LePage Swears, Storms Out of Meeting

News Coverage
“LePage Swears, Storms Out of Meeting . . . ”
(Bangor Daily News)
“Governor Enraged During Meeting with Local Legislators” (The Republican Journal)
“Independents Recall Rocky Meeting with LePage” (Portland Press Herald

Opinion:
Bill Nemitz:  A Letter to LePage, the Tigerhearted (Portland Press Herald)
“LePage Cannot Walk Alone” (Bangor Daily News)
“Governor’s Budget Reveals Things He Probably Didn’t Intend”
(Kennebec Journal)

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.”

Myths Busted / LePage Still in Hiding

Myth #1:  LePage and Forbes magazine want you to believe that cutting tax rates is the most important thing we can do to bring more business to Maine.  Jim Clair, chair of the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission in Augusta, states an educated workforce is far more important:  “The single most important factor for a company like mine, which I think is indicative, in many ways, of the way Maine’s economy is going to grow, is by having highly-competent technical people who are prepared to learn the rest of their lives,” Clair says. “That’s our single biggest issue.”

Myth #2:  LePage and many Republicans want you to believe that Maine’s social safety net is a magnet for uneducated, unemployed people who move here to join the welfare rolls.  However, Charlie Colgan of USM’s Muskie School states most who move here are highly educated:  “The majority of the people who moved to Maine from 2005 to 2010 were 18 to 34 years old, and a majority had a college degree or better.”

Meanwhile, Governor LePage, who called off a budget meeting with Democratic leaders a month ago, still has not responded to Senate President Justin Alfond’s dinner invitation and still has failed to meet with Democrats.

Governor LePage has apparently been using all the time he has saved by not meeting with Senator Alfond to work on YouTube videos such as the one released today.  The YouTube video is kind of like a press conference, except that there are no reporters present, and the only questions are scripted ones asked by LePage’s press secretary, and the only answers are scripted answers, and LePage gets to repeat tired old lines about his tax cut being not being for the rich, and the they can do re-takes and edit it until it only shows what they want it to show.  Like we said, it’s kind of like a press conference — Bin Ladin style.

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.

Derailed by Tracker: LePage Puts Budget Meeting on Hold

“LePage doesn’t like the press. Some people don’t like mirrors. Probably for much the same reason. “–AppalledbyLePage, 7/19/11

Paul LePage today cancelled a meeting with Democratic leaders as a one-man protest against the presence of a Democrat-hired tracker who has been following him to public events.  The meeting was intended as an opportunity to address the $35 million budget shortfall that faces Maine.

The story has been covered by the Boston Globe, MPBN, and elsewhere.

The presence of trackers is nothing new in modern politics.  According to the Boston Globe, Angus King and Susan Collins, among others, have had to deal with the presence of trackers.

What’s new is the presence of a tracker becoming front page headlines.   What’s new is political brinkmanship (I won’t meet with you guys unless you pull the tracker) resulting from this tactic.

According to the Bangor Daily News, LePage complained that, at a Veteran’s Day event, the tracker filmed him as he spoke with an elderly veteran in what he considered a private conversation.  However, as stated in an MPBN article, Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzie Reinholt says the tracker got permission from the Veterans’ home to attend the event and never recorded any private conversation.

Reinholt went on to say that the tracker has been instructed to leave an event if asked to do so.

We may never know the truth of whether the tracker did or did not videotape that specific conversation.  However, regardless of what was or was not recorded, we have been reminded, once again, that Paul LePage is willing to ignore political responsibilities and hurt Maine people in order to make a political point.

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.

 

Paul LePage and the Politics of Indifference

Paul LePage “won’t lift a finger,” but we can all still raise our hands.

In his blind and misguided pursuit of a government that “governs least,” Paul “Won’t Lift a Finger” LePage cut funding for smoking cessation services for MaineCare recipients.  That’s the old news.  The new news (yes, there are things to be thankful for) is that a coalition of public health organizations is now lobbying for restoration of these services.

The issue of smoking cessation funding provides a handy case study on the extreme short-sightedness and hypocrisy of the LePage administration.  The LePage slogan,  “People Before Politics,” is exposed as an utter farce when it stands in the daylight of this issue.

The facts of the issue are that every 33 cents Maine spends on smoking cessation also draws an additional $0.66 in federal funding — and, according to a Massachusetts study, over the long term prevents MaineCare recipients from needing $3.00 worth of medical treatment for smoking-related illnesses.

Let’s try that again:  for 33 cents now, Maine can save $3.00 later — and have a healthier citizenry to boot. Sounds good, right?

Apparently, not to Paul LePage, whose pogrom of budget cuts has given Maine the ignominious distinction of being one of only three states that does not pay for smoking cessation medications for  medicaid recipients.

Liberty, personal responsibility, even claims we just don’t have the money . . .  all these sound reasonable as artificial concepts. But when you consider that real people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, workers, employees — die from smoking related illnesses each day; when you consider the immense costs of treating smoking-related illnesses; when you consider that it is ultimately us who are paying for these treatments, it becomes clear that providing full funding for smoking cessation is the right thing to do.

Newsflash — Taxes Not Source of All that Ails Us.

A finance website, MoneyRates.com, has rated Maine 49th among the 50 states in terms of places to make a living.  According to the same site, Maine ranks nearly as poorly as a place to retire.  The really interesting part of this study is the finding that even if Maine’s income tax rate could somehow be reduced all the way down to zero percent, the state’s ranking would only climb 7 places to 42nd.

Maine’s geographical location, relatively low average income, and relatively high cost of living are the stated reasons for Maine’s low ranking.

Our takeaway:  the study confirms out belief that LePage is barking up the wrong tree.  Taxes, taxes, taxes.  The governor talks about little else.  Yet, if the above is true, even the most strident tax reforms can play only a very marginal role in the challenge of improving the economic landscape of our state.

Richard Barrington of MoneyRates also states, ” . . . Effort to promote the state regionally for its quality of life and relatively low energy and labor costs might be a better way to improve the economy than a strategy that aims only to lower taxes.”

If the study is correct, LePage should put taxes on the back burner and focus more attention on developing and promoting the positive qualities Maine already possesses — a quality environment and hard-working people.

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.