“Union and co-operation in war obviously increase the power of the individual a thousand fold. Is there the shadow of a reason why they should not produce equal effects in peace; why the principle of co-operation should not give to men the same superior powers, and advantages, (and much greater) in the creation, preservation, distribution and enjoyment of wealth?”

— Robert Owen, social reformer (1771-1858)

***

With Maine’s budget signed and state government reopened, some reflections on what happened, and why.

There was so much rhetoric from both sides; my head was spinning last week, so I held off writing about it, hoping that a clearer picture would emerge. It didn’t; clear as mud is where we’re at.

With both sides claiming victory, one wonders who really won. Perhaps in this case it was the people, and a compromise did allow for a budget that leaves everyone unhappy – which can often be the sign of a good negotiation.

With both sides giving valuable ground, a deal was made and perhaps that’s all that matters. Or perhaps not.

Does it matter that the people’s initiative to tax the state’s wealthiest a 3 percent surcharge, that was to raise $300 million for education in Maine, was cast aside by the Republican majority and a governor who firmly believes that the wealthiest are already overtaxed? The fact that the budget did include $162 million more in funding for education certainly helps take some of the sting out, but why have referenda if your legislators refuse to honor the vote of the people? This was not a “tweak”; it was a downright refusal to honor the decision of the voters.

I voted for the 3 percent surcharge, but I also see the other side; as a highly taxed state for wealthy individuals, we are seeing some exodus of monies to states like Arizona and Florida, where they are more sympathetic to the wealthiest Americans. Perhaps the governor has a point that “enough is enough.”

The compromise was good, but the way it came about was not. Vitriol from both sides left an unpleasant taste in the mouths of many constituents on both sides of the aisle. LePage’s continuing taunts about the fake press, boasting that he feeds us false information to make us look bad, is childish and boorish. Whether he was going on vacation, after shutting down non-essential state workers, is material and shows contempt for all those not on “his team.”

Set up the supe- committees, let them do their jobs and broker a bipartisan budget in a timely fashion and then vote it “up” without the gamesmanship, and without a governor who threatens and bullies those who oppose him.

On the Republican side, one of our local state representatives, Paula Sutton, claimed victory for herself and her Republican allies, writing on her Facebook page; “When no one else is defending the sleeping, unsuspecting taxpayer … when no one else stands up for those that languish on the social service waitlist … when no one else is willing to stand their ground for the job-creators … when no one else demands accountability and fiscal responsibility … the House Republicans will be there, defending them … and demanding lower tax burdens … We will stand guard, well into the wee hours of the morning. We will not fail the Maine taxpayer and businesses … tonight, we did that. And we simply will not yield to public employee union bosses and special interests who own the Democratic Party and don’t give a damn how high your taxes are. And to my House Republican colleagues … I am so proud of you tonight. We, alone, have the courage and determination to do right by those who are defenseless, if not for us. I think EVERYONE now knows we are relevant …. and that the Governor matters … and any budget deal will have to satisfy us and Governor Paul LePage. Yeah, I think they get that now.”

This is an “eye of the beholder” moment; if you are with Paula, you are beating your chest. If you are against her, you’re holding your nose.

My observations come from the end of her post, which speaks volumes about where she is coming from; “We, alone, have the courage and determination to do right by those who are defenseless, if not for us. I think EVERYONE now knows that we are relevant …. and the Governor matters”. This statement seems self-righteous and more about her, and her party, than about the Maine people.

This should not be a contest that crowned a winner and a loser; it should be about a process of government that allows all voices to be heard, and a budget that balances the concerns of the left with those on the right. The middle then gets to share where the weight of their feet are as well. Coming to a consensus should be the endgame, not crowning a winner and a loser.

The governor and his cohorts don’t seem to agree with me. They don’t want to talk with, or to, their opponents, unless it is to portray them in a negative light.

The Democrats' claiming victory is equally hollow. Stepping up and getting the concessions they got does mean a lot, but it is more like doing your job, rather than winning and losing. Without a majority or a mandate, Democrats fought hard and got the most they could out of a tough situation. By the same token, Republicans did compromise and allow a pathway in and should get kudos for that.

In the end, nobody wins out most times, everyone wins out sometimes, politics wins out always. Sad.