Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Unkindest Cuts

As a commie pinko leftist hippie, whenever I speak of snooze-inducing moderate Governor John Baldacci, I have to borrow a quote from Marx: 

I've never liked term limits, but in his case I'll make an exception.

Is he the ideal person to get us out of this state budget crisis, since he's the one who got us into it? Early indications are not promising.

Teacher salary freezes? Seriously? The legislature would have to pass a law nullifying all the contracts in each district. The education lobby is plenty powerful enough to keep that from happening.

Baldacci knows this. And he knows that Maine teachers rank 43rd in the nation in pay. He's just setting up the teachers to look like the bad guys for trying to thwart his benevolent belt-tightening. As class sizes balloon and positions get slashed, teachers will take their share of punishment, believe me.

The proposed 10% cut to Mainecare services has been getting a lot of press, but no one is paying attention to the more troublesome proposal to limit outpatient therapy services to 18 sessions, no extensions or exceptions.

At one hour each, 18 sessions is not really long enough to fix a facial tick, let alone develop coping skills for a debilitating mental illness. Why even bother?

More importantly: counseling pays for itself. A wrist-slitting teenager who goes to counseling can save the state money by not ending up in Acadia Hospital. Every adult who goes to counseling to overcome depression or addiction saves money on law enforcement resources.

As Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion told the Bangor Daily News, "These cuts are just going to shift costs; they are not going away.”

All right, wise guy, I can hear you saying. Where should we cut, then? The money has to come from somewhere.

I say, let's raise the hell out of some taxes - particularly on wealthy tourists, whom we don't like anyway. 

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting recently detailed how Baldacci nixed tax increases on mansions and ski trips, both typically purchased by wealthy flatlanders, apparently because he has friends who work in those industries.

If that doesn't tick you off during a budget crisis, you don't have a pulse.

Why not chisel away at Martha Stewart's fortune, and maybe force John Travolta to sell one of his planes, before we go after social workers and teachers?

Anyone who fears that rich people from out of state will stop coming to Maine if we raise taxes on them does not understand how rich people think.  Higher taxes make Maine more attractive, not less.  We become more exclusive that way.

"Honey, I'm bored with touring Europe and staying in hotels where the bellhops receive their tips in combination-lock briefcases. Do we have any other vacation options?" 

"Well, the Joneses are going to Maine this year."

"Oh, I'm so jealous! Can we go, too?"

Do you really think an extra $5 per night on their hotel bill will keep a family from Massachusetts from spending a week in Bar Harbor? If so, let them eat cake in New Hampshire.

Let's squeeze every penny we can out of hotels and gas stations, along with Mountain Dew, Doritos, Land Rovers, hunting and fishing licenses, lobster dinners, and inappropriate tee shirts sold at Old Orchard Beach.

And hope Baldacci doesn't do too much more damage before the next tourist season.

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