Note: This is a special category of people who, knowing the ravages of poverty, rise to fortune, and like many self-made people, waste no time in thinking (a) that anyone (!) can do the same; or (b) that the “losers” deserve what they get (or rather, don’t get). The empathetic imagination is sorely lacking in these individuals. They make instant common cause with other millionaires and zillionaires at the top. The idea that wealth and poverty are two sides of the same coin is alien to their narrow, mean-spirited minds. Obviously, by a large margin, they’re at home in the Republican party, which has long specialized in enemies of the people like this, but Democrats also have their share of indecents.—P. Greanville
First Posted: 03/23/11 01:17 PM Updated: 03/23/11 01:17 PM
WASHINGTON -- Governor Paul LePage (R-Maine) has sparked a fresh battle with the state’s union community, ordering a mural at the Department of Labor (DOL) taken down on the grounds that the image is biased against business owners.
On Tuesday, Maine DOL Acting Commissioner Laura Boyett sent out an e-mail saying that after some complaints from businesses, the mural would be removed. Additionally, the state would be renaming eight conference rooms, many of which commemorate former labor leaders and one honoring the first female U.S. Cabinet secretary.
“We have received feedback that the administration building is not perceived as equally receptive to both businesses and workers — primarily because of the nature of the mural in the lobby and the names of our conference rooms,” wrote Boyett in the e-mail, posted by Maine blog Dirigo Blue. “Whether or not the perception is valid is not really at issue and therefore, not open to debate. If either of our two constituencies perceives that they are not welcome in our administration building and this translates to a belief that their needs will not be heard or met by this department, then it presents a barrier to achieving our mission.”
Maine AFL-CIO President Don Berry issued a statement condemning the announcement, saying, “No matter what you name a room, no matter how many pictures you take down, the truth is that this state was built by and for working people and this move dishonors the generations of hard-working Mainers who came before us. Paul LePage cannot erase our history, and he will not silence the voice of the working class in Maine.”
The mural, pictured below (from The Portland Press-Herald), depicts various scenes from Maine’s labor history, including strikes in Lewiston and Jay:
LePage Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett told The Huffington Post the governor’s office is exploring alternative places to keep the mural, perhaps in the state museum, and believes they can move it without damaging the artwork. “We’re not going to put an ‘Open for Business’ sign in the lobby either,” she said when asked what would replace the painting. “It’s going to be neutral.”
“When you walk into our Department of Labor lobby, you see this mural, which is on several walls,” added Bennett. “There’s no getting around it. You see it, and it’s there. The administration feels it’s inappropriate for a taxpayer-funded agency to appear to be on one side or another. Clearly, the mural depicts one side. … [W]e’ve got to make sure, as a Department and as a state government, we’re representing all Maine people.
Judy Taylor, the artist behind the piece, took issue with Bennett’s statement and stressed that there was no political agenda in her work.
“My response is that it’s history, so it’s not a present-day depiction of taxpayers,” she said. “It’s episodes pulled from history. So that, to me, is a very odd argument. Anybody that would be in a Labor Department, if they went 100 years back into their history, they would find episodes that aren’t of reality today.”
The mural was erected in 2008, as The Lewiston Sun-Journal notes, after the Maine Arts Commission chose Taylor through a jury selection.
Taylor also told The Huffington Post that the reactions she has received to her art have always been “very very positive” — from both business leaders and workers alike. She noted at one point, a businessman told her he was particularly moved by the painting because it reminded him of his grandmother’s stories about working at a textile mill.
LePage has been the target of labor protests in recent weeks, after he proposed raising the retirement age for some state workers and eventually capping cost-of-living adjustments for retirees in an effort to address the state’s fiscal situation.
Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D) traveled to Wisconsin last month to show solidarity with the labor demonstratorsprotesting Governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget bill, which strips union workers of their collective bargaining rights. She explaining that “if the levees break in Madison, everyone gets flooded.”
“It is on the backs of hard working people that companies make their profits,” Russell told The Huffington Post in response the the DOL proposal. “That position deserves respect. It is not enough for conservatives to undermine the rights of workers across this country; now they are literally erasing them from the halls of history.”
List of the rooms that are up for a name change:
- Able ME Room (DOL program)
- César Chávez Room (labor leader)
- William Looney Room (politician)
- Marianne Martin Room (labor commissioner)
- Frances Perkins Room (first U.S. Labor Secretary and first female Cabinet member)
- Rose Schneiderman Room (labor leader)
- Charles Scontras Room (labor historian)
- Sarah Wilson Room
The same LePage as seen by the establishment
Ready For Business
Steven Bertoni, 12.30.10, 11:20 AM EST
Forbes Magazine dated January 17, 2011
Paul LePage went from homeless teen to Maine’s next governor.
Can he save the state’s economy, too?
Paul LePage, Maine’s Republican governor-elect, knows a thing or two about turnarounds. Homeless as a teen, LePage shined shoes and cleaned horse stables to eventually earn a college degree. As general manager of Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, he made a bundle selling cast-off items, from snow shovels to stiletto heels. After New York retailer Century 21 was damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks, his company bought its entire ash-covered inventory, letting Mainers afford to wear Prada under their parkas.
Now it’s up to LePage, a businessman and political outsider, to salvage Maine’s economy from the convoluted regulatory system, poor infrastructure and high taxes that led FORBES to rank it as the worst state for business in an October survey. It’s a big leap for the blustery LePage, who once suggested President Obama “go to hell” (he later apologized). His previous political experience was serving as mayor of heavily Democratic Waterville (pop.: 15,000), which counts 1,800-student Colby College among its largest employers.
WHILE PUSHED INTO POWER by the Tea Party and an angry rural constituency, LePage is no party ideologue. His budget team includes the Democrats’ former finance director. He also backs the reelection of Senator Olympia Snowe, a liberal Republican and Tea Party target. Why? Her late husband, Peter Snowe, might have saved his life.
“Companies have told me, show us that you are moving in a different direction and excite us and we’ll look at Maine,” LePage says. “In four years if people think I failed, they’ll send me into retirement.”
In a tale oft told on the campaign trail, LePage, 62, says that at age 11 he was beaten by his father, who gave him a 50-cent piece and instructed him to tell doctors he had tumbled down the stairs. Instead LePage, the eldest son of 18 children, took off. For the next two years he lived on the streets of Lewiston, sleeping in hallways, cars and the local brothel. “Some of those strippers were like surrogate moms,” LePage says with a laugh. At age 13 LePage was taken in by two local families and was later befriended by state legislator Peter Snowe, who promised to pay for college. LePage, a native French speaker, struggled with the SAT’s verbal section. “I didn’t break 300,” he says. LePage was accepted by Husson University after Snowe convinced the school to give him the test in French. After earning an M.B.A. from the University of Maine, LePage worked in forestry and later as a consultant before running Marden’s.
He plans to train state employees to better serve the private sector and has asked businesses to join a “red-tape” panel to soften stringent state regulations. LePage wants to cut Maine’s top income tax rate from 6.85% to 5%, plus reduce levies on cigarettes and booze by 25%. To keep retirees from fleeing to Florida, he would like to stop taxing pensions. He also hopes to replace Maine’s public health insurance plan with a market-based one. Democrats think the tax cuts could blast a billion-dollar hole in the budget, but LePage claims the gap would be filled by higher sales-tax revenues generated by increased business activity.
He should be great for Maine if he can overcome the progressives who are doing everything they can to sabotage him.
Maine’s 7.3% jobless rate beats the national average of 9.6%. Still LePage figures he can create jobs by courting more high-tech and biotech companies. In the meantime he wants to increase investment in the $4 billion lumber industry (90% of Maine is forested) to bridge the transition. He must do this while protecting the woodlands and shoreline that attract an annual $7.7 billion in tourism revenue.