Archive for September, 2012
Hello, everybody. Four years ago this month, a crisis that started out on Wall Street almost brought down our entire economy. The nation’s biggest banks were days away from failing. The stock market – and millions of American retirement accounts – were in free-fall. Credit froze. Lending stopped. And businesses large and small didn’t even know if they’d be able to make payroll. It was a moment the likes of which few Americans had ever seen.
Today, we know the biggest cause of that crisis was reckless behavior in the housing market.
Millions of Americans who did the right and responsible thing – who shopped for a home, secured a mortgage they could afford, and made their payments on time – were badly hurt by the irresponsible actions of others. By lenders who sold loans to families who couldn’t afford them – and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. By speculators who were looking to make a quick buck. And by banks that packaged and sold those risky mortgages for phony profits.
When the party stopped, and the housing bubble burst, it pushed our entire economy into a historic recession – and left middle-class families holding the bag.
Four years later, the housing market is healing. Home sales and construction are up. Prices are beginning to rise. And more than a million families who began this year owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, are now back above water.
We’re moving in the right direction. But we’re not there yet. There are still millions of Americans who are struggling with their mortgages, even at a time of historically low rates.
Now, I know there are some who think that the only option for homeowners is to just stand by and hope that the market has hit bottom. I don’t agree with that.
That’s why my Administration teamed up with state attorneys general to investigate the terrible way many homeowners were treated, and secured a settlement from the nation’s biggest banks – banks that were bailed out with taxpayer dollars – to help families stay in their homes.
And that’s why we announced new steps to help responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages. Already, hundreds of thousands of Americans who were stuck in high-interest loans have been able to take advantage of lower rates and save thousands of dollars every year.
That’s not only good for those families; it’s also good for our economy. When folks are spending less on mortgage payments, they’re spending more at local businesses. And when those businesses have more customers, they start hiring more workers.
But we can do even more if Congress is willing to do their part.
Back in February I sent Congress a plan to give every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at lower rates. It’s a plan that has the support of independent, nonpartisan economists and leaders across the housing industry. But Republicans in Congress worked to keep it from even getting to a vote. And here we are – seven months later – still waiting on Congress to act.
This makes no sense. Last week, mortgage rates were at historic lows. But instead of helping more and more hardworking families take advantage of those rates, Congress was away on break. Instead of worrying about you, they’d already gone home to worry about their campaigns.
The truth is, it’s going to take a while for our housing market to fully recover. But it’s going to take a lot more time – and cause a lot more hurt – if Congress keeps standing in the way. If you agree with me, I hope you’ll make your voices heard. Call your Representative. Send them an email. Show up at their town hall and tell them that when Congress comes back to Washington, they better come back ready to work. All of you are doing everything you can to meet your responsibilities. It’s time Congress did the same. Thanks and have a great weekend.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Radio Address by Sen. Phil Bartlett (Cumberland): We’ve Been Sold a False Bill of Goods
Here in Maine we are pretty straight forward people. We will tell you what we think; and we expect the same in return. We’re honest. Hard working. We believe in a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work. And even though we’re often too proud to ask for help, we have a keen eye for spotting a neighbor in need—and we’ll be right there to lend a helping hand.
Good Morning. I’m State Senator Phil Bartlett of Gorham. I was born and raised a Mainer. And even though I went away to college, I came back to Maine because I can’t imagine living any where else. I love the Maine-way. Our no non-sense approach to life is unmatched any where else.
We’re practical. We want things to work. If it’s broken, we fix it.
We’re humble and honest. We admit our mistakes.
These qualities exist in our neighborhoods and on Main Streets; in our schools and on our playgrounds and even—at our town hall meetings. But lately they’ve been missing in Augusta.
Sadly the political culture in Maine over the last two years has shifted dramatically. As more time goes by and more examples pile up, we’re learning that we can’t necessarily trust what we’re hearing from Governor Paul LePage and Republican leaders. Aside from the gaffes and slips of tongue, there have been too many examples where the facts don’t back up their claims.
Here’s what I mean:
Governor LePage and his Republican allies promise jobs. Yet under their leadership, we now rank 45th in the nation in job creation. We’ve lost more than 1,500 jobs and currently there are 53,000 Mainers out of work.
Let’s be clear. There have been opportunities to get people back to work but Governor LePage and the Republican majority have looked the other way. By refusing to issue bonds—already approved by Maine voters, the Governor and Treasurer are holding jobs hostage. These are real opportunities that will provide good paying jobs to Maine people today.
Governor LePage and his Republican allies promise to grow an economy where “all citizens prosper.” Yet on LePage’s watch: our New England neighbors have passed us by. While their economies are growing, ours is the only state whose economy actually shrank. Every other state in the country is seeing their income grow—Maine ranks dead last.
Governor LePage says he wants to give Mainers more affordable health care and will “fight special interests.” Yet, Republicans spearheaded an insurance overhaul that is nothing more than a race to the bottom in health care. Mainers are now paying more for less. This plan has increased premiums for more than 50% of Maine people—hurting middle aged Mainers the most. And 90% of our small businesses are paying more too—especially those with businesses in rural parts of the state and with older workers.
What’s worse, this harmful law imposes a new $22 million dollar tax that is paid by all Maine insurance holders. And while we all pay more, insurance companies have seen an increase in their profits of $1.8 million dollars. This is special interest politics at its worst.
Who are Republicans really fighting for?
Governor LePage and the Republican majority promise tax incentives for the job creators. But, let’s look at the math:
If you’re a successful small business that nets $100,000 dollars in profit after paying all your expenses, you get $550 more dollars in your pocket. Republicans are telling you that is enough money to get you to create more jobs and invest in your business. Make no mistake, an extra $550 is a nice check, but it’s not going to allow a business to hire anybody and it will not lead to significant new investment in that business. Recently a small business owner told me he’d benefit a lot more by the state, building the roads and bridges we need, invest in workforce training programs, and funding public education to help manage our property taxes.
It seems the policies of Governor LePage and the Republican majority have made it harder to live and work in this state. They’ve sold us a false bill of goods. They’ve promised one thing but have delivered something else.
It’s time those in charge in Augusta, Governor LePage and his allies, are held accountable for what they are really doing.
Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Phil Bartlett of Gorham. Have a great weekend!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Audio link here.
Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.
My administration has one primary principle that governs education policy, and it is a simple one: What is best for the student? That is the number one question that we ask ourselves when we develop education policy.
Education is the foundation to success. I know, for me, education was the catalyst that got me off the streets.
But the fact is education in Maine has become a partisan issue when it ought not to be.
I had the opportunity earlier this year to take part in the Governor’s Education Symposium hosted by the Hunt Institute and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Former governors Jim Hunt and Jeb Bush brought together Republican and Democrat governors to talk about best practices and ways to improve our education system.
The two governors brought to the conference U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. He was a guest speaker, and believe-it-or-not, he and I agree on a lot when it comes to education.
Currently, Maine is in the process of requesting more flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act. We’re working with Secretary Duncan to ensure we have a way to measure schools that is more realistic and more meaningful, and that we will have new, more effective tools to make our schools better.
Every state needs change agents and they have to be willing to fight for the student. In Maine, we have superintendents fighting for appropriations, principals fighting for pretty schools, and union leadership fighting for more dues. Who’s fighting for the student? The teacher. Our elected officials, you and me, need to fight for the quality teachers and a plan that shifts away from the status quo.
Our administration is focusing on reform efforts in a handful of core areas, based on work that was done in high performing states.
This brings us to Maine’s ABC Plan. ABC stands for accountability, best practices and choice.
The “C” in our plan is about Choice and I would like to share with you why this part of the plan is paramount. Another word for choice is option. If we are striving for more successful outcomes for our students we must offer multiple options. The one-size fits all approach does not work.
When we talk about options what do we mean? Well, public education works for some students, but not all of them. So, how can we reach the students who are slipping through the cracks? We do it by offering customized education through options. By way of charter schools, private, and homeschooling career and technical education, and digital learning, both online and virtual opportunities.
For the past 20 months our administration has highlighted the benefits of career and technical education. In fact, Secretary Duncan has applauded Maine’s efforts to expand access to career and technical education.
I will continue to stand up for vocational education because we know the skills that are taught at career and technical centers are what our job creators are requiring from their workers. Good-paying jobs are on the line.
Digital learning is another option our administration is focusing on. However, there is a difference between online learning and virtual learning.
Online learning doesn’t require a teacher while virtual learning does. The key to successful virtual learning is the teacher that interacts with students. If there is an effective teacher that can engage with his or her students through technology, hundreds of children can be educated successfully. With that said, it’s very important to have assistant teachers in the classroom to support the students, but a quality teacher is the critical component to making virtual education work.
Online learning is another option to provide learning opportunities to students in a way that works best for them because they can go at their own pace, set their own schedules and choose from a greater variety of courses.
Right now, we’re working on a digital learning plan that we hope will mean wider access to high quality digital learning options for all Maine students.
There are many options for students, Maine just needs to offer these options to all students not the select few who can afford it.
For me, education was a way out. It was a way out of poverty and a start to a new life. But, believe me; I had plenty of mentors along the way.
Today’s students need role models that will guide them. They need great teachers and great school leaders.
There’s nothing partisan about education when we ask ourselves what is best for our students?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Pass the popcorn. Here is a portion of the latest press release from the Governor’s office:
Rep. Pingree Uses Newspaper to Mislead Mainers, “Political Posturing at its Worst” says Governor LePage
AUGUSTA – Today, Governor Paul LePage released the following statement regarding Representative Chellie Pingree’s attempt to attract media attention in light of the USDA flip-flopped decision regarding overpayments provided to Mainers through the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):
“This is political posturing at its worst. Representative Pingree is, once again, using her intimate ties with the Maine Today Media to lie to Maine people. The error in question has no connection whatsoever to system malfunctions, and Pingree is siding with the Federal Government which has decided that during the height of the election campaign it will penalize Maine.
Clearly, Representative Pingree has a history of empowering the heavy hand of the Federal Government over the people of Maine. I will not support Pingree’s demand that Maine taxpayers pay for this. She is out of line and so is the Federal Government. If the feds have an issue about how the State administers their federal program, they are welcome to take back the administration of their program.”
Apparently this is the PPH opinion piece that has the Governor so ticked. A few quotes:
It’s ironic to see an administration that harps on establishing a culture of responsibility trying to get others to pay for its mistake. But that’s what we have in Maine.
In a letter to the state, the USDA said it would absorb about $2 million of the state’s error, but Maine would have to pick up the rest. DHHS is specifically instructed not to try to collect it from the participants.
Rather than take steps to make sure that multimillion-dollar mistakes are not made again, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew announced Thursday that the state will appeal the decision to the federal government.
That would be as much a waste of staff time and state money as the recent lawsuit attempting to force the federal government to make a quick decision on Maine’s request for a waiver allowing it to balance the budget by dropping nearly 30,000 people from the Medicaid program. The court dismissed the suit, as it should do with this one.
If the LePage administration was serious about saving money, it would take a harder look at how it is spent by DHHS instead of just demonizing the poor. The appeal of this decision apparently shows that taking responsibility is for others where the administration is concerned.
BREAKING story; will be updated as needed.
*RELATED: (UPDATED) USDA To Mayhew, DHHS: $4.8M SNAP Overpayment Cannot Be Recouped From Affected 70k Maine Families
Maine Democrats: “LePage Must Take Responsibility For $4.8M Compliance Error”; Furious Admin Plans To Appeal USDA Decision
(The briefing memo is below, shared in its entirety. The title is mine alone. ~AP)
Opponents of allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license have begun an effort to create confusion about current Maine law, domestic partnerships and civil unions.
In op-eds placed in daily newspapers around the state, opponents of marriage have incorrectly claimed that “same-sex couples have been able to join together in legal matrimony in Maine for eight years with the same rights and benefits of everyone else.”
This information is false.
Additionally, there has been an effort to confuse domestic partnerships with civil unions. Maine does not allow civil unions, nor does the state allow same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license.
Instead, Maine has a limited “Domestic Partnership Registry” that grants certain eligible couples a small handful of legal rights in terms of probate, guardianships, conservatorships, inheritance and protection from abuse.
“Parents don’t dream of the day that their children will enter into a binding legal contract or have their domestic partnership papers filed. They dream of the day their children will marry the person they love and begin a life together, with all of the responsibilities and joys that come with marriage. Loving, committed couples don’t hope for the day they will be protected in probate court,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. “In form and function, domestic partnerships do not have the same meaning or protections that come with civil marriage.”
Apart from legal rights, marriage carries profound personal meaning, for the couples and for others who instantly grasp its significance. Because it is understood by all, the word “marriage” is itself is a protection.
From the Department of Health and Human Services domestic partnership registry website: “Effective July 30, 2004, Public Law 672 regarding Domestic Partner Registration will allow individuals who have been legally domiciled together in this state, for at least 12 months, to submit a notarized registration form (Declaration of Domestic Partnership) to the Maine CDC vital records office to have their partnership legally registered. The Domestic Partner Registration allows individuals to have rights of inheritance (as specified in Title 18-A M.R.S.A.) as well as the right to make decisions regarding the disposal of their deceased partners remains (Title 22 M.R.S.A. §2843-A).”
“Does that sound at all like a marriage,” McTighe said. “Marriage matters to thousands of Maine families. Marriage is the strongest and most stabilizing bond the state can confer on any couple, and it’s something that should be encouraged, not discouraged. Domestic partnerships are no substitute for allowing all loving, committed couples to marry.”
Opponents of marriage around the country have outlined a strategy that Mainers will recognize from 2009, the only other time the issue of allowing same-sex couples to marry has been voted on in Maine.
Opponents falsely claim – as the referenced op-ed above makes clear – that same-sex couples already enjoy the legal rights of marriage.
And Mainers United expects, in the closing days of the campaign, to see a television ad similar to the one aired in 2009, which says: “We want to be tolerant of gays. Maine’s domestic partnership laws provide substantial protections for gay couples. Any problems remaining can be addressed without dismantling traditional marriage. It’s possible to support civil rights of all citizens and protect traditional marriage at the same time.”
The goal of the advertisement is to create a false equivalence between two things that are not alike.
Alternatives to marriage also fail as a matter of principle. Other states that have passed domestic partnerships or civil unions have found that they just don’t work and can be harmful.
Massachusetts: The Massachusetts high court rejected an attempt by some to substitute civil unions after its landmark marriage ruling in 2003. The Court said in an Opinion to the Justices of the Senate that the differences “between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’” [were] “not innocuous; [but]… a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex … couples to second-class status. … The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.”
New Jersey: After New Jersey enacted civil unions, in 2008, an independent Civil Union Review Commission issued a unanimous report to the Governor and Legislature with urgent findings, calling the negative effects of civil unions “striking”: “In a number of cases, the negative effect of the Civil Union Act on the physical and mental health of same-sex couples and their children is striking.”
The Commission found that “children would benefit by society’s recognition that their parents are married” and called for the state to amend the civil union law “without delay” to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The Commission also wrote in its final report: “Even if, given enough time, civil unions are understood to provide rights and responsibilities equivalent to those provided in marriage, they send a message to the public: same-sex couples are not equal to opposite-sex married couples in the eyes of the law, that they are ‘not good enough’ to warrant true equality. This is the same message that racial segregation laws wrongfully sent. Separate treatment was wrong then and it is just as wrong now.”
Vermont: A commission in Vermont drew similar conclusions in 2008, nearly a decade after it passed its civil union law. Vermonters with civil unions testified saying that there are “deficits in the civil union law, with clear and negative financial, economic, and social impacts on their lives and the lives of their children and families.”
The court explained in its opinion: “Despite the truly laudable effort of the legislature in equalizing the legal rights afforded same sex and opposite sex couples, there is no doubt that civil unions enjoy a lesser status in our society than marriage.”
Mainers United for Marriage is the coalition to win marriage for all Maine families. A “Yes” vote on Question 1 in November will allow marriage licenses for loving, committed same-sex couples in Maine while also protecting religious freedom.
For more information about the campaign, visit www.mainersunited.org.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Maine Democrats: “LePage Must Take Responsibility For $4.8M Compliance Error”; Furious Admin Plans to Appeal USDA Decision
Things are heating up in Augusta! From MPBN:
DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is furious at the Food and Nutrition Service and its demand for payment, and said the state will appeal. She said her office sought to recover the money from the recipients in the first place, because it was told to do so by the Food and Nutrition Service.
“We will be appealing this decision, it is not only inconsistent with the practice of FNS, it is inconsistent with a letter we received from this same federal agency six months prior demanding that we collect the overpayment,” Mayhew said.
Mayhew is upset at the assertion in the letter that the state has a systemic problem in how it handles the food stamp program. The very same letter, she said, praises the state’s administration of the program.
“In the exact same letter, that they issued this week, they are commending the state of Maine for our system in administering this federal program and that we are eligible to receive bonus funding for how well we have administered the program,” she said.
Earlier today, State Senator Justin Alfond and House Minority Leader Emily Cain responded to the news with a joint press release:
“The Administration’s ongoing neglect of the law and mismanagement is costing Maine tax payers,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Senator Justin Alfond of Portland. “As seen here, the Administration’s arrogant approach is harmful to Maine families and now it’s costing all of us.”
“We are relieved to hear that struggling families won’t have to pay the price for the LePage administration’s mismanagement,” said House Democratic Leader Emily Cain of Orono. “The administration must take responsibility for its mistakes, not shift costs to Maine people.”
Alfond added, “This $4.8 million mistake is only what we know about today. Who can guess at what other ‘errors’ have yet to be uncovered.”
A fair question. Maine must file any appeal within ten days and then must file arguments with an appeals board set up to hear state appeals of rulings within 30 days. The appeals board then has another 30 days to issue a ruling, which can be appealed to the courts if necessary.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Take a look– this is an effective body punch that is going to further hurt Mitt Romney.
Sidenote: Nate Silver of 538 has an interesting read today in the NYT with great interactive polling chart graphics; the latest shows Obama with a solid 316 electoral college votes to Romney’s 222. Some snippets:
Accounting for all of the data, including the Rasmussen Reports poll, the FiveThirtyEight forecast showed Mr. Obama making gains. His probability of winning the Electoral College is now listed at 81.9 percent, his highest figure of the year and up from 79.7 percent on Tuesday.
The Maine League of Young Voters has released their list of candidate endorsements 9see below); one surprise was that they chose not to endorse a US Senate candidate at all. Via email blast:
We have officially made our endorsements for the November 6th election!
Just scroll down for a full list of our endorsements for each issue and race.
All volunteers who’ve given us eight hours of their time over the past year were invited to vote on who we decided to endorse at our annual Project Vote meeting, held last night.
Our elections committee formulated a questionnaire and only candidates who answered that questionnaire were eligible for our endorsement. We’ll have all of the questionnaires available on our website early next week.
If you have any further questions, we have tons of great resources over on our website, as well.
Want to help make our endorsements next year? Then come hang out and volunteer with us for eight hours over the course of the next year — and get started today!
Here’s a full list of our endorsements!
President – Barack Obama/Joe Biden (D)
US Senate – no endorsement
US House – Chellie Pingree (D)
State Senate District 7 – Rebecca Millett (D)
State Senate District 8 – Justin Alfond (D)
State Senate District 9 – Anne Haskell (D)
State House District 113 – Mark Dion (D)
State House District 114 – Peter Stuckey (D)
State House District – Erik Jorgensen (D)
State House District – Denise Harlow (D)
State House District – Richard Farnsworth (D)
State House District – Matt Moonen (D)
State House District – Ben Chipman (I)
State House District – Diane Russell (D)
State House District – Terry Morrison (D)
State House District 123 – Scott Hamman (D)
State House District 124 – Candidates did not return questionnaire
Portland City Council At-Large – Wells Lyons
Portland City Council District 1 – Kevin Donoghue
Portland City Council District 2 – Dave Marshall
Portland School Board At-Large – Sarah Thompson
Portland School Board District 1 – Jenna Vendil
Portland School Board District 2 – Holly Seeliger
Portland Water District – Nisha Swinton
Ballot Question 1 – YES
Ballot Question 2 – YES
Ballot Question 3 – YES
Ballot Question 4 – YES
Ballot Question 5 – YES
Local Ballot Question – YESRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(UPDATED) USDA to Mayhew, DHHS: $4.8M SNAP Overpayment Cannot Be Recouped From Affected 70k Maine Families
Oh dear; here we go again! From a press release via Rep. Pingree’s office this morning:
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said today that federal officials have informed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that 70,000 Maine families should not be required to repay approximately $80 in SNAP (food stamp) benefits that the state erroneously handed out over the course of several months.
“We heard from dozens of food stamp beneficiaries who suddenly, out of the blue, were informed that they owed the state $80. For people struggling to put food on the table, that represents a big hit to their budget,” Pingree said. “These families didn’t do anything wrong, the overpayment was due to an administrative mistake, and there was no way they could have possibly known they were getting a few dollars more a month than they should have.”
The error, according to federal officials, came when state officials failed to follow federal guidelines in applying the “Standard Utility Allowance”— the estimate of a household’s utility costs used when calculating the need for food stamp benefits.
Federal officials also expressly prohibited the state from trying to collect the overpayment from Maine SNAP beneficiaries. Maine law as reported in the Bangor Daily News, back in July, states that DHHS, which administers the program, was prohibited from reducing benefits until a formal rule change in the program was made.
One wonders how many times the LePage administration, Mayhew and DHHS have messed up their numbers- it seems to happen on a fairly frequent basis. It’s hard to not agree with this opinion piece from last March, making the case for Mayhew’s firing- certainly she has not helped build a rebuttal case for retention.
Suffice to say, we will see much more of this sort of mismanagement in the year to come, now that the waiting is over, SCOTUS has upheld Obamacare and Maine is now asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to force the Obama Administration to allow the state to reduce the amount it spends on Medicaid.
The letter from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, addressed to Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, can be seen below.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Another Bad Day for Romney! Dems Ask Feds Look into Bain Ethics Filings, 1985 Romney Clip Emerges: “Bain to ‘Harvest’ Companies for Profit”
More from Mother Jones, who released the clip:
At Bain, Romney’s top priority wasn’t to boost employment. As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, creating jobs “wasn’t the aim of Bain or other private-equity firms, which measure success by returns produced for investors.” And, the newspaper reported, Romney’s 100,000-jobs claim is tough to evaluate.
Mother Jones has obtained a video from 1985 in which Romney, describing Bain’s formation, showed how he viewed the firm’s mission. He explained that its goal was to identify potential and hidden value in companies, buy significant stakes in these businesses, and then “harvest them at a significant profit” within five to eight years.
The video was included in a CD-ROM created in 1998 to mark the 25th anniversary of Bain & Company, the consulting firm that gave birth to Bain Capital.
Here is the letter filed with the Justice Department:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
« Previous Entries