Sacrificing everything at the altar of tax cuts

Burn it down.

That’s not a governing philosophy or an ideal. It isn’t honorable. And isn’t even practical.

But that is the approach that too many Republicans are taking with government.

In Congress, Republicans – save for a few sane voices like that of Maine Sen. Susan Collins – are willing to reduce the number of people with health insurance by between 22 million and 24 million.

They are prepared to deny coverage to older people, children and people with disabilities. And to allow health insurance premiums and deductibles to rise for people with pre-existing conditions or who live in rural areas.

They are willing to let hospitals close and cost Maine 10,000 jobs, causing damage to our state economy in line with the Great Recession.

Both the House and Senate bills destroy Medicaid as we know it, threatening health care for 263,000 Mainers, including seniors in assisted-living facilities. Six in 10 newborns in Maine receive health care thanks to Medicaid.

They would sacrifice all this for what? To give tax cuts to the very wealthiest among us.

The House and Senate bills that try to repeal the Affordable Care Act aren’t health care bills at all. They are tax cuts bills paid for by taking dollars away from health care.

The end-all-be-all is tax cuts, let the people be damned. Burn it all down as long as rich folks get more money.

In Maine, we’re heading into the Fourth of July weekend with a state government shutdown casting a long shadow over the holiday.

Gov. Paul LePage, speaking on WVOM, predicts a shutdown.

Huge crowds turned out at the State House on Tuesday to voice their displeasure with the threat of a forced government shutdown. They have every right to be angry.

A government shutdown is a failure of leadership and a failure of imagination. It’s hubris of the highest order.

Despite his efforts to pin a potential shutdown on Democrats, the truth is self-evident to anyone who is paying attention.

LePage – walking hand in hand with Republicans in the Maine House of Representatives – wants to burn it all down.

He’s willing to risk the damage to the state’s economy. He’s prepared to hurt Maine businesses and to turn away visitors to the state.

It seems like he wants to shutdown government offices and to stop providing government services. To grab the power to determine who are essential and to punish the rest. To be the one to decide what remains open and what is shuttered.

If you don’t see the value in government and the work that it does, then I suppose the idea of a shutdown doesn’t seem so bad. But we’ve seen how this will play out. The consequences of this type of failure leave a stain that lasts decades.

The fight’s the same as it is in Washington. It’s about tax cuts for the wealthy.

Last year, voters passed a citizens’ initiative to place a 3 percent surcharge on income above $200,000 a year to pay for increased funding for education.

That’s the law today.

The governor, his House comrades toeing the line, is willing to shut it all down to repeal that tax surcharge. If government shuts down, the blame rests squarely with the governor and his lock-steppers.

If the goal in Washington is to improve health care delivery and reduce costs for people, there’s a deal to be had. There’s actually good data on what works to expand access to health insurance and to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Maine’s two Senators – Collins and Sen. Angus King – are primed to lead a discussion about how to improve our system.

And there’s a deal to be had around the Maine budget. Democrats have already indicated that they are willing to negotiate, even at the risk of alienating some of the voters in their base.

But there can be no negotiations without good faith.

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lies about the basics of the Senate tax cut bill or when LePage attacks Democrats, saying that they don’t care about small businesses or are in the pocket of special interests, there’s no opportunity for progress. Only falling backwards.

This is where we are. It’s scary, and it’s sad.

The politics of burn it all down are ascendant. Except for a few brave, lonely leaders, Republicans would sacrifice health insurance for tens of millions of people and quality, public education in Maine at the altar of tax cuts.

Our country and our state are hungry – desperate – for leaders who want to build again, who want to push us toward progress, who want to invest in our people and our places.

Instead, we’re stuck with politicians with the single-mindedness of a 4-year-old, determined to get ice cream instead of working to make lives better.

Surely, we can do better.


David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at