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The Hearts of Obama and Congress: Colder Than Winter in Maine

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According to information furnished by the American Pulpwood Association and reprinted on the Maine Nature News website we should "respect mother nature." And that admonition is used in conjunction with the proscribed ice thicknesses on Maine lakes when it comes to traveling across them.

Here are a few of the safety hints they cite: ice two inches thick will support the weight of "one person on foot" -- ice seven and a half inches thick holds "a passenger car" -- and two feet of ice can hold about "45 tons."

Now if you're not from Maine, I need to explain a few things about these ice facts. Winter sporting enthusiasts need to know them because they play -- aka fish, snowmobile, cross country ski, etc. -- on the waterways as though they were land. They even build ice shacks onto the thick ice of lakes, rivers and ponds from which they enjoy their winter activities.

Take Moosehead Lake for example. It's quite large -- about ten miles by sixty miles -- and it freezes solid on the top. If folks want to navigate the lake's water instead of traveling across the icy crust, they have to wait for it all to melt. There's a term used in Maine for when the ice is gone and the lake is usably liquid again. It's referred to as "ice out." And for decades the State of Maine has kept "ice out" statistics for waterways. Moosehead Lake had its ice out in 2010 on the 15th of April.

Now here's why this should matter to you even if you're not a winter sports enthusiast and you have never been -- nor do you even intend to go -- to Maine. Imagine how cold it has to be and how long it has to be that cold for a ten-mile by sixty-mile lake to stay frozen until the middle of April. And now imagine being a member of Congress deciding priorities for the world's wealthiest nation. That's right, pretend you're a cold-hearted member of Congress looking at defunding or underfunding a program geared at keeping people warm even though it gets that cold all across the northern half of your once great nation.

If you really want to talk about cold-hearted, you could imagine you're the President of the United States who recently recommended that your nation's heating assistance program -- known as LIHEAP -- be cut by 2/3rds.

Maybe you need to know more than how low temperatures get across the country to make the decision on whether or not LIHEAP funding should be slashed. Maybe you need to know who receives LIHEAP assistance. After all if it were oil company executives who already benefit from generous federal tax subsidies then really that would make the LIHEAP program repugnant and deserving of cuts.

Well for starters LIHEAP stands for "Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program." So the low income part would likely rule out the oil company executives. Especially because the Wall Street Journal reported, "CEOs of oil and gas companies had the highest median value of total direct compensation at $13.7 million in 2010."

Nice they can make a decent salary while others struggle to keep warm in states where ice depth is measured in feet for months at a time. Certainly the enormous cuts to LIHEAP recipients could be avoided if Congress had the stomach to adequately tax the executives who get their enormous compensation directly from the sale of fuels so desperately needed to keep LIHEAP recipients warm.

But back to the folks who get help -- and in 2002 there were more than 32 million qualifying households in the U.S. -- they are the elderly, the disabled, and the children of the poor. In fact in Maine more than half of all LIHEAP recipients are low income elderly and the disabled, leaving a little less than half to be the poor and their children.

So what can we do?

Well, I work for a great man. I'm a morning radio host at a privately owned station. That means that I'm free to speak my mind and free to call on the community for help. So beginning Monday, November 21st, I'm moving into a wooden shed. I'll stay there until I can raise $70,000 to augment the $30 million in cuts slated for my home state of Maine. It'll be chilly but it won't last all winter. And sadly, in the big scheme it won't do much. But because I work for author Stephen King it'll buy about 38,000 galllons of heating oil because he's promised to throw in another $70,000 to match what the community contributes. And that means seventy grand goes twice as far.

You can follow our story at our station website or at The Pulse Morning Show facebook page. And in the mean time, call your Congressperson and tell them that LIHEAP matters more than their wealthy contributors. Tell our lawmakers that they need an "ice out" for their hearts.