M.D. Harmon: Liberal "fairness" puts us on the road to ruin


As I read the news this week, I’m starting to get nostalgic for 1968: I see cops in Chicago trying to control protesters who are raging around the city destroying property and violating the public peace.

In this case, it wasn’t a Democratic national convention plagued by anti-Vietnam protesters screaming “Dump the Hump!” in opposition to Hubert Horatio Humphrey’s nomination (Triple-H, a former Minnesota senator and Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice president, lost the election to Richard Nixon, in case you don’t recall, or, for that matter, don’t care).

This time around, it’s a bunch of “peaceful, idealistic” Occupy rioters objecting to a NATO summit in the hometown of President Obama, which is also the city from which he is running his re-election campaign.

And the Occupiers are promising to do the same thing, only more so, when the party’s national convention rolls around this year in Charlotte, N.C., a city which may be wondering if inviting the Democrats was really a good idea.

Of course, after the state’s vote approving an amendment nailing the door shut on same-sex marriage, plenty of Democrats are wondering the same thing.

Are these demonstrations a case of the “more things change, the more they remain the same,” as the French proverb has it? Or, George Santayana’s “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? Or, more likely, Karl Marx’s “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, and then as farce”?

The latter seems the most fitting because the Occupy movement has dissolved into its lowest common denominator: leftist rage that society hasn’t leveled itself into a Marxist morass. (Yet.)

In that, it does have a tinge of a reprise of 1968, with admiration for socialist economic views substituting for admiration for the Stalinist North Vietnamese regime, but with the ideological sources being the same for both groups. Plus le change, plus la meme chose, indeed.

What’s on the Occupiers’ excuses for minds is a quintessential leftist meme, however, and that is the idea of “fairness.” We see this reflected in Obama’s speeches about taxes, in which he says the nation’s richest groups do not pay “their fair share” (having the top 5 percent of earners paying 59 percent of income taxes isn’t enough, I guess — though it makes you wonder what would be).

And we see it here in Maine, where Republicans have passed a new budget that in their view is far more in accord with the economic constraints a small, not-very-prosperous state in a weak national economy, must labor under.

For that, they are taken to task for the crime, in progressive eyes, of targeting Maine’s limited financial resources on those who need them the most, while trying to prune able-bodied, healthy people off the government’s spigot.

In that “get off the couch” effort, Gov. LePage and lawmakers are merely bringing a system that has been run by overspending Democrats for decades into line with the practice of most other states, who are far less “generous” — that is, spendthrift — than we are.

Albert Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, said in a column in the most recent National Review that conservatives often have the most factual and logical arguments on public policy issues and still continually lose the battle for public opinion.

That’s true, he said, even though 70 percent of Americans routinely tell pollsters that the “free enterprise system” offers the best solutions for our problems. (That tracks polls in which about 70 percent of the population describes itself as either conservative — 40 percent — or moderate — 30 percent — with only 20-25 percent claiming to be liberals.)

Nevertheless, left-wing economic programs continue to win majority support, with people flocking to the defense of the current unsustainable forms of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare by up to 70-80 percent margins.

Why the disparity? Brooks says people just don’t see the disconnect between market-based ideals and the statist responses that, if pursued long enough, will destroy the free-enterprise system.

They are deaf to evidentiary arguments because the benefits of government transfer payments haven’t (yet) brought the system to the point of collapse, as they have in many European nations such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Brooks says conservatives have to shift their argument from a general, results-oriented logical debate to one based more heavily on moral outcomes of specific government programs.

How do liberals counter moves made to put programs on a more solid fiscal footing? By focusing on a few needy individuals who, they say, “suffer because of these hard-hearted conservatives’ cuts!”

Brooks calls this “redistributive fairness,” in which those who are presumed to have benefited more are taxed at higher rates to pay for the “needs of the less fortunate.”

He says that what conservatives need to do is to emphasize “meritocratic fairness,” the idea that people who work hard and reap the fruits of their labor deserve to do so.

So, when a rapacious government confiscates a taxpayer’s hard-earned money for its own priorities (which often involve enriching bureaucrats and other government workers as much or more than the supposed “beneficiaries” of their confiscated largesse), that’s not just inefficient, it’s unfair and immoral.

How would that work in the coming political campaign in Maine, in which Republicans will be trying to maintain their current control of the Legislature in order to consolidate and expand the reforms they have begun to introduce?

Consider the reporting of the current state budget, described this week as “cutting 50,000 people off basic health care” (State Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland) and something that adversely “impacts everybody in the state of Maine” (Sara Gagne-Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice).

Mainers need to hear, and hear often, that Maine taxpayers (the “invisible man” of news reports on this issue) are bearing the cost of having the third-highest percentage of people on Medicaid in the nation.

They also need to hear often that the state’s tax and business climate ratings are among the poorest in the country.

They need to be told that people who work hard for their money are the ones who have the principal claim on how it should be spent, not some distant bureaucrat or politician operating from an ideological perspective that involves getting as many hands into a wage-earner’s wallet as possible.

Brooks makes that case in directly moral language: “Will voters agree to stop stealing from their children, even at significant cost to themselves? The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know is that the old appeals do not work — and have never worked. Conservatives fist-bump about winning elections, but meanwhile America is on a path to being a country whose citizens work six months of every year just to pay for a government they don’t want or need.”

Bring that picture into sharper focus for the average voter in terms that move away from numbers and are recast in human terms, and conservatives may be able to do more than win elections.

They may also be able to turn this state and nation away from its current road to ruin and back onto the only possible path to prosperity.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer. He can be contacted at mdharmoncol@yahoo.com.


  1. Interesting piece… according to Harmon we are on the “road to ruin” based on dichotomy – Occupiers (a “Marxist morass”, of “leftist meme” vein operating under the guise of “fairness”) vs. the free enterprise system; Repulicans vs. Democrats; liberals vs. conservatives…And it’s the latter “conservatives” who may save us all from ruin.

    Seems it’s precisely this dichotomous viewpoint that makes us continually spin our wheels and bang heads instead of casting a broader view and say “what are our goals”? If the goal is always “us vs. them”, then yes, history repeats itself.

    Lumping all Occupiers into the category of hoodlums is an example; and some people will behave differently if they can blend into a crowd. This doesn’t mean those bent on destruction are really part of the Occupy group nor that they share the same views. Look at the peaceful Occupy protesters in Zucotti Park, New York City; cops were videoed pepperspraying and assaulting peaceful people, some simply because they were recording illegal police conduct.

    As far as a free market system, the fact is we don’t really have it…and at what points in history did we diverge? Likely when income tax was instituted…businesses became subsidized… bailouts of banks and auto manufacturing. We became socialistic with the advent of social security …some could argue public libraries, public education, fire and police departments are all part of socialism. And now healthcare; wouldn’t requiring people to purchase healthcare insurance violate a free market system?

    We have diverged so far from the roots of our founding fathers. In so many ways. In general, our country puts on a mask telling other countries we are the best – a democracy living under the Constitution with a free enterprise system…and yet, when we look at the news… really?

  2. Maine: A Corporate State?

    The divide in America is not between political parties and their ideologies, between religious beliefs, between rich and poor, or between value systems; it is between the corporate state and the citizen.

    Paul LePage knows what he wants; a corporate state. Paul LePage, his staff, and his supporters clearly march to the following orders; establish optimal conditions for private firms to enter Maine so that they may profit without interference.  The marching orders follow a simple set of principles.
    – Eliminate outside influence on compensation and benefits.     
    – Consolidate control of operating expenses.       
    – Remove controls (regulations) impacting freedom of action.       
    – Establish barriers that prevent challenges to the corporate state’s control.

    The marching orders are clear, concise; the guidelines are flexible, yet focused. Easily understood and executed in our world of sound bites and generalities; critical thinking is not required.

    Removal of collective bargaining rights for Child Care Providers was a symbolic message to corporate entities “Maine is Open for Business, no wage or benefit concerns here” and to the citizens of Maine “your rights to fair compensation and benefits are controlled by the corporate state”.

    The attempt to repeal the Maine ban of BPA, the harmful chemical found in plastic bottles, was another symbolic message to corporate entities “Maine is open for business, put what you want into your products” and to the citizens of Maine “don’t waste your time challenging the corporate state about health concerns because Paul
    LePage and his administration doesn’t care about your health”.

    Educational Commissioner Steve Bowen’s dismissal of a citizen’s group shortly after Paul LePage’s comment that “all middle-management are corrupt”, was a message to corporate entities “Maine is open for business; if someone gets in your way,
    they’re gone”. Steve Bowen indicating he would develop the educational plan internally by the end of the year said to Maine citizens “you will not have input into your child’s education except through support of for-profit charter or religious schools”.

    None of this is difficult to accomplish if you have the legislative votes and pre-written legislation (ALEC); critical thinking is not required.

    Can it be more insidious? State revenue from within the state comes from state income, sales, and real estate taxes. Reducing the state income tax more than likely places additional burden on sales and real estate taxes; and that is Paul LePage’s intent. Those who can least afford real estate tax increases are the middle-class and working-class. Mainers will have to work harder and longer, for wages and benefits more highly controlled by corporate entities.

    The message to corporate entities is “Maine is open for business, pay the citizens what you want, no one will get in your way because
    they won’t have the time or money to object” and to the citizens of Maine “go to Wal-Mart, treat yourself to a six-pack of PBR, sit on the porch and count your blessings”.

    Elimination of the middle-class and working-class, is it social Darwinism or social genocide? Paul LePage doesn’t care what you call his actions, all he cares about is being CEO of a corporate state, and he is well on his way. Unless…(Thoughts?)

  3. Mr. Harmon hits the nail squarely on the head! The ‘ occupy ‘ movement, emboldened with the knowledge that a sympathetic Marxist currently occupies the Whitehouse, are beginning to show their true colors. The anarchists are pushing aside the misguided mush brained, entitlement indoctrinated college students and taking control. There never was a ‘peaceful’ occupy protest with the rapes, assaults, drug use and other forms of criminal activity prevalent at every location. The mush brained college students found out the hard way to be careful what they wished for.

    As for here in Maine, politicians like Justin Alfond and mush brained Marxists in training like Sarah Gagne Holmes ( I’m always distrustful of anyone who goes by three names…usually screams Progressive! ) are continuing to be the problem here in Maine. I’m sorry, but Alfond is just an idiot. And people like Sarah and her Marxist organization only want
    ‘equal’ justice for a select few who pad their coffers. The hypocrisy of the progressives boggles the mind.

    Democrats like Alfond, Cain, Rotundo, Cravin, Martin, ad nauseum, demonize and criticize any who put forth a plan to get people of the government dole and on a path to self determination. They can’t stand it! Why? Because their political existence depends upon that welfare voting block. They need their egos stroked by being able to lord over us stupid little people, because we are just incapable of taking care of ourselves. In their superior intellect minds, they know best. Problem is, they never offer solutions or sustainable plans, just rhetoric.

    Governor LePage and the Republican majority have Maine taking the first steps on the path to prosperity. We need to ensure this continues while sending a loud and clear message to the Democrats that we’ve had enough of their stupidity.

  4. Conservative “Reformers” of big government must turn the argument on its head – “wealth redistribution” is not “fairness” IT IS THEFT BY THE STATE – AT THE POINT OF IMPRISONMENT (ie a gun) TO GIVE THAT MONEY TO SELECT CONSTITUENT GROUPS WHO INCREASINGLY ARE EITHER PEOPLE ON THE DOLE OR RICH CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS – like the 80% of the $20B in green nonsense  wasted on Obama’s contributors (Solyndra is only a small part of the whole story.)

    Conservatives must market their brand as Reformers of big, out of control government – including to some extent – the reforming the military industrial base without jeopardizing our security.  Let’s face it, once bankrupt, the military – as with the declining Roman empire, will become part of the problem – as our dependency web around the world – funded by the US taxpayers to the point absolute absurdity, necessarily shrinks and power vacuums get created in its wake.   Count on it. 

    Reform now – or set the stage for layers of economic and social chaos later – potential beyond what most can imagine or predict. 

    Conservatives ARE the adults in the room – unfortunately, increasingly having to deal with adult children with childlike grasps of reality – molded by the cancerous socialist dogma that has infested our once great institutions and puppeteered by a cadre of Marxist-Socialist like Bill Ayers and his ilk that gave us this disastrous “leader” we unfortunately have to our President.  

  5. I do recall the 1968 Democratic Convention (and I still care deeply about it); but the tiny snippet detailed here wasn’t the worst of it and it certainly isn’t the truth of it.

    At that convention, Chicago police, private security officers and (yes) National Guardsmen who had been primed by a para-militaristic mayor to get tough with anyone who might disturb his vision of what a convention in his town should look like wreaked havoc upon citizens who had come to air their grievances and deliberately prompted violent confrontation.

    Crowds of citizens, young and old, reeling from assignations of their heroes, outraged about a war that was doomed from the beginning and the senseless loss of young American lives in Vietnam had come to Chicago to protest. What they encountered wasn’t law enforcement trained to contain and restrain, it was an assault force with orders to crack heads.

    It was clear from the beginning that Richard Daley was intent, not on keeping the peace, but on making examples of anyone who threatened his authority.

    What he forgot, and what you can see clearly anytime you want to on YouTube, is that media coverage had changed. Network news cameras were rolling as police randomly maced crowds outside the Convention.

    On the floor,  Connecticut Senator Abe Ribicoff called attention to the abusive behavior of the Chicago police outside and as reporter tried to cover the event, even national media icons like Edwin Newman, Dan Rather and Mike Wallace were physically assaulted by security guards.

    It wasn’t “Stalinists” who instigated the riots in Chicago. “The whole world is watching,” the crowd chanted as they were beaten. Subsequently, the Walker Report laid official blame squarely on the shoulders of Daley’s minions, calling the events a “police riot.”

    Today, pointing to folks who dissent against the excesses of a free market gone haywire and bashing them with hate filled and inappropriate labels is no more effective or valid than it was then.

    What has brought our economy in Maine and in the rest of America to its knees wasn’t a plot by lefty liberals, it was the wretched excesses of business leaders who placed profits above people, political leaders who manufactured wars and funded them with debt and the very successful branding of bandits and bullies as heroes.

    No, I haven’t forgotten 1968 and fairness certainly isn’t the road to ruin.

  6. Sam my reply was not to you it happened that way by accident.

    In reply to you – I believe leadership and clearly articulated vision will help solve many of the problems that you are concerned about.   A big problem, is conservatives need to learn how to “talk over the heads” of the overwhelmingly biased and destructive media.  

    The media is the biggest  part of the problem when coupled with a poorly educated population, too busy trying to make ends meet to look beyond their divisive sound wall. 

  7. Its true history Repeats itself!

    Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manefesto after being denied a measly wage increase from his “cheapskate” employer ! Half the world followed!

    Talk about a Union Strike!

    Cuba went communist after the poor where being exploited by the fascist dictator who was proped up by free market Casinos and Resorts for the rich elite !

    So the answer is stop being so greedy and pay a fair wage and treat your help decent!

  8. 🙂 I didn’t take it that way, Linda; and agree with what you’ve written. There is definitely a lack of leadership and a divisiveness perpetuated by media’s fuel to feed it through sensationalist “news” and control of its output (Times Record of Brunswick is a case in point concerning control). It also seems, in general, many are happy to “go along” until the situations affect them more closely – price of gas, inability to get the goods they’re accustomed to, etc. And it seems to necessitate an impact to these daily activities of living before the majority can awaken a major shift. Yes, “reform now”.

  9. Yes they do – but up until what point?  Do you have any idea what the tax burdens are?   And why do you think the money once stolen will not be wasted?  How big should government grow?  We are already well beyond our means.   Taking from the job creating productive class to throw it down a $16T fed debt hole and how many Trillion dollar state debt holes – is a fool’s argument. 

  10. Job Creators?

    When are you conservatives going to admit that “Job Creation” comes with Customer Purchasing Power.

    You cant Sail a Million Dollar Yacht without the Wind!!

  11. You do realise that the government spending accounts for 30 % of our economy!

    Stopping that when the rest of the economy allready got flushed down the drain is a fools errand!

  12. How typical of Mr. Laissez-Faire Harmon to label anyone expressing concern about those who struggle in the United States as”Marxist.”  
    He imagines a “fair”  economic playing field (at the same time that he disdains the concept of fairness in its other manifestations – you know, the ones Jesus spoke of), and ignores the plight of millions of  the elderly, veterans, handicapped, and children who are living in poverty.  

  13. Your phrase “few needy individuals” in the face of the struggle of so many Americans, says it all.  How incredibly unkind.

  14. Hey Dlbrt,

    I bow to your superior knowledge of Karl Marx and communism . I’m sure you know it well, but tell me , if those forms of government are so superior why does it take walls , guns and force to keep it going ?  Why is it not done voluntarily.

    As far as the fair wage issue I take it that you are not what is commonly know as a “job creator.” It is far easier to be critical of job creators than it is to be one.

    This country became what is today (maybe not tommorow) because of freedom and the free enterprise sysytem. The rich who feel guilty about being that way and the have nots who are jealous of the achievers have managed to drive our job creators to foreign lands.

  15. Wow,  I remember 1968. Weren’t they all Democrats? Daley,
     and oh who was president then ?
    Maine was brought down by “wretched excesses of business leaders “? Who (by name) were those BIg business people in Maine who did all those nasty things? Help me out here Cris because I am not a lawyer, teacher ,writer or superior in any great fashion.

  16. Once again too simplistic.   The tax system needs a complete overhaul, the entitlement system need complete restructuring, and yes the government which has grown almost 25% in the last 3 years needs a big hair cut. 

    And at the end of the day, when the workers in private industry get to keep more of their pay – to live on and industry can re-invest with less regs and less taxes …then will begin to process of growing again.   

    Government spending is money taken from from businesses and private individuals. 

    So by your argument – if the government just keep growing everyone will be employed.  

    Government doesn’t make a thing nitwit.  They only take from those who do. 

  17. Excuse me ever hear of exports which is a very large part of the economy?   And yes your purchasing power will increase if the fed and state govs. weren’t stealing so much of it.

    BTW the big yacht was build by workers so when I see a big beautiful yacht – I could never afford – I see jobs created to build that yacht.  

  18. Man o’ man,dilbert! If there are no manufacturing jobs there is no purchase! Ya gotta have a product in order to purchase . 

  19. The government doesnt steal it, They are charging me for a product and or service, same as a buisness transaction. Maybe I didn’t particularly ask for it but that is the price that I pay for a Government of the people by the people, and for the people.

    If I don’t like it I vote, sometimes I win sometimes I don’t!

    You missed the analogy of the yacht completely!

    All true Conservatives do! 

  20. I never said that they where superior, However, even a ten year old knows that if you run this country like the board game Monopoly that when All the Money gets to the winning player that the game comes to a slow down and eventually collapses. The only way to get it going again is to divide up all the money and start over !

  21. Do you really think that Employers are going to pay a wage that will make up for the loss of entitlements!

    They will pocket the money!

    It’s ALL about them! 

  22. “society hasn’t leveled itself into a Marxist morass. (Yet.)”  Maybe not, but reelect Obama for a second term and that fate is predetermined.

  23. And you are proud of that?  And have the gall to label those who protest the high tax rates in Maine as “whiners”?  You have made it abundently clear that your attempts at argument have no veracity.  At least you have the honesty to declare that you are not contributing to society.

  24. Really Dlbrt,

     Monopoly is a zero sum game…there is only so much money on the board and in play at any one time. When someone wins some one loses that same amount.

     Our economy doesn’t work that way. Wealth in the real world is created by new enterprises, started by risk takers who are usually extremely hard workers and they create the jobs that provides the money which enables the spending that moves the econmy.

    let me address your comment about being greedy, treating your help good and paying a decent wage. What a job pays you depends on these factors:
    1. What the job is worth
    2. How well you do that job.
    3. The ease of replacing you.

    Seeing that you’ve evoked ten year olds lets pretend we are teaching this to a ten year old.

    If you hire some one to come over to your house and mow your lawn, that job is only worth so much money. If Bill Gates shows up you still will pay him only what that job is worth because no matter how well he does the mowing it is easy to find a replacement to do the job. THAT job is not computer science…It’s lawn mowing.

  25. Bull!

    Incorporate and exempt yourself  from risk!

    Spending is what makes the economy  work, not Owning a Buisness!

    Buisness is beholding to its consumers!
    Henry Ford new that much!

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