MA-Gov 2014 is on: Senator Dan Wolf blasts Treasurer Steve Grossman

A fascinating development in the as yet wide-open race for Governor in 2014: state Senator and Cape Air founder Dan Wolf, who has made noises about running for Governor, just sent out a statement that aggressively calls out Treasurer and nearly-certain gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman for comments Grossman made to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.  Here’s Wolf’s statement, just in via email:

Cape and Islands Senator Dan Wolf, saying “it’s time to have an honest conversation about investing in a healthy economy, healthy communities  – and by the way, what it means to be a Democrat,” today called on state political leaders to focus on the real issue before us:

Finding the balance between a healthy economy and healthy communities, supporting a vibrant middle class that is threatened by the increasing disparity between those few at the top who have benefited most, and working families and people in need.

“As a successful entrepreneur who founded an airline nearly 30 years ago,” Wolf said, “as a business leader, and as a Democrat, I’m disappointed to hear Treasurer Steve Grossman pandering to elements in our business community who would undermine revenue reforms, rather than offering a true vision for rebuilding our communities, our working families, and our future.”

Wolf was responding to comments by Treasurer Grossman at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce forum a day earlier.

“Governor Patrick’s proposals may not be perfect, but let’s be clear about what they are,” said Wolf. “They allow us to invest in education, transportation, infrastructure, and our common goals. They do so without raising taxes on those who can least afford it. And they begin to address the way wealth has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands over the past 30 years, often at the expense of the middle class.

“What’s more, for Treasurer Grossman to allow the conversation to turn once again to the few people on public assistance who may be abusing EBT cards is nothing more than blaming the victims, blaming the most vulnerable, and turning us away from the real issues we face. It has absolutely nothing to do with how our communities have been undermined over the past 30 years, nothing to do with helping so many people who, through no fault of their own, have become the working poor.

“This country has two political parties,” Wolf continued. “One party aspires to represent working people, people in need, and a government that stands up for their interests. That is the Democratic Party, and that’s my party. We need to stand for our values, get that message out, and win the battle for our future.”

Seems clear that Wolf is trying to position himself as the candidate of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, and Grossman as the DINO who is too willing to accede to the low-tax, low-regulatory-burden demands of business without taking into account the negative impact of those sorts of policies.

Verrrry interesting!

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Discuss

60 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Are we sure Grossman is running for Governor?

    I hope so because he is the one I am likely to support, but at the Lowell caucus their were Steve Grossman for Treasurer pamphlets lying around that were touting his first term as Treasurer as if he were seeking re-election.

    As to this matter, all Grossman said about EBT was that we were being watchful for waste, fraud, and abuse. Certainly Wolf doesn’t think we should not be careful of that. As the party that believes in government solutions we also should be most interested in government programs working properly. Otherwise we will lose to the party that thinks government is inherently bad and give the public ample reason to agree with them.

    • right, talking to the chamber of commerce

      about fraud and abuse among recipients of public assistance couldn’t possibly be construed as pandering to a conservative group about how “those people” are the real problem. It could be the Herald’s bias, but the article mentioned patronage and ebt cards as the two areas of corruption Grossman mentioned.

      Curtailing fraud is fine, but to do it loudly and in front of the business lobby (read nearly 100% Republicans in any other state) plays to the racial prejudices and biases conservatives are more likely to hold. Plus, according to the article Grossman said:

      “We have tried to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” including in the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that automate the redemption of public assistance benefits.

      That’s root out, not be watchful…

      • Well, ideally we WOULD "root out" waste, fraud, and abuse entirely.

        There was zero mention of race in his statement, not even as a dogwhistle. That’s entirely your interpretation on not at all one Grossman would use. I think I know him well enough to be able to say that. Remember a local Chamber is not at all the bogeyman the US Chamber is. There is not necessarily any affiliation or even similarity but the name. I for one agree with Grossman on the merits too.

        • Welfare is and has been

          the dogwhistle for 30 or 40 years.

          • So does that mean...

            …that nobody can legitimately critique how welfare programs are administered or other problems that arise without being accused of being racist or pandering to racists?

            • Besides...

              …aren’t most welfare recipients white? I suspect Grossman is more likely than many to know that. He’s very socially conscious too so I’m not the least bit concerned that he’s the type to start throwing people off the rolls.

              • One more thing

                What makes you all think that members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce are open to race-baiting anyway? This is a far cry from Ronald Reagan talking about states’ rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi. To say that those who are economically conservative are automatically racist is a pretty stereotypical argument itself.

    • What OTHER "waste, fraud, and abuse" did he mention?

      I’m all for candidates who want to be watchful for “waste, fraud and abuse”. I also like apple pie, and my mother was swell.

      I want to know what, besides EBT, Mr. Grossman explicitly mentioned.

      Did he mention police and fire officials grossing over $250K per year? How about housing authority leaders who collect DOUBLE their salary for years with nobody noticing? How about rampant nepotism in government hiring, such as the firefighter busted for on-duty heroin use who just happens to be the son of “District Fire Chief Gerald Hogan”.

      Our state and local government is filled with waste, fraud and abuse. EBT is a fly on the rump of THAT elephant — and I think it DOES constitute dog-whistling to explicitly mention the fly without talking about the elephant.

      • Maybe he didn't mention others.

        Maybe he did tailor his remarks to his audience, who may be more concerned about EBT than other things. We all do that all the time and politicians I suspect are especially suceptible to that. I know I would emphasize different points in a chamber speech vs. a union speech, which is fine as long as I don’t directly contradict myself. Once again, your oversensitivity in the area of race is showing.

        • Bah

          Would you have us believe that Mr. Grossman was surprised that his comments were reported outside the context of the Chamber of Commerce meeting? What you characterize as my “oversensitivity in the area of race” I prefer to characterize as your eagerness to avoid facing the obvious truth about dog whistles like welfare.

          Of course he didn’t mention others — because “watchfulness” about “waste, fraud and abuse” isn’t what this is about.

          The plain truth is that Mr. Grossman is pandering to the anti-tax crowd, and using discredited racial stereotypes to do so. What I call “pandering” you call “tailoring” — the effect is the same.

          The TOTAL spent on welfare benefits for is something in the vicinity of $400M/year. The total state budget is thirty three billion dollars a year. Of that $400M year, how much do YOU think goes to “waste, fraud and abuse” of EBT cards? 10%? 20%?

          You and I already went toe-to-toe around VoterID laws that address NO known problem but disenfranchise large numbers of minority voters nevertheless. Now you’re defending yet another flagrant dog-whistle — you again seem to simply ignore the plain facts.

          I guess it’s just coincidence that Mr. Turner and Ms. Wilkerson, both African-American, are in jail while Mr. McLaughlin — a white man who admits to stealing orders of magnitude more money, walks away a free man. Nah, there’s no racial bias in Massachusetts.

          If your charge is “oversensitivity in the area of race”, I plead guilty — and simultaneously accuse you of a strong case of tone-deafness in the same area.

          • What say you then...

            …to my comment above, which I’m pretty sure is accurate, that most welfare recipients are white? If people tend to believe otherwise well, I can’t be held responsible for the ignorance of others and neither can Grossman. You have not shown that race played a role in Grossman’s comments and I see nothing but speculation here. I have no idea if race factored into the Wilkerson/Turner/McLaughlin comparison. I don’t pretend to read minds and you shouldn’t try, though I have said before that my own opinion is that they do not belong in jail. What you call tone-deafness I call color-blindness and likewise plead guilty and proudly so.

            • Colossally missing the point

              The “tailoring” is to the perceptions (as opposed to reality) of an audience. You are not running for office — Mr. Grossman is. When you prepare a statement, you do not do so anticipating widespread media coverage — Mr. Grossman does. As I’ve already written, the audience of these statements is FAR WIDER than the CoC Mr. Grossman addressed.

              Your dedication to “color blindness” is blinding you to the truth of what demagogues have been doing to scapegoats for as long as there have been demagogues and scapegoats.

            • Congrats

              On achieving an O’Reilly and Colbert like state of enlightened color blindness.

              Unfortunately, the rest of society is not at that level, and thus racial dog-whistles do still exist. I doubt Grossman is a racist, but he’s certainly smart enough, and has been around politics long enough to know when he’s in danger of playing their tune.

              But, the problem here is less about race and more about rich and poor. There’s way more money getting scammed out of the system at the top (often in legal ways), than at the bottom. But, it much easier to bash some faceless welfare queen than to stand up to the powerful interests taking cash out of the system in large chunks- especially when some of them are probably in the room at the Chamber event. Putting aside race, this was pathetic pandering and not worthy or respect- or a potential Democratic nominee for gov in Massachusetts.

      • Tom, to answer your question..

        He did specifically address patronage hiring in this speech.

        He stated that they “closed the patronage parking lot at Treasury” and that “we should close the patronage parking lot permanently..in every part of State government.”

  2. Grossman chaired

    AIPAC?!

    I’d like to hear Ernie on Grossman. He doesn’t seem to have done a bad job as treasurer. I thought his idea of putting the lottery online was kind of weird.

    But seriously, AIPAC!?

    • Few points

      @ Wolf: if you want to win this undecided’s vote best to advance your own ideas rather than starting your campaign on a negative note

      @ Mark-Bail: AIPAC was a different organization under Grossman and doesn’t disqualify him from being a Democratic nominee for Governor. Last time I checked the Massachusetts Governor has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

      • When was

        the transition to what AIPAC is today?

        • My understanding here

          is that, when Clinton and Rabin came into office in the 1990s, AIPAC felt itself in need of someone with connections to the Democrats here and Labor in Israel. They turned to Grossman, who cajoled the board into a unanimous statement in support of the Oslo agreement, even though the neo-cons within AIPAC were not thrilled.

          In other words, he was a force pulling AIPAC away from the hardline position from within.

          • Agree 100%

            Which is why it was a different organization when he led it, though I thought the history was that AIPAC was taken over by neocons after the Iraq War. Maybe I’m wrong on that. In any case a) the Governor of MA has no control over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and b) AIPAC was far more dovish under Grossman.

            • Thanks for the background.

              Regardless of the governor’s duties, I would think twice about supporting a guy who chaired the current AIPAC. It’s not a matter of the conflict, it’s a matter of their politics and their lawful, but frequently disgusting, actions, which include espionage and their out-sized influence on American politics. It’s a sick organization.

  3. Grossman CHOSE to raise the issue

    From the Newton Tab:

    With Republicans, and some Democrats, pushing to reform the state system of dispersing welfare benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, Grossman said his office was in the process of procuring a new seven-year vendor contract for EBT cards.

    “I will not put my signature on any contract for EBT cards and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money that does not protect the taxpayers of this commonwealth to a greater extent than ever before and cut the waste, fraud and abuse that has been so debilitating,” Grossman said.

    If he had been asked a question about EBT, his response would have been unremarkable, but it appears that he chose this issue, which makes it different for me.

    The issue of EBT/welfare fraud is useful to those who oppose significant new state revenue, because it feeds the idea that we can cut our way to fiscal health by cutting waste, fraud and abuse. We can’t. There are many reasons why we can’t that need to be better articulated than they are in this comment, but here’s one: the program that most people think of as “welfare” — cash assistance to poor families — amounts to less than one percent of the state budget.

    The welfare issue, especially as amplified by some media, also has taken on a nasty, divisive and occasionally racist tone. I’m sure Steve Grossman doesn’t share those views, but by choosing this issue to discuss, he was dogwhistling to those who do. I applaud Dan Wolf for calling him on it.

    • Meant this comment to be nested

      under Christopher’s comment of 4:52, sorry.

    • Right, but...

      …I think the only way to get more funding for this, as for any spending item, is to show credibility in avoiding the misuse of the funds. And being Treasurer, it’s also part of his job description.
      Maybe he’s trying a bit too hard too soon to get the “outsider” cred he needs to win the general, when he hasn’t even declared.

    • Obviously Grossman is not responsible for that Herald cover...

      …which I agree is offensive. Now you’ve really painted Grossman into a corner though. Dogwhistling has to be deliberate. You can’t acknowledge that he probably doesn’t share the racist views in the first part of a sentence, then accuse him of dogwhistling on those views in the last part of the same sentence. That’s a prima facie contradiction.

      • I don't understand what is so hard for you about this concept

        The history of both parties is filled with candidates who dog-whistle selected audiences in order to get elected, regardless of their actual postures. After Roe, Massachusetts politicians who KNEW that anti-abortion provisions could never be enforced therefore dog-whistled the anti-abortion crowd — secure in the knowledge that they would NEVER have to actually ACT on those postures.

        If “waste, fraud and abuse” was truly the focus of Mr. Grossman’s attention, then EBT is way way down on the list of things to talk about. The state’s annual tax expenditure budget has FAR MORE “waste, fraud and abuse” then the entire social services area — the conservative anti-tax/anti-government crowd doesn’t want to talk about THAT, though. They far prefer to keep those in place (which coincidentally benefit them) and flame about “welfare recipients”.

        I predict that the next dog-whistle Mr. Grossman will blow will be about “illegal immigrants”.

        • Regardless of actual postures?

          I’m not saying nobody ever does this, but it is a pretty low accusation (almost worse than accusing of actual racism because of the dishonesty implication) and one I am certain does not apply to Grossman.

  4. Seriously, not having any concerns about

    waste, fraud, and abuse in the welfare system is a sure way to quickly become a laughing stock. Let him take that message on the road. He’s lost my vote already.

    • Then he's got mine

      I was annoyed at Grossman’s comments and am heartened to hear someone call him out.

      • Not a good sign

        When we start eating out own before we have even nominated a special Senate candidate let alone a Gubernatorial nominee. Lets assume we have to run against Brown and assume that we need to united behind our eventual nominee. Not liking where Wolf was coming from, of course as a mere state senator he has to get his name in the paper somehow, but cannibalizing a fellow Democrat is the worst way to do it, especially if its your first campaign statement. Lets follow the Reagan rule and speak no ill words of our comrades in arms. Remember how nasty 2002 was? Or 98? We need to unite to win.

        • Word to Grossman too

          I think its a gross mis characterization to call him a racist or argue he was bashing welfare recipients, but unless he was merely giving a talk on this specific issue his campaign has to be about big ball issues like funding mass transit, alternative energy, creating jobs, and education-not small ball stuff like cutting waste and fraud on the margins. STom and others are correct to point out that state welfare, while a large percentage of the Fox 25 and Herald storylines is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the budget.

        • I like my Democrats to be the kind who don’t pick their issues straight out of the Reagan playbook. All I’ve heard from Grossman for two or three years is keeping spending down, placating the “investor community,” eliminating all that EBT fraud, and cutting regulations.

          We have more than 80% Dems in each house of our legislature and plenty of progressive ideas can’t get off the ground, for the simple reason that many of our Democrats are not particularly progressive. For years we’ve had far too many of those Democrats, both here and nationwide. I had no use for Democrats like Finneran or Bill Bulger and I have no use for “Democrats” who care more about State Street than my street.

          • +1

            because voting just once for this sentiment isn’t enough.

          • Not a corner office problem though

            I like this point, but its not a corner office problem. You’d be pretty hard pressed to argue that Gov. Patrick has not been a progressive leader or ran as one. He inherited a fiscal mess which curtailed some of his new initiatives, but the biggest issue is that too many in the State Legislature are there to play ball with big business rather than work for the rest of us. Whatever is left of the progressive movement that elected Patrick should focus not just on the Governor’s race but on all the downballot races as well.

            We’ve lost good progressives for every one that we’ve gained. Tolman went to the AFL-CIO, and Sciortino is looking for the next ladder up since I’m sure its frustrating to stay in a chamber dominated by the likes of DeLeo.

            • I agree

              the Legislature is the biggest impediment to real change here. But taking a step backward in the governor’s office won’t help much. Gov. Patrick has at least come out with a bold vision to build a better Massachusetts. Grossman, from what I’ve seen, would scale back even the ask.

              • Not sure I see that yet

                I think Grossman gave a limited talk discussing a small issue in the budget in his capacity as Treasurer, the evidence, particularly if we look at his 2002 platform, seems to indicate that he will likely be a fiscal conservative with progressive priorities-eg. Deval Patrick 2.0. I’d agree he has work to do on framing his priorities. But his 2002 record was for universal healthcare, universal pre-K, campaign finance reform, legalizing medical marijuana, civil unions back when they were radical, and solid pro-union and pro-choice stances. I’d argue that makes him a fairly mainstream progressive Mass Democrat. Its too early to be in anyones corner, and I’d probably prefer someone else over Grossman for style reasons, but his substance seems solid,

                • The budget's where it's at

                  All the stuff from the 2002 platform is fine, but it’s just the beginning. With the exception of universal pre-K (which is important) and campaign finance reform (which is a huge issue but I see going nowhere right now), the rest of it is pretty much fait accompli in Mass. It’s good that he takes those positions, but I see that as the bare minimum for my support.

                  In my view the big issue we’ve had in our state, and nation, is public investment overall being too small. Our infrastructure is falling apart, a bigger burden has been shifted to our cities and towns, we’re seeing families charged $1,000 a year to have their kids participate in school activities. That’s not my vision. We need to reinvest.

                  Grossman already is on record as opposing the part of Patrick’s proposal that would require debt, even at low interest rates (we’re rated AA+). The spending, in my view, would improve the state enough to pay for itself, interest and principal.

                  • Agreed

                    Grossman already is on record as opposing the part of Patrick’s proposal that would require debt, even at low interest rates (we’re rated AA+). The spending, in my view, would improve the state enough to pay for itself, interest and principal.

                    And to me that is an incredibly legitimate and principled line of attack against Grossman. Statements like that are the major reason I have reservations about his candidacy, I am tired of Democrats playing it safe in a state that should be leading the way and innovating on progressive policy ideas. Sen. Wolf would’ve served his campaign and our party better by focusing on that exclusively instead of the sideshow of EBT. He should also offer up his own ideas and how his own record can achieve them.

                    I am still hoping Curtatone gets in, there is someone who has been a great progressive leader in a city that had a calcified political culture and has made great strides in making Somerville look like a leader. He is also a big proponent of fixing mass transit which should be our #1 priority. The rumor mill is he wants either the 8th post Capuano or LG, but Mayor of one of our most densely populated cities to Governor is not a giant leap in my book.

      • Just not sure I could say to anyone that Democrats have

        little concern for waste, fraud, and abuse in government agencies. I mean, I could say that, but it would not garner a single vote for the Democrats. In fact, saying such a thing would negate the positive ideals Democrats have. We want to encourage support for social services, not ask for support to ignore waste, fraud, and abuse. Some of us really have to work overtime to get rid of the stigma about Democrats some of you continue to perpetuate.

        • The issue is this

          “Government agencies” covers the whole budget. I’m all for eliminating actual waste in the budget, though I think we should recognize that there’s going to be some waste in every large organization’s budget, public or private.

          Limiting this scrutiny to “EBT” and the “welfare system” )as your earlier comment, and Grossman’s remarks, suggested) is an entirely different thing. Where’s the outrage about giving away millions in tax breaks to State Street (meaning the company here) just to see them move jobs out of the state? Oh, right, those are Grossman’s friends.

          It seems clear SomervilleTom’s right that Grossman focused on supposed EBT “fraud,” a small portion of the budget, because it panders to the biases of the audience in the room and the audience of Herald readers out there who have no clue about the numbers in the state budget but are sure, just positive, that “those people” are committing massive welfare fraud.

        • NOBODY proposed to ignore waste, fraud and abuse

          Please cite one comment here that says we propose to ignore waste, fraud and abuse. It is, instead, the association between EBT and “waste, fraud and abuse” that several of us challenge.

          This state has been slashing government spending, especially in social services, for decades — much of that rationalized because of “waste, fraud and abuse”. We are cutting off legs at the knee because of a blister on a little toe.

          Mine is among the most strident of voices here demanding that we eliminate the pervasive cancer of corruption that eats away at our government. That cancer is FAR MORE wasteful, dishonest, and hurtful than ANYTHING happening with EBT cards. Former education official John B. Barranco, accused (with very good reason) of stealing more than TEN MILLION DOLLARS from special needs children, will resume collecting his ten thousand dollar per month pension after a friendly ruling by Middlesex Court judge Kenneth Desmond Jr. last week.

          Funny how Mr. Grossman chooses to focus on false stereotypes about EBT recipients instead of talking about the REAL sources of waste, fraud, and abuse in Massachusetts government — well-connected white men like Mr. Barranco, Mr. McLaughlin, Mr. Bulger, and so many others.

          I’d say that replacing the bulk of the well-connected sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews that fill the ranks of state government, swell its pensions, and degrade its services would do far more to “get rid of the stigma” than yet another round of bashing “welfare queens”.

  5. Not a racist bone in his body

    Having known Treasurer Grossman for a number of years I don’t believe there is a racist bone in his body. Just not him as far as I am concerned.

    That said I am disappointed that he chose this issue to raise at the Chamber. Would have been happier if he asked these responsible employers to help fight wage theft, workers comp fraud by companies, misclassification of workers as independent contractors to avoid paying employer taxes to the state, unemployment insurance fraud by employers. This type of fraud and abuse puts responsible employers at a competitive disadvantage and takes revenue away from the state. I suspect there is a larger economic impact on the state from this fraud and abuse than there is from the limited group gaming social services.

  6. Do you know what's missing from this debate? Data.

    What are the estimated loses to fraudulent claims? What specific programs are Grossman proposing to reduce those losses? How much would the loss prevention cost? Would it pay for itself in savings? How cumbersome are the new procedures? Do they needlessly humiliate people receiving public assistance with no real gain for the state? Absent specific proposals with data to back them up, this whole argument is “sound and fury, signifying nothing” as far as I’m concerned.

    • Agreed

      I spent about half an hour yesterday trying to find such data. I’m pretty good with Google, and I just got NOWHERE! I tried, for example, to get the total amount disbursed by the EBT program in any recent year, or the total amount budgeted for the current year. Surely this is in the budget — yet it is buried in places I can’t find. The closest I could find is a total for social services spending last year, which seems to be in the vicinity of $400M. This is complicated by the fact that some portion of these disbursements are reimbursed (or paid directly) by the feds.

      I’d like to see some concrete numbers, even if they are “engineering approximations”, for the total disbursed by the EBT program, the “fraud, waste and abuse” factor imagined (because right now that’s all it is) by Mr. Grossman and those like him, and the total savings anticipated as a result (minus, of course, the increased costs associated with the new restrictions).

      I’d then like to see a similar approximation for the fraud, waste, and abuse of the total $33B state budget. I think if there’s even 1% slack in that larger number, we’re talking about $300M — about the size of the TOTAL social services spending.

      A tired trick of old New England town meeting manipulators (like any good town manager) is to surround the REAL turkey (such as a few hundred thousand towards a favored supplier) in a town budget with a dozen or so articles about street light repair, sidewalk plowing, and maybe a reserve account provision or two — the chaff totaling maybe ten or fifteen thousand. Any town meeting worth its salt will spend the evening in a contentious and passionate debate about the streetlights, wear itself out, and pass the real turkey fifteen minutes before adjourning in the rush to finish without extending the meeting for another night.

      This EBT nonsense is the same stunt, with lipstick.

      • TM

        Love this town meeting metaphor. Town Meeting, and other local political machinations, are one of the most under-discussed things- relative to their importance.

      • Here's a start on welfare fraud

        Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) is the program most people think of as “welfare.” It is item 4403-2000 in the state budget, and last year’s budget appropriated $315 million for the program.

        The Inspector General’s office (which was asked by the Legislature to review this program) recently filed its report, which is here.

        This report evaluated “documentation confirming that TAFDC’s eligibility requirements had been met.” One of those pieces of documentation is proof that the child is attending school. Because so many poor children move so often (because so many of them are also homeless), they change schools several times a year, and the IG acknowledged that the absence of the proof did not mean that the child was not attending school.

        The report found that in 8.9 percent of cases, a piece of documentation needed to demonstrate eligibility was not in the case file. Based on this finding, the report identified “potential eligibility concerns” worth about $25 million. The IG did not say that these families were ineligible, in fact, as the Globe reported, the IG said that the required documentation, once obtained, might prove that “all these families are qualified.”

        However, the IG’s report was widely described (in this case by the Herald, 2/15/13) as having concluded that “$25 million in taxpayer money is going to welfare recipients who aren’t eligible.”

        (Cue apoplectic denunciations of the poor.)

      • Thats where you lose me

        I disagree with Christoper and Grossman that EBT is a major budgetary issue, but I also disagree with the dog whistle comparisons and the idea that Grossman is deliberately trying to bash the poor, brown, and vulnerable. I don’t see how thats a winning issue in a Democratic primary in Massachusetts, so it seems that the real dog whistle is Sen. Wolf making a small remark for a small audience on a specific subject into a much bigger issue for self-promotion purposes. Obviously he has riled up the base so can’t argue it isn’t working.

        But if we are going to be data based/reality based your conspiracy theories about Grossman, race, welfare and being a RINO seem unsupported. Particularly if you look at his 2002 platform and record in office. There are other reasons to oppose Grossman-he is kind of bland, another outsider with the inability to get things past the legislature, and someone who is currently lacking in the bold ideas this state needs. But the AIPAC and dog whistle conspiracies are about as salient and data based as right wing Benghazi talking points.

        • Actually...

          …I never said EBT was a major budget issue. I’m not convinced it is and others have fairly pointed out that it probably isn’t in terms of numbers. What I did was defend his using that example without having to fear that self-appointed racial-sensitivity police would jump down his throat for alleged dogwhistling which I can virtually guarantee he did not intend.

  7. Crux of the matter

    Grossmans actual quote:

    “We have put everything out to competitive bid,” Grossman said. “We have tried to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” including in the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that automate the redemption of public assistance benefits.

    Wolfs quote:

    “What’s more, for Treasurer Grossman to allow the conversation to turn once again to the few people on public assistance who may be abusing EBT cards is nothing more than blaming the victims, blaming the most vulnerable, and turning us away from the real issues we face. It has absolutely nothing to do with how our communities have been undermined over the past 30 years, nothing to do with helping so many people who, through no fault of their own, have become the working poor.

    I think Grossman was actually saying that it saves the state money to distribute electronic cards rather than mail out checks or make direct cash payments. I see that as a statement saying he is making government more efficient in how it delivers services rather than cutting benefits or even mentioning EBT recipients as the cause of the “waste fraud and abuse”. Considering the prior sentence talks about competitive contracts (unlike the patronage Cahill got whacked for) he is reducing waste, fraud, and abuse within the government. The ‘blaming the victim’ attack is completely unfounded.

    And I am saying this as someone waiting anxiously to get his IDES unemployment debit card in IL. Its become standard practice for states to switch to electronics since its cheaper than paper, in no way do I feel victimized or blamed since I am getting a debit card instead of a check. Thats a ridiculous leap.

    • Some "crux"

      It was Mr. Grossman who brought up the EBT question.

      As a result, the Herald, Globe, CoC, and we here are discussing a MAXIMUM of $25M in “waste, fraud and abuse” — in a state whose annual budget is thirty three billion dollars and whose FY2013 deficit was in the vicinity of one billion dollars.

      Mr. Grossman is arguing against the Governor’s tax proposals, citing this tiny fleck of “waste, fraud and abuse” on the handrail, while our ship is sinking because of the gaping hole in its hull. The entire discussion exemplifies WHY Massachusetts is in such disastrous condition.

      I want our gubernatorial candidates — all of them — to be leading the way towards a bright, healthy, vibrant, diverse, and prosperous Massachusetts. Mr. Grossman’s comments accomplished just the opposite.

    • Quick question...

      in the statement that you put in blockquotes [first one], where does the second closing quote end? Does it end where it was placed in your post, or at the very end of his statement? Because, as written, it’s not clear to me that Grossman actually mentioned Electronic Benefit Transfer cards…

      • That's how it was reported in the Herald

        It seems we are relying on the accuracy of the reporter, Marie Szaniszlo, in reporting the sense of whatever Mr. Grossman said. The blockquote above is a correct quote of the Herald piece.

        It would be helpful to hear Mr. Grossman’s actual comments (or read a transcript).

        • full speech

          Is on the Chamber website

          At about 15 min in he mentions EBT card abuse specifically as on of two examples of waste- the other being some foreign currency exchange where the pension system was over-charged.

          • Thank you

            So it seems to cover both, he is giving a laundry list of accomplishments as Treasurer and pointing out he has stopped waste, fraud, and abuse from contractors as well as from some recipients. Nowhere is he suggesting our budget issues can be closed by EBT reform alone, nowhere is he suggesting abuse is pervasive or extensive or that the typical EBT recipient is an abuser, its simply a rather bland laundry list that Sen. Wolf choose to distort. I hear no racial bias or agitation in these remarks either, but maybe that’s just me.
            As we all know from Reagan’s Welfare Queen myth, even one example of abuse or fraud tends to place doubt on the vast majority of people that need the benefits.

            I am the son and brother of former welfare recipients and will soon be receiving unemployment myself, because I have benefitted so much from government and because my family has, I take my reporting responsibility very seriously. My mom is on social security, my dad on disability. When people abuse the system it makes the vast majority of us that aren’t look bad, so solving that problem and telling a business group that its been solved should do enough to shut Fox and the Howies up, and I think thats what Grossman was trying to say. His record leads me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

            Where I do have some doubts about the direction he wants to take the state are his comments against aspects of Gov. Patricks laudable State of the State agenda. These offer far more grist to upset progressives than these remarks on EBT.

            • The line

              about not signing his name to a new EBT contract was the most dramatic policy part of a pretty staid speech, it was actually decent reporting by the Herald to single that part out and it seems reasonable to me for Wolf to criticize it.

              The part that made me most uncomfortable was Grossman being introduced by a Bank of America executive. Grossman missed a real opportunity here. He could have locked down the reform vote by the man politely for the nice intro and then politely ripping into his employer- which has done literally billions of times more damage than even the most ambitions food-stamp scammer.

            • This I think is right

              Where I do have some doubts about the direction he wants to take the state are his comments against aspects of Gov. Patricks laudable State of the State agenda. These offer far more grist to upset progressives than these remarks on EBT.

        • Now you're talking Tom...

          I wish more people would take the time to listen to the speech.

          In a speech and Q & A that lasted over 30 minutes, Grossman took 1 ½ minute in which to pint out that waste, fraud and abuse in the EBT system must be addressed in order to protect the entire system. That’s the exact opposite of “blaming the victims, blaming the most vulnerable” as Senator Wolfe accuses. Instead, it is blaming the abusers, blaming the cheaters who are actually taking from the most vulnerable.

          Far from dog whistling, Grossman specifically stated in this speech that Treasury was ensuring that small banks receiving State funds had to loan money to small business with a focus on women and minority owned businesses and even introduced an example owner. He further states that at Treasury they were committed to diversity in hiring as a “fundamental principle” and were now at about 40% of hires were from diverse communities.

          He also discussed “immigration entrepreneurship” encouraging immigrant business ownership. You may not agree with these positions, but he was certainly not dog whistling to this crowd. Just the opposite.

    • That is a giant leap of logic

      Electronic benefit cards have been in use since before Grossman was elected, the idea that only the ‘waste’ and not the ‘fraud and abuse’ in his ‘waste fraud and abuse’ comment apply to this issue is just plain silly.

      • Its about choosing the EBT contractor

        I am fairly certain, based again on the first portion of the sentence discussing competitive contracts, that he picked an electronic EBT card supplier who was not politically connected but actually efficient. Though I totally agree this whole thread is sort of a wash since as STom points out

        It would be helpful to hear Mr. Grossman’s actual comments (or read a transcript).

        I would also say it’d have been helpful if Sen. Wolf did that as well, since he seems to think the ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’ comment is ‘blame the victim’ and directed against EBT recipients which the quote in the Herald article does not seem to indicate. Again looking at Grossmans record as I posted above, it seems unlikely he is racist, against illegal immigrants, or blaming welfare recipients based on his distinguished public service record as a solid progressive Democrat. He could have picked the welfare basher Scott Brown, instead he donated and campaigned extensively for Sen. Elizabeth Warren and was the first statewide official to endorse her. His actions, to me anyway, speak a lot louder than his words which seem to have been grossly taken out of context by Sen. Wolf. And to further emphasize he is not even my first choice (not sure who else is running and I am busy enough with the 2013 Senate race and Cambridge municipal race to even worry at this point!) but starting out of the gate with a dishonest attack is not a good sign for Sen. Wolf and his campaign.

  8. Steve Grossman does offer a true vision!

    As someone who has worked on community issues, in politics, and in philanthropy with him for decades, there is perhaps no one in the progressive community who knows Steve Grossman better than I do. I can say with complete confidence that Steve has been a champion for social and economic justice and equal rights for all. I know no one who is more committed to progressive principles than Steve Grossman.
    Steve’s commitment to women, the LGBT community, seniors, working families, and the most vulnerable in our communities is deep, sincere, and consistent. In instances far too numerous to mention, he has played a leadership role in progressive causes.
    Steve has made it clear that he understands the need for revenue and supports the Governor’s vision on key priorities such as education and transportation. He has also made it clear that the state budget must be built on fiscal prudence and responsibility, at the same time as protecting the interests and needs of the people whom government serves. We should expect no less from someone who may be a candidate for Governor in 2014.
    Steve has said that, as an elected official, he wants to make Massachusetts the best place in the world to live, work, bring up a family, get an education, and build a business; and he wants to make sure that every person in the Commonwealth has equal access to those opportunities. He has both the skills and the principles to make that happen which is why I am hoping he will be a candidate for Governor in 2014, and why, if we are fortunate enough for him to make the decision to run, I will work as hard as I’m able to help him win!

  9. Senator Wolfe presents a Steve Grossman I've neither met nor heard of.

    As the President of the Pressman’s Union Teamsters Local 3, I represent the workers in the print shop at Treasurer Grossman’s Family Business, Grossman Marketing. I have sat across the negotiating table from Steve and negotiated numerous contracts. While we have certainly had our differences, we always worked cooperatively and successfully to attain agreements that met the concerns of the business and maintained good union jobs with some for the best wages, hours, and conditions in the industry.

    Grossman marketing has always maintained a workplace that insisted on fairness, dignity and respect for its employees. As a Union facility for nearly 100 years, Grossman marketing has never had an issue go to arbitration. The Treasurer, his father before him, and now his sons have never questioned their employees’ right to belong to a union. Rather, they embrace that right and recognize the professionalism and skill a union workforce brings.

    I was surprised when I saw this post and the statement from Senator Wolfe, because this was clearly not representative of the Steve Grossman I have experienced. As a result, I took the time to listen to the Treasurer’s comments to the Chamber.

    In response to a question, the Treasurer makes very clear that he supports investing in transportation, infrastructure and education. The exact issues raised by the Senator in his statement. Senator Wolfe, himself states that the Governor’s proposals “may not be perfect.” But somehow if Treasurer Grossman simply asks that whatever deal is struck between the legislature and the Governor be prudent, disciplined, and responsible, it’s pandering? I think not.

    In a speech and Q & A that lasted over 30 minutes, Senator Wolfe decided to focus on the 1 ½ minute in which the Treasurer pointed out that waste, fraud and abuse in the EBT system must be addressed in order to protect the entire system. That’s the exact opposite of “blaming the victims, blaming the most vulnerable” as Senator Wolfe accuses. Instead, it is blaming the abusers, blaming the cheaters who are actually taking from the most vulnerable. And that is good government.

    Steve Grossman’s Democratic Party credentials are unquestionable. He doesn’t simply support workers’ rights, he’s lived it. More than just “aspire to represent those in need”; with his philanthropic works for numerous underprivileged communities, he helps those in need.

    Whether either will be candidate for Governor in 2014, I don’t know. But I do know that the Treasurer presented an upbeat and positive message about Massachusetts. He focused on our strengths and all that can be accomplished in this Commonwealth. It is unfortunate that the Senator is taking a far more negative approach.

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Sat 25 Oct 1:34 AM