Tuesday, August 24, 2010

LePage’s Shove Off Style

Paul LePage gave us a snapshot of how he would govern and what Maine could look like under his watch at the Waterville Rotary yesterday afternoon.

According to a Morning Sentinel report LePage told his fellow Rotarians that Maine taxpayer has been "ignored and vilified" for years. Check off the “angry and divisive” box.

On welfare he touted his own experience to press for a tiered program with one happy ending being: "At the end of five years, if you still need welfare, I will personally buy a ticket to Massachusetts so they can start over." There were no shreds of understanding of the circumstances of who uses the system, what exceptions are compassionately appropriate, nor where the tier of jobs needed on the other end of his plan will come from in this extremely challenging economy. Check off the “ignore and vilify the welfare bums" box.

Regarding education LePage reiterated his support of charter schools and vouchers while recognizing that, "A lot of people in the public education system say, 'Oh, charter schools are just going to leave us the worst students.' That might be true. But at the same token, you know what you are dealing with, so fix it.” Check off the “starve and kick public schools” box.

Perhaps the most eye opening real fact to come from LePage involved his own company’s employee health care insurance participation rates:

"In 1996, 71 percent of Marden's employees took health insurance. Today, we're down to 29 percent. Why? Because the other 25 percent that the employee is responsible for is unaffordable."
This is revealing because Paul LePage became general manager of Marden's precisely in 1996. Under his leadership, company health care insurance coverage of employees fell by a whooping 42%! This smacks of a total failure to address a significant problem and at the very worst a possible purposeful plan to cut business costs on the back of employees. Marden’s obviously benefited tremendously by not needing to pay the 75% to cover the hundreds of employees that could not afford the plan according to LePage. If anything this prompts more questions about Paul LePage’s style of fiscal management. Why didn’t he create a tiered system like his welfare plan to address the problem of the 25% burden? Does Marden’s pay a living wage to begin with that allows individuals to afford health insurance? Did Paul LePage engage in the same type of shenanigans as Wal-Mart when it came to employees and health care?

Paul LePage would be the worst possible kind of governor. He believes that his own mythical story can be simply replicated by anyone regardless of circumstances and economic realities. He offers no real solutions to systemic problems or addressing long term economic concerns. He seems to view Maine as primarily a few salvage boxcars of welfare fraud and education waste that he can mark down and shove out the door to save a few bucks without consequences. For Paul LePage, it will be business as usual.

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