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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Ethan: Last week, as you’ll recall, we discussed the new poll showing that there is a lot of dissatisfaction among Maine voters over Janet Mills’ most prominent vetoes.
Phil: Barely 20 percent of voters agree with her vetoes, perhaps making her quite vulnerable in November 2022.
Ethan: Let’s debate two questions from the same poll that I didn’t release last week. The first asked if Mainers supported the $3.5 trillion budget Congress is currently debating and the second asked about a federal bill to protect the rights of workers to unionize.
Phil: For the record, same disclaimer as last week. The poll, conducted by “A rated” Survey USA, sampled 1,242 Maine voters, has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, and was paid for by Swing Hard, Turn Left, a progressive organization of which you are the president.
Ethan: Correct. We learned Maine voters overwhelmingly want Congress to spend the full $3.5 trillion to expand Medicare, reduce health care costs and fight climate change. The response was resounding: 67 percent to 21 percent.
Phil: Did your pollster explain to voters that their grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be paying the tab for all this government spending, and that the spending would likely not achieve what it is billed to achieve?
Ethan: They did not. Just the facts, as they say. A more interesting fact is that in the 2nd Congressional District, which U.S. Rep. Jared Golden represents, his constituents appear to have a very different opinion of this bill than he does. They support it by 3 to 1.
Phil: I agree with him. And I was glad to see that the strongest opposition comes from Republicans in the 2nd District. Politically speaking, Golden knows that he has to appeal to Trump supporters in his rematch against Bruce Poliquin.
Ethan: While technically true, a majority of Republicans in the 2nd District still support it. No matter your party, you likely know someone who needs help with child care or a senior who needs better health care coverage or you recognize that our planet is melting. I hope Golden understands that.
Phil: If there was an example of past government programs solving any of these I might be on board. Disappointingly, history shows that the more politicians promise ending poverty, free health care, etc., the more societal ills get worse. Let’s talk about the union bill you tested. This one asked if people wanted Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would make it a lot easier for unions to infiltrate businesses.
Ethan: And support for this bill was equally strong — 66 percent in support to 19 percent opposed. The good news is that Golden supports this one! As do U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King. Sen. Susan Collins? Not so much.
Phil: That’s because she understands the same issue I brought up when we last debated this. With unions popping up everywhere from Maine Med to the Portland Museum of Art, why do we need to make unions stronger?
Ethan: Because for every Maine Med and Museum of Art, there is an Amazon violating the rules and intimidating workers.
Phil: Which was exposed, proving that the system works.
Ethan: How important do you think this issue will be to voters?
Phil: Not as much as the budget bill. I can easily see the ads from both sides attacking whomever votes for it or whomever votes against it.
Ethan: Well, if you’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t, you might as well just give the people what they want!
Phil: Unless what they want will put your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren in the poor house.