As noted in the last “round-up” post, the students in Maine Government are now fully focused on analytical research papers on a Maine policy issue of their choice. Thus, many of the posts for this week and subsequent weeks will be delving into the minutiae of policy issue and specific plans and proposals for how to address challenges facing the state of the Maine. In short, the students will be getting a little “wonky.”
For a long time, “policy wonk” had a negative connotation. The term conjured up images of egg-head researchers speaking about mind-numbingly complex issues, marshaling data, statistics, and the ubiquitous pie chart to offer up conclusions seemingly only of interest to the wonk and their fellow wonks. But this has changed, due largely to the presence of a cadre of data-driven political and economic commentators who have managed to appeal to a new generation of wonk-minded political junkies: Leavitt and Dubner’s “Freakonomics,” Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, and a host of others. Politico had a great piece written by Felix Salmon recently which asked the question “Is there a Wonk Bubble?”–a question answered with an enthusiastic yes.
Frankly, a “wonk bubble” sounds a lot more appealing than the “screaming talking heads bubble” that Crossfire and other cable news shows helped to propagate in the past 10-15 years.
So please pardon (or celebrate) our wonkishness, as we delve into the nitty-gritty details of an variety of topics: alternative energy surcharges (Ben Algeo), retail wages (John Chase), student debt (Liam Nee–in a follow up to his recent piece in the Bangor Daily News), plans for youth retention (Dean Soltys), organic farming (Trey Stewart), out-of-state EBT card use (Jaymi Thibault), and last but not least, wood pellets (Spencer Warmuth).
We’ll be back a little later this week with more great and wonky work on Maine politics.