LePage — Miserably Wrong on Environment

Despite our dependence on tourism, Maine’s #1 industry, LePage refuses to admit that quality of place is something that deserves attention.

That shouldn’t be a surprise considering that LePage appointed a former industrial and corporate lobbyist to became commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.  As documented by Colin Woodard in his PPH series, “The lobbyist in the henhouse: Whose interests is Maine’s DEP commissioner serving?”  the LePage administration has consistently and repeatedly disregarded environmental safeguards in order to safeguard the profits of the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate development industries.

Maine’s lakes generate $3.5 billion in economic activity, yet LePage couldn’t bring himself to support a bipartisan bill to protect them. The League of Conservation Voters supports Mike Michaud, Angus King now supports Mike Michaud. We support Mike Michaud too.lepage_wrong3

Paul LePage — Just Plain Wrong on Healthcare

Maine is one of just two states in the nation in which the number of people without health insurance increased in 2013.

Please read the above sentence again slowly.  As far as we are concerned, that is all you need to know about LePage and healthcare.  However, you can read more in a recent Portland Press Herald editorial which states that the number of uninsured in Maine rose by nearly 12,000 last year.  lepage_wrong2

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.

Ranked Choice Voting — A Cure for What Ails Us

Received this petition via email today.  Please sign and pass it on if you agree that our system should ensure candidates for legislature and governor are not elected “by accident,” but rather have the support of the majority of Maine people.  The city of Portland is already using ranked choice voting.

“Maine politicians should be elected with a majority vote. Please join me in supporting Rep. Diane Russell’s bill to elect the Governor and Legislature with Ranked Choice Voting (AKA Instant Runoff Voting). Her bill encourages voter choice while avoiding “spoiler” candidates.”

If you agree and wish to sign the petition, please click here.:

Edgar Allen Beam’s recent opinion piece on ranked choice voting is here.

Word Watch

Contrary to what some would have us believe, adding and subtracting are not the same.

Recent political robocalls received here have included one from the Republican National Committee, urging support for Republicans running for state legislature since  (and I quote) Democrats support “gutting welfare reform.”

Interesting double-switch there as the Republicans have taken something many see as a negative — welfare cuts — and made it a positive by calling it “welfare reform.”   The negative is brought back in with the word, “gutting.”

So the Democrats want to maintain the social services programs that help children, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor?  Doesn’t have the same bite to it, does it?

“Gutting” is a word that is more often used to refer to the actions of conservatives, so it is interesting to see it used against Democrats.

The angry-at-the-feds Paul LePage last week twisted the truth in much the same way, stating that the medicaid cuts he has proposed are necessary to “preserve the program.”  Having wealthy Mainers forgo even a portion of the extra income they now have as a result of the LePage tax cut would be another way to preserve the program — without a reduction in services being provided — but apparently that one is not on the table.

It has not escaped us that Mitt Romney’s number one strategy has been deflecting attention from his own glaring weaknesses by associating Obama with the same weaknesses.   Romney has no plan for the economy.  He has a reputation for flip-flopping on issues.  And, most ironic of all, he spends a lot of air time criticizing the Obama campaign for going negative.

“Go all in, Mitt,” We want to say to him.  Criticize Obama all you want — but don’t waste our time whining about what the opposition is saying and pretending you’re not doing the same thing.

The New Hat Doesn’t Fit:
Paul LePage’s Silly Season

“Can you give me an example of incongruity?” asks the cat.

The political “mean season” is the subject of Paul LePage’s recent radio address.  In the address, LePage presents himself as a history buff, as a philosophical, moderate, book-reading statesman who is somehow above the political fray.

He fails to mention, of course, that his notable absence from stated fray may not be of his own choosing.  And, if it is of his own choosing, it reminds us of something else — that he doesn’t particularly like having to bother with politics and probably wishes he could run the state the way he used to run Mardens.

LePage talks about the mean season.  But, as regards to his radio address, silly season is more like it — so silly is what LePage asks us to believe.
Mean season: n., the weeks leading up to an election during which negative campaign tactics are often employed.
Silly season: n., a period of time, usually in the summer months, typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media.
Mitt Romney’s “conversion” to a peace-talking moderate is incongruous enough.  Are we now expected to forget the LePage that told Obama to go to hell, that labelled his own citizens idiots, that told the NAACP to kiss his ass?  Are we to forget how he harangued and belittled those who have stood in his way, how the Republican strategy of switching up bills and rushing votes in committee meetings made a mockery of the 2012 legislative session?  Are we supposed to forget that LePage has sold out on the entire state of Maine by circumventing the democratic process and letting corporate lobbyists write legislation on health insurance, the environment, and online learning?

In his address, LePage decries a negative ad against Republican candidate Kevin Raye — an ad that the Portland Press Herald agrees is false.  However, as the Kennebec Journal documents, the Raye campaign has also veered from the truth — and this goes unmentioned by LePage.

LePage concludes his address by claiming that, despite political differences, there are greater things that unite us.  “We must never forget, before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans. “

We think that he should direct his message, not to the people of Maine, but to those in his party who time and time again have stood with the American Legislative Exchange Council — and not with the 47 percent.  We think he should direct his message to those in his party who, on  the day President Obama took office, took on the political mission of making is  presidency fail — even if it meant that America would fail as well.

“We must learn to debate the issues with civility and integrity. “ states LePage.  Is this a call to resolve or a note of surrender?  Either way, LePage may have to do some learning, as he may find himself rubbing shoulders with a lot more Democrats after November 6.

Against Their Own Interest:
Why the Rural Poor
Vote Republican

Romney campain sign.

The $250 million man, Mitt Romney, apparently has friends in trailer parks. Once the election has past, will these folks be even a blip on his radar screen?

A recent poll has Romney with a 5 point lead over Obama in Maine’s 2nd District, which encompasses the poorer, less educated, more rural, northern parts of the state.

A CNN poll showed that nationally, in the last midterm election, 41% of those earning below $30,000 voted Republican.

In 2012, the rural vote seems to be trending  strongly toward the Republicans on a nationwide basis.  One recent nonpartisan poll  shows Romney leading Obama 59 percent to 37 percent  among rural voters in battleground states.

How can this be?

How is it that so many of the rural poor cast their votes for Republican candidates who differentiate themselves from their Democratic rivals primarily by their promises to shrink the social safety net and reduce taxes on the rich?

Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? takes on this question, and  returns the answer that conservatives have co-opted the votes of the poor largely by focusing campaigns on hot-button social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Conservatives have been very successful at propagating the words that the media and ultimately the public use to talk about issues.  Being a beneficiary of government programs is “dependency.”  Taxes are “job-killers.”  The wealthy are “job creators.”  Any step toward government intervention is “socialism.”  The word “government” itself has been assigned a negative connotation.  The previously accepted citizen duty to pay taxes is an imposition on ones “personal freedom.”  The repetition of these terms, especially in the conservative media, undoubtedly influences how people think — and, unfortunately, the less educated the person, the more compelling the language.

A  factor contributing to the present “unpopularity” of government social programs is a lack of understanding of what those programs are.  According to a New York Times article, “Many beneficiaries of government programs seem confused about their own place in the system. According to the article, 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and 40 percent of those on Medicare say that they “have not used a government program.”

The irony, of course, is that many who state they are opposed to government programs are actually beneficiaries of government support — they just don’t think of it that way.

This is overstatement, of course, but it also contains some truth. The question is, “Why do so many of the poor and working poor vote against their own economic best interest?”

Another factor that helps conservative candidates  attract less educated voters is that their ideology tends to fall on the less nuanced, more straightforward, more gut-response side of issues.  “Protect the unborn!”  “Eliminate the death tax!”  “Defend Israel no matter what.” “Welfare creates dependency.”    “Illegal aliens should self-deport.”  On some levels, it is difficult to present arguments against this kind of thinking.

Rural people in general and rural Mainers in particular tend to be independent-minded and skeptical of government.  The bigger and more distant the government, the higher the degree of skepticism.  This plays well into support for conservatives due to the Republican mantra of “smaller government.”

It is also important to acknowledge the role that the church plays in shoring up the rural conservative vote.  Especially for people with few social outlets, the church and the worldview offered within its walls can play a compelling role.  Adding to this, the rural poor attend church at a higher rate than other groups. A 2008 study found  church attendance in poor rural communities to be nearly double that in wealthier, more urban communities.  Not all rural churches are conservative-leaning, of course, but — for whatever reason — it seems the vast majority of them are.

It’s disheartening to think of so many of America’s downtrodden voting for candidates whose plan for the poor consists of (1) trickle down; and (2) admonitions to get up off the couch.  Unfortunately, there may not be much Democrats can do to change this between now and November 6 — so we just have to hope that the poor are smarter than  conservatives think.