"Thinking Beyond Paul LePage"
4//24: Code Red [80%]: Administration of Misinformation! LePage's town meeting in Topsham was a disaster -- but only if you were listening closely. LePage got the details wrong about the proposed child labor bill, stating the training period would be 9 days rather than 180 days. Oops. He used some creative math to show that the state is meeting its commitment to provide 55% of the funding for public schools. (The state wasn't meeting this commitment the day before that, and no additional funds have been provided, but whatever.) Additionally, LePage continued to spread misinformation about Maine unions, implying that state workers can be forced to join unions as a condition of employment.
5/1/11: Code Red [80%]: A Case of Conflicting Interests. A week in which two LePage cabinet members resigned and a third was transferred due to conflict of interest. LePage earlier attempted to change the law which made his appointee ineligible for the post.
Meanwhile, LePage issued a brief statement that gave the "appearance" or repudiating Philip Congdon's tirade against minorities, Native Americans, Aroostook County residents, and parents.
Commentary on the extremism that led to these appointments and subsequent resignations is here. A PPH editorial claiming LePage's personnel problems are an indication he is over his head is here.
5/8/11: Code Red (85%): Several weeks ago, LePage pledged he would "zip it" in order to stop being a distraction to the advancement of his own legislative agenda. LePage worked behind closed doors much of the week and seems to keeping to his pledge.
The stealthy new LePage is not making national media headlines or selling newspapers, but rest assured it is still the same LePage, only inside a saccharine flavored container. The tone of his weekly radio address is cordial and makes the new health insurance proposal seem innocuous, but if that is so, why the mad Republican rush to get it through committee?
The more innocuous LePage appears, the more effective he potentially is -- and the more dangerous he becomes. This week alone, LaPage has introduced or supported the following: rollbacks in consumer protections in healthcare coverage, cuts in childcare subsidies for the working poor, cuts in MaineCare prescription programs, cuts in funds for education of disabled children, elimination of the Clean Election fund, increases in the amounts individuals can contribute to a political campaign, elimination of collective bargaining rights for family care workers and elimination of job protections for Maine loggers.
The good news (yes, there is some): attempts to overturn Maine's bottle bill and child labor laws were overturned in committee, and LePage has backed off his drive to strip health insurance coverage from retired teachers who are under age 65.
5/15/11:[ 85%]. "It's about the budget and about the economy," LePage and the Republicans would have us believe. Lots of evidence to show this is not the case.
The current health insurance bill. Why is it being rushed? Why, as Dirigo Blue asks, if the bill is about consumer choice, is the state of Vermont excluded as a place where Maine people can shop for health insurance? If LePage wants to improve Maine public schools, why is a charter schools bill (that will dilute resources being provided to pubic schools) being introduced? Why, since any cost savings will be only nominal, is LePage outlawing unions for childcare workers. And why, since it is only 0003% of the state budget, is LePage putting MPBN and its 50 year history on the chopping block?
5/22/11: [85%] There is a big ego in living in the Blaine House that is blocking a lot of progress. Unlike the eagle that has a nest off Route 1 in Wiscasset, this ego does pay taxes. However, this ego wants to pay less of them -- and wants to make sure its friends pay less of them as well.
Don't like a mural? Take it down. Frustrated by a conflict of interest law? Change the law. Don't like MPBN? Cut the funding. Can't get prayer into public schools? Support a bill to allow charter schools. Hear a story about a bypass blocked by an eagle's nest? Pledge to move the nest. Laws and the social contract they imply mean nothing to this man. The fact that some in society might actually support some of these laws and see their benefits is of no account.
5/29/11: Code Red: [90%]. Even the Maine Heritage Foundation figures show that the proposed LePage tax cut benefits the rich far more than it benefits the poor. According to these numbers, those earning less than $48,000 will collectively see their taxes reduced by $25 million while those earning more than $63,000 will reap $108 million. Those in the first group will individually see their taxes reduced by an average of $50.00, while individual taxpayers in the second group will see their taxes reduced by more than 20 times that much. Yet LePage is somehow able to characterize this as "tax breaks for the poor." With his lie that the health insurance bill would not hurt the elderly, his misrepresentation of the (now failed) child labor bill, and his fake rationale for why he is cutting MPBN, LePage has progressively lowered the standard for truth-telling such that he can say down is up and few seem outraged or even surprised. In fact, the more LePage's run counter to mainstream, the more closely his adherents seem to rally around him.
6/1/11: Code Red: [90%]. Leadership (n) "The capacity to lead." Where is the leadership, Paul LePage? His style seems to go from unapologetically confrontational to invisible. Since the town meeting of a couple of weeks ago, he has been out of the public eye. Undoubtedly, his handlers worry that for LePage to speak on any of his legislation at this point would be to jeopardize that legislation..
Where is the leader who even attempts to work across the aisle toward real solutions for Maine people? Where is the leader who cares about solutions more than ideology, about people more than politics?
A key week in the legislature as the Appropriations Committee continues to meet and the House and Senate have taken up Republican sponsored bills on everything from school vouchers to limitations on unions to reductions of public employee pensions to abolishing the pesticide notification registry. Paul LePage is presumably on board with all of the above, yet, this week at least, his voice has not been heard.
6/8/11: Code Red: [80%]. The Republican-backed Right to Work Bill is shelved for one year. LePage's plan to gut pensions of teachers and state workers has been modified and softened in committee. A bill that would have given legal standing to the unborn has been rejected by the Maine Senate. The LePage sponsored threat to vernal pools has been dealt at least a temporary setback in legislative committee. The AWOL "Open for Business" sign has not been recovered by the state police.
LePage doesn't get everything he asks for -- even from his own party. That is the message of this week. And that is the reason why we are maybe a little less appalled. No sense in getting too wound up about things that are doomed from the start anyway. On the other hand, it is exactly because folks did get wound up and went to Augusta to make a stand that the Right to Work bill is being put aside for the time being. In the words of Paul LePage, "We won!" This time, however, the "we" is a little more inclusive.
6/15:Code Red: [80%]. Last Friday,the appropriations committee finalized a two-year state budget that is expected to be approved by both houses of the legislature this week. That the committee was able to compromise and modify the budget such that it received unanimous agreement is, itself, a victory and shows the political process is working.
When the modified budget moves on to LePage, our Governor will be in a double-bind. Last March, Lepage threatened to veto the budget if his pension "reforms" and tax breaks did not remain intact. However, key provisions in LePage's pension plan (such as a 2% decrease in state contributions) and $50 million in tax cuts have been stripped away. If LePage signs the bill, his next veto threat will not be taken seriously. If he doesn't sign it, he alienates himself from his own party
Either way, some are already saying that Maine Senate President, Kevin Raye is now the source of credible leadership in Augusta.
|6/22 Code Red: [80%]. Once he made that threat, back in March, to veto the budget if the legislature made alterations, it was a lose-lose for LePage. To follow through on that threat would have been to take great political risk. Therefore, what should have been a good day -- his signing of the budget -- wasn't such a good day at all. LePage mustered the requisite amount of grouchiness about it, saying legislators had only done "half the job." LePage stated, “They did not do their job in welfare. They really fell short; they significantly fell short.” (BDN, 6/20/11). Among other things, LePage will be losing sleep over the fact that working adults who earn 133% of the federal poverty level will still be eligible for MaineCare.
LePage pledges to go after these weaknesses in the budget in January.
What we see here is a pure idealogue. It doesn't matter to LePage what Maine people want or what the legislature wants. For him, it is all about what he wants. Or perhaps, more accurately, it is about what ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) wants.
7/1: Code Red: [80%]. We're due for a vacation, but we're still plenty appalled.
LePage got it right when he signed a bill to expand privacy for users of medical marijuana in Maine, but on just about everything else, he continues to come down on the wrong side of history. In his weekly radio address, LePage talked about his respect for the bottom line, neglecting to mention that the tax cuts to be phased in over the next few years will make Maine hopelessly cash poor down the road. LePage did not mention that public schools are being funded at only 82% of the level of state commitment. At the same time, LePage wants to divert money that Maine already doesn't have into charter schools.
In other news, LePage supports allowing the sale of fireworks in Maine and feels strongly enough about the issue that he refused to allow his own Fire Marshall to testify at the hearing for the bill. Nonetheless, many other fire safety officials did testify in opposition to the bill. One of their concerns is the additional demands (and unfunded costs) that will be placed on local law enforcement. That's LePage-o-mocracy for ya. Happy 4th!
7/6: Code Red: [80%]. LePage recently signed into law a bill that changes Maine's 38-year tradition of allowing same-day voter registration. It must be a little bit of a downer to wake up each day and realize that you are in office only through electoral happenstance -- and that the majority of your constituents support neither you nor your policies. LePage and the Republicans obviously spend a fair amount of time pondering how to remain in control in a state in which the majority of their policies do not serve the interests of the majority of the people.
This voter registration bill one manifestation of those ponderings. When it comes to voting, the guiding principle should be, don't put anything not absolutely necessary between the voter and the ballot box. Any small infringement of the right to vote should be viewed as a big infringement -- because it opens the door to the erosion of our basic rights.
A petition drive to restore same-day registration is kicking off Saturday, July 8.
9/10: Code Red: [85 %] Code Red: Shhh . . . Somebody Loves ALEC but doesn't want you to know. The Appallometer comes back from vacation to find the big secret is out about LePage and ALEC. We'd be even more appalled if we hadn't already pretty much known this, but the new evidence and details are appalling. Our state. Our environment. Our children. All being used as pawns in a massive political game in which our governor himself is a puppet. Give the guy a one way ticket to Florida. And quickly.
9/25: Code Red: [80 %] First He Cuts Their Pensions, Now He Just Cuts Stripped of their code-speak, LePage's carefully scripted releases about education amount to a lot of bad-mouthing about Maine teachers, According to our esteemed Husson graduate, Maine teachers are not well-trained enough. The premise that they are underperforming is to be tested by paying some of them $7,500 more if they can show improvement. In addition, teachers are filling the heads of too many students with the unrealistic idea that they have the right stuff to attend four-year colleges. (Downgrade those dreams, wouldja? Welding school for you!) Beyond that, LePage wants to save all teachers the trouble of belonging to a local teachers union by eliminating local unions.
Other than that, it is still a great time to be a Maine teacher!
10/2/11: [90 %] Pretty Simple. We don't like being lied to. Perhaps it is true that many politicians lie, but most of them don't lie so blatantly and so poorly about things that matter to us. What else are you lying to us about, Paul LePage?
10/10/11: [80 %] Starve the Beast: LePage is now proposing elimination of income tax on retiree pensions. Giving retired elderly folks a break sounds good until you realize: (1) this will result in the loss of an additional $100 million in state revenues at at time when committees are already sweating over the question of how to strip $100 million from schools, community colleges, head start programs, psychiatric hospitals, methadone cllinics and more. (2) Retirees with pensions are relatively well-off. Poor people don't have pensions. So effectively, this is yet another tax break that disproportionately benefits the wealthy.
Is LePage proposing this because he suddenly has a heart? Or is this another backdoor way to shrink the size of state government by starving it?
10/24/11: [80 %] Deregulating Childhood: Sounds like a no-brainer until you think about it for ten seconds. LePage says parents should be able to decide if their 14-year old works during school vacations. LePage also favors vouchers for private schools and home schoolers. He also favors a training wage for young people. Put those facts together and you have the deregulation of childhood. Kids working long hours for low pay -- and then being let go when their "training period" is up. Kids going to school -- or not going to school -- when parents want them to. Kids working when their parents -- or their employers -- tell them to. Lots of potential for abuse here. And, it is easy to see that LePage is looking out for the interests of business and not for our children.
11/6/11:[80 %] Road to Nowhere: 10 days ago, conservatives were quick to celebrate the news that LePage had climbed in terms of public approval ratings. However, a new poll from the more liberal leaning Public Policy Polling disputes the fact that LePage has made any gains. Among other questions, PPP asked, "If you could do last fall's election for governor over again, would you vote for independent Eliot Cutler, Republican Paul LePage or Democrat Libby Mitchell?"
Cutler: 43 percent
LePage: 38 percent
Mitchell: 16 percent
Not sure: 2 percent
So, according to this poll, at least, LePage has made no gains at all. An elected official can't always do much about his approval ratings, and that is not our beef. It is what an elected official does with his approval ratings that counts. Approval ratings of under 40% would seem to suggest that one solicit opinons from the opposition and seek compromise. We're still waiting for that to happen.
11/14/11:[80 %] Beating a Dead Horse, and then Some. Despite the strong (60% to 40%) show of support for protecting voter rights and same-day voter registration, LePage believes the legislature should go ahead with the Republican Plan B, which would suppress voting rates by requiring all those who wish to vote to produce state-issued photo identification.
Meanwhile, LePage is threatening the legislature that in order to fully fund education, they must make huge cuts in social services.
His ongoing tour of town meetings is another example of his bull-doggish inability to step back from conflict.
Give him credit for one thing. Many leaders would shrink back from this kind of confrontational politics. We don't really think it is a choice for LePage, but rather a compulsion. In another time and place, this unthinking stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise might have served him well. Here in 21st Century Maine, where a man's primary duty is no longer to club things to death with a stick, it would serve him -- and us -- much better if he learned to listen.
11-22: [85 %] Of Pseudo-Facts, Pretend Information, and a Gov. Who Doesn't Like it Here: It's been a quiet week on the LePage front, and we were considering backing the appallometer down to 80% -- and then we read about how LePage misrepresented the facts about child labor laws. Truth is, we don't like to be lied to. Ironic that this comes in a week in which we learn the Maine Heritage Policy Center (you can call it the Maine ALEC Center for short) is starting its own news service via which it will promulgate its alternative view of the facts.
Speaking of quiet. Today we learn why. LePage is on vacation -- in Florida. Which gets us thinking. Have we ever seen one photo or read one story depicting Paul LePage recreating / enjoying / appreciating this state? Maybe it is us, but we would rather entrust governance of the state to someone who doesn't flee the state every time he gets a chance.
Speaking for ourselves, we are thankful to live in this state of beautiful land and resilient and generous people. Have a nice Thanksgiving, everyone.
12-1-11 [90%]Pontifications on Bovine Excrement: We don't really care that LePage said, "bull shit." In fact, we'd love to see him pound the table and use the term when defending freedom of speech or the rights of the oppressed.
At a time in which we'd like to see him be more concerned about imminent cuts to people on welfare, the only thing he can muster emotion about is how he is being portrayed in the press. This is yet another sign that despite his tough guy talk, LePage has a thin skin -- and is in over his head. He accuses Representative O'Brien of "political manuevering" and desperately wants approval -- yet, as LePage is finding, widespread public approval is hard to get when you agenda is tied to that of ALEC.
12-18-11 [90%] . . . And the fundamental problem with MaineCare is fraud. LePage would like you to believe both of these. From the comments on Facebook threads and in newspaper columns, it appears that many Mainers are buying these lines. LePage's blunt finger of blame points in a direction that appeals to them, that fans the anger that they already feel. Here's hoping the majority of Maine citizens see through this well-used pattern of scapegoating. There are simply no statistics to show that fraud is a signficant cause of the current budget problems at DHHS.
1-10-12 [90%] Sick of the Lies: It is one thing when a politician makes an occasional error such as spelling "potato" with an "e" on the end or implying people speak Latin in Latin America. It is entirely another thing when a politician repeatedly (and without retractions or corrections) utters untruths that serve to persuade people to support his agenda. Child labor laws, health insurance deregulation, the test scores of Maine students, the LePage tax cuts, the economy, welfare, Medicaid, energy, the mural -- on virtually every issue that matters, the Governor has made statements that are significantly misleading if not outright untrue.
12-28-11 [90%] LePage's "I don't know what planet you're from" remark to former legislator Judy Paradis is a telling metaphor for the way our governor views the world. Rather than recognizing the humanity of another person (who in this case happens to be liberal) or seeking common political ground, LePage castigates those who disagree with him as aliens or freaks.
It never ceases to amaze us that a man who has no interest or skills in diplomacy can have risen to Maine's highest political office. Again and again, LePage has shown us that he does not have a clue how to conduct political dialogue or to function in a two-party system.
The appallometer has now been at 90% for 6 straight weeks, setting a new record!
1-24-12 [90%] Close Schools? We'd Like to See Him Try: :Amidst a week in which he threatened to close Maine's public schools on May 1 if the Legislature fails to approve his proposed cuts to the state's MaineCare program, LePage has been getting well-deserved flack from the press (here, here, and here) and from the legislature (here and here)..
Turns out, he doesn't have any legal authority to close schools. Even if he did, he would need the National Guard behind him to get the job done.
It's a good bet that in that situation Maine people would do everything short of physical battle to support their schools. Maine people have made great sacrifices for these schools and will continue to make these sacrifices in the future. Maine has a lot of great schools and has a reputation for being a state that is strong on education. Close our schools? We'd like to see him try.
2-7-12 [90%] Playing Chicken with Children's Lives: At best, charter schools, online learning, and school voucher programs have questionable merit. Each comes at a cost -- and reports of their effectiveness are very mixed. Public education in Maine is not broken. Maine schools are far from perfect, but if you compare the lives of children inside schools with their lives outside schools (many of them coming from situations of abuse, neglect, poverty, and family dysfunction), you would find that schools bring huge value to the lives of children. Despite high rates of poverty and low rates of parental educational achievement, in terms of test scores, Maine students still come out above the national average.
Despite this, despite the very crucial importance of schools to our young people during this very vulnerable period of their lives, Governor LePage wants to rush forward with a set of initiatives (incidentally supported by ALEC) -- school vouchers, expansion of online learning, and charter schools -- that will dramatically de-stabilize and de-fund public schools and very likely also lead to a set of consequences that is especially damaging to rural areas and children growing up in poverty. Additionally, these changes would have huge, yet unanticipated effects on the long term social, cultural, and economic fabric of our state..