I was proud to point out in the March 25 Bangor Daily News that Olympia Snowe is leading 17 of our female U.S. senators in a resolution supporting women’s rights by asking Middle Eastern and Third World governments to include women more in the process of decision making. Strong female roles in government and the human rights values they tend to believe in are, in part, what has given Maine leadership representation in the U.S. government and American history.
Frances Perkins was a similarly minded Maine woman who was key in similar progress in the United States in the early 1900s, helping lead our government to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage for workers and limited workweek), the Wagner Act (right to establish unions and collectively bargain) and the Social Security Act of 1935. All of these helped raise quality of life for American families of all backgrounds from the oppressive levels of the late 19th century, similar to those now seen in many Middle Eastern and Third World countries ruled by the wealthy few to the detriment of the majority, and where revolts for a better standard of living are occurring.
Better quality of life for all is created by these landmark historical governmental reforms. There is an economic cost — to people, businesses and government — to creating better quality of life for all people, but it is overshadowed by the benefit to society achieved.
I agree with Olympia Snowe that we should be working to improve quality of life of people around the world and protect our global environment — to lead by example, as in our state motto: Dirigo — as Mainers proudly have in the United States over the past 100 years or more.
Gov. LePage wants to make Maine more competitive by cutting business costs by weakening or
reversing these protections, thereby allowing businesses to pay less to average Maine workers, pay less in benefits, employ more women and children for longer hours, pay less to maintain our high environmental quality, and pay less to Maine workers for retirement and compensation when injured. In that successful business owners are once again becoming the center of wealth in the United States, as opposed to middle-class workers for the past several decades, he is trying to attract wealth to Maine by catering to the former.
While I believe I understand his position, I disagree with the degree to which he feels we need to sacrifice the hard-earned standard of living for the poor and middle class. Further, it is the lack of hope of a living wage — a better life — the promise of the American dream by the mechanism of a prosperous middle class, that leads people to give up and accept poverty living off government and increases costs for government and us all.
Personally, I believe in the visions of leaders like Olympia Snowe and Frances Perkins. Maybe we need still higher levels of input from women in Maine and American government as well.
Christopher Buck of Bangor is a family physician.