Thursday, February 10, 2011

Maine! Does it Suck? You Decide. 
(Or, Is This The Way Life Should Be?)

Are We the Stupidest State? 
Last night Christopher Knowles linked on Facebook to a Disinformation story from this site,  titled "The United States of Shame" which put every state in a negative light revealing a shameful statistic about the achievements and character of the people of each state. Unfortunately, according to the chart,  Maine appeared to dwell in a special form of darkness and was declared the "Dumbest State" (apologies to mute people) in the sense of intelligence (or wasted intelligence) revealed by the ubiquitous SAT test. Maine scored the lowest in the country. Yet Maine spends the 5th most money per capita on education. I wondered how this could be. I had never been especially impressed by the brilliance of Maine's education system but I doubted we could be worse than some of the benighted states I had visited in my life.
Then  it came to my attention that Maine requires SAT testing of all high school students, even those who are educationally challenged. This would obviously skew scores to the low side. Many states in the West and the South  have very low optional participation in the SAT test. In twenty states only 11% and under of all students participate.  And some have as low as 3% participation. That does not even take into account the variable high school drop out rates of the states. When only the best students with college ambitions are taking the test, obviously scores will be higher. 
The wisdom of  Maine's full participation policy is another matter. 
For a full comparison of participation by state see this chart..
In fact, standardized achievement tests show that Maine scores at or near the top nationally.  And Morgan Quitno's Education State Rankings, 2005-2006 ranks Maine at #5 best educated, right in line with spending the 5th most per capita on education. As we all know there is a difference between intelligence and education. As the Wizard of Oz stated, "I can't give you a brain but I can give you a diploma."  So, the article that generated this post must be ingested with a few grains of salt.
However, given the impetus of this article, I decided it would be fun and interesting to further muse on worsts, lowests, and most embarrassings about Maine. I had wondered if something was wrong in the State of Maine.
I did some research and found that the answer was MMMMaybe.
Our state motto is DIRIGO, Latin, "I Lead" and indeed we do lead in many things. 
Here is what I found.

We Are the Most Drugged Out State
According to the Morning Sentinel, January 4th of this year Maine residents enjoyed the highest addiction rate to opiates (which excludes heroin and morphine and I assume to be mostly Oxycontin, good old hillbilly heroin) in the country in 2008 with 386 persons out of 100,000 over the age of 12 treated. We were followed by Vermont at 331 and no other state close to those numbers with Delaware next at 149. But maybe we just have a great and enjoyable treatment program for drug addicts that everyone wants to experience! Word gets around. 
It must be understood that we are not talking about illicit (or illegal) drug use. The number one state for that is Alaska. Maine is only number 12, a good but not great effort in that field.  

We Are the Oldest and Whitest State
This Bangor Daily News story from 2009 revealed Census Bureau statistics that indicated Mainers are the oldest and "least racially diverse" meaning whitest, state in the nation. But it is a neck and neck race with Vermont. Maine also has the lowest percentage of children under 5, despite the fact that our child death rate is low and we rank 45th in that statistic.   We are almost number one in the lowest birth rate in the country with 10.3 live births per 1000, barely ahead of Vermont at 10.2. Who would want to bring a child into the world as a Mainer? I think I'll look up rates of impotence and frigidity in Maine. I suspect they are high. We are the most sparsely populated state.   But looking on the bright side, our lack of sexual activity has allowed us to enjoy very low sexually transmitted disease rates. We are #41 in Syphilis, #43 in Gonorrhea, and #48 in Chlamydia. Our HIV rate is very low with 2.7 diagnosis per 100,000 population in 2008. 
 For what it's worth, it is also revealed by statistics that Maine contains the highest percentage by far of baby boomers, of which I, admittedly, am one. 

Our Business Climate Is Execrable
Forbes Magazine has also declared the great state of Maine as the absolute worst state in which to do business.  What is the problem? Predictably, Forbes blames our high taxes.
I suspect that Maine is a great place to do business if you have been here a long long time and you know the right people. But if you are an innovative entrepreneurial outsider who wants to establish himself here you might not be welcomed with open arms. Maine is quite clannish.  I admit that is pure speculation, but it is speculation born of 35 years in the state.

We Are (By Some Measurements) The Highest Taxed State
Yes, Yes, I know statistics can be skewed according to the bias of selection. (See the first item in this post.) But some criteria put us as the NUMBER ONE TAX BURDENED STATE. Depending how you figure it we usually make the top five, the best effort I've seen is twelfth. What are we paying for? Probably a lot of it is infrastructure. We are a relatively large state with a very small population. Each of us has a proportionally greater amount of infrastructure to maintain than, say, Rhode Island, which  is also one of the most heavily taxed states. What is their excuse?

We Are Safe!
I don't want to look at just the dark side. Public records reveal that Maine is the second safest state in the land and we have the 5th lowest crime rate. It just goes to show that if you have an old, drugged out, and unsexy population which lacks in ambition, most people will have far too much inertia to be criminals. Maybe things will change when our shiny new casino is built.

I kid 'cause I love.

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