The Universal Notebook: The state of the governor

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Gov. Paul LePage’s 2017 State of the State address on Feb. 7 provided a great opportunity to assess the state of the governor as he heads into the home stretch of his second term.

LePage’s weight-loss surgery and subsequent loss of 50 pounds makes him look trimmer, if not healthier. And his apoplectic, red-faced fury seemed to be in check. So maybe his blood pressure is under control, even if his liberal animus isn’t. I was hoping for a kinder, gentler LePage, but, alas, no.

Oh, sure, at the very end of his over-long speech, the governor tried to make nice with Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, who he had previously charged had “no brains” and “a black heart,” but it was too little too late.

The reason LePage has been so divisive and ineffective is that he is the first governor in our lifetime who does not understand that everyone in Augusta – Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal – is sincerely trying to do what is best for Maine people. They may disagree about the best approach or solution, but they mean well.

It is hard to credit LePage with meaning well though, because he does not extend that courtesy to others. If you don’t agree with him, you’re not only wrong, you’re the enemy.

“Maine was once renowned for its rugged individualism,” said LePage. “Liberals are now trying to transform our state into a socialist utopia.”

A socialist utopia would be a wonderful thing, but, unfortunately, it only exists in the governor’s over-active, totally partisan imagination.

Conservatives tend to value self-reliance over the common good, but the new breed of conservative like LePage carry self-reliance to the extreme. They have a blame-the-victim mindset that wants to reward success and punish failure. Liberals simply want to level the playing field.

LePage clearly sees himself as a man of the people and champion of the underdog (as does our delusional president), but he simply is not. His proposed biennial budget gives big tax breaks to the rich while increasing taxes on working people and cutting social services for those in need. The LePage budget contains $65 million in cuts to anti-poverty programs that are more needed than ever because LePage and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew have already seen to it that 35,000 Mainers lost health-care coverage and 40,000 Mainers lost food stamps.

In the view of the new conservatives, helping others only weakens them. They practice tough love. And, indeed, people who are attracted to men like LePage and Donald Trump tend to be people who need a strict, authoritarian father figure to make them feel safe.

LePage had a lot to say in his address about “the opioid crisis that is ravaging our state,” blaming legislators who are focused on drug treatment rather than law enforcement for the crisis.

According to LePage, “liberals don’t care about law enforcement efforts to stop out-of-state drug dealers from selling their poison to Mainers.”

That’s not true. But what is true is LePage does not care about Mainers addicted to drugs. This is the governor, after all, who vetoed a bill to allow Naloxone, the anti-overdose drug, to be sold over the counter because it “does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

LePage also inveighed against the minimum wage increase that Maine people passed at referendum. Republicans would have us believe that a minimum wage increase would destroy the economy.

Bullpucky. The minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, peaked in 1968. Meanwhile, inflation-adjusted CEO pay has increased by 900 percent since 1978. And you wonder why I call Trump supporters suckers?

LePage, populist man of the people in his mind alone, also attacked the referendum process that allows the people to tell folks in government what they want. He accused liberals of “doing an end run around the Legislature by hijacking the citizens’ referendum process.”

In keeping with the nationwide Republican voter-suppression campaign, LePage is advocating a referendum process reform that would require citizen signatures be gathered proportionally in all 16 counties, making it difficult to impossible to get citizen initiatives on the ballot ever again. Of course, the reason Maine people increasingly resort to referenda is that the Legislature can’t get anything done because LePage can’t compromise and vetoes everything in sight.

The greatest irony of Gov. LePage’s State of the State Address is that the theme of the speech was “Do No Harm.” Paul LePage has done more harm to the state of Maine than any one man in history.

“Do no harm” coming from him sounds as hollow as his unfulfilled campaign promise to “Put people before politics.”

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

  • Chew H Bird

    What I found most disturbing about the entire speech was not the content, or whether I agreed or disagreed with what her said, but the silly antics of Democrats and Republicans and their ridiculous and farcical sitting, standing, and clapping.

    Sure it is a “tradition” but to the viewer on television it portrays our elected senators and representatives as circus clowns who do not take things seriously.

    • EdBeem

      Seems to me people were just standing and clapping for things they approved of. Nothing wrong with that. If they didn’t sit on different sides of the aisle it wouldn’t look so partisan.

  • EdBeem

    Perhaps someone ought to explain to Mr. LePage that his fundamental economic premise is completely wrong. In 2012 the non-partisan Congressional Research Service did a study of the relationship between tax rates and economic growth. Republicans in Congress suppressed the study because it says the core premise of conservatism is bogus, something many of us have known for decades. Here’s the gist of it.

    “Lowering the tax rates on the wealthy and top earners in America do not appear to have any impact on the nation’s economic growth.”

    This paragraph from the report says it all—

    “The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”

  • Moishe the Beadle

    Edgar, it is readily apparent that you are still a prisoner in “Plato’s Cave”.

    • EdBeem

      That may well but, but you would have no way of knowing. “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” Martin Luther King Jr.

  • danmaine

    Now Conservatives are the evil hate mongers not willing to compromise and demeaning others? Time to look in the mirror Ed, your desire for a Socialist Utopia that can’t exist has led you to Top Dog status of those who resort to name calling and a divisionary approach. Equal opportunity is the goal NOT equal results. Liberal programs are counterproductive and they destroy the self worth and personal drive to be productive, destory families and drive increased dependency of those you are supposedly trying to help.

  • poppypapa

    “everyone in Augusta – Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal – is
    sincerely trying to do what is best for Maine people. They may disagree
    about the best approach or solution, but they mean well.”

    If you really believe that, well, there isn’t much hope for you.

    • EdBeem

      If you don’t believe that, you are a very sad individual. I am giving Republicans I despise credit for meaning well and you can’t even imagine that anyone you disagree with could be a good person. What a pitiful, pitiful condition.

  • poppypapa

    “It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people
    against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters ” – Daniel Webster

  • EdBeem

    “Man is a special being, and if left to himself, in an isolated condition, would be one of the weakest creatures; but associated with his kind, he works wonders.” – Daniel Webster

  • EdBeem

    “Daniel Webster gained fame for his championship of a strong federal government, though he had been a rather extreme advocate of states’ rights at the beginning of his forty years in public life. As a congressman (1813-1817) from New Hampshire, he opposed the War of 1812 and hinted at nullification. As a congressman (1823-1827) and a senator (1827-1841, 1845-1850) from Massachusetts, he became a leading proponent of federal action to stimulate the economy through protective tariffs, transportation improvements, and a national bank.”