When senior reporter Naomi Schalit began her nine months of research for our series on Maine’s single parents in poverty, one of her first stops was Isabel Sawhill’s office at the Brookings Institution. You’ll find many quotes from Sawhill in Schalit’s five-part series; here is the complete interview transcript. Continue Reading →
I have been a reporter for 34 years and this was the hardest story I have ever written. People didn’t want to talk to me. They didn’t want to give me “fodder for woman-blaming.” That was the response I heard, over and over, as I tried to set up interviews for my story about the dramatic rise in the percentage and number of Maine children born to single mothers — and the consequences of that rise. Continue Reading →
Filed under:, , , , ,
Part 1: In one of the most in-depth series that the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has ever published, Senior Reporter Naomi Schalit discovers and calls attention to a dramatic change in the Maine family — a 500 percent increase in the proportion of children born to single parents in the last 43 years. Nearly half of all births in the state are now to mothers who are not married.
Because most of those single parents can’t afford to raise a child — or two or three children — they are destined to live in poverty. And when children are raised in that kind of poverty and deprivation, their brains are literally harmed, setting the stage for a lifetime of negative effects, according to the experts interviewed by Schalit.
At a time when poverty and welfare have become polarizing political issues in Maine, the very people who know the most about this problem don’t want to talk frankly about it for fear of backlash against the parents and children they are trying to help. It took nine months of digging into the problem — interviews with national experts, days spent with single mothers, time in the state prison with single fathers and repeated visits with teachers, social workers and public officials — for Schalit to bring forward this essential story.
Filed under:, , , ,
Part 2: The story of one single mother speaks to the struggles shared by many single parents in Maine. “Every week’s the same,” she said. “I’m always broke. The electric, internet, diapers, toiletries, food when we run out of my food card…” Continue Reading →
Filed under:, ,
AUGUSTA – Over the past 50 years, Maine legislatures and governors have added millions of dollars in tax breaks for businesses without ever doing the detailed analysis to find out which are effective and which are wasteful.
But now that may be changing. Continue Reading →
Filed under:, , , , , , ,
Republican Charlie Summers has pinned his campaign for the U. S. Senate on a vow to improve the economy and create jobs on a national level the way he says he has on the state level. As Maine’s secretary of state, Summers added a $50,000 “Small Business Advocate” in his office that he says on his campaign website shows how “investing in small businesses will create jobs and strengthen our economy.”
If elected, Summers states he will “introduce legislation that will create a national small business advocate, just like the one I successfully lobbied for in Maine who has already saved Maine businesses from undue state regulators.”
But a Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting examination of the business advocate’s own records tells a much more mixed story of the effectiveness of the new position that was filled last October by Jay Martin of Old Town. While Summers boasts the program is a job creator, in the 10 months the advocate has been on the job, records show few, if any, new jobs can be directly attributed to the work of the business advocate. For seven weeks this spring and summer, from June 1 to July 27, the advocate did not have a single open case, according to weekly activity reports. The records also reveal that the advocate claims credit for solving problems that others solved, suffers from legal restrictions that handicap his effectiveness and did not meet two of the six minimum requirements for the job. Continue Reading →
Filed under:, , , , ,
Cynthia Dill, Maine’s Democratic candidate for Olympia Snowe’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat, said on her campaign website last month that she “has a record of … creating quality jobs” during her six years in the state legislature. But an analysis of Dill’s legislative history by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting found that claim to be largely premature. To date, only five permanent jobs can be attributed to Dill’s legislation, plus another 323 temporary positions — the bulk of which are construction jobs. During an interview last week, Dill defended her record when questioned about the validity of her job creation claim.“It’s a job,” said the Cape Elizabeth state senator. “Whether they are temporary or not, it’s something that I’m very proud of.”
On the morning of July 17 — the day after the interview — Dill asked her web developer to modify the homepage, an email she provided to the Center shows. Continue Reading →
Filed under:, , , , ,
Editor’s note: This is the first part in a two-part series about the state Pine Tree Development Zones.
Some people call tax breaks for businesses “economic development.”
Others call them “corporate welfare.”
In Maine, one of the names they go by is Pine Tree Development Zones. The premise of the program is that some businesses won’t create new jobs in Maine unless they get tax breaks. The program has cost as much as $46 million in lost taxes since 2003, according to Maine Revenue Service estimates. That’s money other taxpayers had to make up to help the state balance its budget. Continue Reading →
Filed under:, , , , , ,
The end of the year is a good time to correct some myths recently in the news. 1. UNEMPLOYMENT HAS NEVER BEEN SO HIGH FOR THIS LONG: For one thing, unemployment has been much higher – about 25 percent during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And back then it was above the current levels of about 9 percent for 12 years. In the current recession, serious as it is, the 9 percent rate has lasted for only three years. Continue Reading →
Filed under:, , , ,
“Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
That’s the campaign theme of every political candidate. The U.S. economy simply does not have enough jobs, and most people believe that government should do something about it. While several ways have been proposed to create jobs, they may be based on a faulty understanding of the problem. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH THE ECONOMY? The economy is experiencing what has been called the “Great Recession,” with an estimated 17 percent of the work force unemployed or no longer looking for work. This recession may have more in common with the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment reached 25 percent, than it does with other, more recent recessions. Continue Reading →