Actions speak louder than words

Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  June 11, 2014

Like me, Republican Governor Paul LePage wants to be judged by what he did, not what he said.

Or as an actual bumper sticker his re-election campaign put out reads, “Better LePage with his foot in his mouth, than a slick politician with his hands in my pocket.”

Also like me, LePage would prefer you withhold judgment on those actions that didn’t work out quite the way he planned. Or, possibly, didn’t plan.

Both LePage and I have some solid achievements to our credit. For instance, he paid off the state’s Medicaid debt to hospitals. He reduced the unfunded liability in Maine’s public employee pension system. He cut the top rate of the state’s income tax and its impact on minimum-wage workers. He’s been a tireless advocate for raising awareness of domestic violence.

As for me, I got my firewood stacked. The ankle bracelet hardly interfered.

On the other side of the ledger, LePage has had some notable failures. His refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations with legislative Democrats resulted in his virtual exclusion from the budget process. As a result, his income tax cut was offset by a hike in the sales tax. His my-way-or-the-highway approach was responsible for the death of bills he introduced to increase drug enforcement and treatment, and to aid financially strapped nursing homes. He vetoed bills he later admitted he could have supported with minor changes — amendments he failed to introduce while the measures were still in committee.

As for me, I’d like to explain the incident involving the SWAT team, but, you know, gag orders and all.

LePage has also cited his staunch opposition to Medicaid expansion in Maine as an accomplishment. While the wisdom of blocking federal funding to cover an additional 70,000 people may be debatable, here’s what’s not. The credit (or blame) for doing so goes not to the governor, who blustered to little effect, but to Republican leadership in the Legislature, which did a masterful job of twisting the arms of wavering members of their caucus (several of whom now wish they were eligible for that coverage so they could afford treatment for strained ligaments). As a result, Democrats never came close to mustering a veto-proof majority.

Me? I signed up for Medicare. Even with all the supplemental thingies, it turned out to be way cheaper than what I’d been paying for health insurance. I used the savings to restock the liquor cabinet.

And then there’s welfare (which, I hasten to note, Medicare isn’t). Most people who work for a living firmly believe that a large portion of the tax dollars spent on food stamps and general assistance is wasted or misused. The reason they think that is simple:

It’s true.

Democrats claim the opposite, citing the low incidence of convictions for fraud and abuse. But all that really means is safeguards against fraud and abuse are absurdly easy to thwart because enforcement is in the hands of the supremely incompetent Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

For LePage, the issue is, at best, a wash. He’s right that something needs to be done about the scamming. He’s wrong in almost every way he’s attempted to deal with it.

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