Democratic Socialism: Old Midcoast ideas are new again

By Susan Reider | Apr 04, 2019

This just in: If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with Wall Street bonuses since 1985, the minimum wage would now be $33.51 per hour.

This is just another example of the rampant income inequality that’s destroying American society. Our life expectancy is shorter, our wages are stagnant, our infrastructure is crumbling (as anyone who has driven through Rockland knows), our oceans are warming at an alarming rate, Big Pharma is spreading opioid addiction and death, and the right tells us to blame immigrants for everything we don’t like about our lives. Maine’s economic forecast looks grim and there don’t seem to be any answers.

We’re like the frog in the pot of boiling water that fell in when it was still cool and didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.

Living in beautiful Midcoast Maine, it’s easy to look away from our problems. What problems, you ask? According to the latest U.S. census figures, the median income in Rockland is $42,804 — $15,000 less than the national average. Meanwhile, 21 per cent of renters in Knox County pay half or more of their household income for rent. And there’s this: 40 percent to 57 percent of children in Knox and Lincoln county schools are eligible for free and reduced-price school lunches, and in some Waldo County schools eligibility reaches 85 percent.

It’s not that Mainers don’t want to work. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, nearly two-thirds of its clients held a job in the previous 12 months. They are the working poor who can no longer make ends meet with seasonal or minimum-wage jobs.

The water’s getting hotter in more ways than one. Not since the Gilded Age have we seen such rampant greed and distortion of what many of us believed were inherent American values: liberty and justice for all; all people created equal; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s worth noting that the last time things got this bad, people in the Midcoast stood up. The Grange, founded in 1873 after a panic crippled small farms, fought for women’s suffrage, better education, a curb on the power of railroads, and a graduated federal income tax, among other things. The Knights of Labor organized in Warren in 1886 and was strong in Rockland. The Populist Party of Maine was formed in 1891. The Socialist Party of Maine, formed in 1900, ran Norman Wallace Lermond of Thomaston for governor. According to Maine’s foremost labor historian, Charles A. Scontras, “Knox County (was a) nursery of reform movements … in the latter half of the 19th century.”

The vision of a better society offered by progressives, socialists, Marxists and all stripes in between has survived since the Gilded Age. We fought for voting rights, child labor laws, better working conditions and labor standards, the GI Bill, Medicare and Social Security, and environmental protection.

But look how easy it’s been to undo those achievements. Voting rights are threatened. Medicare and Social Security are under attack. Environmental regulations are being rolled back because they might affect the bottom line of major campaign contributors. The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people and money is speech. Oh, and the earth’s atmosphere is being destroyed.

It’s time for a Green New Deal. We need to break the stranglehold of political and economic elites who now control almost every aspect of our lives. We need to restructure the things that aren’t working in our society, because Big Money has taken over our government, legal system, natural resources and other public goods. And then we can take back the obscene salaries and bonuses the rich give themselves, and the waste that the military industrial complex generates, and use that wealth for the common good. We have to stop listening to the lies about why we can’t have good schools, good health care, good jobs — things that only the rich can now afford.

In the coming weeks, my friends and colleagues will offer a range of Democratic Socialist perspectives about how these things can happen. We’ll write about the Green New Deal and other pressing issues. We’d like to hear from you at


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Comments (6)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 11, 2019 08:00

Don't forget that cigarettes, beer and drugs are purchased before health care!  Who are we to dictate where someone else spends their money?  How much do we pay the robots whom will be taking those minimum wage positions?


Making predictions IS tricky!  Predicting for the farmer is just as risky as the prediction of the CEO of Solyndra or Enron.   Just as predicting for the CEO of  Paine Webber, Eastern Airlines, E. F. Hutton......remember that one?  When EF Hutton talks people listen.   Predictions are why the CEO's make the big bucks.  The above companies CEO's made the wrong predictions of the way the world would grow.  How much money are those companies CEO's making now on their stock option packages?  How much are the people that invested in those companies making on dividends while their income is now fixed?


Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 10, 2019 22:48

Yes Ron,  it makes sense to give the fixed income more money.  How would that be calculated?  The increase currently is calculated from last years cost of living.  So the fixed income is always behind.  What is your proposal to correct that?


I can agree that those large corporations like Sears put all the small businesses in Belfast out of business.  The large corporations around and in the Bangor Mall are disappearing while the small independent business down town Bangor are flourishing.  Walmart is now down sizing their super stores to smaller sizes and chances are it may find the same path as KMart.  The Sears Roebuck catalog was the latest and greatest.  So much so Sears had reserves and diversified just like you said.  As Dr Phil says ...How's that working for them?



The fixed income does get increases but always lags behind.  How do you predict what their increase should be?  Do you agree with the sophomore's first job paying more?

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 10, 2019 14:36

For example.......A hardware store pays a high school kid to stock shelves.  If the student wage goes up, the price of the nuts or bolts rise to off set the increase of wages.   The fixed income individual does not get an increase in Social Security until the following year.  The increase reflective of the cost of living.  So a continual increase in minimum wages just makes the nuts and bolts more expensive.  Minimum wage =$10 per hour the nuts and bots are a $1.  Minimum wage is $100 per hour the nuts and bolts are $10.  The small business man labor on his expense line is 10% in both cases.

Another example is the State of Maine and the tourist industry.  The restaurants run a specific labor cost.  What ever the minimum wage is, dictates what the selling price for what the meals are.  Raise the minimum wage, and the price of the meals increase.   The elderly, fixed income are punished from delayed cost of living increases only coming after the year has gone by.


What is a sophomore in high school worth per hour who has never worked before?  A person who is incapable of making change at a cash register.  How high do you wish to pay the inexperienced sophomore and punish the fixed income elderly?


Do we increase the fixed income pay as well or just make them suffer from the increase in prices?

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 10, 2019 14:17

Was that a yes or a no, to harm the fixed income bracket?  The "big bad corporations" or so called, are far out numbered by small businesses that have a labor line on their expense page.  That labor is what ever the individual small business has budgeted in order to make a profit and stay in business.  If minimum wage is increased, the small businesses will increase their cost of goods sold.  Items become more expensive so the wages increase, however every fixed income individual will be punished and forced to choose.  Drugs, food, heat, or any other need the elderly must choose from.  That is why I wanted an answer to the simple question,

Do we increase the fixed income pay as well or just make them suffer from the increase in prices?

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 09, 2019 20:58

Do we increase the fixed income pay as well or just make them suffer from the increase in prices?

Posted by: Robert M Rosenberg | Apr 06, 2019 07:43

Well put Susan. You too Ron.

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