September 29, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Last-place ranking is LePage's

Dear Governor LePage,

The streak lives! For the fourth consecutive year, Forbes Magazine has ranked Maine the worst state in the country for business.

Now, I know there are a lot of people out there (see: Maine Republicans) who don't think Forbes' latest annual smackdown of the Pine Tree State has any news value whatsoever.

In fact, since we're talking about headline grabbers here, I totally thought the talk of this weekend was going to be your promise to shave your head if state employees raise $350,000 this year for charity.

More on the Chrome Dome Challenge in a minute. First, let's take a look at what Forbes has to say about us in its latest "List of the Best States for Business."

"Maine ranks last for the fourth straight year. Not much has changed," wrote Kurt Badenhausen, the magazine's chief nattering nabob of negativism. "It is still burdened with an aging population and a weak economic forecast. Job growth projections are the worst in the U.S. and only Vermont is expected to have slower household income growth over the next five years, according to Moody's Analytics."

Only one household-income rung above Vermont? Home of that socialist (not that there's anything wrong with that) Bernie Sanders?

Honest to God, Governor, if I were you I'd put out a statement dismissing these annual "rankings" as a bunch of mindless hooey that deserve no place in a serious economic-policy discussion. I can see the headline now: "LePage to Forbes: Rank This, Pencil Pushers!"

Excuse me? No can do?

Oh right, I forgot. Had it not been for Maine's first last-place ranking in fall of 2010, there's a good chance you'd never have made it to the Blaine House.

Remember how loudly you and your Republican roosters crowed that the 2010 Forbes list, released with Election Day right around the corner, couldn't have come at a better time? How, in this era of democracy by sound bite, "worst state for business" was synonymous with "manna from conservative heaven?"

You guys were right. More than a few political scientists have posited that without Forbes, you'd have spent the last two-plus years tearing up the fairways of Florida and swearing at little old ladies in golf carts.

Then came 2011 and another last-place finish, which you attributed to high energy and welfare costs. You knew this, you assured us, because that's what Forbes said when you dispatched an aide to find out what the heck they were talking about.

That dodge worked until Forbes' Badenhausen banged out a blog that accused you of making stuff up. (You? Make stuff up? It's a wonder you didn't sic the Bearded Ladies on that pathetic little number cruncher, huh, Big Guy?)

Then came 2012 and another last-place finish, along with Badenhausen's ominous assessment that "Maine's problems run deep." (Little did he know ...)

Your stoic response to Maine's three-peat: "I am disappointed but not surprised. We will continue to be on the bottom until we make structural changes."

I know, Governor, that's code for "Cut taxes on the rich!" and "Kick those bums off welfare!" But kudos to you for keeping it civil!

And now here we are, little more than a year away from your re-election bid, and this Badenhausen jerk is back on your pant leg like a Maine coon cat in heat. "Not much has changed" indeed -- except this time, the last-place ranking might as well be tattooed to your forehead.

Your take this time around: "After four decades of liberal rule that has burdened Maine with high electricity rates, high taxes, overregulation and a hostile business climate, it's no wonder that Forbes would put our state at the bottom of the list."

(Continued on page 2)

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