KENNEBUNKPORT — President Trump reminds me of the tannery owners in my hometown in central Maine. They came to town in limousines, parked at the drugstore corner and toured the factory. The workers they saw received low pay and worked dangerous jobs on outdated machinery. The river was polluted by chemicals, colored by dyes. The air was foul from the rotting flesh stripped from hides and thrown into the “salad bowl” tank.

In 1963, one hour before a vote to form a workers’ union for higher wages and better conditions, the tannery bosses called a meeting at the town hall and handed out new $2 bills to the workers. The town has never recovered from that history. The tannery is still there but with far fewer workers and newer automated processes.

Wealth and income inequality plagued my hometown, and it has worsened throughout the state, nation and world ever since. Neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton understands how wealth and income inequality undermines our democracy and the welfare of our citizens. If they did, they would discuss economic inequality and jobs in more explicit terms. They would point out how our economy generates nearly $20 trillion a year. If divided equally among us, each American would receive about $50,000 each year in income, goods and services.

Maine’s median household income was $51,494 in 2015. In other words, half of Maine’s households made less than that. Imagine the financial security of a family of four with an annual budget of $200,000. Imagine how Maine communities would thrive, even if each family of four obtained only half of that amount in wages, goods and services.

Like the tannery owners, Trump has a business history that suggests that he will do very little for working people. During the campaign, he often bragged of his Atlantic City investments: “The money I took out of there was incredible.” Others fared far worse, said Steven Perskie, New Jersey’s top casino regulator during Trump’s time there, recalling that Trump “put a number of local contractors and suppliers out of business.” Thousands of construction jobs were lost as his casinos failed; Trump filed for bankruptcy four times.

Maine, too, will suffer under Trump’s leadership. The Republican health care plan and Trump’s budget, if enacted, will devastate many Maine families and increase the state’s vulnerability to climate change.

Cuts in heating assistance, disability coverage, health care, legal assistance for low-income people, school nutrition programs, public education, aid to the homeless and other vital social services will hurt hundreds of thousands. Maine’s 265,000 Medicaid recipients, 37,328 Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries and 55,000 children struggling with hunger will be hit hard. As reduced incomes and subsidies affect consumer spending, local businesses and employers, Maine communities will feel an immediate impact.

Maine’s environment and natural resource industries will be imperiled. Scientific research to protect our water, air and forests and supporting development of new industries will be slashed. Federal funds for developing and protecting sea farming ventures will end. Communities will lose out on funds for storm-preparation measures that help mitigate road and property damage. Research in diseases and pests affecting forests and waterways will be impacted. Restoration of fish habitats through dam removal would lose funding.

Again, these cuts would have immediate and lasting effects on local economies as well as degrading the state’s environment and hastening climate change.

One lesson I learned growing up in a “company town”: Vast income disparity means great disparity in political power. Government always serves best those who have the greatest influence in it. Billionaires and millionaires have little incentive to “drain the swamp” created and populated by powerful corporate lobbies. Electing as president a double-talking billionaire with a limited social conscience is putting the fox in the henhouse.

Trump will make millions from his businesses and proposed tax reforms favoring the wealthiest Americans. Among his Cabinet appointees are tycoons and politicians who cheated workers, hired undocumented laborers, opposed minimum wage, chased cheap wages around the world, manipulated banking laws, degraded the environment and doubt climate change.

Economic inequality remains the driving factor in domestic politics. Mainers certainly feel this, and Trump manipulates this fact. He carves up truth and tweets anything to twist supporters to enrich himself and other wealthy Americans.

Meanwhile, Mainers are left with higher state and local taxes to cover lost federal funds, higher insurance premiums and health care costs, poorer living standards for many, and greater national debt from tax losses. Future lost opportunities in new, greener technologies and industries, moreover, will haunt Maine communities.


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