Thursday, March 24, 2011

Maine's Teabagger Governor Paul LePage Is Feeling Left Out-- So He Tries Another Embarrassing Stunt


Many voters are feeling a great deal of buyers' remorse for having elected some very extremist and anti-family Republican governors and state legislatures. Others are realizing that they made a mistake by staying away from the polls because they were disappointed in Democrats who looked almost as bad as the GOP. "Almost as bad" has turned into a yawning chasm.
[J]ust months after election day, three new Midwestern governors-- Wisconsin's Scott Walker (R), Ohio's John Kasich (R), and Michigan's Rick Snyder (R)-- have seen their approval ratings fall to the point that polls show them losing hypothetical do-over elections with the candidates they beat last year.

And even Republicans in Florida are worried that Rick Scott is more a one man wrecking crew of Florida's future than an actual governor. Chris Christie is getting a second look-- and they're not happy about how things are turning out with their nihilistic new governor.

Tucked all the way in the extreme northeast corner, jutting oddly into Canada, Maine isn't usually in the national spotlight. But the state suffered from the same unfocused anger and paranoia that the rest of the country did in November-- with Democrats and left-leaning independents leaving the field open for stirred up, if clueless, teabaggers. In Maine's case they elected one of their own, Paul LePage, governor (with 38% in a 3-way race) as well as a completely Republican-dominated state legislature. LePage has been stumbling along blindly since then, more a laughing stock than the kind of actual existential menace that characters like Walker, Kasich, Scott, Christie and Snyder have turned into. Yesterday LePage attempted to thrust himself into the national spotlight in a typically symbolic way. He ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting Maine's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor.

Worker advocates described the move as a "mean-spirited" provocation amid the administration's high-tension standoff with unions.

Acting labor chief Laura Boyett emailed staff Tuesday about the mural's pending removal, as well as another administration directive to rename several department conference rooms that carry the names of pro-labor icons such as Cesar Chavez.

According to LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt, the administration felt the mural and the conference room monikers showed "one-sided decor" not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals.

"The message from state agencies needs to be balanced," said Demeritt, adding that the mural had sparked complaints from "some business owners" who complained it was hostile to business.

Demeritt declined to name the businesses.

The mural was erected in 2008 following a jury selection by the Maine Arts Commission and a $60,000 federal grant. Judy Taylor, the artist from Seal Cove, said Tuesday that her piece was never meant to be political, simply a depiction of Maine's labor history.

The 11-panel piece depicts several moments, including the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, "Rosie the Riveter" at Bath Iron Works, and the paper mill workers' strike of 1986 in Jay.

According to Taylor, the idea for the panels came from Charley Scontras, a labor historian at the University of Maine.

Taylor said the administration's decision to remove the mural was "terrible." She said her 2007 selection by the Maine Arts Commission was the "commission of a lifetime."
Taylor said she'd never heard that her mural painted an unflattering picture of business.

"There was never any intention to be pro-labor or anti-labor," she said. "It was a pure depiction of the facts."

...Mike Tipping, a spokesman for the Maine People's Alliance, a progressive organization, said LePage had been "elected to create jobs, not to be the state's interior decorator."

"The LePage administration is going after Maine workers on a bunch of different fronts," Tipping said. "I guess 'Rosie the Riveter' is just another casualty."

LePage's budget proposes cuts in retirement benefits for unionized state workers and teachers and LePage is working on proposals to limit the ability of unions to be an effective force for the rights of working families. His plan will gut pensions for thousands of middle class families while preserving his own $26,000 per year pension. Worse yet, he wants to use the "savings" he taking from working people not to fix infrastructure or strengthen education but to spend over $200 million of taxcuts for a small handful of the state's wealthiest families, expanding the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million.

Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, reminded people yesterday that it's not only public workers who will shoulder the cost of this $203 million tax giveaway to the rich. All working families will suffer. To fund these huge tax breaks for the wealthy, LePage's budget will:

• Cut property tax relief programs for 150,000 families 

• Slash prescription drug benefits for low-income seniors

• Freeze health insurance programs for working families

There is nothing "shared" about this kind of sacrifice, unless it is working Mainers sharing the cost of having Paul LePage as governor.

Maine Democrats, however, continue to pursue common sense legislation that benefits working families and our economic climate. Democrats in the Statehouse have submitted:

• LD 457, An Act to Provide a Liveable Wage for Maine Families, sponsored by Rep. Michael Carey, will adjust Maine's minimum wage to inflation every year.

• LD 686, An Act to Promote Small Business in Maine, sponsored by Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, will give a property tax exemption to small business owners for the first $75,000 worth of qualifying business equipment.  

• LD 695, An Act to Reduce Taxes and Promote Employment, sponsored by Rep. Elsie Flemmings, will increase the state earned income tax credit from 5% to 10% of the federal credit and make it refundable.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Maine Legislature have wasted their time and energy on nonsense ideological issues like putting chemicals back into children's toys, stripping away same day registration for voters, and repealing the Maine Clean Elections Act.

LePage is following the same garden variety GOP battle plan that Snyder, Walker, Kasich, Christie, Scott and the rest are using-- and which was laid out yesterday by author Amy Dean laid out at HuffPo yesterday:
The right-wing's strategy is to blame complex economic problems on one of three scapegoats: teachers, immigrants, or government employees. The tactic of scapegoating consistently reappears throughout the history of politics for a reason. It offers politicians an easy way out. Instead of having to come up with real substance for their political agendas, they can tell a simple story with a simple villain. At a time when the country is in grave distress, they can pick out a select group and blame all of our problems on them.

While this strategy has become popular in many Republican statehouses, it is more ridiculous today than ever. The economic problems we face are complex ones. We live in a global economy, where national boundaries that previously shielded our industries have been eliminated and markets are affected by economic decisions made throughout the world. Yet, amid this complexity, conservative leaders insist that things are plain: teachers, immigrants, and government employees are at fault for our woes.

Hiding behind this absurd premise, the right-wing has launched a sneak attack. They are attempting to rush through different statehouses a set of laws that have nothing to do with creating jobs or strengthening the economy. Rather, the laws are about undermining the ability of groups to organize collectively and exercise political influence at the polls. Teachers and government employees, in particular, have been selected because they are some of the last organized voices that oppose an unchecked corporate agenda. They have been strategically targeted because they represent the last vestiges of middle class America.

Will it work in Maine? Well, keep in mind that last November LePage wound up with 218,065 votes, while progressive independent Eliot Cutler took 208,270 and Democrat Libby Mitchell took 109,387. The two Democratic incumbents, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud got 316,156 votes between them, far more than LePage who is looking like the surest one-termer in the country-- since you can't count Walker, since he's likely to be recalled after one year.

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At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story reminds me of a passage in Curt Gentry's book "The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California" published in 1968. He recounts a story about a small central California town putting up a plaque to honor prostitutes. It seems that it was an old mining town, and along with that comes all the reasons that the men stayed around after the gold dried up. The women. Yes many of them were originally prostitutes. I know someone whose great, great grandmother was one of these women, except her decendants like to call her a 'French laundress.' But I digress, anyway it seems that some of the townfolk protested vehemately, while others were proud of the town's history. After investigating the big bruhaha, they found that the complainers were transplants from other states and totally unfamiliar with the true history of the Gold Rush and the town's founders...a bunch of drunkin miners and their whores. Something the native Californians were proud of, but not those Christian transplants. I guess what I'm trying to say is the problem with some of today's "politicians" is that they are lazy and deceiptive. If they don't know, or like the history, they just make one up, resulting in insults to many people in their way.

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous #1. You certainly have a way with words. Is it any wonder that we can't make progress with political debates???

At 6:06 AM, Blogger Criss said...

For all you anti-union people: I wish that you could go back to the day when steel workers, miners and such had to work in unsafe, horrible working conditions, were payed in "clacker" (company tokens) which they spent at the company store and lived in company housing. You had no chance of moving up until they organized and picketed their places of work.

Working for a non-union company, where you have no security whatsoever, are paid low wages, treated like dirt and if you say anything about it, they tell you to leave (WALMART)

I wish our government workers had the same pay as a Walmart worker as well as the same benefits like 1, 2 and later 3 weeks vacation per year. If you are sick you are not paid for the first day, regardless of how many sick hours you have accumulated.

If you people worked in such conditions, you would change your tune. And don't say well, if you don't like it, get a government job. Isn't that called communism when everyone works for the state?


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