This past weekend my brother and I took our annual pilgrimage to Bangor, Maine to watch the Kenduskeag canoe race. http://www.kenduskeagstreamcanoerace.com/. As you enter the State of Maine you are greeted with the slogan “Maine, the Way Life Should Be”. One thinks, this must be an idyllic place to live and work. Having grown up just outside of Bangor, Maine, I can tell you that it once was. The quality of life was terrific, no crime, beautiful scenery, relative low cost of living, and a fair amount of decent paying jobs. Back then, there was alot going on in Bangor, Maine. The paper industry was humming and even companies in the traditional manufacturing industries were doing well. Even Bangor International Airport had dozens of large jets, 727s, MD80s full of paying business travelers. Unfortunately since the late 80s, the State has continued to decline in per capita income and continues to loose its best educated young people. There just are not any jobs. Perhaps the state believes that “the way life should be” is living in abject poverty. If that is there definition of living the good life, then the state is doing a fantastic job of creating the reality they are promoting. Eventually tourist will be turned away by Maine’s increasingly high taxes and costs which are passed on to tourists. Tourist driving the back roads of Maine will be greeted by dilapidated homes and failing farms. No matter how you look at it, this is depressing.
Driving through mid-central Maine today is depressing. Towns like Clinton, Unity and others are as bad as the poverty stricken areas of the Appalachian mountains in the south. One hundred years ago these areas were considered some of the best, most productive farming communities in the entire U.S. Along the coast towns such as Belfast and Camden look good, but certainly pail in comparison to the grandeur and wealth that these towns created in the past. Maine used to be one of the strongest, most robust economies in the nation. The state needs to do more in the way of radical tax reform to boost business and investment in new technology. Only then might the State be able to lay claim to the slogan “Maine, The Way Life Should be”, ensuring that what they promote is in fact the reality on the ground.