Monday, March 10, 2014
Dear Governor LePage,
The streak lives! For the fourth consecutive year, Forbes Magazine has ranked Maine the worst state in the country for business.
Now, I know there are a lot of people out there (see: Maine Republicans) who don't think Forbes' latest annual smackdown of the Pine Tree State has any news value whatsoever.
In fact, since we're talking about headline grabbers here, I totally thought the talk of this weekend was going to be your promise to shave your head if state employees raise $350,000 this year for charity.
More on the Chrome Dome Challenge in a minute. First, let's take a look at what Forbes has to say about us in its latest "List of the Best States for Business."
"Maine ranks last for the fourth straight year. Not much has changed," wrote Kurt Badenhausen, the magazine's chief nattering nabob of negativism. "It is still burdened with an aging population and a weak economic forecast. Job growth projections are the worst in the U.S. and only Vermont is expected to have slower household income growth over the next five years, according to Moody's Analytics."
Only one household-income rung above Vermont? Home of that socialist (not that there's anything wrong with that) Bernie Sanders?
Honest to God, Governor, if I were you I'd put out a statement dismissing these annual "rankings" as a bunch of mindless hooey that deserve no place in a serious economic-policy discussion. I can see the headline now: "LePage to Forbes: Rank This, Pencil Pushers!"
Excuse me? No can do?
Oh right, I forgot. Had it not been for Maine's first last-place ranking in fall of 2010, there's a good chance you'd never have made it to the Blaine House.
Remember how loudly you and your Republican roosters crowed that the 2010 Forbes list, released with Election Day right around the corner, couldn't have come at a better time? How, in this era of democracy by sound bite, "worst state for business" was synonymous with "manna from conservative heaven?"
You guys were right. More than a few political scientists have posited that without Forbes, you'd have spent the last two-plus years tearing up the fairways of Florida and swearing at little old ladies in golf carts.
Then came 2011 and another last-place finish, which you attributed to high energy and welfare costs. You knew this, you assured us, because that's what Forbes said when you dispatched an aide to find out what the heck they were talking about.
That dodge worked until Forbes' Badenhausen banged out a blog that accused you of making stuff up. (You? Make stuff up? It's a wonder you didn't sic the Bearded Ladies on that pathetic little number cruncher, huh, Big Guy?)
Then came 2012 and another last-place finish, along with Badenhausen's ominous assessment that "Maine's problems run deep." (Little did he know ...)
Your stoic response to Maine's three-peat: "I am disappointed but not surprised. We will continue to be on the bottom until we make structural changes."
I know, Governor, that's code for "Cut taxes on the rich!" and "Kick those bums off welfare!" But kudos to you for keeping it civil!
And now here we are, little more than a year away from your re-election bid, and this Badenhausen jerk is back on your pant leg like a Maine coon cat in heat. "Not much has changed" indeed -- except this time, the last-place ranking might as well be tattooed to your forehead.
Your take this time around: "After four decades of liberal rule that has burdened Maine with high electricity rates, high taxes, overregulation and a hostile business climate, it's no wonder that Forbes would put our state at the bottom of the list."
Pssst ... Governor ... didn't you already cut taxes, eliminate miles of regulatory "red tape," erect all those "Certified Business-Friendly" community signs and declare war on wind power because you think it will cause a spike in electricity costs? And yet you keep digging ...
"This is just a start," you continued in your carefully worded statement. "It will take more than two-and-a-half years to reverse 40 years of economic damage inflicted by liberal politicians."
Geez, Guv, I wish you'd told us that back in 2010. That way I wouldn't have spent the last two years, eight months and 24 days (but who's counting?) waiting to see Maine's fiscal ship begin to rise from the bottom.
But enough with the excuses. Between me, you and your political adviser, Brent Littlefield, it's pretty clear all this Maine-hating by Forbes is about to become one heck of a political boomerang.
Useful as "worst state for business" was to you in knocking off Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Elliot Cutler three years ago, so will it now be a weapon in Cutler's and Democrat Mike Michaud's hands as we hurtle toward your day of reckoning a year from this November.
Say what? Enough about Forbes already?
Done. Let's talk haircuts. I don't know what impressed me more on Friday -- Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patty Aho's pledge that she'll dye her hair pink if this year's Maine State Employees' Combined Charitable Appeal tops $300,000, or your subsequent promise that you'll do her one better and shave your head should they raise $350,000.
Part of me wants to go with Aho: Call me a sentimentalist, but the specter of Maine's industry-friendly environmental watchdog bathing her own head in chemicals makes me feel tingly all over.
But the other part of me is rooting for you, Big Guy: Just over a year ago, you called Maine's state employees "corrupt." Now, straight razor in hand, you're offering them a once-in-lifetime opportunity to cast you as a meth-crazed chief executive on "Breaking Bad."
Sheer brilliance, Governor, sheer brilliance. In fact, if it all goes as planned, "Governor LePage Meets Uncle Fester" could well rank among the nation's best political stunts of Election 2014!
Quick, someone call Forbes.
Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: