The state of the State of the State? Insufficient.

I owe Governor LePage a thank you. Because he’s a Republican, and I have dark skin, and it’s black history month — kidding! Seriously though, I’ve been wanting to float an idea by my readers. It’s an off script thought, however, so I really needed the right opportunity to exemplify it.

LePage’s State of the State speech is exactly the opportunity I was waiting for because it was a study in what I like to call “insufficient facts.” With all the hullaballoo about fake news and “alternative facts,” I’ve been thinking that insufficient facts were the precursor to all these recent evolutions in portraying reality — not that LePage isn’t a master of fake news and alternative facts, as well.

I’m also coming to realize that insufficient facts are an insidious problem because they are the lifeblood of  extreme left/right ideology.

What do I mean by insufficient facts? Things like the unemployment rate as a primary indicator of how the economy is going for average Americans. Both sides of the aisle love to play with that number in a new economy in which the rate may not bear as significant relevance as it used to.

President Obama and Governor LePage brag about the unemployment rates under their administrations. Looking around me, I’m more concerned about the employed-with-at-least-two-jobs-never-seeing-the-kids-barely-making-ends-meet rate. Or the disabled-but-wanting-gainful-employment rate. Or the gave-up-on-the-job-market-in-entirety-and-no-longer-showing-up-as-a-statistic rate. 

Same goes for the Dow Jones average. I’ll start caring about the Dow as an indicator of the economic success of average Americans when its increases start correlating with decreases in childhood hunger and poverty in the United States.

Right now, we know the Dow can go over 20,000 while roughly 47 million children are living around the poverty line. Go Wall Street! Go Washington DC enabling Wall Street while neglecting poor children!

Go Trump for bringing more of Wall Street to Washington DC!  

But back to LePage’s speech and its insufficient facts and misappropriated themes  like “Do no harm.” I must have missed the part about LePage being concerned that childhood poverty in Maine has increased under his tenure. “Do no harm,” my hindquarters.

Hearing LePage say “Do no harm” in his speech was about as reassuring as knowing all the doctors who led their patients down the path to addiction memorized those words as part of their Hippocratic Oath.

Under Governor “Do No Harm” there are 6,000 more children in poverty than there were in 2008. Use of food banks is up and rosters include veterans and households with children, elderly and/or disabled. A recent survey suggested 87 percent of households using a food bank were comprised that way.

Aren’t veterans and the elderly among LePage’s priority populations? Why didn’t we hear those facts? Didn’t he talk about the importance of educating Maine’s children? I guess LePage hasn’t read any of the research about the negative effects of hunger on learning. I can’t imagine hunger is all that good for aging, either.

I wish readers would tolerate a post long enough to cover all the insufficient factual context related to LePage’s speech or all its insufficient research. Enough already with conservatives like LePage selectively quoting FDR’s 1935 State of the Union address requesting increased investment in the jobs provided by his government-funded public works program.

I’ve written about it before when DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew made the same faux pas as LePage in his speech, presenting the selected quote as though FDR was anti-public assistance.

Stock photo

FDR statue  Stock photo

If a student had brought me a paper that included a quote from a larger document that actually had nothing to do with the point of the paper, or worse yet as in this case, was contradictory to the point of the paper, I would have told the student to acknowledge that the quote was being selectively used.

If the student had asked why, I would have said that using quotes selectively without acknowledgement of such makes a person look manipulative or lazy about research or some other negative thing. And if the student said, yeah but Ronald Reagan did it, I’d say, yeah but you’re not Ronald Reagan.

Further his speech writers weren’t trying to pull that stunt in 2017 when the actual text of FDR’s speech is a Google search away allowing people to call him out on it in mere seconds. That’s why trying to pull the selective quoting FDR thing now looks like lazy research or manipulative messaging.

I can hear all the LePage fans out there calling foul on my assessment of his speech. Much has been made about it being a success from what I’ve heard. I’m not sure why because I was disappointed in more than just its insufficient factual context.

I heard LePage say more than one thing with which I agree and would love to be writing about, but none of those things are as important as hungry children, disabled, and seniors. A speech about doing no harm should have started there.

And yes, it was a good thing that LePage showed up and gave the address in person rather than in hostile letter form like last year. However, that’s just a governor doing his job, not the second coming of a deity warranting celebration and hand-kissing — especially considering so much of the hostility remained.

How low has our standards bar for leadership dropped?

All the way down to acting like a governor doing his job is a big deal. All the way down to thinking policy should be driven by ideological perceptions of reality and fueled by insufficient facts and their latest offspring, fake news and alternate facts.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.