Politics & Other Mistakes: Unforced errors

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Political candidates are sometimes unfairly attacked. They can be muddling along on the campaign trail, shaking hands and kissing babies, when suddenly a QAnon weirdo accuses them of colluding with Martians.

This isn’t such an occasion. In the examples cited below, two very different contenders for high public office in Maine decided, for reasons that may have something to do with having shelled mollusks for brains, to blunder out in public and beg to be breaded and deep fried for their lack of judgment. It would be impolite of me not to oblige.

The first chowderhead is Zak Ringelstein, the Democratic sacrificial clam in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate. Ringelstein has no money and no real support from his party, which will be happy enough to see independent incumbent Sen. Angus King re-elected. To counteract the Dem establishment’s indifference, Ringelstein has declared himself a socialist and embarked on an anti-corporate rampage.

On July 22, he tweeted: “Nestle – a European corporation – bought Poland Spring in 1992 and makes billions without paying Maine communities almost anything. Ask the Fryeburg community where Nestle draws 603,000 gallons a day. We must save our water supply and get Nestle out of our communities.”

In an accompanying video, he warned, “As global warming takes its toll, we’re going to wonder where our water went.” He then accuses King, who has received campaign donations from Nestle, of “doing the business of European investors.”

This sort of left-wing populism would make the average North Korean politburo member envious.

For the record, Poland Spring paid about $21 million in state and local taxes in 2017. According to the company, it spent $49 million on salaries and benefits for its 860 Maine workers and bought more than $390 million in goods and services from the state’s businesses. And it pays Fryeburg for its water, thereby reducing the amount billed to other customers.

The company bottles 900 million gallons annually, far less than 1 percent of the 2.5 trillion-5 trillion gallons of groundwater that trickle down annually from the skies over Maine. All other human uses amount to around 49 billion gallons (including nearly 10 million gallons for the state’s craft beer industry), which leaves us with a surplus of more than 2 trillion gallons in even the driest years. Contrary to what Ringelstein seems to imply, that water can’t be saved, since it runs off into the ocean where it evaporates and returns as fresh rainfall.

Like most multinational corporations, Nestle does some evil stuff, but kicking Poland Spring out of Maine (possible only under a socialist administration) wouldn’t stop that. It would just cost the state its sixth-largest employer. And why stop there? Corporate entities such as Hannaford, TD Bank and General Dynamics all seem like prime targets for Ringelstein’s rhetoric. By the time he’s finished, the only businesses left in the state will be a couple of organic farms and Shawn Moody’s auto repair shops.

Leftists have no monopoly on nonsense. Republican 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin is as adept as Ringelstein at conveying the wrong impression.

In recent letters to constituents (sent at taxpayer expense), Poliquin announced he was “honored to be selected to receive the Guardian of Seniors’ Rights award for 2018. This selective award is given to Members of Congress who vote to protect Medicare and Social Security and who are outspoken advocates for programs that help our Senior Citizens.”

Poliquin has that Trump random capitalization thing down.

Nowhere in his letter (did I mention that he used public money to mail it?) does he reveal who gave him the award. Bangor Daily News columnist Amy Fried discovered this “honor” was bestowed on lots of GOP lawmakers by the 60 Plus Association, one of the conservative Koch Brothers’ network of dark-money advocacy groups.

The Kochs have long advocated privatizing Social Security and Medicare. As Fried noted, Poliquin has voted for a budget that would have converted Medicare to a voucher program, and during his 2014 run for Congress (back when he still dared to take positions on issues), he said he was open to at least partial privatization of Social Security.

Poliquin also sent (on the public’s dime) letters to select groups extolling his virtues in fighting sexual harassment, increasing tax breaks for child care, opposing a carbon tax, supporting a work requirement for food stamps and something vague about fighting opioid addiction.

You and I picked up the tab for what amounted to the congressman campaigning for re-election.

If there’s an award for deceptive shrimps, Poliquin and Ringelstein should be finalists.

Koch up some excuses for these crustaceans and email them to aldiamon@herniahill.net.