The old switcheroo

Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  June 6, 2014

Republican Governor Paul LePage announced today that he’d solved all the problems associated with both the secret effort to move the Maine National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion out of state and the $1 million consultant’s report on Maine’s welfare system that featured large sections that were plagiarized.

LePage said he’s placing the National Guard in charge of ferreting out welfare fraud and asking the copy-happy consultant to develop a plan to restructure the Guard.

Under this deal, National Guard troops will be posted to all stores that accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, to make certain that poor people use them only to purchase approved products. While members of this force will be heavily armed, they’ll be instructed to use their weapons only in cases where cheaters attempt to purchase alcohol or tobacco or make campaign contributions to Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Alexander Group, the conservative consultant that cribbed its welfare report from unattributed sources (including at least one liberal think tank), will be offering suggestions on rearranging the Guard, employing uncredited material from Pentagon plans for winning the war in Afghanistan, random stuff lifted from Wikipedia, and lengthy scenes copped from the script of Apocalypse Now.

It’s possible I made up all of the aforementioned, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. If there’s a steely-eyed dude in camo carrying an assault rifle standing watch, the seedy looking slacker in the checkout line at Hannaford is a lot less likely to attempt to slip through a Bud Light suitcase.

And if the Alexander report recommends switching our engineering battalion for an infantry unit from Pennsylvania, thereby depriving Maine of a significant resource for coping with natural disasters, it’ll be much easier to reject the idea once the pundits discover that the consultant falsely claimed credit for writing The Ride of the Valkyries.

But why stop there? Flipping one incompetent LePage minion for another might work to solve a variety of heretofore insurmountable problems.

For instance, Mary Mayhew has failed miserably as commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. But Mayhew’s autocratic style seems ideally suited to the Department of Economic and Community Development. Her campaign against grifters gaming the system for food stamps and general assistance is easily transferable to one aimed at ending corporate welfare. Just think how much easier it’ll be for Mayhew’s recently beefed-up fraud unit to catch companies taking undeserved tax breaks or soaking up research and development grants that don’t produce any new jobs.

Meanwhile, at Mayhew’s old digs, it’s time for somebody who knows how to reverse the effects of decades of entangling legislation to get positive results for her most important constituents. I have no doubt that Patricia Aho, currently the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, could bring her expertise to bear on solving the entitlement morass. At DEP, Aho earned a reputation for letting developers, many of them former clients from her days as a lobbyist, run rampant over the rules. Where Mayhew was constantly thwarted by federal regulations and the US Constitution, Aho is inclined to charge ahead shouting, “Waivers? We don’t need no stinkin’ waivers.”

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