Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Paul Ryan's Smirk or Scowl

In a few short hours, millions of Americans will be subjected to Paul Ryan's supposed "poker face". The only real question is: will he be smirking, or scowling? As Speaker of the House, Ryan will be seated next to Vice President Biden and behind President Obama as he delivers his final State of the Union address. Ryan’s dark suit will undoubtedly be festooned with his usual American flag pin. Unfortunately, Ryan is unable to grasp or appreciate the incredible strength in the diversity of our nation, so the pin is quite meaningless. If he truly understood, then there’d be no excuse for either his voting record, or for what I’m convinced is the racist manner in which he, Mitch McConnell, and countless other Republican “luminaries” in Congress have consistently interacted with President Obama throughout his two terms. Frankly, their behavior has been so blatant I’m shocked that the word “uppity” hasn’t escaped their lips. Ryan’s disdain of the President has long been palpable, but it’s hardly surprising.
Ryan, who is actually considered a “policy wonk” by some, demonstrated his racist proclivities this past year when he linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work”. Rep. Barbara Lee of California immediately (and quite correctly) took him to the proverbial woodshed. Noting his use of “inner city” as code for “black”, Rep. Lee pegged it as a racist attack.
Ryan is a part of the mindset that would find such statements/views acceptable. Today, nine out of ten Republican supporters are white; and 98% of elected Republican officials are white. Ryan continues to fly in the face of diversity. It’s ironic, then, that he actually held a poverty “forum” in South Carolina last week. Given the fact that Ryan has voted against raising the minimum wage ten times since coming to the Congress, and that he envisions one of the “solutions” to poverty as being slashing proven/effective Federal anti-poverty programs and putting them in the hands of the states, it’s hard to take him seriously. Unfortunately, he’s just so dangerous…
As he glowers or glares behind the President this evening, consider the respective messages each man represents. I’m certain President Obama’s will accentuate the positive, while Ryan will embody the party of opposition-with-no-plan. Ryan will undoubtedly make every effort to ensure his flag lapel is in full view, but Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine (a band Ryan claimed to be a big fan of) summarized it best several years ago when he called Ryan out for “his rage against women, immigrants, workers, the poor, gays, and the environment”. We’d all best beware of Paul Ryan, smirk or scowl.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A New Year, The Same Old Governor

While we would normally look to the start of a new year with the hope that better times lie ahead, unfortunately Paul LePage remains our governor, so we the citizens of Maine have learned to expect nothing but more of the same.
In what was likely a foreshadowing of things to come, a memorial service was held in front of the Christmas tree in Monument Square on December 21st to acknowledge and offer respect to the 43 homeless people who died in Portland this past year. Yet as the number of these deaths continues to climb, LePage and his notorious aide-de-camp Mary Mayhew (director of Maine’s Dept. of Health and Human Services) offer little in the way of compassion. Instead, they made it clear this past year that they were intent on cutting state funding to the city’s homeless shelters. To quote Randy Newman, “human kindness is overflowing”. LePage and Mayhew would undoubtedly point to Maine’s heroin epidemic as a factor in the number of deaths, and there is likely some correlation. But the LePage “solution” to this problem focuses exclusively on hiring more law enforcement, and on whatever “remedies” are engineered by prosecutors and judges. It should be noted that in 2013 LePage vetoed a bill to make Narcan—a potentially life-saving drug for overdose victims—more widely available, claiming it provided “an excuse to stay addicted”. Furthermore, the LePage administration has done nothing but observe from the sidelines as several drug addiction treatment centers have been forced to close their doors; as the state opted not to pursue a pool of $3 million in federal aid available to states to improve services and increase medication-assisted treatment. God forbid the state should seek federal aid, even in times of crisis!
This anti-federal government posturing is made even clearer when we hear LePage promise to veto a proposal by two courageous Republican State Senators, Tom Saviello and Roger Katz, who are seeking to expand Maine’s Medicaid eligibility. They’re hoping to gain access to federal funding that could be put to good use in Maine’s battle against the out-of-control heroin epidemic. Of course, what Saviello and Katz are actually perceived as supporting by LePage (and like-minded fanatics) is an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, more ominously known as “Obamacare”. Never mind the fact that by expanding Medicaid as allowed by the AFC some 60,000 additional people could be added to the state’s Medicaid rolls. Translation: they’d gain access to health insurance. However, these are not the sort of people LePage or Mayhew are interested in serving. Their opposition to raising Maine’s preposterously low minimum wage ($7.50) to anything even approaching a livable wage, along with recent revelations regarding the mismanagement of Maine’s Food Stamp program (Maine’s SNAP program is the most poorly administered in the nation, ranking dead last) and service delays that effectively punish those in need of food assistance makes their priorities all too clear.
It’s a new year, but we’re unfortunately stuck with the same old Governor.
Postscript: It's apparently going to be a very long long year as well. As I finished this post I discovered the Governor had once again embarrassed himself--and the state--with a racist comment. The man truly has no shame.