Opinion

A pox on both parties’ houses

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So, I’ve been a bit hard on the new liberal regime in Augusta recently.

I’ve been giving Gov. Janet Mills and her allies in the Legislature unsolicited advice, telling them to do things that I am well aware they will never have any intention of doing. Things like controlling spending, lowering taxes and continuing to guard Maine’s fiscal health.

I’ve also derided many of their expensive, punitive policy proposals, namely the avalanche of proposed tax hikes, and hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending.

And there is so much more to take them to task for. A recently withdrawn bill to mandate the use of snow tires in the winter, a carbon tax, a $50 million bond to supposedly address sea level rise, and an insane scheme to create a public utility out of Central Maine Power’s and Emera’s transmission and distribution assets by forcing them to sell to the state, purchased with bonds.

Plenty to shake my head about. Plenty more coming.

But, the politicians of the left are not the only ones that deserve my attention. There is plenty to complain about with Republicans, too, and the higher up the food chain, the more worthy of complaint they get.

It is a hard thing for me to admit, given that a huge chunk of my own career was spent working on behalf of party committees and candidates running under the Republican banner.

But I made a decision years ago to move away from elected politics for a reason, and into the area of policy. One look at the work of the Republican Congress over the last decade should tell you why.

The Grand Old Party swept back to power in the House of Representatives in 2010, after having been deposed four years earlier. They were themselves swept back out of power in 2018.

The politicians that were trusted with representing this country were elected by a massive populist wave, which raged against what it perceived as an interventionist government, and more importantly, the national debt.

Indeed, the Tea Party wave was fueled by the spending and debt issue more than any other issue. The Republicans that swept in to office in the Red Wave of 2010 talked endlessly about it, and promised to confront it aggressively.

For promising to address spending and the debt, they — specifically Speaker John Boehner and later Speaker Paul Ryan — were rewarded with a 56-seat gain, and the speaker’s gavel.

The day the new Congress took over, our national debt was just a hair over $14 trillion.
The day that the Republican Congress celebrated its last day in power, the debt was $21.9 trillion.

In eight years of Republicans controlling the House, this country added almost $8 trillion of debt.
You can talk to me all you want about mitigating circumstances. There was a Democratic president in power for some of that period. Democrat Harry Reid was in control of the Senate for some of that period. How can they be expected to truly drive policy with only the House under their control?

I would counter that they had two years of complete control of government, from the White House to both the House and Senate, and that the Senate has been Republican since the conclusion of the 2014 midterm election.

The reality is that the party — at least nationally, I do sincerely still believe in it here in Maine — has long ago stopped being a national force for good on most of the issues most critical to this nation’s future.

And so what are we left with? One party that wants to spend and tax this country into oblivion, and another that just wants to spend it into oblivion.

If we want the trust of voters, and if we want to deserve the power we ultimately get, the people who voted for us deserve better than what we have given them.

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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