Sunday, January 16, 2011

Memo to The Governor of Maine: Civil Rights Are Not The Enemy of Business

In a world that isn’t lily-white like Maine, the message “we are xenophobes” is not good for business. American prosperity is the result of an open-door policy to people of all races, colors and creeds.

Your first executive order asked state officials to question the immigration status of people here, and now you have made it clear that groups advocating for minorities and civil rights are not on your team. You describe the NAACP as a “special interest group” that can “kiss your butt” while you attend numerous Chamber of Commerce meetings, and the message isn’t lost on us, or the global economy. These words now define us, unfairly and inaccurately.

What makes American business exceptional are civil rights laws that prevent profiting from human suffering. The notion that constitutional protections of equality and due process are the enemy of business misses the point the founders of this great Democracy were making when they ensured not only a market place of ideas with a free press and free speech. America is a place where everyone has the equal opportunity to succeed.

Government is not a business. It was created to protect the public good, and to uphold and defend the constitution. The constitution specifically establishes three branches of government to balance power. In your recent memo to your Commissioners, you wrote, “communications with members of the Legislature must be coordinated with the appropriate members of my senior staff.”

Imagine if President Obama sent a memo to the Secretary of Homeland Security and ordered his federal employees to get prior approval from the President’s staff before they spoke with Senators Collins or Snowe, or any members of the U.S. House? Speaker Boehner would laugh until he cried. The legislature doesn’t work for you, Governor, and you don’t work for the Chamber of Commerce. You work for us. All of us.

Your stump speech about business acumen is getting old. You are not yet the champion of economic prosperity. You have not lowered taxes or reduced state spending. You have not created jobs or reduced red tape. You haven’t balanced the budget, fixed the roads, improved the education system or solved the public pension problem that’s been brewing since the McKernan administration.

Instead, you have depicted a colorful and creative swath of Maine’s community as “the problem,” ignoring the true cause of our current economic hardship -- unregulated corporate malfeasance on Wall Street and the growing income disparity in the United States.

Please step out of your comfort zone, Governor. Meet people who are living and contributing to this great state but don’t show up at Chamber meetings. Work with the legislature to make good, sound policy that will attract entrepreneurs and investment from a diverse global population. Be bold but not brash. We want you to succeed, and we embrace success for all of Maine’s people and businesses.


Ms.Paula Page said...

Thank you, For reminding Maine "We are the people" a State of splendid diversity and Grace. And Not Lepage enterprises.

Nancy said...

I appreciate Devon Raymond's interest in being in the US and the LePages for giving him a place to live (away from his family in Jamaica) while he pursues his dreams of being a golf pro. Many young people from Maine would love to do something similar but don't have the resources (and probably won't under LePage's administration).

On the other hand, I have to think that Mr. Raymond would be one of the people who would now be legitimately questioned about his "status" by DHHS, Maine state troopers, or any other Maine agency under the provisions of the Governor's very first executive order. I also suspect the Governor might then - hypocritically - cry "racism" and would expect the NAACP to come to Mr. Raymond's defense.

Richard Clarey said...

I hope Governor Lepage receives enough messages like yours to convince him that more of his "street talk" will only serve to lessen his effectiveness in Augusta. Perhaps he needs reminding that he occupiesthe on the basis of a minority of those voting and not a majority.

Joe said...

In the following excerpt from your blog...

"Government is not a business. It was created to protect the public good, and to uphold and defend the constitution."

Can you please replace the phrase "common good" with "individual rights"?

Protecting the common good inevitably leads to the violation of individual rights as government attempts to determine what is good for the many at the expense of the few. Also, I believe upholding individual rights is more in line with the spirit of our founding fathers.


Anonymous said...

Dear Governor Lepage:

What better lesson does the First Amendment teach us all than the freest democracy is one where there is a give and take, where people listen , and based on what they learn, they are capable of modifying their course of conduct.Free speech is the principle that the best way to counter a stupid idea is through the expression of better ideas. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said: " the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence". Free listening is the flip side of free speech.

Anonymous said...

I'm a state employee. If I told an organization or a member of the public that it or he / she could "kiss my butt" I'd likely (and rightly) receive a written reprimand or perhaps even loose my job.