Column, 296 words

Gubernatorial Goofiness in Maine

Jim Hightower

Here’s a bit of political trivia: Three of the goofiest, most anti-worker governors in America are named Rick. What’re the odds of that?

They are Scott of Florida, Snyder of Michigan, and Perry of Texas. But all three Ricardos are in danger of being out-goofied by Paul LePage of Maine. He’s the right-wing extremist who slipped into the governor’s chair last fall after a three-way race in which he got a mere 38 percent of the vote. Rather than show a bit of humility, however, this minority governor has pumped himself up with high-octane hubris and gone on a tear against the state’s workaday majority.

LePage’s rampage includes busting unions, rolling back child labor laws, gutting programs for the middle class and poor, and raising the retirement age for Maine workers–all in his first few weeks in office.

Then, in late March, LePage made his grab for gold-plated goofy greatness. As widely reported, the potentate of the Pine Tree State ordered that a 36-foot-wide mural be removed from the state’s Department of Labor building. The work of art depicts historical scenes of Maine workers, but it seems that the governor and certain unnamed corporate backers found the painting too favorable toward laboring people, so–POOF!–it was summarily disappeared into a storeroom.

With chants of “Put it back” and “Recall Paul,” the public has roundly ridiculed LePage as the right-wing’s official Decorator-in-Chief. But now he’s really been stung by the U.S. Labor Department. It seems that the mural was largely paid for by a federal grant during George W. Bush’s regime–and the feds are now dunning LePage’s regime either to pay back the money or reinstall the artwork.

This autocrat ran against “big government” last year, but now he is big government–way too big for his britches.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.