Selected Editorials from the Editor

Suns & Shields Christian Inspirational Writings by Rachelle Hamlin

Selected editorials from Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.


The Roberts Trap is Sprung

By:  Bill Dunne
One of the most overlooked aspects of the year just ended is the vindication of Chief Justice John Roberts -- a vindication that showed up as the national catastrophe known as ObamaCare got rolling.  Roberts may have also doomed Hillary Clinton's chance to live in the White House again... click here to read whole editorial


Immigrants Sought to Replace Declining Maine Workforce


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, April 13, 2016



The population of Maine is stagnating and is expected to decline by 2040.  As the number of indigenous Maine people seeking employment drops, some advocates for an increased immigrant population are suggesting an increase in immigrants into Maine to solve this problem. Click on graph to expand view.  

Source:  Maine Department of Labor, Center for Workforce Research and Information



   The Northern Maine Community College hosted a seminar earlier this month that highlighted the growing problem of a dwindling workforce in Maine and proposed increasing foreign-born immigrants into Maine as a potential solution.

   John Dorrer, senior advisor at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, and former Acting Commissioner and Director of the Center for Workforce Research and Information at the Maine Department of Labor, gave a presentation detailing the declining population and workforce Maine is currently going through.  He showed research that indicated Maine is projected to have 30,000 fewer people - and Aroostook County 4,700 fewer - by 2032, if current trends continue.  This has primarily been attributed to the birth/death ratio (see graph, this page).

   “We're not reproducing ourselves and nobody is breaking down the gates at Kittery to move here - at least not in recent times.  If these trends continue you don't have to be an economist or a demographer to understand what the consequences of this really are,” said Dorrer.  “In the projected population change by age group from 2012 to 2022 we are seeing precipitous drops in the 35 to 54 year old age groups.  That's your prime age labor force.  Any employer that isn't considering what this drop will do to their labor force is in for some very serious problems.” 

   The Center for Workforce Research at the Maine Department of Labor points to the 411,000 labor force “leavers” - inhabitants age 45 to 64 in 2012 who will be retiring in the next two decades and leaving the workforce.  At the other end of the spectrum, most of the 302,000 inhabitants under the age of 20 during this period will be labor force “entrants” - a negative 109,000 person gap.

   Dorrer also pointed out that the displaced Mill workers, without any further education or advanced skillsets, are currently unable to fill the job positions now available in Maine that primarily require communication, problem-solving and self-management skills; jobs such as Registered Nurses, medical and health service managers, software developers, business-intelligence analysts and computer-systems analysts.

  While outmigration and a decrease in statewide births was primarily attributed to the lack of a qualified labor pool, what was absent from the discussion was the role Maine's welfare system has historically played in keeping people out of the workplace and dependent on taxpayer subsidies to stay home.  One Presque Isle employer had a secretary out on maternity leave, only to find she chose not to return to work because her salary package couldn't compete with the lucrative benefits package Maine's welfare, food stamp, TANF and WIC programs provided for her to stay home and not work, and this is not an isolated incident.  Thousands of Mainers in the unskilled labor pool have found it more economically beneficial to stay home and live off the State taxpayers than to work at the jobs they are qualified for, or better their education and advance to higher paying job positions.

   According to a 2009 report by the Maine Heritage Policy Council, “the vast majority of Maine’s TANF recipients are not only jobless, they are not even seeking employment. Remarkably, just 23.1 percent of Maine’s adult TANF enrollees were considered ‘employed’ during FY 2008, and 11.6 percent considered ‘unemployed.’ The remaining recipients, a staggering 65.3 percent of the total, were classified as ‘not in the labor force,’ meaning they were not even looking for a job.”

   The report cited Maine's luxurious welfare benefits packages as a large reason many employable Mainers chose to either not work full time, or not work at all. “Maine’s welfare system offers enrollees cash, health care, food supplements, rental assistance, transportation benefits, child care, job training, and subsidies for electricity and heating oil—all funded by Maine taxpayers. According to Maine Equal Justice Partners, Mainers who are enrolled in the state’s ASPIRE jobs program are entitled to ‘the services needed’ to hold down a job. Those services include, but are not limited to, child care for children under 13 years old, dental care, eye care, reimbursements for travel costs (including costs for car repairs and car insurance), tuition and school supplies, clothing and uniforms for work, and occupational expenses such as license fees.”

   It needs to be said, though, that Maine's current governor, Paul LePage is working diligently to bring the State’s welfare system under control and tailor it to be used only by those who truly do need it.

   With Maine's unemployment rate at a low 4%, the labor pool has become very scarce with qualified, skilled labor, and - most importantly - people willing to actually work rather than live on the taxpayer dole.  This shortage of labor has prompted some to advocate for augmenting the State's workforce with foreign-born immigrants and asylum seekers.

    Following Dorrer's presentation, Tae Chong, a Business Counselor for the StartSmart program at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. took the stage to promote the use of foreign-born immigrants to build Maine's economy.  He cited Portland as a city that, without an influx of immigrants since 2000, which led to a 3% growth, the city's population otherwise would have decreased.

   “The new arrivals that have come in just the last five years alone, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, about 60 percent of them have a college degree or better and their median age is about 27,” said Chong.  “We have this incredibly large population that are young, eager, highly motivated, and educated that are coming to Maine.  If there were not more than the immigrant and refugee/asylum seeker population that moved to Maine in the last five years there would have been no population growth in the entire State.” 

   Attempting to dispel the presumption that immigrants and asylum seekers come to Maine just to collect welfare payments, Chong said, “The federal government says we can allow 70,000 people per year through refugee resettlement into the U.S., and they're sent throughout the United States.  Then they get a bill from Uncle Sam saying we flew you from whatever refugee camp to the United States, so they come to the U.S. with a debt.  So, this notion that they're getting free cars and houses is absolutely not true.  They're actually getting a bill when they arrive.  The further away you are, the bigger the bill.  These people are incredibly motivated and entrepreneurial.  They wanted to get out of a dire situation and they wanted to better their lives.”

   However, this rosy view isn't shared by everyone who has researched the subject and isn't necessarily indicative of the work ethics of all immigrants.  According to Ann Corcoran, from Refugee Resettlement Watch - Lewiston, Maine (who was not present at this NMCC seminar), “Maine has become the go-to state for asylum seekers because the state gives welfare to them while the feds only give welfare to successful asylum seekers who have been granted asylum and been declared a “refugee.” Many of Maine’s would-be refugees arrive in the U.S. illegally or overstay a visa, head to Maine, and then apply for asylum claiming they will be persecuted if sent home. Maine has a reputation in the country (and probably in Africa too!) as the go-to state for welfare benefits before one is even a legal resident. In fact, it is the welfare magnet that brought the first of what is now tens of thousands of Somalis to Maine.”

   Corcoran notes that Lewiston, Maine - a/k/a “Little Mogadishu” has experienced many challenges in dealing with the Somali population that has been transplanted there through the aggressive relocation efforts of Catholic Charities.  “Lewiston’s first group of Somalis arrived in 2000 during the dark of night, thus city officials were not prepared for the onslaught of people who arrived with nothing but the shirts on their backs. The exact number is still unknown, but most estimates are between 1,000 and 2,000. Twelve years later, the number is still unknown but is believed to be around 6,000. The numbers are not known because given their nomadic culture some leave, some come back, some don’t come back, and more tribes continue to arrive.  The financial burden on a city with about 36,000 residents has been tremendous. State and Federal governments have not and will not pick up refugee related expenses, leaving the residents of Lewiston to bear the entire cost and in very many cases at the expense of the working poor, veterans, disabled, and elderly, most who have worked their entire lives in Lewiston. When it comes to social services, expect the refugees to go directly to the head of the line.”

   In addition to courting the immigrant population to fill Maine jobs, Mr. Chong also suggested Maine farmers could expand their sales base by considering the nearly 2 million foreign born immigrants already in the New England area and providing cultural foods that those immigrants would be willing to buy, such as the African Eggplant, Amaranth, Molokhia, Mustard Greens and Japanese Sweet Potatoes.

   “If you get the Boston market you'll also get the Worcester market, the Springfield market, just go down I-95.  Boston's about 1 million foreign born, there's about 2 million foreign born in the New England area.  That's just the foreign born.  Their kids that are born here are going to eat what their parents cook,” explained Chong.  “So, really the market is much bigger than the 2 million foreign born people.  If you want to get bigger than that, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec are not that far away, nor is New York or the Tri-State area.  That's almost 20 million multi-cultural people and if they spend $1800 per year on multi-cultural foods, that's a $22 billion annual market.  Right now, the ethnic produce is coming from Georgia, California and overseas.  Why not come from Maine?”

   Chong and Dorrer participated in writing a report for Coastal Enterprises, Inc. entitled Building Maine's Economy:  How Maine Can Embrace Immigrants and Strengthen the Workforce.   The report points to Europe's immigration model - a model that has financially and socially crushed the countries of Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France - as a model that should be adopted here in the Maine.  “...the unplanned, fast-changing, and unevenly distributed nature of the flows has caused serious difficulties for countries with highly organized immigration and integration systems, labor markets and social services,” states the report. “The European nations' high standards for integrating immigrants into their countries were not at fault, but could not adapt quickly enough to the unprecedented demand.  Thus, their integration policies and systems should still be considered a model for Maine.”

    The report was discussed at the NMCC seminar with business and community leaders from around Aroostook County.








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