If it favors the wealthy, LePage Supports it.

Shift more of Maine’s tax burden to the poor and middle class? This will be the result if LePage gets his way and eliminates the state income tax.  As quoted in the BDN, a  2011 Maine Revenue services  study found eliminating state income tax would have the following effect:  “The bottom 80 percent of Mainers (incomes less than $86,789) would have an aggregate $223 million tax increase, while the top 1 percent would have a $183 million tax cut. ”

According to an Albert DiMillo opinion piece in the BDN, this added burden to the middle class would be on top of an existing situation in which Maine’s middle class already pay a higher proportion of their income to state taxes than do the wealthy.  Read the full article here.

LePage and Jobs — A Maine Parable

Paul LePage presides over the installation of a new sign that encapsulates his administration’s priority of putting politics before people and pandering to the wealthy. LePage states the new sign is a response to critics who have challenged him to provide more specifics on just what kind of business he will create.

Once upon a time, there was a place called Maine — a beautiful land of lakes, mountains, and coastline.  It was never an easy place to live, but people worked hard, and even in the worst of times, the wood and produce from the public orchard helped everyone to get by.

In the midst of one of the bad times, a certain candidate for pooh bah came before the people.  “Jobs,” shouted the people.

Jobs!” he shouted back — and so they elected him.

On the day after the election, the people stood before him and said, “Excuse us sir, but we would like to have jobs.”

“You will have jobs, but first we need to help the job creators,” said the pooh bah.

“How can we do that?” asked the people.

“They need half of the trees in the public orchard,” the pooh bah replied.

Gasps filled the arena.  The people loved the orchard — and depended on  it.  But they also needed jobs, so they agreed to the pooh bah’s request.  Men came in and cut the trees and sent them up the distant hill to the job creators who lived there.

On the  next day, the people again stood before the pooh bah and said, “Excuse us sir, we would very much like to  have jobs.”

The pooh bah smiled at them his widest smile.  “We will have plenty of jobs,” he said.  “Only first we must get rid of the regulations that kill jobs”
“What regulations?” the people asked.

“Regulations like, ‘No building roads in the public orchard,’” the pooh bah said.

Many were skeptical.  But then again, the  public orchard was already half cut over.  What harm would there be in widening the dirt track into a road?  The next morning, they woke to find a 4-lane highway, complete with median strip and guard rails, running through the orchard and on up the hill toward the houses of the job creators.

Most were aghast, but what could they do?   Nothing would make the highway back into a forest again.  They stood before the pooh bah and said, “We thought by now, sir, that we would have some jobs.”

“You don’t have jobs because our energy costs are too high,” the pooh bah said.  “We need to  lower them.”

By now, more of them had doubts, but they believed it when he said this. They knew it was true   Energy costs were too high.  Few of them could still afford to heat their homes.  “What will it cost?”  they asked.

“Half the remaining trees in the orchard,” said he pooh bah.

Once more the people agreed to the pooh bah’s request.  Once more, trees were cut from the orchard and trundled up the hill toward the houses of the job creators.

On the  next day, the people again stood before the pooh bah and said even more stridently this time, “Sir, you said you would create jobs.”

“Surely you misunderstood me,” the pooh bah said.  “Pooh bahs cannot create jobs.  They only create the conditions in which jobs occur.”

The people grumbled.  If they had misinterpreted him, it was because he had willed them to do so. . They now had less than before — and beyond that, the orchard had been decimated. They stood and waited and muttered to each other. This made the pooh bah nervous.

“The job creators, they tell me there  are plenty of jobs,” he finally stammered.  “They say you people just don’t have the right skills.”

A cold silence filled the arena. Did the pooh bah take them for fools?. “Did they say anything else,” asked one man in the back.  “No.” said the pooh bah.  “But they have been working hard.  We need to make sure things go good for them in their retirement.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this is where the written part of the story ends.  It is up to you, dear reader, and your fellow citizens to decide what happens next.

LeMan, LeMyths, LePage

Maine Governor Paul LePage has worked hard to spread the myth that we need to shrink Medicaid before the state’s economy can improve.  It is ironic to see New Hampshire (a state often lauded by LePage) moving in the exact opposite direction.  New Hampshire recently commissioned a report that concludes, as stated by Gov. Maggie Hassan,  “ . . . Expanding Medicaid will help the state by injecting federal money, creating jobs and reducing the amount of uncompensated care at hospitals.”

Another myth LePage has been worked hard to create is that the Charter School Commission is not doing its job.  Bill Nemitz explains the very legitimate reasons for the Charter School Commission’s denial of four of the five applications.

A myth that has been central to LePage’s political agenda is that we need to reduce taxes on the wealthy or they will flee the state for lower tax states.  Interesting to read that an extensive study by the Stanford Center on Poverty & Equality in California concludes that the millionaire migration myth is just that — a myth: “The result of all that data crunching? The migration of millionaires in and out of the state has almost no relationship to tax increases or tax cuts.”

Maine Can Do Better than be Copycat State

We agree wholeheartedly with a recent Grace Hinrich Portland Press Herald opinion piece suggesting Maine has a lot more going for it than was reflected in the recent ranking of the state as the nation’s worst place for business.

For many reasons, including its geographical location, Maine faces unique challenges.  However, due to its natural resources and tradition of entrepreneurship, Maine also has unique opportunities.  The glass is half full  Let’s focus on that.

Budget Shortfalls — Good News for LePage?

In the wacky world of contemporary Maine politics, one really does need to ask, “Is today’s news of budget shortfalls totaling $135 million (see here and here) actually good news for Paul LePage?”

One would have to be both a conspiracy theorist and a believer in LePage’s intellect to hold that the LePage administration deliberately overestimated revenues in order to create the current revenue shortfall, which — in turn — is about to trigger the process of curtailment, by which the Maine governor can unilaterally determine which areas of state government to cut.

While it may seem unlikely that LePage deliberately created the budget shortfall, it is likely that he relishes it.  All along,  LePage’s goal has been to dramatically reduce the size of the government, and the present budget shortfalls give him a mandate to do just that.


Taxes are Job-Killers & Other Untruths: LePage Lays Down a Few Big Ones in Radio Address

Old paradigm —
Two unavoidable things:
Death + Taxes.
New Conservative paradigm —
Death = Taxes.

“Taxes are a job-killer,” states Paul LePage in his recent radio address.

So oversimplified,so extreme, so essentially untrue is his statement, he might as well have said that milk is bad for babies or rain is bad for crops.

It is also a sign of our times that a governor pronouncing such a statement would not be laughed right out of office.

Lost somewhere is the recognition that without taxes we would have no roads, no schools, no public utilities, no law enforcement,  no postal service, no internet, no systems of education, transportation, communication. . . and very few corporations and very few jobs.  If taxes are a job killer, the lack of taxes is the biggest job killer of all..

If what LePage implied were true, if tax rates were all that mattered, businesses would be flocking to places like Uzbekistan (corporate tax rate of 9 percent) and Somalia (less than 20 percent).

A governor registering a smidgen higher on the honest-and-articulate scale might have said something more like this:   “While taxes support the government programs, services, and infrastructure that help create and maintain a positive climate for business, an excess of taxes can also detract from that climate.  Maintaining a balance between business revenues and taxes, between the size of the public sector and the size of the private sector is therefore necessary.”

The governor, of course, has never been accused of speaking in subtleties.

As part of the same address, LePage brags about Maine’s improved Tax Foundation ranking and about positive grades for fiscal policy from the Cato Institute.  As if the effectiveness of a governor can be measured by his fiscal policy alone — rather than on the overall well-being of a state and its people.  As if these numbers can make up for the fact that Maine’s unemployment rate has ticked upward every month since January of this year..  Or as if those numbers can make up for the fact that his approval ratings earn him a place among the least popular governors in the country.

In his address, LePage also touts the fact that  a Maine family with a income of $50,000 per year is now paying $300 per year less in taxes.  $300 per year amounts to less than $6.00 per week.  $6.00 per week!  So let’s get this straight.  Maine gutted everything from Head Start to state employee pensions so the family earning $50,000 per year can pay a dollar a day less in taxes?  It is doubtful those families will even notice.  Families with children in Head Start and retirees on fixed incomes certainly will notice, however.

One can only conclude that it isn’t about the $6.00 per week.  One can only conclude that the tax reductions are so hugely important to Paul LePage because they then help justify cutting the social programs he so badly wanted to cut.  One can only conclude that the tax reductions were so hugely important to Paul LePage because of their symbolic value — and that the corporate forces aligned at ALEC and elsewhere can see the LePage tax cut as a small but incremental victory in the nation-wide war to “drown government in a bathtub.”

Is the irony lost on LePage, that his own job as well as the one he gave to his daughter, as well as the jobs of thousands of teachers and policemen, road crews and state office workers exist only because of a thing called taxes?

Taking the irony even further, LePage quotes from Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” attempting to use the quote to somehow lend support to his ideas, when — in fact — the quote advocates for an unselfishness and a generosity  of spirit that is exactly the opposite of what LePage is about.

Maine’s Demographic Spring — A Response to MHPC and Paul LePage.

J. Scott Moody, Executive Director of the Maine Heritage Policy Center and ideological chum of Paul LePage.

It wasn’t so long ago that Maine Heritage Policy Center’s new director, J. Scott Moody, was making headlines in New Hampshire for stating that same-sex marriage, if not repealed, would hasten New Hampshire’s passage into a cataclysmic event he calls “demographic winter.”

More recently (seemingly despite the fact that Maine repealed its own marriage equality law) Moody is warning that Maine will face a similar but worse demographic winter.

Maine’s demographic winter, according to Moody’s article on the MPHC website, is being brought on by an aging population and a steady out-migration of young people, at least from northern parts of the state.  The two trends, taken together, mean that Maine’s population is holding steady at best — and that it is getting older.  An older, retired population, as Moody explains, places more demands on government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and social security, while at the same time contributing less to its tax base.

(Talk to just about anyone who lives north of Route 2 or east of Bangor and they will tell you the same thing, even without the degree in economics.)

This is the part of this post where you get to hold your breath in anticipation of Moody’s solution, now that he has you scared.  Hint #1:  As has been well-documented, MHPC and the LePage administration have a politically  incestuous relationship.  Hint #2: Moody has no problem manipulating facts to support his political agenda.*  Hint #3:  Moody’s plan to end the economic stagnation of Maine’s “winter” pays little attention to working class people of Maine.   Hint #4: Moody’s plan, while supposedly designed to lure in out-of-staters, would be highly favorable to wealthy Mainers.

Moody’s solution is based on convoluted logic and ends up (surprise!) serving the policies of the LePage administration. Essentially, Moody says that as the state ages, income tax revenues will shrink, so therefore we should eliminate those taxes entirely.

This single act, according to Moody’s logic, will bring young people in droves to Maine.  No matter that he is also forecasting a demographic winter for New Hampshire, a state that has no income tax.  No matter that the aging population will, as he states, require increased levels of social services and he has made no provision to pay for the increased level of services.

Moody aims to get our attention by warning of a demographic winter, yet he also states it is already here — in eastern and northern Maine, at least.  He admits that southern Maine is economically and demographically much healthier, yet doesn’t explain how the same tax  policies which he blames for the problems in northern Maine are not having the same negative effect on southern Maine.

Mitt Romney has stated and many modern Republicans agree that those in the ranks of the unemployed are beyond hope and undeserving of consideration — and Moody seems to be fully on board with this view.

Moody makes no mention of, and apparently has no plan for, the 50,000 plus Maine residents who are currently unemployed.  If, instead of focusing on luring in out-of-state residents, Maine could reduce its unemployment rate to the tune of  2,000 jobs a year for the next fifteen years, that would go a long way toward compensating for the aging population.

A commitment to reduce unemployment would likely have a cost, however.   A cost that conservatives such as Moody and LePage are unwilling to pay.  They would prefer to leave the “47%” to fend for itself, rather than make investments that could pay off in the long run.

After summer comes fall.  After fall comes winter — and after winter comes spring.  That Maine will face a demographic winter is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be nearly as bad as Moody makes it out to be.  Winter is also a time of opportunity.  The solution may be a simple one:  stimulating smart growth, maintaining social programs for those in need, and fostering meaningful employment among the people who are already here.

*In the published interview, Moody concludes that New Hampshire is losing population because it allows labor unions.  He also derides New Hampshire for devaluing marriage and making it too easy to get a divorce, at the same time ignoring the fact that New Hampshire has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country.  He also delves into sociology, stating that adoptive parents don’t love their children as much as biological parents.

Contrary to Claims, Couch Sitting Not Cause of Maine’s Economic Malaise

Chart from Joel Johnson, “Working Harder, Falling Farther Behind,” on the MECEP blog, “Line Items.”

Reflections for Labor Day:  Maine families work 500 more hours than they did 30 years ago, according to Joel Johnson at the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Which supports what we knew all along.  Maine people are hard workers. Most of us work very hard.  Many of us are working harder than ever — and don’t have much to show for it.

This doesn’t fit the Republican narrative, however.  The narrative that holds that if you are poor or struggling to get by, it is your own fault. (If you are wealthy or want to be wealthy and want to avoid having any social responsibility, this narrative justifies your approach).

As the chart (above) shows, during the last 30 years, the real wages of lower and middle income wage earners have remained essentially flat.  Yet, as Johnson states, and as we know all too well, the costs of housing, health care, and education have all increased dramatically.

Given the facts above, one would think that boosting the standard of living of the working poor would be a reasonable priority.  However, as we also know all too well, our governor  has instead chosen to focus on the small percentage of people who take advantage of the social safety net rather than the majority of people who are working very hard to get by and still don’t have enough.

1.000 people are thirsty, and Paul LePage wants us all to focus on the one person who took two bottles of free water when he was supposed to take only one.