Here at the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Effects of Sarcasm and Derision on Political Philosophies, we’ve been conducting a comprehensive battery of tests to determine whether newly elected Maine Republicans really mean that stuff they’ve been saying about reducing the size and cost of state government.

The institute decided to engage in this investigation not because our experts have the slightest doubt that the GOP governor-elect and his cadre of soon-to-be legislators will prove every bit as unreliable as the Democrats they’ll be replacing. We did it because our research is being funded by an enormous federal grant that we’d be idiots to turn down just because it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.

For purposes of this experiment, we placed Republican Paul LePage, our incoming chief executive, and several rookie GOP senators and representatives in a closed chamber. Then, we pumped in some comments they’d made on the campaign trail.

“Entrepreneurs need to be free to grow their enterprise,” LePage shouted out on numerous occasions. In response to a newspaper questionnaire, he wrote that “the burden of punitive taxes” had blocked Maine businesspeople from the “path to prosperity.”

In his campaign brochure, Republican House member-elect Larry Dunphy of Embden promised to “reduce state spending to create real tax relief and a smaller, smarter government.”

“Maine has one of the worst tax environments in the nation,” GOP Sen.-elect Garrett Mason of Lisbon told the Lewiston Sun Journal. The state also needs to “reduce regulation on business.”

After listening to these remarks, the Republican contingent was lulled into a state of libertarian bliss. Free-market visions of unrestrained economic development (except for casinos, nude-dance clubs, porno shops, medical marijuana distribution centers, gay bars or federally financed health-care initiatives) danced in their heads.

You could almost hear the bulldozers filling vernal pools.

At this point, one of our researchers entered the chamber and asked the euphoric inhabitants a test question:

“Would you vote to end a state program that not only costs taxpayers over $12 million every two years, but also uses that money to fund a bureaucracy that performs a task that could easily be performed by the private sector?”

The test site nearly exploded from the force of the affirmative cries. “Yes, we would!” the Republicans chanted. “It’ll be our first order of business!” they sang. “March the wasteful swine to the abattoir of fiscal sanity,” they chortled, in what will probably go down in history as one of the most difficult lines anyone has ever attempted to chortle.

“But wait,” said one grizzled GOP veteran, who’d somehow eluded our screening process and sneaked into the test group because he’d heard there’d be free food. “Before we cut this spending, shouldn’t we know what it’s for?”

The newly elected Tea Party Republicans reacted violently to this intrusion and would have pummeled the old guy to insensibility if the institute’s security forces hadn’t intervened. “Cut the waste,” they chanted as the intruder was dragged from the room. “Who cares what that socialist money is for,” they attempted to chant, until they realized there are some phrases that should only be chanted by those with more rhythmic skills than they possessed.

“I’ll now tell you where this $12 million in potential savings is hiding in Maine’s budget,” said our researcher, wisely moving behind a protective screen and picking up a can of pepper spray.

“It’s what the state spends to promote tourism.”

The test chamber went silent.

Then, there was an uneasy shuffling of feet and political philosophies.

“We can’t get rid of that,” said a novice legislator, who had run on a platform of placing a limit on the time people can remain on welfare of 20 minutes. “That money helps promote small businesses, like the ones that supported me in my coastal town.”

Another newbie politician, an advocate of restricting food stamp purchases to “communist foods, like tofu,“ argued that if the state didn’t pay for tourism advertising, “Restaurants, ski resorts and motels would have to cover the cost themselves. That’s not fair, particularly since their owners donated to my campaign.”

“But,” said the institute’s researcher, now ensconced in a bomb-proof isolation booth, “all of you ran on the premise that government shouldn’t meddle in private enterprise, and all that’s needed for a return to prosperity is for the business community to be left alone. Isn’t paying for spots on out-of-state TV stations to promote Maine amusement parks and ice cream stands inconsistent with that view?”

“Get him!” screamed the Republican mob. “He’s a liberal!”

At this point, the institute decided to terminate the experiment, and we slipped away to enjoy expensive three-martini lunches.

After all, the government was picking up the tab.

Regardless of my funding source, I never take a vacation from reading e-mails sent to aldiamon@herniahill.net.