We will start this week with one of our regular weekly features, the Clown Award, given for acts of meritorious stupidity.
This week, the winner of the big red nose is Maine Gov. Paul LePage. A week or so back he was speaking to a group of right-wing women. According to a secret recording of his remarks, he told them that, quoting him,
About 47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work. About 47 percent. It’s really bad.First of all, just what is it with right-wing bozos and the figure of "47 percent?" What's the deal there? Is it some secret handshake? Or just used as a figure high enough to be shocking to their audience with a number unusual enough - "47" - to sound authoritative?
Never mind that. So 47 percent aren't working? How many of those are students? How many are non-working spouses? How many are retired? How many are unemployed?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor has something called the Labor Force Participation rate. It's the percentage of working-age people who are either employed or searching for work. In August, Maine's Labor Force Participation rate was 65.3 percent - which was above the national average of 63.2 percent. Considering that Maine's population is also older than the country as a whole, they actually sound like a pretty hard-working group of folks.
By the way, according to calculations of the far right-wing Heritage Foundation, of those working-age people who are not in the labor force, once you take away the people not working because they are taking care of family members, are ill, disabled, or retired, or are students, those left over for the category of "other" reasons for not working amount to just 1.1% of the total labor force.
But getting back to our clown, Gov. Pepé Le Pew was not done denouncing the residents of his own state: "One in three are collecting welfare," he claimed. "Highest in the country."
Uh.., no. As of this past March, fewer than 16,000 families in Maine were receiving TANF benefits, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Maine has something over 550,000 households, which means less than 3% of households were receiving such benefits. Even if Le Pew wants to claim he only meant a third of the 47%, that still makes it just 6% of households. Not exactly one-third.
When the recording came out, the wingnuts acted as wingnuts always do. Susan Dench, founder and president of the appallingly-misnamed Informed Women's Network, the group to which LePage was speaking, called the secretly-done recording "pathetic" and those who captured it "hapless little girls." Rule #2 of my popular list of right-wing tactics is "Attack, attack, attack."
For his part, when asked to confirm or deny that it was in fact the governor on the recording, his office replied with a statement saying Le Pew believes everyone can contribute to society and that "liberal activists" are determined to "increase the welfare rolls" while not answering the actual question. Which is a repeat of Rule #2 plus Rule #6, which is "Never answer a question."
Here's one question that doesn't need an answer: If Paul LePage a clown?