Informed that the event was wrapping up, LePage said he had two more points to make. The first was just one word: “energy.” The second was, he said, in reference to “workforce development.”
“About 47% of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work,” said LePage.
On the recording you can hear a member of the audience ask “what?” LePage repeats himself: “About 47%. It’s really bad.”
The quote is stunning, both for how ridiculous it is on its face as well as how closely it mirrors a comment made by 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who also took aim at 47% of the population (those he said were victims, dependent on government and therefore voting for his opponent) in a leaked video that did significant damage to his campaign.
Just to be absolutely clear, LePage’s statistic is completely wrong. Currently, around 65% of Mainers over the age of 15 are working or are unemployed and actively seeking work. Of the remaining 35%, almost all are retired, are caring for children or other family members, are pursuing education or training or have a disability that prevents them from working. Only a tiny fraction aren’t working for other reasons. The conservative Heritage Foundation, using U.S. Census data, puts this number at 1.1% nationally.
Maine is known for our strong Yankee work ethic and we have a higher labor force participation rate than the rest of the country, despite our more elderly population. We work harder, longer and often in more dangerous occupations than people almost anywhere else.
We deserve a Governor who is proud of Maine, doesn’t falsely believe that half the people he was elected to serve are lazy and useless and doesn’t govern as if this were true.