Two Maines, again
You could have bet the family farm that Question 2 was going to lose. The population and the wealth of the state is concentrated in southern Maine, a population far too self-centered and greedy to share any of the “goodies” with their poor neighbors to the north.
There really are two Maines. Northern Maine, the real Maine, and southern Maine, better known as northern Massachusetts, complete with all the vices and problems of “modern” living. Unfortunately it is likely to remain this way. Money talks and it speaks for, and owns, southern Maine and its politicians.
Up here in northern Maine, we may remain poor but we can hold our heads high and know that this is where the slogan “the way life should be” applies.
Experiment didn’t work
As the congressional supercommittee approaches another deadline to do something about the federal deficit and work towards a reduction in spending, I find hypocrisy with the semantics used.
At a local hospital, over 80 percent of patients have some form of government health care. The cost of health care is in the news on a regular basis. I know no one to be happy with their policy.
The cost of the war in Iraq now has a price tag over $3 trillion. The cost of Obamacare is over $2 trillion. War in Iraq is patriotism, yet Obamacare is communism, they say.
Oil drilling rights have increased on public lands in the past few years. Gas prices have driven Exxon Mobil profits up 41 percent. These profits are the good business sense of capitalism. To add a tax to their profits is considered socialism.
We are told by Congress that we should not add additional taxes to U.S. corporations, as they need money to reinvest in company growth. However, in the past months, several networks report that U.S. corporations are holding over $2 trillion dollars in cash.
We are told Social Security is going broke, yet Congress cut the Social Security deduction from our pay. Bush entered office with a budget surplus with a chance to reduce the deficit. He chose to reduce taxes. Congress continues on the same path. Our deficit continues to rise. This experiment did not work. It needs to change. Everyone needs to pay their fair share.
Fix Medicare now
As Congress works on a plan to reduce our nation’s debt this fall, a top priority must be the repeal of the sustainable growth rate, or SGR. As our legislators know well, the current Medicare physician payment formula is unstable, unequal and fails to account for the actual cost of providing medical care to seniors.
Rather than repeal the formula Congress put in place more than a decade ago, lawmakers in D.C. have continuously made temporary fixes, further piling onto our national debt. Fixing the SGR today would cost our economy $300 billion, whereas five years ago it was only a $50 billion tab. Every day that Congress fails to address this problem means a more costly tomorrow for the already ailing U.S. economy.
Ignoring this $300 billion drag on the U.S. economy would have a chilling effect on the U.S. health care system and its Medicare beneficiaries, who already face a shortage of doctors. Continuing to ignore the problem will only drive more physicians out of Medicare. Spending the money to fix this formula now will mean significant savings later.
It’s time for us to say enough budget voodoo on Medicare. The supercommittee must use honest budgeting and end short-term fixes to what is clearly a long-term problem. The health and economic well-being of our aging population — and the U.S. economy — is at stake.
Leaky gas contract
In August when I realized that Bangor Gas was not going to install gas lines on Pine Street because Pine Street has half the number of residential properties as a normal street, I cried foul and filed with the state Public Utility Commission.
The PUC’s reply was that Bangor Gas is not an exclusive utility like an electric company and any number of gas companies can go down the street and compete with each other. There was nothing the PUC could do, but I did receive a “maybe” that a gas line would be installed on Pine Street next year.
The problem is that city officials signed a contract with Bangor Gas which had too many leaks in it, and Bangor failed to oversee the construction. What can the city do to compensate all the homeowners who spent thousands of dollars to convert to gas and are stuck? Perhaps a tax reduction in the property values for a single year is in order.
For the residents on Pine Street who already converted to gas, a permanent tax assessment should be in order. How can a property owner sell his property when his next-door neighbor has an underground utility reaching his house and he does not?
The bottom line is that a house that does not have a gas utility connection is less valuable than those that do. Perhaps this house can never be sold. What person will buy a house with twice the heating costs when natural gas should have been available?
Students of the world
Nov. 14-18 is International Education Week. A joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and Education, International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of global education and student exchange worldwide.
It is also a wonderful occasion for me to personally thank the administrators, teachers and staff of Old Town High School and all of the families in the Old Town area who have welcomed exchange students this year through EF Foundation for Foreign Study.
According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “A complete education in the 21st century must teach our children about their interdependent world, and it must prepare them to be good leaders and good global citizens.”
By participating in EF Foundation’s exchange program, our schools and our host families provide an important avenue to enhance our community’s global understanding and knowledge. It helps prepare our children to embrace the diversity of today’s interconnected world.
On behalf of the students and staff of EF Foundation, our warmest thanks to all who are helping to enhance international understanding. To those interested in learning more about becoming a host family, please visit effoundation.org, or contact us at 207-827-7020.
Lynn and Jeff Dyer
International Exchange Coordinators
EF Foundation for Foreign Study