Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Scapegoating the Ghost of D-Money...Again

Republican Governor Paul LePage
There's little question that controversial Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage was the clear hands down winner of last week's George Lincoln Rockwell Award.

After his jaw-dropping press conference on August 26th where he told stunned reporters, "the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin."

While that's just another example of LePage's (latest) racist buffoonery, he was opining on just who he thinks is responsible for Maine's epic opioid addiction problem; arguably one of the worst in the U.S.

As Amber Phillips observed in a recent Washington Post article chronicling LePage's heading-grabbing statements over the past few weeks, this is the same guy who suggested that Donald Trump needed "to be more disciplined" not too long ago.

While it is remarkable that he used an outlandishly racist statement while defending himself to reporters for leaving a threatening voice mail for a Democratic state lawmaker that LePage mistakenly thought had called the decidedly racist former businessman a racist, it's not unusual for him.

It was only back in January that I blogged about LePage and his attempt to characterize heroin traffickers in Maine as "guys with the names D-Money, Smoothy, Shifty - these types of guys."

Now obviously we know the "types of guys" LePage was talking about, but unfortunately his transparent efforts to scapegoat young men of color for the opioid addiction issue impacting the entire New England region is little more than a simplistic, reactionary election-year mischaracterization of a far more complex problem.

David Amsden's alarming April 2014 Rolling Stone article 'The New Face of Heroin: The Epidemic that's Ripping Vermont Apart' on the explosion of opioid and Heroin use in Vermont is a far more instructive exploration of who's responsible for Heroin trafficking in Maine than LePage's preening bigotry is.

As the chart pictured above shows drug overdose deaths in Maine rose an astonishing 31% in 2015 - 272 deaths.

LePage's race-based blame-game reeks of a simplistic effort to deflect responsibility from his own administration's role in the explosion of opioid use in Maine resulting, in part, from his own questionable economic policies which translated to anemic job creation  in the wake of the Great Recession since 2011 when he first rode the Tea Party wave into the governor's mansion.

As Edward Murphy reported in the Portland Press Herald back in January, the bleak job forecast by Maine's own Department of Labor through 2022 is a depressing 2.3 growth rate.

That's not all LePage's fault, as Murphy observes, the weak state labor market is failing to draw younger workers to replace and supplement an aging workforce that's seen an exodus of the kinds of well-paying manufacturing jobs that people with rather basic skill sets could once depend on to make a decent living.

Maine unemployment rate under Paul LePage
But he's the Governor, and an outspoken one elected on his reputation as a businessman with experience creating jobs; sound like anyone you know?

According to 2010 U.S. Census statistics Maine's population is 95% white.

1.2% of Maine's population is black.

So LePage's claim two weeks ago that "90 percent" of the photos of drug-related criminal offenders he claims to keep in a three-ring binder are black or Hispanic people from out of state is totally absurd.

(What is it with Republicans and their "binders" full of data on racial minorities and women anyway?
Remember Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" claim during the 2012 presidential debate?)

It's probably a lot easier for LePage to cast responsibility for an addiction epic affecting the entire nation on disenfranchised people of color than it is too hold the large pharmaceutical companies (like Purdue Pharma) and network of physicians who've been marketing, selling and prescribing the powerful opioid pain relievers like OxyContin to millions of Americans for years accountable for the spike in Heroin abuse - which has gotten more potent and cheaper as demand has skyrocketed.

And they've all profited handsomely off of it too; that's not something that can be pawned off on a fictional boogeyman named "D-Money".

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