February 15, 2011

DEM YANKEES:

Downeast Is Red: The revival of the Maine GOP. (CONRAD KIECHEL, 2/07/11, Weekly Standard)

Sixty years ago, Maine and New Hampshire shared more than a border and their Yankee heritage. Their per-capita income was similar, and so was state government spending as a share of the state’s economy. But, starting with Maine’s decision to impose a sales tax in 1951, two roads diverged in a fiscal wood. In the decades since, the Granite State has not imposed a personal income or sales tax, while Maine has taken the road of higher taxes and greater regulation. And that has made all the difference for the two states’ economies.

By 2009, the share of personal income that Maine residents receive from all government sources was over 36 percent; for New Hampshire, the figure was only 24 percent. As Tarren Bragdon, the baby-faced CEO of the free-market Maine Heritage Policy Center, explains, “Every time there was an opportunity to choose between self-sufficiency and dependence, the state chose dependence. And at the same time you had an increasing social safety net, you had increased hostility toward small business and entrepreneurs.”

The results include: no private job growth in a decade, a ranking by Forbes as America’s least business-friendly state, and an increase in welfare dependence such that nearly one of three Mainers receives some form of government assistance. As newly inaugurated governor Paul Le-Page sums up the preconditions for the GOP victory: “High taxes, unreasonable regulation, high unemployment .  .  . and the stars were aligned.” [...]

On Election Day, voters gave Le-Page a decisive 38.3 percent of the vote, Republicans took the senate 20 to 14 with 1 independent, and​—​in a surprise to everyone but Webster​—​took the house 78 to 72 with 1 independent. Amy Volk won her seat, one of a handful of freshmen who were new to politics. They prevailed despite being considerably outspent by special interest groups. (The biggest Democratic donor in Maine is a hedge fund manager from the northwoods of Greenwich, Connecticut.) Maine Republicans seemed to triumph as the party of the working people.

Yet there is little triumphalism among the victors. Maine’s new political leaders are starting their jobs with Yankee practicality and what Le-Page calls “everyday common sense.”


Welcome back to New England.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 15, 2011 5:28 AM
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