Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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Small business is small business By Sarason Liebler
Village Soup | June 9, 2006

LIBERTY (June 9, 2006): Recently in an op-ed piece, a local Republican candidate for the Legislature pointed out that, in Maine, small business was big business. She has a point, and that is the shame of it.

An economy, here in Maine, or in the rest of the country, that sees its future in small business is doomed to small business, low incomes, an aging population and a small voice. If this thinking prevails nationally, it also dooms the country to a shrinking voice in international and economic affairs.

The candidate in question, who I do not mean to pick on, mouthed the statewide creed of too many Republicans that less government and lower taxes will provide, even assure, a prosperous and rewarding future for those who reside here as well as for our youth, who after going forth to college will be able to come back to make their lives in the state.

The perverse oddity of the Maine voter, one who wants low taxes, no government and heaps of government services that they do not pay for, skews our run-of-the-mill Republican candidates into trying to attract supporters who are strange hybrids (but definitely not GMOs): Everyday folks who can be considered a contradictory cross between conservatism, libertarianism and socialism.

The tendency of such politicians is to lean more to what they consider a conservative profile, because this is what the conflicted Republican rank-and-file like to think they are. So they dash blindly ahead and ensure the Democrats win again. When an inept fellow like John Baldacci can maintain a lead, in head-to-head polls, with the various Republican candidates running for governor, the obvious should be apparent.

However, we seem to have one candidate out there who is not run-of-the-mill, and his name is Peter Mills. State Sen. Mills, by education (Harvard and then University of Maine School of Law) and experience stands out. He has had significant tenure in Augusta and knows his way around.

Needless to say, I also like his five years in the U.S. Navy with service off Vietnam on a destroyer. Something like that tends to shape one’s thinking as to the realm of the possible.

That is where Mills really stands out. When you go to his website, it is refreshing to see a politician who — rather than mouthing pure red-meat party rhetoric — actually states what he will do and how he will do it. Politically, it is considered naive to do something like that, because as soon as you say what you are specifically for, much less how you will do it, somebody will obviously not like it and it makes you a target of opponents who only speak in platitudes.

It also leads to the true believers going nuts as they froth over his straying from a Republican Party platform that, if embraced or followed, will ensure their continued residence in oblivion.

I have never met or seen Mills or the other two candidates in action, and I hope to get a chance to see them all wing it soon. But their websites and the profiles done by Victoria Wallack for VillageSoup are quite revealing and supportive of a reasonable conclusion.

“Ah,” you may say, “Liebler is simply being unrealistic again. Small business is what we have to count on, as that is all that Maine can do. Look, all the big businesses that have all ready left the state.”

True enough, but our leadership and the conflicted mindset of our people have made it that way. We do have a geographic problem sticking out into the North Atlantic. But just head up to Quebec, cross over into Canada at Jackman, go through the border scrub land and all of a sudden the landscape explodes with farms, value-added lumber operations (like Robbins Lumber in Searsmont), pipe manufacturers, local cheese producers, you name it.

Look at Finland, stuck between the Russians and the polar bears, and you find Nokia, the second-largest producer, worldwide, of mobile phones.

Somebody was thinking big, and so should we. Setting our agenda and shaping our policies based on the complaints and opinions of our existing small businesses is a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

Punch-drunk from defeatism.