POLITICS & OTHER MISTAKES: Folly of youth

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We now know what’s to blame for the decrepit condition of Maine’s economy.

It’s not taxes, energy prices, unions, welfare or our forefathers’ lack of forethought in locating the state in a remote corner of the nation far from financial, industrial and cultural centers.

You’d think they’d have realized how difficult that was going to make it for their descendents to get high-speed Internet.

No matter. Such errors in judgment are of little consequence when compared to our real problem. Fortunately, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has identified the culprit.

On March 20, LePage was the keynote speaker at the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine’s convention in Hallowell. According to news reports, the governor said a couple of sensible things – and I write those words without the slightest hint of irony.

He reiterated his belief that wind power is driving up electricity costs in the state, both because producing energy from huge turbines on formerly pristine mountaintops is inherently inefficient, and also because of the big subsidies the developers of these projects always require.

LePage also explained why legislative term limits – forcing members of the state House and Senate to call it quits after eight consecutive years in office – have created a gridlocked Legislature filled with clunkheads with no institutional memory.

In both cases, the governor was dead right. But, as has so often happened, LePage’s brief interaction with accuracy was followed by another of his attempts to drive the train where nobody has bothered to lay any tracks.

According to the governor, the Legislature is riddled with “young people with firm agendas,” who are “hurting us in the long haul.”

I’m not one of those given to knee-jerk criticism of every ridiculous statement LePage makes. Sometimes, among the mangled syntax, muddled facts and thoughtless smears, he makes valid points that can, with the proper equipment employed by trained professionals, be extracted from the wreckage.

For all I knew, his claim about “young people” could be true. I decided to check it out.

I didn’t have to look far to find a youthful legislator who meets LePage’s criteria. A mere 25 years old this week, he has established an agenda every bit as firm as LePage’s faith in his inept commissioner of the dysfunctional Department of Health and Human Services. So committed is this fellow to his platform that his colleagues made him the youngest member of legislative leadership in the country.

His name is Alexander Willette of Mapleton, and he’s the assistant Republican leader in the Maine House.

Oddly enough, Willette – who, by virtue of being barely out of his formative years, must be “hurting us in the long haul” – agrees with LePage on virtually every major issue.

OK, maybe that’s not who the governor had in mind.

Let’s check out state Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls. This misbegotten young person has yet to see his 30th birthday, and his ratings from special interest groups have been remarkably consistent (100 percent from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 0 percent from the Maine State Employees Association), so he probably totes around one of those “firm agendas.”

Which is the same one LePage has. No surprise, since Mason is a member of the GOP’s Tea Party wing.

State Rep. Ellie Espling of New Gloucester doesn’t list her age on her website, but the second-term legislator doesn’t look old enough to remember rotary phones. Likewise, state Rep. Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, state Rep. Aaron Libby of North Waterboro, state Rep. Matthew Pouliot of Augusta, state Rep. Corey Wilson of Augusta and state Sen. Michael Thibodeau of Winterport are all on the south side of 50, and all are Republicans. In fact, Thibodeau is the GOP leader in the Senate.

It’s to LePage’s credit that he’s exposed these wet-behind-the-ears subversives before they do more damage. Of course, without them in the State House, Democrats would run rampant, but that’s a small price to pay for freeing ourselves from the “firm agendas” of adolescence and their long-term consequences.

Actually, it’s remarkable there are so many young Republicans in office, since among voters 18 to 25 years old, just 19 percent are registered in the GOP, while 33 percent signed on with the Dems. Given LePage’s attitude, I don’t imagine the Republican figure will be seeing much improvement in the near future.

Just to be fair (for once), I should consider an alternative possibility. Perhaps the trouble with Maine isn’t young people, but rather rigid ideologues of any age. As one critic of the current system put it, “Maine keeps doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Let’s do something different this time.”

That’s from an op-ed written earlier this year by the aforementioned Alexander Willette.

Indeed, young whippersnapper, lead on.

If we replaced all the young people with old coots, wouldn’t the Legislature smell funny? Email answers to aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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