That was the message from Governor Paul LePage on Saturday. LePage was one of the speakers at the Economic Freedom Festival, an event sponsored by the Maine chapter of the group Americans for Prosperity and held within the granite confines of Fort Knox.
Citing the nearly $16-trillion national debt, a national unemployment rate stuck at 8 percent and what he described as a failed stimulus package, LePage said the country is “going in the wrong direction.”
LePage said it would likely take higher taxes in order to pay down the national debt, a message he acknowledged would be unpopular.
LePage equated poverty with “economic slavery” — a term he said his staff would rather he didn’t use — and told the audience of about 275 people the government is “trying to keep you dumb, obese and poor,” which in turn means “you really have to fight for the American dream.”
Turning his attention to Maine, LePage said he and the Republican-led Legislature made “some modest progress” during the last year but failed to adequately address energy and education.
On the latter topic, LePage identified a group of people he believes is blocking reform.
“The enemy is not unions,” he said. “The enemy is school superintendents.”
LePage said superintendents are “double-dipping” the system — drawing retirement pay and a salary at the same time — in order to maintain the status quo.
Without naming specific candidates, LePage encouraged those in attendance to not only elect “good, solid Republicans” in November, but to also hold them accountable once they are in office.
LePage was followed by Tarren Bragdon, former head of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Bragdon, who now lives in Florida, said when people there learn he is from Maine they ask him about three things: lobster, Acadia National Park and Paul LePage.
“I tell them all three are natural treasures,” Bragdon said.