Fiction of her dreams

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  August 26, 2009

If you promise to read this column all the way to the end, I'll give you $50,000.

I'll also throw in a new Porsche. And I'll guarantee you'll lose 20 pounds without dieting or exercising. Your hair will become thicker. Your teeth will turn whiter. Your breath will be fresher. You'll be offered an executive position at a Fortune 500 company. And a movie star will ask you out on a date. (You're not obligated to accept that last prize if the movie star turns out to be one of the aliens in District 9. Or Adam Sandler.)

Before you rush to collect your winnings, however, you should know that there's one itsy-bitsy, almost insignificant catch:

I'm lying.

Even if you finish this entire essay, even if you look up all the big words you don't know the meaning of — like calumniation — that I insert here and there to improve your vocabulary and drive you dithyrambic, you still won't receive so much as a phone call from an enormous shrimp-like creature with disgusting personal hygiene ("Hi, this is Adam Sandler").

I have subjected you to this cruel trick not because I enjoy causing you distress (although that's certainly an additional benefit), but to illustrate an important point about the state budget. Which is:

When important government officials tell you the current spending plan is balanced, they are full of coprolite (don't just guess, you're supposed to look up words like that if you want that Porsche).

Take, for instance, the section of the two-year state budget passed in 2007 that called for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (motto: We Do Not Provide Welfare To Space Aliens — Except Occasionally, By Accident, When Our Computer Screws Up) to save $29 million by improving its management of health-care programs.

Anyone in his or her right mind — and even people who aren't, like legislators — could be excused for expressing a bit of skepticism. Soon after those prospective budget cuts were approved, DHHS commissioner Brenda Harvey warned in an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News that instituting them would test the limits of her awe-inspiring administrative skills.

"The complexities of this challenge are difficult to comprehend," Harvey said. "DHHS has many efforts under way to manage costs even more effectively and to assure that people receive the right service, at the right time, for the right duration and the right cost."

Shortly thereafter, state officials discovered that Harvey's previously approved proposal to turn over operation of the Elizabeth Levinson Center in Bangor, a program for severely mentally handicapped children, to a private operator in order to save $411,000 a year hadn't worked out exactly as planned. According to a story in the Bangor Daily, the first year's benefit to the state budget came to $569.40.

OK, so she was off by $410,430.60. No wonder she referred to her next round of budget cuts as a "change package." As in spare change.

Harvey seems to have learned that being too specific can get a commissioner in trouble. So when ordered to make additional reductions last year, she fudged it a little bit. She told legislators the details on those cuts "aren't soup yet."

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Movie Stars,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY AL DIAMON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   A LITTLE NIP  |  July 23, 2014
    You might not realize it, but while it’s legal to carry a gun in Maine (either openly or, with a permit, concealed), putting a flask containing an alcoholic beverage in your hip pocket is against the law.
  •   THIS IS AN OUTRAGE  |  July 16, 2014
    Politics and other mistakes
  •   BETWEEN THE DYING AND THE DEAD  |  July 11, 2014
    Being politically deceased, you’d think Steve Woods would give us a break by putting on a dark suit, lying down in a coffin, and closing his eyes.
  •   ALL THE WRONG CHOICES  |  July 07, 2014
    Reform is in the air. Olympia Snowe and the Portland Press Herald are calling for changes in the way we elect our leaders in order to restore public confidence, end gridlock, and reverse global warming. There’s a much better chance they’ll accomplish that last one than either of the other two.  
  •   INSIDE GAME  |  June 25, 2014
    The university system’s decision to add Demeritt to its roster at a salary of $125,000 a year generated criticism because it was done by ignoring normal hiring procedures and came at a time when the system is facing budget shortfalls, program cuts, and layoffs. Demeritt is going to have to hit a lot of three-pointers to make up for all that negative reaction.

 See all articles by: AL DIAMON