Crickets. That’s what we’ve heard from our governor since Maine got its appalling report card last week. And this guy wants to run for U.S. Senate on account of his “performance”? Give me a break. After six years in office, “businessman” Paul LePage should be fired. Anyone who can read a spreadsheet or economic data will agree, but therein lies another problem. Even when it comes to reading, Maine is failing.

If you prefer data over talking points, read the Measures of Growth report published by the Maine Development Foundation. It strips the veneer off the LePage Trojan horse of “lower taxes” and “welfare reform” and exposes the underbelly of an anemic state without a plan or team in place to revive it.

My executive summary will come as no surprise to any sentient being working to raise a family in Maine: We are sucking wind, people. Lots of good, clean wind.

Maine’s economy had negative growth compared to 9.4 percent growth overall in the United States since 2009. Negative growth is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms like the myth about today’s Republicans and “fiscal conservatism.”

Negative growth under Gov. LePage compared to positive growth under President Obama should put to rest the fictional narrative about which party is “business-friendly,” if the business at hand is economic well-being of people. Let’s stop pretending Republicans are fiscally conservative because the data doesn’t support that conclusion.

• More children are living in poverty under Gov. LePage.

• Maine trails the country in income growth. Wages are low to begin with and stagnant.

• We spend practically nothing on research and development, and it shows.

• Maine’s percentage of students scoring proficient and above on reading ranked last among the New England states in 2015.

• The percentage of eighth- graders scoring proficient and above in math declined in 2015 in Maine.

• Maine’s 2015 civilian workforce was the smallest since 2002 and represented a loss of 15,400 workers since 2010.

• We are spending more – 18 percent of total personal expenditure – on health care.

• Our roads are getting worse, not better, and there’s no viable plan to reverse the decline.

Maine got its report card last week and if it were my child, the Pine Tree State would be spanked and sent to bed without supper. The findings are deplorable, and no amount of lipstick on this pig can make it sexy.

Sure, there’s always a bright side. How’s this for a confidence booster: We got a “gold star” because Maine’s “overall cost of doing business has declined from the second highest nationally in 2000 to 9th in 2013,” plus two other gold stars for clean air and clean water. Yippee.

Celebrating that we’re still in the top 10 most expensive places to do business reminds me of when my kids were little and rabid booster groups gave out trophies to every kid on every losing team.

Gov. LePage wants a trophy because he lowered your taxes a little bit and put the squeeze on the social safety net, but we are getting exactly what we paid for – crappy roads and hungry kids. The governor pretends he’s God’s gift to fiscal sanity and should head to Washington, but his schtick is defied by math and science. We are not doing better under his leadership, we are doing worse.

But what about startups? Isn’t that a bright spot? Only if negative means positive. Maine scores negative 0.54 according to the Measures of Growth. As somebody who started a business and ran it for more than a decade, I can report that no amount of buzz around the word “entrepreneur” alters the bottom line. What makes ink black or red is opportunity, analytical thinking, winning ideas, hard work and courage.

The feel-good hipster spin around young startups and entrepreneurs should be tempered by the reality of Maine’s demographics. Instead of searching for the Fountain of Youth in somebody’s garage, we should utilize the resources at hand – older people and a clean environment.

Which of course leads to the prospect of a national park in Maine’s woods, where again LePage and Republicans fail the straight-face test as far as business acumen goes. Every economic study suggests such a project would bring vitality, economic growth, and wealthy retirees to the state, but what is Augusta doing? Voting against a national monument and voting instead to transfer more taxpayer money collected in the south up north to “save” a failing biomass industry. Government may not create jobs under the LePage administration, but corporate welfare sure does.

The data and the report card say it all. The state of Maine is not an economic engine under LePage leadership. The rising tide is drowning us. There are too many show horses and not enough workhorses in the administration, but don’t just take my word for it, do the research. Read the fine print. If you are a numbers person, it ain’t pretty and in no way jibes with the governor’s narrative of what’s ailing our state.

It’s not energy costs preventing prosperity; in fact, Maine’s energy costs are lower than the New England average.

It’s not asylum seekers, Democrats, same-sex marriage, abortion rights or tree-huggers, either.

The LePage administration’s rant about “welfare reform” has done absolutely nothing to help business growth but instead has shamefully increased the number of children living in abject poverty.

There’s only one thing holding us back and it’s the one thing on which this administration continually chokes.

It’s the economy, stupid.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: dillesquire

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