A Midsummer Nightmare

 

By Jonathan Reisman

August rolled in, and although the garden looks good, I cannot say the same for Maine, the Republic, or freedom.

A midsummer nightmare

The garden

Thanks to drought-defying irrigation, a cornucopia of lettuce, kale, cukes, zucchini, and green beans has poured forth. A wall of pumpkins is climbing the fence, joined by butternut squash. A fall harvest of leeks and carrots looks promising, and second plantings of snap peas and green beans should grace October. Deer tracks surround the garden fence, and squash and beans on the fence that escape through pay “deerly” for it. My wife’s retirement has led to a beautifully coiffed and weeded vegetable and flower garden.

Maine

The Revenue Forecasting committee has predicted a half-billion-dollar budget deficit. Depending on the size of undetermined federal bailouts of state and local governments (financed by printing money) and the unknown performance and sustainability of Maine’s remaining economy, that deficit could be smaller by half or twice as big. Gov. Mills has ordered departments to bring forth 10 percent across the board spending cut proposals, which will not be enough in any case. The leftist Maine Center for Economic Policy has called for taxing the rich. That also will not be enough, unless you define rich as any household with income above $75,000 and even then will somehow prevent the “rich” from decamping to New Hampshire or Florida.

If you cut state spending on K-12 education (one of the largest items in the budget), that will just send local property taxes up, especially with K-12 systems already increasing expenditures due to COVID-19 and distance learning. Federal CARES Act funds will allay most, but not all, of those costs. If you cut the subsidies to the University and Community College systems, tuition increases and layoffs are inevitable; layoffs may be unavoidable in any case given the financial hemorrhage last spring’s campus evacuations and conversion to distance learning engendered.

After all the bashing of former Gov. LePage and “heartless” Republicans, cuts to Medicaid and human services are just non-starters for Gov. Mills, Speaker Gideon, and the Democrats. I foresee a return to the bad old days of unpaid hospital (and other) debts as an extra constitutional evasion of the requirement for a balanced budget. Since it is the Democrats (again), the press will not say much if anything about it. It took eight years of fiscal discipline for LePage to fix Maine’s financial foundation and structure; it has taken Gov. Mills, Speaker Gideon and majority Democrats two years to burn it all down.

The Senate race

The latest polls show Senator Collins narrowly trailing Speaker Gideon, with perhaps 10 percent undecided. Undecideds rarely break for a four-term incumbent. Senator Collins likely leads in the 2nd CD and trails badly in the 1st. Senator Collins will try to boost turnout in the 2nd CD; Gideon will do the same in the 1st. 

Environmentalists and abortion advocates have abandoned Collins for Gideon. Gideon has embraced the Iran nuclear and Paris climate agreements, daring Collins to back President Trump’s abandonment of the same, which would be difficult given her past support. Collins should respond by demanding that any such agreements be voted on and ratified by the Senate, but it seems unlikely she will embrace that constitutional approach at this late date. 

The republic and freedom

Much can change between now and Nov. 3. The things that will not change are Trump’s personality and divisive instincts, and Biden’s’ cognitive impairment and consistent policy wrongheadedness. Half the nation is poised to reject the winner. This fall promises to be simply awful, full of lies, calumny, and fear. The Republic and freedom will be the casualties.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own.Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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