A Letter I Sent to My Local Paper

[Newspaper Fail]

To the Editor:

An article on the front page of the Sunday, July 31 edition of Foster's Daily Democrat about Maine's government-run health services was not news, but a thinly disguised advocacy piece. The subheadline: "Maine's social services praised as far better than Granite State's". And in case we didn't get the point, the closing paragraph quoted a Maine resident: "New Hampshire should follow Maine, because the services are great."

Before New Hampshire decides to "follow" Maine, we should consider a few additional facts, none of which your article even hints at:

  1. According to the most recent report from the Tax Foundation, Maine's tax burden (as a percentage of income) is 10.9%, ninth-highest in the country. In contrast, New Hampshire's tax burden, at 8.0%, puts us in 44th place.

  2. Maine's tax bite comes out of a significantly smaller pie: according to Census Bureau data, Maine's median household income is $46,581, which puts it in 36th place. New Hampshire's median household income is $63,731, good for 7th place.

  3. Also according to the Census Bureau, Maine's poverty rate is 12.3%, 26th highest in the nation (and highest in New England). New Hampshire's poverty rate is 7.6%, which is the lowest in the US.

  4. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Maine with a 7.8% unemployment rate, compared with New Hampshire's 4.9%.

  5. Maine's health programs don't translate into significantly better health outcomes, at least compared to New Hampshire. According to the Kaiser Foundation, Maine's infant mortality rate and its adult obesity rate are higher than New Hampshire's; Maine's life expectancy is lower, as is its childhood immunization rate.

It hasn't always been like this. In a column written last year, Amity Shlaes recounted that at the end of World War II, Maine and New Hampshire had about the same per capita income; Maine's economy and population were bigger than New Hampshire's. Their paths diverged as Maine chose to embark on a high-tax, big government path.

That's their choice, and their business. But the evidence indicates that it's an expensive path to follow, hurts the state's overall prosperity, and is ineffective in moving people out of poverty, or improving their health. New Hampshire might decide to "follow" Maine, but people deserve to know the full story before they make that call; Foster's failed to tell it.


Paul A. Sand
Rollinsford, NH

The Phony Campaign

2011-07-31 Update

[phony baloney]

President Obama increases his phony lead this week, while Mitt, Michele, and Sarah are in a tight battle for second place:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 6,850,000 +210,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 4,910,000 0
"Michele Bachmann" phony 4,870,000 +180,000
"Sarah Palin" phony 4,480,000 +190,000
"Rick Perry" phony 2,000,000 -100,000
"Tim Pawlenty" phony 1,590,000 +70,000
"Jon Huntsman" phony 983,000 -27,000

  • Although we concentrate on the presidential race here, David Friedman makes a point about the essential phoniness of the debt ceiling debate, too insightful and timely to avoid quoting:

    It is an entertaining example of the game of Chicken as played by politicians but of limited importance otherwise, since both sides are focused not on how to deal with the long term debt problem but on the terms on which they will agree to postpone dealing with it.

  • The phoniness of the debate is magnified by the phoniness of the participants. Rand Simberg quotes a Hot Air comment, which was in response to Senator Bernie Sanders' wish that President Obama had some effective intra-party opposition.

    Obama is a bland take-no-chances-unless-other-people-are-doing-the-hard-work type of guy. He's not a leader, but just a vessel through which the left thought they could get all their pet projects passed, by endowing Obama with Absolute Moral Authority by virtue of his historic position.

    But to get elected, Obama had to have a bland, beta-male personality, and that's what's driving the left crazy. People like Bernie knew Obama was lying to swing voters in 2008 about being a moderate; they just thought he was also lying to them about being a beta male. Now that he's got push back from House Republicans on his and the left's pet issues, he doesn't have the stomach to either take on the GOP ideologically by presenting a plan of his own, or to tell his own side to pound sand and move towards a compromise deal the way Clinton did on welfare reform.

    Shorter: "They thought he was phony, but not phony in that particular way."

  • I was hopeful about this Washington Examiner article's headline:

    GOP contenders deride 'phony' debt ceiling crisis

    But alas, although 'phony' is inside quotes, no actual candidate is quoted using the word. (Isn't there some kind of journalistic rule about not putting things inside quote marks unless somebody has actually said them?)

    But the article's author is kind of put out with the candidates' unwillingness to stake out any position that might irk us Tea Partiers:

    When pressured to take a position on the default debate, Republican contenders have opted to embrace Tea Party views or remain quiet on the issue altogether.

  • Mitt Romney, according to the Columbus Post-Dispatch, is following both a keep-quiet and embrace-tea-party strategies:

    Appearing before about 200 people at Screen Machine Industries yesterday, Romney did not mention the swirling [debt ceiling] controversy in his 20-minute speech and only fleetingly stated his position after being cornered by reporters.

    "My position is very clear, which is, I favor a 'cut, cap and balance' program for federal spending," Romney said, ignoring follow-up questions.

    His stance apparently comports with a bill favored by the tea party and passed last week by the GOP-controlled House - and killed by the Democratic-dominated Senate - that would require Congress to cut spending, cap future spending, and approve a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

    Jen Rubin found Mitt to be "the closest of the Republican presidential contenders to sounding sane." That's kind of faint praise, but I'm sure Romney appreciates it.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:28 PM EST