Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Dean Scontras of Eliot is making his second attempt to be Maine's U.S. representative from the 1st District.
In 2008, he ran in the Republican primary against Charlie Summers, a former aide to Sen. Olympia Snowe, and lost – as did Summers, who was defeated by a former Maine Senate majority leader and head of Common Cause, Chellie Pingree.
Now, Pingree is nearing the end of her first term, a time when the conventional political wisdom says incumbents are most vulnerable. Scontras, who was unchallenged in the Republican primary this spring, is out to prove that adage correct.
He deserves to do so. While it is possible to list a number of reasons Pingree might deserve a second term in office, there is a substantial one, outweighing all the others, that says she shouldn't.
That is the economy. Scontras' emphasis on fiscal restraint and the absolute necessity to get spending under control without raising the tax burden on any group of Americans is the right answer to the very serious fiscal problems this nation faces.
Those problems result from fiscal policies undertaken by both the present administration and its predecessor, and the finger-pointing now going on both in Maine and nationally is beside the point. We are where we are, and we have to pick people to represent us who have the best shot at doing something effective and useful about it.
In this race, at this time, that person is Dean Scontras.
Scontras, who is married and the father of two children, grew up in Kittery as the youngest of seven children and the grandson of Greek immigrants. He worked in Washington in sales and marketing in the high-tech field before moving back in 2005 to be head of business development for an alternative energy firm in Cape Neddick.
Still, while he considers environmental issues important, he does not favor the cap-and-trade carbon emissions restriction bill that passed the House and is pending in the Senate. He thinks it is too harsh on business in the current economy and is concerned that the costs of proposed programs exceed the benefits they may bring.
He also favors replacing the sweeping new health care law with more modest reforms that would make financing and delivering care more efficient.
His opponent remains committed to high levels of federal spending as a remedy for our problems. Faced with the fact that trillion-dollar spending programs haven't touched an unemployment rate now topping 10 percent, she says the flaw in the current policy is that it does not spend enough.
In addition, while she supports continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, she somewhat illogically favors abolishing them for families making more than $250,000, which includes many small and medium-sized businesses that report their owners' income on 1040 forms. Scontras recognizes the error in that, and has pledged to keep income flowing to job-producing businesses.
He strongly supports simplifying the nation's tax system, and suggested that a "flat tax" imposing the same percentage of taxation across all income levels is worth exploring. More problematic is his continued support for the "fair tax" idea, a national sales tax of 23 percent.
Backers say that such a tax would raise most of its revenue from higher-income groups because they spend more than lower-income people do. The rich can shelter their income in tax-favored investments, but they can't hide what they buy.
The idea is untried, and a 23 percent sales tax on top of state sales taxes could yield an effective rate near 30 percent, likely depressing purchases by low-income groups.
But Scontras is right that our tax system is too complex, and also correct in saying his opponent's ads wrongly describe the fair tax as an added level of taxation when it is intended to replace the income tax instead.
Scontras has downplayed the social issues that once were central to his campaign to focus on economic recovery. That should make him more palatable to independent voters.
He deserves to be. We endorse Dean Scontras for Maine's 1st Congressional District seat.