A message issued by Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner on the eve of Independence Day rubbed his general election challenger, Democrat Linda Small, the wrong way.
The message, issued via email and posted on social media sites from Wagner's re-election campaign, says the "United States has become a government where a large percentage of our population depends on our government."
It then asks recipients to watch an online video titled "Land of the Freebies, Home of the Enslaved," during which Blaise Ingoglia, founder of the right-wing website governmentgonewild.org, claims the federal government wants its citizens to become dependant on it to receive benefits, such as food stamps and housing subsidies.
Small said many of those who receive such benefits do so after they lost their jobs during the Great Recession and pointed to the message as an indication of Wagner's lack of support for programs that help those in need.
"It is insulting and callous to suggest those who have been unemployed are participating in enslavement because they used their unemployment," Small said in a statement issued after Wagner sent out the message. "Nearly two thirds of SNAP (food stamp) recipients are children, elderly and disabled. It is a disservice to say they are taking 'freebies.'"
The Democrat from New Freedom is hoping to unseat Wagner, a Spring Garden Township Republican who won a March special election to fill the remainder of retired state Sen. Mike Waugh's term in the 28th District.
Message sent: Amanda Davidson, Wagner's campaign manager, said the message was sent to Wagner's supporters who signed up to receive emails.
The message was also posted to the campaign website on July 3 and a link to it was also posted on its Facebook page and disseminated via its Twitter account.
Davidson said Wagner had received the online video a few days prior.
The video was originally posted by governmentgonewild.org to YouTube on Nov. 30, 2011.
Wagner said he's all for supporting those who need help. However, he added he doesn't believe in "sustaining a system" that "continues to foster dependency."
"I believe that fraud and abuse of the programs that were designed to help people in need must be identified and swift action must be taken to eliminate people from receiving benefits which they are not qualified or eligible to receive," he said.
Minimum wage: Small said one of the ways to curb the number of people who ask for help through government-back social programs is to increase the minimum wage.
"If he (Wagner) wants people off food stamps, he should support raising the minimum wage," she said, adding she'd like to see minimum wage raised to $10.10 an hour.
Minimum wage workers in Pennsylvania currently make $7.25 an hour.
Wagner, too, would like to see minimum wage increased, but he said it should be raised to $8.50 an hour.
"Coming from the private sector with over 35 years of background, I am aware of over 3,500 jobs in south-central Pennsylvania that require skills and training," Wagner said in an email. "Many of these jobs include in-house training by the hiring company and have starting levels of $11 to $12 per hour."
But, he pointed out, the hourly wage usually increases after 90 days of employment if the employee "meets or exceeds expectations of the job."
Timing: Though Small said she would disagree with the video at any time, she believes a July 4th message from the senator should have paid tribute to veterans and members of the armed forces instead of attacking those who benefit from social programs.
"We need to always remember those who fought for freedom," Small said. "That would have been a more appropriate message."