The Universal Notebook: 'Liberals hate the rich, enslave the poor'

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At least that’s what conservatives like Gov. Paul LePage seem to believe. Of course, like just about everything LePage believes, it’s pure, nonsensical GOP myth.

Week before last, our hugely unpopular governor showed up at a tourism conference at Sunday River and proceeded to ruin an awards celebration by delivering a Trumpian rant about Democrats hating the rich and wanting people to stay poor. The rambling 18-minute speech, which led some attendees to question the governor’s mental state, brought only a smattering of awkward applause and was full of the kinds of contradictions and hypocrisies we have come to expect from LePage.

In one breath, he complained, “I never thought I would live in a state where earning a decent living is a bad thing,” and with the next he called the referendum initiative to raise the minimum wage, which is an effort to help more Mainers earn a decent living, “a scam on the Maine people.”

In the parallel universe inhabited by LePage and his reactionary ilk, liberals want to raise the minimum wage not to benefit wage earners, but because labor unions negotiate contracts tied to minimum wages. In fact, goes LePage’s me-first, blame-the-poor illogic, raising the minimum wage “is to get more money out of your pocket and give it to those who are not willing to keep their nose clean, work hard and achieve.”

What complete and utter lunacy.

To begin with, far too many people in this state and this nation work hard all their lives, keep their noses clean and die penniless. One illness, injury, divorce, death, job loss or poor investment can wipe out a lifetime of hard work overnight. That’s why we have created a social safety net of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance and unemployment compensation – a safety net LePage & Co. seek every day and in every way to undo.

LePage warned the tourism officials Maine is under attack by “Bernie Sanders supporters,” but the truth is that progressives like Sanders are sometimes all that stand between working people and the bosses who exploit them every chance they get.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Boss Paul, the redistribution of wealth in this country is upward to the wealthy. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because the tax codes are written to benefit the wealthy and because so-called “free market” capitalism supports predatory pricing for things we all need: energy, housing, health care and pharmaceuticals.

Real wages for Americans were higher in 1972 than they are today, while the amount of wealth concentrated in the wallets of the top 1 percent increases daily and is now close to 50 percent. After the stock market crash in 1929, wealth distribution in this country was increasingly equitable for decades, but today we are back to the age of the 1920s robber barons. And the amazing thing is that so many confused Americans have been suckered in by a rich fat cat like Donald Trump, whose gaming of the system is one of the main reasons the American middle class is losing economic ground. Republicans are masters of deceit. Heck, Trump is so deceitful, he isn’t even a Republican.

LePage, bragging that he ate cat food growing up because he couldn’t afford tuna fish, complained that “we have people who succeed and get out of the poverty and then we have people that are trying to drive us back in because they don’t want us to succeed.”

That’s the Big Right Lie at work. Right-wing wackos love conspiracy theories and one of their favorites is the paranoid talk-radio insistence that liberals manufactured the 2008 collapse of the U.S. economy in order to destroy the old capitalist system and replace it with a socialist system. The fact that Wall Street vampires were able to suck the American economy dry because of a failure to regulate financial markets seems to somehow have escaped them. Go watch “The Big Short,” Big Guy.

Liberals do not hate the rich. There are plenty of well-to-do liberals. Liberals just want the most fortunate (and that’s all they are, more fortunate, not harder working or more deserving) to pay their fair share, which they are not currently doing. And I have never in my 67 years on Earth met anyone who wants to keep the poor oppressed (or admit more illegal immigrants) because they will vote Democratic.

It’s not about power, governor, it’s about economic justice. You can’t say you’re for people earning a decent living and then oppose raising the minimum wage. But of course, you were the guy who wanted to Stop Trump one week and then endorsed the Big Doofus the next, so maybe you can.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.