The winds of change are upon us. This week, Republican majorities are being sworn in where they haven’t existed in a while. In Maine, the Legislature has been led by the Democrats for a wicked long time, and the governor’s office has eluded the Republican Party for 16 years. Maine’s enormous size, sparse population, juxtaposition to the rest of the nation and harsh weather are certainly factors making it a difficult place within which a recovery may be launched.
With a population approximately the same as neighboring New Hampshire, Maine has about seven times the length of road to maintain and bus schoolchildren along. Expenses are higher to do the same tasks. For many reasons — and some might argue a dearth of imaginative leadership — Maine enters recessions first and comes out of them last. Even before the economic crash of 2008, Maine was already wallowing in 49th place economically — just in front of hurricane-ravaged Louisiana.
Maine needs jobs and more educational opportunities, and that will take time and investment. The age-old question, “Do you give a man a fish or teach a man to fish?” is the wrong way to look at the problems facing Maine and its people. It leaves out the correct answer to the question as though it were not an option. The correct answer is: You give people the fish they need to sustain themselves while you teach them to fish.
Because Maine’s new governor and his Republican-controlled Legislature have inherited such a mess, I am curious to see what they will do. I won’t comment except to wish them luck, and I hope that Paul LePage can work some of the magic he has worked in the other aspects of his highly successful life on the beleaguered state of Maine.
Because I’m keeping my poison pen at bay when it comes to Maine politics — in cautious expectation of positive action — I’m turning my attention to the newly elected U.S. House of Representatives. The new Republican leadership has already come off the blocks with some changes that could be just so much bravado, albeit tea party inspired.
The nation’s new representatives would like to remind each other that they aren’t sworn to defend their constituents or even the people of the U.S.; they are sworn to defend the Constitution.
And they aren’t just reading the Constitution aloud in their chamber as a ceremonial gesture that will be forgotten as soon as the book is closed. No, the new House regulations require that each member who presents legislation must first explain its validity in relation to the Constitution that they are defending. Time will tell how that regulation works for this legislative body elected because they are adept at raising obscene amounts of money from individuals and corporations that may or may not give a hoot about the blessings of liberty guaranteed by that document.
But there is one piece of legislation that actually fits the criteria and will be submitted as soon as possible after all this hokey pomp and circumstance concludes. It likely will be called HR 676. The sponsors hope that’s the number assigned because that’s the number it has been given by every Congress since 2003. The Republican representatives who have already sworn to dismantle “ObamaCare” — the nickname they’ve bestowed upon the president’s health care overhaul — should love it. You see, HR 676 does just that.
In fact, a letter issued to the bill’s supporters by the office of sponsor John Conyers of Michigan states, “H.R. 676 will repeal the new health care law’s health insurance provisions, e.g., state exchanges, Medicaid expansion, guaranteed issue and protections for pre-existing conditions, affordability credits for low-income individuals.” And it does this because HR 676 provides universal health care to all. You know like the rest of the developed world has, including all those nations where the people live longer and pay less than we do for health care.
Live longer and pay less! That’s the part of the Constitution that “promotes the general welfare,” and should please the tea party — and the rest of us — to no end.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@ hotmail.com.