The LePage “Tax Cut for the Poor” — A First Class Farce

The self-proclaimed signature accomplishment of the LePage administration has been the $433 million tax cut, which Paul LePage has often defended by stating it is a “tax cut for the poor.”

When challenged on his tax cuts, LePage is quick to bring up the 70,000 Maine residents who no longer pay state income tax due to legislation enacted in the last two years..

Thanks to figures from the Maine Center for Economic Policy, we now have a more clear picture of how much life has improved for those 70,000. Let’s imagine a twenty-something single female working 35 hours a week at minimum wage.  Thanks to the LePage tax cut, she now has a grand total of — get this — $7.00 per year of additional spending money.  Seven dollars.  Per year.  According to MHPC, those earning twice as much only benefit to the tune of $50.00 per year.  That’s one dollar per week.

Don’t spend it all at once.

The point is that the members of that nameless, faceless 70,000 were paying almost nothing in taxes to begin with.

So LePage has cut health insurance benefits, prescription benefits, and child care benefits for these folks, but hey, they have that extra $7.00 in their pockets, so they should be thankful, right?

The LePage administration tax cut for the poor is a first class farce — and nothing more.

To read more, please see Joel Johnson’s recent BDN opinion piece, “Maine’s Avoidable Budget Crisis.”.

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.