Gov. Paul LePage’s harsh view of the world is guided by anecdote, misinformation and half-truth.
Basic, knowable information eludes him, or he can’t be bothered to get it right. He repeats information that’s incorrect over and over again.
Somehow he’s immune from math and science.
Visiting Portland Tuesday night, the governor continued an argument he’s been having with people around the state during his current roadshow.
He attacked the Legislature (without knowing how many members there are), advocated for a budget-busting tax scheme that would benefit the wealthiest at the expense of public education and working families, and basically told people fighting with drug addiction that they’re a lost cause.
Treatment, he said, doesn’t work. Narcan, a drug that can counter the effects of an overdose, doesn’t save lives, he said. It extends them. With such logic, it’s no wonder the governor fought hard to keep the life-saving medicine away from the people it could save.
And though he’s against raising the minimum wage, he wasn’t even sure what it was. He incorrectly said that the federal minimum wage is around $5. (It’s $7.25 and hasn’t been raised since 2009.)
When asked about presidential candidate Donald Trump’s racist, unconstitutional and hateful plan to bar all Muslims from entering the country, the governor took a pass and, according to the Portland Press Herald, refused to condemn the idea.
In other words, it was classic Paul LePage. Plenty of bluster, misstatements and blown facts, and enough fodder to keep columnists busy for weeks to come.
But the sideshow and the confrontation, the journey into the “belly of the beast,” as new Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling called the town hall meeting, is performance art. A show that distracts us from the details of governance.
On Wednesday morning, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Maine residents held a press conference to draw attention to a very small matter.
In June, the LePage administration working through the Department of Health and Human Services canceled a contract with a nonprofit in the state, which helps people find health insurance coverage.
The contract, which uses no state dollars, receives federal funding as a match for privately raised dollars.
Under the contract, Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care helps families navigate the complex health insurance system. In many cases, the nonprofit helps low-income, working families purchase health insurance on the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act and help their children — let me repeat that, children — receive health insurance coverage through MaineCare. (I helped CAHC tell its story on Wednesday.)
By dropping the services — and having no visible plan to perform the work — the department is violating state and federal law.
The intricacies of MaineCare regulations and “ombudsman services” will never capture the headlines like the table-pounding show that the governor puts on.
But the impact on the lives of Maine people is real and potentially tragic.
Children who are eligible for MaineCare can slip through the system. Working parents who could find affordable health insurance on the ACA exchange are left without it, and the state saves exactly zero dollars.
In fact, we know that families without health insurance actually end up costing the state more money in uncompensated care, lost work productivity and poorer health outcomes.
Perhaps the governor views health insurance the same way he views Narcan: It just extends life.
In Kennebec County, the governor is ignoring the law and puts at risk the ability of county government to function.
In September, Kennebec County Commissioner Beverly Daggett passed away. By law, the governor is required to appoint a replacement from a list of nominees submitted by the county committee of the party that held the seat, in this case the county’s Democratic Committee.
As the Kennebec Journal reported this week, the nominations were sent to the governor in October. The governor has refused to name a replacement for Daggett and his refusal to follow the law has jeopardized the commission’s ability to function. Its November meeting was canceled because there wasn’t a quorum.
How many other times have things like this happened and nobody’s noticed or has been too afraid to speak out? What important work is going undone in public health, education, transportation or any other state agency? What other laws are being ignored?
The big fights over bonding for conservation, taxes and the governor’s blackmail of a school for at-risk youth to punish a political appointment are heavily covered and thoroughly scrutinized.
But it’s clear that they’re just a small part of the way this administration is ignoring the will of the voters and the law.