May you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.
I have fond memories of Christmas. My parents always went "all out" for Christmas and we have continued the tradition with our children and grandchildren.
Christmas meant attending Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Church that capped off magical family Christmas Eve celebration. Christmas meant visiting Santa in the basement of Peck's Department Store. Christmas meant watching the bright full moon rise over the snow covered fields and "going sliding" in moonlight so bright that it seemed we lived in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Christmas-time in Maine was wonderful in an age of innocence for my siblings and friends. We never had a lot of money, but we sure did have a lot of fun. I hope that today's children are able to experience the pure joy of a Maine Christmas.
Unfortunately, I know that many children will not be able to experience the "good and plenty" of a Maine Christmas this year. And I ache for them.
In the 18 months between February 2002 and August 2003, the number of children living in poverty in Androscoggin County rose a horrifying 113%. More than doubled! Just a hair under 5,000 children in our small county reside in poverty conditions.
On a statewide basis, children living in poverty conditions rose from 19,000 to nearly 33,000 during the same time period. The "other Maine", the 2nd Congressional District, was very hard hit. Aroostook - up 53%; Franklin - up 38%; Hancock - up 46%; Oxford - up 75%; Penobscot - up 36%; Piscataquis - up 57%; Somerset - up 65%; Washington - up 62%.
Maine appears to be rapidly sinking into poverty. Our children are innocent victims of this slide. Not only will they be missing out on Christmas, but they are going to bed hungry, going to school hungry, freezing their little hands and feet waiting for the school bus and shivering in cold homes.
One in five Mainers under the age of 65 are now "on the state" for health care. There will soon be one in four "on the state!" One in ten Mainers are on food stamps. A large percentage of children in Maine schools are eligible for free school lunch.
A huge industry has sprung up in Maine to help our fellow citizens living in poverty. Thank goodness it has. Our area is chock full of social service agencies that are literally saving lives on a daily basis. Mainer's are transferring huge sums of money via government to assist the destitute. Medicaid, for example, is costing Maine taxpayers over $3 million more than budgeted per week.
Isn't it a shame that this great State has been driven to this poor state? It is absolutely infuriating to me to see Mainers treated this way.
It could be different if we wanted it to be. We have suffered for 30 years under the control of a political party that has steadily driven business out of Maine. Remember, the Small Business Survival Committee rates Maine's business climate as one of the worst in the nation.
A strong business climate breeds private sector jobs. Jobs have the effect of lifting people out of poverty. Jobs provide money for parents to feed, clothe, shelter and provide joyful Christmas times for their children.
When jobs are absent, the "state" has to step in. Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, taxes must increase to pay for food, shelter and clothing. As taxes increase, more and more businesses leave the state. Our business climate gets worse and more people go "on the state".
I have suggested to the ruling political party numerous times over the past year that it be mindful of one basic rule of economics. It falls on deaf ears. That rule is: When you are trying to get out of a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging.
But the digging continues. Our Congressman digs. Our Governor digs. Our legislators dig furiously. The dirt is flying out of the hole at an alarming rate. Deeper and deeper they take our state.
It will be a quiet Christmas for a lot of tots in our area. Oh, we'll hear that it's the fault of the Chinese, NAFTA, the Mexicans, President Bush, the Indians, on and on. But it is our own fault.
We keep electing them and they keep digging. Einstein's definition of "insanity" comes to mind. It is: "Doing the same thing, over and over, while expecting a different result."
Christmas and New Years will come and go. Who cares about Maine's poor? We give them food stamps, MaineCare, CubCare, free lunches, Section 8 housing. We do such a wonderful job of taking care of our poor you will hear the ruling party proudly proclaim.
I have one request for Christmas. I'd like a good paying job for our children's dads and moms. With our current anti-business politicians in office, I have a better chance on seeing the real Santa sitting in my living room munching on cookies and milk.
I feel bad for the kids. They have been sentenced to a pretty miserable existence, haven't they?