Commentary

Progressivism is not for Maine

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It is hard to make constitutional sense out of the cacophony of progressive sound bites we hear in Maine on a daily basis. The only thing that can be discerned with certainty is that progressives are still fully engaged in Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

“[A]s all history informs us…the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not…get first all the people’s money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants forever…”.  (Benjamin Franklin)

Maine’s governor and legislature never have enough of the people’s money. Maine progressives justify taking the people’s property as a method to ensure fairness and social justice, and say we must raise taxes in order to cover their penchant for redistributing wealth. As you read this, they are busy implementing laws and regulations that will force those who cannot afford to flee Maine to conform to the progressive agenda.

To paraphrase one of Thomas Jefferson’s indictments of King George III, the Maine legislature has proposed erecting a multitude of new taxes and swarms of regulations to harass our people and eat out their substance. It simply does not make sense for Maine to regress to the failed progressive policies of the past just because a handful of politicians think that they can rewrite the laws of economics.

Is it unrestrained hubris? Is it ignorance of history (ancient or current)? Is it an appalling combination of both? Progressives need to rein in their lust for power and adopt a realistic view of how America achieved constitutionally protected individual rights, a large thriving middle class, unparalleled quality of life and unheard of wealth for the average citizen.

The United States, with its constitutional protections for property and individual liberty (truly a unique combination in a world beset with socialism, tribalism, totalitarianism and misery), has produced more for more people than any other governmental system in history.

The American constitutional, free-market system is far better than any other political-economic system the world has ever known. State-run systems like progressivism, socialism and communism have never come close to reaching, let alone exceeding, America’s constitutional-free market accomplishments.  

Is there room for improvement? Anything created by man or woman has flaws because men and women are imperfect. The answer to improving what men and women create requires the upgrading of character and culture (a function of family, religion and community, not government). Government’s role is to protect the lives and property of all citizens and to protect all citizens’ rights equally – it need not be more complicated than this.

LBJ’s Great Society and the War on Poverty took off in 1964. Since the start of the war to end poverty, the government, under the imprimatur of progressivism, has spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs (interestingly, $22 trillion is roughly equivalent to our current national debt.)   

“According to the Census, there has been no net progress in reducing poverty since the mid to late 1960s… poverty fell dramatically during the period before the War on Poverty began. In 1950, the poverty rate was 32.2 percent. By 1965 the rate had been cut nearly in half to 17.3 percent.” (Rachel Sheffield and Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, edited for brevity, not content).

In spite of the vast amounts of money spent, the poverty rate continues to hover around 14 percent depending on economic conditions, according to a recent Census Report.

The latest big government country to succumb to the intrinsic failings of cradle-to-grave welfare is Venezuela. Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro applied all of the socialist nostrums to one of the wealthiest countries in the world and worked hard to spread the wealth among the people. In short order, Chavez and Maduro socialized the Venezuelan people into egalitarian misery.

No food, medicine, electricity or work, and the country has experienced hyperinflation, government murder and repression, and nine out of 10 Venezuelans live in poverty. Guess who are among the 10 percent living above the poverty level? You guessed it – the political class and generals who ride on the backs of the poor; the poor who were promised socialist bliss and instead received socialist misery.

As I observe Maine lawmakers ignore the results of socialism, the words of Yogi Berra come to mind: “Déjà vu all over again.” There is at least one important lesson to be learned from other countries that have fully embraced progressive ideals and failed: What sounds like a free ride at the outset turns to bitter ashes once the citizens lose their rights to life, liberty and property.

About John MacGregor

John "Jock" MacGregor is a student of history and politics, a pursuit he has enjoyed for most of his 77 years. Jock attended Villanova University’s School of Education; served in the U.S. Marine Corps; and is an entrepreneur with enterprises in restaurants, construction and boatbuilding. Mr. MacGregor was managing editor of an online news site in Hot Springs Arkansas. Currently, Jock comments on the role of government in society. Jock believes in a constitutionally limited government, instituted by the people, to protect their rights to life, liberty and property.

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