M.D. Harmon: Standing Up for the Invisible Man


At a time when books and films about vampires and werewolves are enjoying a renaissance, at least among teen readers, those of us who are more advanced in years may remember that monsters created by science once fascinated readers and viewers, too.

The most famous, of course, was Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life from dead body parts with a stolen criminal’s brain guiding its depredations.

One 1933 film, based on a 1897 story by Victorian science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells, starred the famous Claude Rains in a part he inhabited while (mostly) unseen.

The movie was “The Invisible Man,” with Rains as a scientist who turned his discovery of a new drug into a path to undetected villainy (a little-seen recent remake had Kevin Bacon in the role).

Now diligent observers of Maine news events have a chance to try to spot which particular Mainers are filling the Rains/Bacon role in stories about Gov. Paul LePage’s proposals to alter Maine’s Medicaid program (called MaineCare here) in order to resolve a $120 million Health and Human Services Department shortfall.

Today’s invisible men — and women — are of course Maine’s taxpayers, who were notable for their absence from most news accounts I surveyed when this story broke.

Lead headlines concentrated on how many people would lose types of coverage provided only in 14 other states, most of them more prosperous than Maine, and only mentioned the state’s 18-month shortfall in 9-point body type.

Let me be direct: I simply cannot say how much I admire Gov. LePage for taking a stand for fiscal responsibility and enduring all the sheer hostility he is taking for standing up for Joe and Jane Taxpayer.

We are seeing something extremely unusual in Maine politics. LePage is not always right, at least if agreeing with me is the way to define “right” — but he knows what he thinks and he is the least politically correct person I know. And since I also know myself, that’s saying something.

I have been writing for years now that liberals have created a welfare system in Maine that might be defensible if Maine were a large, rich state like New York or California (though even there welfare systems have grown far beyond affordability).

But Maine is not a huge, rich state, it is a very small, poor one. However, that has not seemed to matter very much to the Democrats who have run things for decades, until the 2010 elections threw them out.

Their governing philosophy attempts to make segments of society as dependent as possible on government aid, instead of creating the circumstances under which these Mainers could improve their situations by their own efforts.

Yes, there are people who need help and who cannot provide it by themselves. But while the media concentrate on the few who fall into that circumstance, they studiously ignore the many who are doing their best, against the odds, to improve things for themselves and their families by working harder and longer for less and less reward.

Gov. LePage is standing up for those Mainers, the first time in decades a prominent politician has done so with this amount of fortitude, and he deserves all the credit in the world for doing so.

It may be that average Americans are waking up to this. A Gallup poll reported on Dec. 12 that almost two-thirds of the nation — 64 percent, just one point short of the all-time high — feel more threatened by “Big Government” more than they fear either “Big Business” (26 percent) or “Big Labor” (8 percent).

People are finally beginning to see that when Democrats say they want to tax “the rich,” they really mean “anybody who has income.”

With half the nation paying 97 percent of income taxes, that message is sinking in. Even Democrats fear government most, at 48 percent while business gets 44 and labor, 6. The numbers are higher for independents and higher still for Republicans, but a plurality of Democrats manifesting doubt about the beneficence of government is still an astounding figure.

Those figures indicate, Gallup said, that the Occupy Wall Street message apparently has not been accepted: “While Occupy Wall Street isn’t necessarily affiliated with a particular party, its anti-big business message may not be resonating with majorities in any party.”

I’ve often chided Republicans for not speaking and acting more strongly in defense of taxpayers, but Gov. LePage is breaking that mold. Will his fellow GOPers follow his lead, or fall back into their old habits of compromise and defeat?

If Gallup has it right, there has rarely been a better time for a political party to downsize government and empower ordinary citizens. Can the GOP see that — or will it once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist. He can be contacted at: