Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum Politics

Posted on March 4, 2011


Author: Stan Moody

In 2004, I crossed the legislative aisle from Republican to Democrat, not because I thought the Democrats were any purer than Republicans but because I held contempt for political parties as the distinguishing feature of anybody’s life. The Democrats were in charge, hence a better deal for my constituents, whose access to state resources was restricted by who’s-on-top.

As a pastor, it never occurred to me that I would somehow be sacrificing my salvation by moving from Twiddle Dee to Twiddle Dum, nor has it occurred to me since.

Now that Twiddle Dee is in charge, we are witnessing a populist uprising – a form of electoral anarchy. The very party that raided state pensions to balance budgets now wraps itself in the flag of worker’s rights, while the other side crowns with the Holy Grail robber barons who gave us the Great Recession.

From Maine to California, this display of unchecked denial is turning America into something of a virtual blog, where opinions forged through years of disappointment resonate with lives that have fallen short of delusional expectations of the inherent goodness of mankind.

Those who have had less than happy experiences with our schools have discovered their collective voice. The student population in rural states is in free fall; boomer families that once advocated for the best for their kids have tired or moved on; good teachers, who comprise the vast majority, find themselves having to defend the seemingly indefensible – 9 months on the job with benefit packages exceeding the family incomes of many struggling along in the private sector.

State employees have been subjected to nibbling around the edges of agencies that long ago outlived their usefulness or at least their prospective efficiencies. Twiddle Dee strides forth with a meat axe to give Governors, most of who sport pretty faces and glib tongues (Maine Gov. Paul LePage notoriously excepted), the power to lop heads without restructuring.

The weakest argument put forth by public sector employees is that somehow they have sacrificed their lives for the greater good of mankind. Over and over we hear the statement, “I could have made a lot more money in the private sector, but I wanted to serve.” Take a look around you! With notable exceptions, the private sector has moved out, leaving behind retail warehouses that hawk remainder goods rejected by more prosperous consumers.

I served on the Joint Standing Committee for Energy, Utilities and (now) Technology. Nearly every day, the private sector would single out high utility costs as driving them out of business: “If you don’t lower my electrical bill, we’re moving out!” The noise of entrepreneurs and business executives blaming government for their failure of innovation was an assault on ideological ears.

Here is a word of advice to Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum.

Rather than assuming you know everything about what’s right or wrong with the one sector or the other, bring in professionals to go through these antiquated state agencies one at a time. Restructure them, not by hacking away with a meat axe, but with a plan to make them responsive to the public they no longer effectively serve, eliminating those programs that have become make-work, thus cutting state government by intelligent design.

Change the funding and mission of OPEGA, the legislative watchdog agency that runs the risk of extinction because it is at the mercy of the legislature. Replace it with an in-house management consulting staff funded with a revenue stream that is a small percentage of the total State budget and reports to the Appropriations Committee. In Maine, .02% of the budget would fund the agency at $600,000 a year.

Begin with the largest agency, Health and Human Services. Then move on to Education and Corrections and down the line.

As a Registered Maine Guide, I have a hidden agenda – a dwindling hope that such a concept might well put a stop to clear cutting deer wintering yards by bringing together the departments of Conservation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in common purpose rather than competing territorial interests.

Maine citizens are sick and tired of self-righteous special interests and political patrons resisting each other across a cultural divide while the ship of state is sinking.

Are there any adults in the room?

More appropriately, are there any professionals in the room?

Posted in: Politics, Religion