Let’s Hear It for the Working Class

[I’ve tried to refrain from politics on this blog. For the most part, I’ve stayed true to that end. However, sometimes something occurs that makes it impossible to remain silent. In fact, I’ve had to hold my tongue over and over since Paul LePage was elected governor. Yesterday was the final straw for me, when the governor made a comment so crude and offensive, and well beyond the pale of civil discourse, while attacking another elected official that I decided I had to weigh-in on the matter.–jb]

Standing with Troy Jackson, a logger, and a champion for Maine's working class.

Standing with Troy Jackson, a logger, and a champion for Maine’s working class.

I don’t know Troy Jackson personally. I had the good fortune to meet his son back in March, a young man who left the region and state like many of Maine’s best and brightest, but realized at some point that he had Aroostook County in his blood and came back to see what he might do to turn the tide and make a difference in rural Maine. I’m guessing the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

I watched an impressive video of a speech that Jackson delivered in 2012 at the Democratic State Convention. Listening to him make the case for Maine’s working people, as well as workers everywhere,  made me consider how much the two of us had in common, politically. Like Governor LePage, Troy Jackson is a plain-spoken man, who makes his points directly to his constituents. That’s probably where the similarities end.

I’ve always carried a working class chip around with me. It’s in my blood and has a lot to do with how I came up and the place where my roots are firmly planted.

Talking about the working class today causes confusion because working people no longer carry the same cred that they once did. Yes, politicians left and right love to champion working class people when they want votes, but as soon as the votes are counted and the election is settled, both parties by-and-large go right back to cutting deals for the bosses and business.

Interestingly, prior to yesterday’s Maine news cycle, when Vaseline was trending across every social media platform, I had just read the latest Baffler feature by Thomas Frank at lunchtime, on the idea of the capital strike—which in the 1930s was characterized by business tycoons like Henry Ford and others withholding capital in an effort to take down President Roosevelt—and how today’s business class demands total allegiance and acquiescence to every whim of the business class. Take for instance the way that sports franchise owners demand tax concessions on having stadiums built and if the municipality balks, they threaten to go elsewhere.

State after state is engaged in this race to the bottom to eliminate taxes on business, in order to lure business to their state from elsewhere.  Never do we hear about the rights of workers, or the importance of propping up the middle class (except at election time).

Paul LePage doesn’t care about Maine workers, or Maine families for that matter. If you think he does, then you’ve been duped and deluded by your allegiance to party, or some other ideology that works against the interests of 99 percent of us.

His current veto of the state budget is an example of shifting Maine’s tax burden to those of us that are workers. By suspending revenue sharing, property taxes go up and people like my wife and I will end up seeing our tax burden rise significantly, while people with two more zeros added to their yearly income will see a reduction. Our roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure are crumbling. Yet, we have a governor so wedded to a narrow and faulty ideology that he can’t compromise, or do anything that benefits the majority, and then falsely insists that it benefits all of us. Sadly, far too many Mainers buy his BS.

There are very few Democrats left like Troy Jackson, when at one time, to be a Democrat meant that you stood for workers and the rights of workers. Today’s Democrats, President Obama being a prime example, make Nixon seem like he was a liberal.

It’s interesting how once again, when Governor LePage doesn’t get his way, or gets push back from someone in the opposition (and thank God there are still some legislators in Augusta who oppose the governor’s attempt to take Maine back to the days of tar paper shacks and rivers so polluted they caught on fire), he pitches a fit and looks like his head’s going to explode, and then acts in a manner that very few of us could and still keep our jobs.

Why does Paul LePage hate Maine's workers?

Why does Paul LePage hate Maine’s workers?

Not only was yesterday’s Vaseline comment coarse, crude, and just plain obscene, he also had to go a step further and demean loggers, an iconic occupation that captures life in rural Maine as well as any. To equate being a logger with having a low IQ shows just what the governor thinks about the working class. Of course, he’s been doing this since he was elected, and actually long before it. Just do a little research on the man, like I have. Have you already forgotten the labor mural debacle?  I hope you’ve taken the time to view it in person at the Maine State Library. It celebrates Maine’s workers of all stripes and occupations, which our esteemed governor found offensive and had taken down and stuffed in a closet for months.

Who is this man that Rachel Maddow spent 20 minutes eviscerating last night, on national television, telling the rest of the country about? I’m guessing people in other states are wondering who it was that Mainers elected back in 2010 to lead the state. Who is he?

I can’t say it any better than Bill Nemitz did today in his Portland Press Herald column, which he ends this way, characterizing the man who was elected to be the leader of our state, representing all Mainers, not just the one percent:

The simple truth is that LePage is not and never will be the leader he purports to be.

He’s a thug, far more suited to the urban streets he once roamed than the halls of government he now disgraces.

 He’s also a coward. Rather than even attempt to do the difficult job that a minority of Mainers elected him to do, he hides behind his ignorance and, when push comes to shove, shames his entire state with an off-the-cuff obscenity.

 Not politically correct, Governor? How about, “I’m truly sorry. I forgot there are children out there who might hear me. Please accept my deepest apology.”

Then, for once in your life, shut up.

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