The Universal Notebook: Maine’s Golden boy isn’t

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Maine 2nd Congressional District Rep. Jared Golden was the only Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better program.

Let me repeat that: Jared Golden was the only Democrat in the House to vote against the president’s $2 trillion BBB program.

Independents and Republicans applaud Golden for being independent. But he’s not independent at all. He’s just wrong. And it’s embarrassing for Maine.

Edgar Allen BeemGolden is looking for Republican and Independent voters in his conservative district, so that leads him to do wrong things, just as former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud did before him.

When you’re a Blue Dog Democrat in a Trump Red district, you have to vote against gay rights even if you’re gay (as Michaud did) and you have to vote against impeaching a treasonous president, against police reform, against closing the gun show loophole, against the COVID-19 relief bill, and against the Build Back Better program (all of which Golden did).

There is an argument to be made that Golden studied under Sen. Susan Collins (for whom he once worked) so he only breaks with his party when his vote won’t change the outcome, thus earning an undeserved reputation for independence.

When I look at Golden, however, I don’t see a moderate Democrat. I see a moderate Republican. If you’re going to vote against a Democratic president’s signature initiative, you might as well be a Republican.

Golden’s reason for voting against BBB is more of a lame excuse than a rationale. He objected to a provision inserted late in the process that raises the federal cap on how much taxpayers can deduct for state and local taxes (SALT) from $10,000 to $80,000. As windfalls for the rich go, that’s chump change. And it may well be eliminated, but Jared Golden saw a golden opportunity to look as though he wouldn’t be pushed around by his party.

Instead, he looks like a young man who doesn’t know how to pick his battles.

To save an estimated $280 billion in lost SALT revenue, Golden was willing to give up a $270 billion investment in affordable child care, $110 billion for universal pre-K, $205 billion for paid family medical leave, $190 billion to extend the Child Tax Credit, $175 billion for affordable housing, $120 billion to expand the Affordable Care Act,  $35 billion to cover hearing under Medicare, $160 billion savings from lowering prescription drug prices, and, oh yes, a $570 billion investment in fighting climate change. 

And in case you think Golden is a principled populist battling tax breaks for the wealthy, BBB has a 5 percent surcharge on incomes over $10 million, 8 percent over $25 million, and a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations.

Bottom line: BBB is a sweeping investment in a better America that balances $2 trillion in new spending with $2 trillion in offsets. 

Golden’s rationale is irrational. That’s why Maine’s golden boy is such an embarrassment. The BBB helps virtually everyone in his district, everyone in Maine, and the vast majority of Americans.

Now BBB goes to the U.S. Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, will likely withhold his vote as a means of wielding power. Golden, a congressional backbencher, just traded his party loyalty for 2nd District votes. He didn’t get a thing for jumping ship.

If you’re going to desert your party and your people, Rep. Golden, maybe you should just consider unenrolling. Better still, switch parties. Better the devil you know.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.