Commentary

Government response to the pandemic makes matters worse in Maine

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The COVID-19 crisis feeds into the progressive belief that a crisis is an opportunity to further an agenda by other-than-constitutional means. Governor Janet Mills has seized on the virus with unseemly enthusiasm and her allies are discovering how perfectly COVID-19 fits into the progressive playbook: Never let a crisis go to waste.

In so many past world events, from the First World War to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, crises were used to shift power away from the people and to government and the politicians. Each crisis allowed the government to grow while our constitutional rights shriveled.

Governor Mills says that big business (big box retail, utilities, newspapers, etc.) can stay open if they follow her rules. However, small businesses (restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, etc.) even if they want to follow her rules, must stay shut. 

Progressives dislike small businesses and individual initiative. Why? Because there are too many of them for the government to easily control. It’s much better to have a handful of big businesses on which the government can keep a firm eye. There is no reason that small businesses couldn’t open and operate as safely as the big guys, except that there are too many of them for government to keep under its thumb.  

Mills picking winners and losers is immoral and hurts Maine’s economy. Most, if not all of these small businesses, depend on tourists to stay alive, and pushing back their ability to open until later in the summer will kill the tourist season for them this year. The result of Mills’ policies is that these small businesses won’t see income for months. This is unconscionable. It is also an example of government taking without just compensation and due process, and the government’s compelling interest is anything but clear.

Not only are the Mills’ policies unconscionable, they are cutting government’s nose off to spite its face. Governor Mills and state legislators put Maine’s finances into a precarious position before COVID-19 by overspending significantly in the biennial budget. Now, the governor and her allies are adding insult to injury by cutting off the state’s main sources of income: sales tax, gasoline taxes, other use taxes, business and income taxes. 

In addition, the Mills juggernaut is increasing government spending on unemployment, food subsidies, housing subsidies, healthcare and more with help form the feds. Meanwhile, Maine’s progressives are already talking about tax hikes on the “rich” to get us out of this mess. Raising taxes on shuttered businesses or their non-existent employees to secure more revenue for the state will only make matters worse. These high-tax policies are a lose-lose proposition in the middle of this crisis.

If Gov. Mills and her progressive coterie are pulling for redemption in the form of a federal bailout, they must also believe in the tooth fairy. The Feds are broke too and yes, they can print money, but without an expanding economy, printing money only causes inflation and extends the pain created by state governors to our children and grandchildren.  

Mills should move away from progressive politics and let Maine’s workers and small businesses open in time to catch the summer season, which starts two weeks from now on Memorial Day. If not, she and other progressive governors will usher in another depression. It is the inevitable result of putting process before real world economics and the rights of the American people.

Yes, opening Maine to normalcy has risk, but there is a reward greater than the risk: a better life for Mainers.

About John MacGregor

John "Jock" MacGregor is a student of history and politics, a pursuit he has enjoyed for most of his 79 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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