Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling (right). Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.

Phil: Ten months into Joe Biden’s four-year reign, how would you say he’s doing?

Ethan: With the passage of the infrastructure plan, 500,000 jobs created last month (5.6 million since he was sworn in), the unemployment rate down to 4.6 percent from 6.7 percent when he started, and almost 70 percent of Americans vaccinated, I’d say he has cleaned up the mess well. Especially considering the insurrection finale to the Trump era, and his incompetent handling of the COVID pandemic. America is finally back on the move.

Phil: We are on the move alright. Fuel prices and inflation are blasting off. Health care workers who were heroes a year ago, are now being fired. Parents are fearing they have less and less say in their children’s education. And Democrats are intent on piling our debt up to the moon. At least President Donald Trump focused on empowering people and engineered government to make it easier for “we the people” to navigate our own best lives. Biden, it seems to me, is empowering the government to do just the opposite.

Ethan: Whichever way you see it, I’ll take historic job growth, reopened schools, and lower poverty over the chaos Trump left behind every day of the week. That said, for my money…

Phil: …and ours…

Ethan: …yes, and yours, government providing essential services like roads, internet, education, health care and so much more is not about controlling our lives, it’s about leveling the playing field so we all can compete. When everyone is given a more equal shot at the American Dream, we all do better.

Phil: In what I see as Biden’s quest to radically increase the role of government before he loses control of Congress in 2022, he is wreaking havoc on the very people Democrats claim they are looking to help.

Ethan: Huh? Poverty is projected to be at its lowest level ever recorded, health care costs have dropped for millions of families, coverage has expanded for millions more, and workers are flooding back into jobs. And once the final piece of the Build Back Better plan is passed, we will be expanding health care further, providing universal early childhood education, increasing worker protections against bad employers, and protecting the planet from climate destruction. It seems to me that Democrats are helping exactly the people we have always said we would help.

Phil: Biden campaigned as a moderate. An alternative to socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. But now he is governing as if he is left of AOC, leaving the majority of Democrats unhappy with him.

Ethan: What are you talking about? Ninety-five percent of Democrats in Congress support his agenda, and the latest polls suggest rank and file Democrats are equally enthusiastic. And here in Maine, 81 percent of 2nd Congressional District voters, the most conservative in the state, support Biden’s agenda. It is only the most conservative who oppose his work.

Phil: Then how do you explain his 42 percent approval ratings?

Ethan: Washington gridlock. Afghanistan. COVID fatigue. Disappointment that Build Back Better has shrunk. But I believe Biden is at his low-water mark. I expect it will start rising again by the end of the year.

Phil: That’s a bet I will gladly take. Voters are not happy and I believe Election Day 2022 is going to be worse for Democrats (better for the country) than the 2010 “shellacking” former President Barack Obama took, if Biden doesn’t start governing more from the middle.

Ethan: And that’s a bet I will gladly take.