What else is new?

  12. Will they include those who own rental properties that have tenants who receive public assistance in some form? How about all those mega-wealthy folks around the country who own “agricultural” land who receive Department of Agricultural grants for not planting crops, etc.? And yes, don’t forget those paragons of American capitalism, the corporations and other business entities, the sports team owners, etc. which receive massive amounts of tax breaks and deferrals, bond-funded projects, etc. Everything I say seems to remind me of something else (a sign of growing older, I fear). What about those who receive government-funded “research” or government “outsourcing” (wink-wink)? Defense contractors receiving funds to provide aircraft and other goods that the military doesn’t want or need or are outdated? Even Donald Trump bankrupted four businesses because, as I thought I heard him say the other day, taking bankruptcy is done all the time and is one of the accepted recourses for a business. Remember “too big to fail” and those bail-outs?

    Can we also include the trustees and administrators of universities who receive billions in endowment and annual support funds (tax deductible) yet they keep increasing costs of education and forcing students into massive debt? Banks and developers (especially those with connections to the universities) win. Students lose.

    Everyone seems to have their hand out. Grumble.

  13. Simpler question: Define ‘subsidy.’

    Money given to entities that the liberals don’t like for some reason are called subsidies and are evil. Bad bad money. Money given to entities that they love, like Planned Parenthood, NPR, PBS etc are not evil subsidies and are classified as good. Good good money.


  14. Well Dan Mitchell has a timely blog post relating to the welfare state! You left-leaning big government types should love his blog with all the citing of sources, numbers analysis, and real world data to draw from:

    Excerpt from the end:

    “That being said, if their concern about inequality is legitimate and not just for purposes of demagoguery, I expect them to read the ECB working paper discussed above and add their voice in support of a smaller welfare state and in favor of Social Security reform.

    P.P.S. If the New York Times can support private retirement savings (albeit by accident), then other leftists should be able to do the same thing.”

  15. I’m reading ‘Divide’ by Matt Taibbi, which makes it clear so much welfare money is paid out and immediately taken back by the govt. in the form of ‘broken-windows’ policing, corrupt courts, and the War on Some Drugs. This proposal just piles insult on top of injury. But hey, we’re talking about “those people”, so who cares, they are the exploitable class. Meanwhile, the big fish, WallSt. & bankers, skate on much bigger crimes.

  16. And your definition of ‘corporate welfare’ is so ludicrously broad as to include fire and police services.

    Simpler question: Define ‘subsidy.’

  17. ““Entitlement Programs from food stamps to Medicare, don’t see unusually high cheating rates…

    That’s laughably false, or simply a lie.

  18. “Entitlement Programs from food stamps to Medicare, don’t see unusually high cheating rates — and the culprits are usually managers and executives, not “welfare queens.”

    And that takes us back to the main point: For the most part, fraud isn’t the product of scheming low-income beneficiaries — Mitt Romney’s 47 percent — living high on the hog on your dime, but rather someone other than the beneficiary standing to make a buck off it. Medicare and Medicaid fraud is largely committed not by patients — very few people are trying to rip off taxpayers to obtain unneeded spinal taps or root canals — but by providers: unscrupulous (or sometimes just incompetent) doctors and hospitals billing for procedures the patient didn’t need or didn’t receive.”

    From Dezza’s linked article.

  19. I seriously doubt we have anyone here that believes the distribution of welfare dollars is only going to individuals and/or corporations that need them. Therefore, do we really need to spend any time on pointing which entity is on the dole that doesn’t need to be?

    Why are they receiving what they don’t need? The short answer is because they can. The natural reaction is to “shame” those receiving this but why are we not shaming the providers? This is a closed-looped system where the pushers of this program are dependent on the support of those receiving it; those receiving it are dependent on those pushing it.

    Welfare should never be offered as a permanent alternative for individuals or corporations. For individuals, it should be managed as locally as possible with incentives for the managers of the program to get people off of welfare and not on it. As Deming said, “Expect what you inspect”. All forms of welfare (subsidies) should have an end date and that is especially true for businesses/corporations. Let the free market system work and if your business/corporation is not viable without government assistance then it should be aborted.

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