Maine Governor Slammed for Saying 47 Percent of Able-Bodied Residents Don't Work

Image: Maine Governor Slammed for Saying 47 Percent of Able-Bodied Residents Don't Work

Wednesday, 23 Oct 2013 03:38 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage is under fire for his own Mitt Romney moment, in which the chief executive is heard on a secret tape recording crowing that 47 percent of able-bodied people in his state don’t work.

"I worked for 29 years at Great Northern Paper Co., and I know that Maine workers are some of the hardest-working in the world," said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat running against LePage next year.

"They take pride in their work, and they deserve a governor who will take pride in them. It's time we have a governor who will lift Maine up and be a champion of this state, not put it down with misinformation and attacks."

Independent candidate Eliot Cutler also blasted LePage for the foot-in-mouth comment.

"[It is] patently false and insulting to the people of a state known for their work ethic and ingenuity," Cutler told the Portland Press Herald.

LePage's remark, recorded as he addressed a group of conservatives, is reminiscent of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's faux pax, which some think was partly responsible for his crushing loss to President Barack Obama.

Romney, in a secretly recorded video, was heard telling a group of supporters that 47 percent of Americans would support Obama no matter what because they felt entitled and were "dependent upon government."

It is not known where LePage got the 47 percent figure, because there is no known statistic that indicates how many people in Maine shun hard work.

The Press Herald noted that Maine Department of Labor data indicate that 65.7 percent of Maine's 709,025 work-eligible population is employed or actively looking for work. An August report found that 60 percent are employed.

LePage made his remarks, first reported by the Bangor Daily News, while speaking to a conservative women's group at a restaurant in Falmouth.

"About 47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work," LePage reportedly said.

When a woman in the audience questioned the statement, LePage said again, "About 47 percent. It’s really bad."

A spokeswoman for LePage suggested in response to the criticism that he was simply trying to suggest that all people have a responsibility to "contribute to society" if they can by working.

"The governor understands that not everyone who is dependent on taxpayer dollars is 'able-bodied,' but he does believe that everyone, regardless of their ability or physical condition, can contribute to society in a meaningful way."

LePage has a history of making controversial comments that make headlines.

In June, just moments after announcing his intention to veto the state budget because it included tax increases, LePage used a sexually vulgar phrase to describe how he thought a Democratic lawmaker was taking advantage of people.

He's also told the Portland branch of the NAACP to "kiss my butt," compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo, and at a private fundraiser, he reportedly said Obama "hates white people." He has denied making the last comment.

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