The common characteristic of Gov. Paul LePage’s economic policies is a reduction in the government’s power over private activity. His tax cuts and regulatory reform meet this criterion in obvious ways. His plans to lower energy costs involve reductions on the state’s legal and regulatory involvements. He hopes to achieve educational improvements by freeing or loosening the centralized monopoly of public education. He opposes government enforcement of labor union monopolies.

On the other hand, the economic plan unveiled in February by his Democratic opponent U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud requires expansions of government power and activity in a multiplicity of areas. This expansion has become an almost unvarying characteristic of Democratic economic policies.

So it’s no surprise that Michaud proposes a compact with small businesses, which will make grants for small business development, energy efficiency and weatherization, roads and bridges, aging in place, land conservation and startup businesses; a Maine Domestic Trade Center, a network of local food hubs; a Maine Institutional Buying Program, a Maine Tourism Training Initiative and a Maine Ocean Energy Center of Excellence, among other things.

Crystal Canney, communications director for independent candidate Eliot Cutler, is not impressed. “Mike’s approach is a typical Washington, D.C.,” she tells us, “Big government, big spending approach with lots of new programs and millions of dollars in new spending. Under Michaud, the spending spigot will be full on, especially for the special interest groups lobbying Maine’s Legislature.”

Canney, however, hasn’t got the big spending part quite right. We can understand her mistake in light of the Democratic Party’s past history, but she has not been keeping up. Democrats no longer believe in spending, big or small. The verb “to spend” has practically disappeared from their vocabulary. Nowadays, Democrats invest; they never spend.

If Canney had studied the plan’s 33-pages with more care she might have discovered that “invest/investment” are used 66 times while “spend” appears only three times, twice in connection with private-sector spending. Michaud’s confidence in his own investment skills seems a bit audacious since his financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows his own private investments amount to some mutual fund shares and a little real estate in East Millinocket. This is pretty paltry compared to the millions that Sen. Harry Reid has amassed in his years of “public service.”

It’s true, however, Michaud’s plan contains be millions of dollars in new “investment” and plenty more government. Taxpayers (i.e. naive taxpayers) will find reassurance in the fact that “Maine Made” (the name of his plan) makes no mention of tax increases. It carefully stipulates the modest cost of each of its proposals while we have Michaud’s assurance that a Democratic governor and Legislature will find all the money needed right there in the budget. We need anticipate no additional taxes.

Michaud cites his experience as a Maine legislative leader as a guarantee that the money can be found in this painless fashion. This reference to the value of his experience opens up some questions about his ability to manage the complex policies and proposals he advertises in Maine Made. His executive experience has been limited to piloting a forklift and managing a small congressional staff.

He’s on solid ground when he speaks about giving away free stuff. He’s shares that experience with his own political party in abundance. With debts at all levels piling up and the public’s persistent distaste for tax increases, the key to giving these days is to shift the burden onto the private sector. So most Democrats are hot to increase the minimum wage. That way they can glory in their kindliness and generosity while small businessmen, consumers and some stock holders pay the bill.

We find a lot of economic material about the minimum wage. A majority of economists who have studied the question seem to have concluded that minimum wages do more harm than good, while a significant minority believe they do more good than harm.

Michaud has read none of this literature. He doesn’t have to. He knows that minimum wages poll well, and that’s all he needs to know.

John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com. Email to [email protected].