Foolish dreams

Maine Democratic Party offers a lot of freebies, beer is not one of them
By AL DIAMON  |  May 26, 2010

There’s nothing in the Maine Democratic Party’s platform about free beer.

There’s free health care. Free campaign funding for candidates. Freedom to commit suicide. Food, fuel, housing, and college classes wouldn’t be free, but they’d be cheaper.

No free beer, though. You’d think a platform that claims to support “arts, culture, and other amenities that stimulate a creative economy,” as well as “an equitable economic environment,” would at least mandate half-price draughts at happy hour. But under the Democrats’ plan, bars won’t be subjected to this reasonable regulation.

However, saloons (and all other businesses) would be forced to comply with a few other requirements, such as compelling the owners to pay “a livable wage” and engage in “environmentally responsible construction;” granting any dismissed worker the “right to administrative due process;” and making it easier for bartenders, waiters, cooks, and dishwashers to unionize. The Dems also call for “expand[ing] the tax base to include levies on non-essential services.”

A Bud Light? That’ll be $16.50.

Much has been made of the idiocy contained in the Maine Republican Party’s platform filled with Tea Party paranoia (see “The Powerless Rise,” by Al Diamon, May 21). I doubt the document approved by the Democrats at their convention in Lewiston last weekend will receive the same level of scrutiny or criticism.

In part, that’s because the donkey-party platform is full of mind-numbing phrases like “precautionary principle” (if there’s the faintest suspicion something may, under any circumstances, be bad for somebody, ban it until science can prove conclusively it isn’t) and “shaping a global economy that supports a fairer distribution of growth and development among all peoples” (no clue what that means, but it sounds scary).

Mostly, though, the Dems will get a pass from the press on all the planks that are impractical (“an energy policy that seeks to protect the people of Maine from corporate speculation and profiteering, and supports the non-profit operation of public facilities for public purposes without creating local economic hardship”), irrational (strengthen the Dirigo health plan), and downright stupid (“fair and equitable compensation” — I think that means higher pay — “for legislators”), because, unlike the GOP, the heirs of Jefferson and Jackson are nearly unanimous in supporting their platform. No floor fight, no media attention.

Still, you’ve got to wonder why no one is asking how a party whose gubernatorial candidates all promise they won’t raise taxes (except — wink, wink — as a last resort) could blithely endorse a plank that calls for increased funding for local schools, including higher pay for teachers, as well as more financial aid for college students. Maybe the Democrats intend to pay for that stuff with savings they’ll make elsewhere in government. Except there’s no mention of cutting anything. And there’s blatant opposition to the Republican idea of contracting out any state services to the private sector.

The biggest issues in this election year are supposed to be jobs and the economy, but the Dems are a bit fuzzy as to how they’ll create the former and improve the latter. Here’s as close as the platform gets to promising anything: It “[e]ncourages a sustainable economy by promoting: private and public Maine-owned and operated businesses; tourism (including ecotourism); cultural diversity; working waterfronts; high-value woodland management; active and potential farming; the total fishing industry; the manufacture and export of value-added products; and Maine food and fiber products.”

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