The average Maine voter, defined for purposes of this column as someone closely resembling me, has concluded that the current legislative session has been a disaster.
Mostly for Democrats.
There’s no question Republicans have had their share of screw-ups. For instance, Governor Paul LePage’s frequent ridiculous comments. The GOP’s outdated stands on women’s issues. LePage, again. Also, a misguided effort to cut revenue sharing to cities and towns, thereby raising property taxes. Oh, and did I mention LePage?
Bad as all that’s been, it’s nothing compared to where Democrats have gone wrong.
It’s true the Dems have no buffoon-in-chief like LePage to focus negative attention. Their leaders — Senate President Justin Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves, court jester Troy Jackson — may be inept, but they don’t have the governor’s talent for attracting the spotlight. As a result, the Democrats’ most serious failings have been, in keeping with their leftist leanings, communal efforts.
Let’s start with welfare. For months, the donkey party was opposed to any law limiting those on the dole to using public money for stuff like food and medicine. Such a restriction, said the Dems, would be an insult to the integrity of the poverty stricken. Then, after a massive public backlash, Democrats decided a little restricting might be manageable — so long as there were no serious penalties for violators.
Or maybe they’d just study the issue.
While the LePage administration has documented the use of Maine-issued Electronic Benefit Transfer cards in places like Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Democratic legislators continue to claim that doesn’t prove abuse. Perhaps not, but in the real world, there are probably not more than a dozen people in the state who believe that. I’m planning to sell each of them a nice oceanfront plot in Lewiston.
For once, Mary Mayhew, LePage’s incompetent commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, got it right when she told reporters, “Maine taxpayers are outraged with their hard-earned tax dollars being used this way — and they should be.”
If Mayhew — who’s seen enough outrage over DHHS’s squandered cash, shredding scandals, and general mismanagement to recognize when voter contempt has reached dangerous levels — can grasp this concept, why can’t the Dems?
LePage’s proposal to prohibit welfare money from being used for alcohol, tobacco, bail, gambling, and transactions involving meth resonates with the average person (me, for instance) in ways that the Democrats’ whining about not vilifying the noble poor doesn’t. Someone (probably a horrified campaign consultant) called this to the Dems’ attention, resulting in a sudden “compromise” that would make it look as if Democrats supported reform, without actually accomplishing anything.
Then there’s Medicaid expansion, which the Dems have made a do-or-die issue. Let’s set aside the question of whether extending health-care benefits to 60,000 or so semi-impoverished folks by using federal funding is good public policy. Let’s just look at whether the average schlub (hi, it’s me, again) cares one way or the other. My research indicates the aforementioned individual doesn’t really give a damn, because he or she (mostly he, in this case) has his or her own problems.
Calls for more Medicaid will not, as the Dems insist, rally voters to oust hardhearted members of the GOP. In all likelihood, quite the opposite.