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Center’s new director, J. Scott Moody, was making headlines in New Hampshire for stating that same-sex marriage, if not repealed, would hasten New Hampshire’s passage into a cataclysmic event he calls “demographic winter.”
More recently (seemingly despite the fact that Maine repealed its own marriage equality law) Moody is warning that Maine will face a similar but worse demographic winter.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.