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Monday, Jan. 13, 2014: Energy greed, EBT cards, Shenna Bellows


Too little, too late

There has been a lot of talk lately about Gov. Paul LePage’s report that welfare benefits on EBT cards have been used at places like smoke shops, bars, sports pubs and strip clubs. Democrats and Republicans agree that this is a gross waste of taxpayer money and definitely needs to be addressed.

However, fixing the problem doesn’t seem to be LePage’s goal.

First, by looking at the data, it appears LePage is purposefully overstating this problem. Welfare fraud only occurred in 0.2 percent of sampled EBT transactions, meaning that taxpayer money was used suitably 99.8 percent of the time.

Second, it is unclear how bad some of these “violations” actually were. For example, many local liquor stores also sell regular food as well. I have bought milk at liquor stores myself.

It is also difficult to track the purchases made using these cards. Sometimes the EBT card “use” was in fact used as a withdrawal of cash — some smoke shops and liquor stores have ATMs, and EBT card holders can use them to withdraw cash. ATM withdrawals and “cash back” after purchases can both be made with an EBT card. Just because the liquor store or smoke shop is your closest ATM doesn’t mean you’re a crook.

But most importantly, despite all his public announcements and blaming, LePage has yet to focus on a plan to address this issue. It seems to me LePage is doing this only to score political points as he begins his campaign for re-election.

Cecil Carey


Time for change

Far be it from me to say that a U.S. Senate race does not need a significant amount of money. Unfortunately, it does. But a U.S. Senate campaign also needs energy, excitement, new ideas and a strong commitment to move Maine and our nation to a better place, no matter how difficult the task.

I am thrilled that Shenna Bellows has entered the race for the U.S. Senate to represent Maine. In three short months, she has garnered widespread support across the state — 337 towns representing all 16 counties — with 1,771 individual contributions, most of which are $100 or less.

Bellows is able to connect with Mainers no matter their political label because of her long commitment to the individual freedoms that we all should enjoy under our Constitution; because of her passion for economic fairness for working families in Maine; and for her belief that all Maine citizens — whether children, seniors, or in-between — are important in the fabric of our communities.

People are desperate for Washington to do its job, and Bellows is committed to bringing new ideas to the table and forging relationships across the aisle so our nation can move forward. I believe that she represents what we need in our future. I encourage you to take a look at this remarkable woman — her accomplishments and her vision. I believe that you will find Shenna Bellows worthy of your support. It truly is time for a change.

Gwethalyn Phillips


Energy greed

According to a recent letter from Jim Lutz, our energy prices have gone up even in the face of increased U.S. production of oil. He lays the blame for these high prices on the Environmental Protection Agency. To me, there are three reasons for these price levels: Greed, the longstanding manipulations of all phases of the market by major oil and energy hungry competitors.

I would recommend a careful read of “The Tyranny Of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry,” by Antonia Juhasz if you want the full history documenting why energy costs are so high. When John D. Rockefeller set about controlling all of the world’s oil exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing, at both the wholesale and retail levels, the Sherman Antitrust Act was no deterrent. He just bought his way around it as his proteges do today.

While establishing oil as “Big Oil,” he and his fellow barons laid waste, literal waste, to untold acres of land, desecrated streams and rivers and poisoned local populations throughout the world in their pursuits. They ran off with the profits and left us with an ungodly mess. Thank heaven that we are defended now by the EPA .

Maine air is poisoned by inefficient, polluting refineries that “Big Oil” won’t update because they would rather spend their money fighting court fights then build new, clean refineries. So old refineries are “at capacity” causing “shortages,” which keeps oil profits at an all time high. You blame the protections, I blame the greedy.

Yann Kaloustian


From away

I have seen several articles in the BDN quoting professor Charles Colgan, who laments the shortage of young people in Maine and the aging population. He warns that employers will have difficulty finding workers to fill jobs. With all due respect, I think he has missed the mark.

We have a shortage of young people in this state because there is a shortage of good-paying jobs. I believe it is as simple as that. My parents were born and raised in Maine but came to Massachusetts to find work during the Depression. I would have liked to move here 25 years ago but felt that I couldn’t earn a good living in Maine, so I stayed in Massachusetts until I retired and then moved here. My daughter, who is a graduate of the University of Maine, would have loved to stay in Maine but couldn’t find a job in her field.

Simply put, three generations of my family would have chosen to live in Maine if they could have found a decent job. Living in Maine is a luxury. I believe that if good jobs are available, people will come from all over the country to be here in this beautiful state. But until good employment opportunities exist, Maine will continue to attract retired people who have earned their money some place else and have finally come here to live.

Don Bradbury

Roque Bluffs


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