Two Maines? The elites vs. everyone else

Two Maines?

The elites vs.

everyone else

I want to tell you a story. A story about the little guy.

Someone who didn’t go to the best school, sit in the corner office, drive the fast car, own the house on the beach, or fly in the luxury jet; someone who doesn’t walk the halls of power, or move the pieces in the "Game of Life."

This someone is afraid. Afraid of losing, and tired of being told what to do, by those who don’t care, and can’t see them through their tinted glasses of contempt.

It is a story about the people of America, written by one of the best researchers America has.

“There is a major estrangement between the political class and mainstream America,” writes Scott Rasmussen in his new book Mad as Hell, How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking our Two Party System.

The Tea Party Movement, he says, has nothing to do with partisan politics, racism or nostalgia. It is a socially, ethnically and politically diverse group. It is remarkably broad-based and non-ideological and includes those who don’t have to be a member to understand its motives or agree with its goals.

The Movement has “everything to do with the everyday reality that mainstream America is experiencing, and to which the elite are essentially blind.”

That is a remarkable statement coming from one of America’s most respected political observers.

In a perverse way, he says, “the politically connected elite and have become even wealthier” from the systematic destruction of jobs, savings and home values, due to globalization, the housing collapse and the financial meltdown. They can’t see why most American’s are upset. They aren’t living it.

This goes for especially centrist liberal and conservative elites.

Rasmussen defines the "political elite" as those few “incredibly influential individuals” who “by dint of their education, power, and insularity have become fabulously wealthy,” and powerful.

“The political elite is shockingly out of touch with mainstream America,” he adds. They are insulated from the economic devastation most people are experiencing, and witnessing in their own lives. While most people’s lives, and outlooks, have worsened, the elites’ has improved.

Why are the elite essentially blind?

His answer: The media. Responsible for reporting this, the media mostly live and “walk in the same circles,” according to Rasmussen, or aspire to. They look at America, and the world, in the same way. Their lives and outlook are similar.

“The close ties among the political elite in business, government and the media is a defining aspect of this incredibly powerful minority. And it allows them to collude in ways that infuriate the public,” says Rasmussen.

We don’t have to look outside Maine to see this. There are Two Maines.

The Maine Elite: The ones that have mansions and yachts between Cape Elizabeth and Bar Harbor. The ones that stalk, or occupy, the halls of Augusta, the Ivy League Colleges and the universities of Maine. That own the largest newspaper and the local TV stations. And, The Ones, that fly to and from Maine in luxury jets to Caribbean islands.

The-Other-Maine lives just about everywhere else: Mainstream Maine.

This Maine works two jobs to make ends meet. Sleeps little. Eats less. Worries.

Go. Walk the streets of Lewiston or Rumford. Drive the back roads between Parsonsfield and Princeton, Machias and Madawaska, and you will see a different Maine.

Run down farms, homes and trailers. Old shoes. Old cloths. Old trucks.

Talk to the people. Watch their eyes. Note their gestures.

These Mainers are angry, afraid and frustrated: Listen, they will tell you their stories.

They are the economic disaster that has become Maine.

The 8.6 percent unemployment rate does not tell the story. The number of people on welfare: "officially" 35,000, one in twenty families. Unemployed: over 55,000, one in eight private sector workers. Families on food stamps: 200,000, one in three families. Go to any food pantry. Watch the people who pass through its doors.

They’re mad. They have right to be.

They see The Maine Elite. Those who work for government have higher salaries and pensions. Those who collude with government get money, or get economic boons from lobbying, or being connected with politicians. Recent examples: The Wind Power Elite and Growsmart Maine.

Why is the "Populist Economist" writing about this? First, I care. Second, and unfortunately, politics has rooted itself inextricably in economics, even to the most basic, instinctive level. It is an invasive plant.

Mainers see "The Maine Elite" and "Mainstream Maine" personified in the candidates running for governor. Cutler: The Wealthy Political Elite. Mitchell: The Career Elite Politician. Lepage: The Passionate Self-made Outsider.

This columnist believes that though The Movement may not be as visible as in other areas of the country, it would be imprudent to discount Scott Rasmussen’s research as biased or unfounded.

This November, I’m rootin’ for the little guy.

J. Dwight is a SEC registered investment adviser and an advisory board member of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He lives in Wilton. E-mail jdwight@gwi.net.

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RONALD RIML's picture

Workers work - or Capital works.

And for one earning his bread by the investment of capital, at the expense of the working man - to tell me he's rooting for the "Little Guy?"

Like Godzilla was "Rooting" for those buildings and commuter trains he smashed to smithereens!!!

Paul McGuire's picture

J. Dwight is right - there

J. Dwight is right - there are elites! There are ivy league elites (University of Maine elites? not when I was there - hard to believe); there are preppy elites and summer colony elites; Sugarloaf and other ski elites; Rangeley and Moosehead hideaway and private kingdom elites. There are academic intellectual elites and financial elites. There are elites in legal professions. There are artistic elites. There are athletic elites we call varsities and pros; Yes, Matilda, there are elites - all kinds of elites.

While there are some who have been born into elite status. Some hucksters, hustlers and cheaters get to that point; most arrive at that level by some sort of winnowing among others in the same pursuits. But, are game wardens elites? public school teachers? state police? social workers (who, by the way are employed because of poverty and various dysfunctions - not the other way around)? wildlife management specialists? forestry and park rangers? highway engineers and workers? the secretaries, the analysyts and data managers, the maintenance workers without whom no public programs would function.
Although Dwight seems to give them a pass, there are small town chamber of commerce elites, local development commission elites and various social elites whose power can be as significant as any others in the lives of the working poor as any other. Local elites usually don't see themselves in that light, but if he asked the unemployed and working poor he says he cares about, I'll bet they would tell him the term is equally descriptive of local honchos.

Mr. Dwight doesn't say whether he spent time actually interviewing the angry people he says inhabit interior Maine. He mentions their resentment at people who are paid more, but only those in public service. Because public workers exhibit enough collective interest in protecting their livelihood while workers in private employ either can't be bothered to do the same or have trusted their bosses to know what is in their best interest and act accordingly, public workers, who are paid with public funds are singled out for special abuse.

Maine's economic woes are a product of many factors - educational, geographical, historical and, yes political of course. Although it seems to bother him, the means by which any society governs itself and by which it regulates its civic life are always political. No matter where one is on this planet, it can't be helped.

That said, Mr. Dwight ought to be advising the underdogs he identifies with these days to get out there and organize themselves, not for Paul LePage who, after all, is part of another elite - the managerial/employer elite, the same crowd that has been keeping them cowed and afraid - but to form leagues of the unemployed and the working poor and act in concert for better treatment by all elites, particularly those closest to home. If they were organized to the point where they could turn an election it is likely they could get a government capable of delivering the goods the current system can't seem to deliver. Handing over yet another election to the managerial elites wouldn't necessarily be the answer. Organization and solidarity are the watchwords for success for any class of citizens - they've always been.

 's picture

mostly true

J.Dwight is pretty close. Isn't it nice riding thru rural Maine? Rolling hills and pretty scenery. Sometimes in the impoverished backcountry one will be surprised by someone unexpected. I rode my offroad motorcycle in some odd places and one day I came upon a local looking fellow. After some conversation, I could tell he was either well read or well educated. Sure enough, he was a Wall St. investment banker who had enough of the rat race and came to the Maine woods to return to the real world. He lived without the extras, but had a solar system set up and his small cabin was well insulated and easy to heat . He was happy. Another time I met a college professor who had enough of academia and also was living a simpler life on a dirt road without the trappings of city life. He also would not go back for anything. Sometimes having the expensive toys and lavish too large house on the expensive side of town isn't worth the cost. Both these guys and their wives were content living in the woods. A lot of people would choose to scratch by somehow instead of live the high life in the rat race. Rural Maine has that kind of presence. When that rural way is threatened by miles of ugly, noisy wind turbines which produce little usable electricity and do not reduce C02, something is wrong. There have to be places where people can go to "get away". Maine had these places. Industrialization is not wanted or needed. If Mainers wanted it , they would have moved to New Jersey years ago. The carbon spewing wealthy are a major problem and they really do not care about anyone but themselves. The article made some interesting points, thank you J Dwight.

 's picture

The preceding article was

The preceding article was brought to you by Paul LePage and the Tea Party

Karen  Pease's picture

Two Maines

What is ironic is that the "Maine' which people fall in love with is the Maine which is struggling to survive. The backbone of this state is-- and has always been-- the working-class man and woman. Those who go to work, pay their bills, fret over how to send their children to college... or even, how to heat their homes or pay their taxes.

JDwight made a single reference to the 'wind power elite'... and yet, that struck a chord. So many Mainers-- and Americans-- do not understand how much power and influence this single industry has over the citizens of our state and country. Sadly, the average American... busy struggling to survive and raise a family and make ends meet... has bought in to the rhetoric spouted by the wind industry and our administrations. They believe that wind power is 'green'... that it will reduce our carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce our electric rates. The facts--scientific and economics-based facts-- state that this is NOT TRUE! We are being sold a 'line'.. and the facts says this: Industrial wind is not economically feasible, not beneficial to the global environment-- nor for the environment and ecosystems wherein the projects are located. There are health concerns, decreased property values, bird and bat deaths, fragmentation of wildlife habitat, loss of 'quality of place' and 'quality of life'... all for an energy source which is intermittent and unreliable and is not compatible with our grid-- thus the need for a $1.4 BILLION upgrade, which will cut a swath through 75 Maine towns. Towns which do not need the power produced (Maine already exports electricity) but towns which will find this corridor to be a detriment to Mainers--whether through increased instances of leukemia--proven to be an impact of living close to high-tension wires-- or simply through higher monthly power bills-- for CMP customers will have to pay for a portion of this transmission project, as decided by Maine's PUC.

There are no positives to land-based industrial wind in Maine. So.... why are we allowing the 'wind elite' to have their way?

We should NOT give in and bow down before 'industry' as our administration is doing and has done. This country was fashioned to be run 'by the People and for the People'.... let's not bow before the 'wind elite'. We have the power of our voices and our votes. Let's use them .

Thank you, JDwight, for voicing what so many of us are coming to realize is the truth.

Respectfully,
Karen Pease
Lexington Twp. , Me
For access to the FACTS about industrial wind in Maine, contact me at highlandmts.gmail.com

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