Note to Maine Democrats: Get on the opportunity bus instead

Alfond Bus

Photo Credit: Troy R. Bennett, BDN

Here we go again. Senate President Justin Alfond, who was born into wealth, last week put on his war paint to gin up yet another attack on those who want to protect the overburdened Maine taxpayer. This time he claims that Gov. Paul LePage has declared “war on the poor.” How? By selecting the best proposal for the Department of Health and Human Services location, saving $14 million over 20 years. Which also — gasp — combines the Department of Labor with HHS in the same building so people can get help and look for a job in one location.

By the way, Alfond’s complaint about the 40-minute bus ride was comical. Many people commute longer to their income-producing jobs, which are paying for said welfare services. And why was I reminded of Mike Dukakis in the tank when I saw the picture of this wealthy golf pro-turned-politician on that bus?

Now, while we still have 3,100 truly needy developmentally disabled and elderly Maine residents Democrats are happy to keep languishing on waiting lists, Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves are trying again to sell us (after failing in the first session) on “free” money from Washington to add tens of thousands more able-bodied people to the medical welfare rolls.

Does this money also come from what some have called Obama’s “stash?” Just asking.

What they conveniently fail to mention is that in three years (if Washington keeps its promises, ha! How long do you really think the federal government is going to cover our costs at 100 percent? You know, if you like your health plan you can keep it…), Maine will be spending $150 million more every two-year budget cycle by 2020-21.

If, by some miracle, the federal dollars came in at 100 percent, it would still cost hard-pressed Maine taxpayers $7 million annually to hire 93 new bureaucrats to administer the program in those first three years, according to DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

Medicaid medical welfare is already eating up 25 percent of Maine’s budget, at the literal expense of education, infrastructure and other necessities. In fact, our Medicaid program is the second largest (per capita) in the country, causing annual budget shortfalls.

Listen up, Maine legislators: We don’t have the money! Washington doesn’t have the money!

Albert Einstein is credited with observing that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet, after going through this little exercise in 2002, it is exactly what the Democrats want to do with more medical welfare expansion.

It’s time to take a different approach.

What Mainers really need is more of what Alfond’s grandfather did through his entrepreneurship and risk taking. We need to support capitalists who create the jobs that give people a hand up, not a hand out.

U2 front man and globe-trotting philanthropist Bono knows a bit about anti-poverty programs. Surprising even himself, the vocal foreign aid advocate recently stated at Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise Event that, “Aid is just a stop-gap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid. In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure. Entrepreneurship is the most sure way of development.”

Exhibit number one: The Alfond family, whose generational family wealth came from Harold Alfond’s founding of Dexter Shoe. Dexter Shoe prospered because of a vision, hard work, and risk taking. In other words, capitalism. Many Maine people supported themselves and their families because of the good jobs Harold Alfond created!

Yet Justin Alfond seems to think capitalism, the very thing that has afforded him the freedom to do what he wants, is bad and dependency on government is good. What are he and Eves doing to create jobs and support businesses in Maine? They shot down right-to-work, something companies considering locating in Maine consider essential.  They increased our already onerous tax burdens and have yet to really address our exorbitant energy costs, which won’t come down with boondoggle wind projects. Instead of cultivating weakness and dependency they should follow LePage’s lead and embrace entrepreneurialism as a way to address Maine’s poverty, giving all Maine citizens an opportunity to reach their potential and their dreams.

If Alfond, Eves, and other Democrats (and on the national level, U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King) really wanted to take Mainers out of the cycle of poverty, they would take to heart what Bono said: “A humbling thing was to learn the role of commerce.”

Susan Dench

About Susan Dench

Susan Dench is the founder and president of the fast-growing non-profit, non-partisan Informed Women's Network. Recognizing that many women are tired of "politics as usual," Susan decided to take action and develop strategies that are innovating the way women and politics intersect, nurturing and encouraging women in fun, energetic gatherings where views can be expressed in a supportive environment and then translated into practical solutions that produce results.