by Rob Roper

The Tax Foundation recently released a study of states and the per capita burden of excise taxes on their citizens. Vermont came in first (that’s bad) with an average Vermonters paying $1,029 in state and local excise taxes per year. We blew away second place Nevada, which came in at $878 and last place Wyoming at just $285.

The Tax Foundation explains, “excise taxes are collected on specific types of transactions, not a wide range of general goods. Some of the most common excise taxes include gas taxes, cigarette taxes, and taxes on the purchase of beer, wine, and liquor. Others include taxes on the purchase of amusements, insurance premiums, and pari-mutuels.”

The insidious thing about excise taxes are that they tend to be invisible to the consumer, thus creating a lack of accountability for the politicians who pass them. Do we blame politicians and the 44¢ per gallon in state and federal excise taxes we pay on each gallon, or the “greedy” oil companies forced to pass along the tax?

Just imagine how Vermont will fare in this ranking if we pass a $500 million per year Carbon Tax, which is an excise tax on fossil fuels?

ExciseperCapita-01

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 3 comments }

by John McClaughry

Here’s some heartening news on health care from Hawaii. A husband-and-wife team of doctors is now offering patients membership in the state’s first direct primary care practice.

Dr. Michelle Suber is a naturopathic physician. She also founded a middle school that “cultivates the relationship between students and the land through growing and sharing nourishing food in our outdoor living classroom,” with the aim of “connecting land stewardship, culture, health and pleasure with lifelong learning,”.

Now Dr. Suber and her husband, medical doctor Buzz Hollander, have converted their traditional fee-for-service practice into Iris Integrative Health.  Iris offer patients preventive care services in exchange for a monthly membership fee, which at Iris starts at $125 for one adult and $50 for one child, with discounts for additional children. The fee covers “virtually all the costs of primary care,” including tests, electrocardiograms, minor surgeries, and other procedures, plus office visits and phone calls. The practice doesn’t take health insurance. Patients can buy high deductible coverage and use their tax free Health Savings Accounts to pay for Iris.

A study conducted by Qliance, a group headquartered in Seattle, demonstrated a 20 percent reduction in the health care costs of 15,000 Medicaid patients who were given DPC memberships in 2013 and 2014.

Could an integrated primary care practice like Iris appear in Vermont? Under the coming All Payer regime, my guess is probably not. It doesn’t fit the convoluted Accountable Care Organization model, where the Green Mountain Care Board tells the One Big ACO how much money it gets to cover its assigned patient load, and the One Big ACO rations it out, sharing the “savings” if not all is spent.

- John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

 

{ 1 comment }

by Chris Campion

Great Britain, in re-claiming its sovereignty by famously voting to exit the EU, has set a new standard in terms of trying on new political ideas, and finding them wanting.  The difference for Britain and its people, in this case, is that they could disconnect from the EU experiment if they didn’t like it.  As just one maddening example shows, it turns out that the EU defining how olive oil should be served on restaurant tables might not be in anyone’s best interests, except for an EU bureaucracy that seemed to function only to create additional costs for businesses with no discernible benefit to the public good, or to the business itself.

Why would anyone want to put up with this insanity?  As Great Britain demonstrated, if a free people choose to exercise their own power, they will decide not to put up with said insanity.

Vermont’s example shows, however, that it takes more than talk to change a few decades of EU-esque progressivism’s slow but determined encroachment into the decision-making space of every citizen.  The encroachment never happens in one swift stroke.  Incrementalism is the key, and as more layers of bureaucratic power and spending are added, annually, the new norm is established.  The next year’s barnacles are built on the prior year’s established barnacles.

A few of these barnacled examples from Vermont:

Act 250:  What was started as a way to manage growth in Vermont, and to apply a common set of guiding principles and rules has devolved, utterly, into a chokehold on economic growth.  A dilapidated example of which is evident to anyone getting on Interstate 189 off Shelburne Road, in Burlington, where they can see the Vermont’s largest accidentally-funded skatepark, which started construction in 1988, and only last year was the final hurdle cleared in allowing construction to continue.

1988 to 2015.  27 years to build a road.  A 2.9-mile road, one whose planning began in 1965.  Even with a recent green light given by the Vermont Supreme Court (which tossed out a final appeal to block further construction), the City of Burlington is only targeting construction to begin in 2018.

So call it a 30 year delay in building 3 miles of road to route interstate traffic off the highway, into the city.  10 years per mile, of delay.

And Peter Shumlin has said Vermont is “open for business”?

Speaking of the business-friendly environment Vermonters have come to know and love under the Progressive agenda, one of the icons of small businesses in Vermont, Bove’s, was fined in 2008 for labeling their products in a fashion that the Progressive agenda does not approve of, including (gasp!) the fact that not every component in the sauce is made in Vermont.

The Attorney General’s office says that the Bove’s company sold several types of jarred pasta sauces and other products under the “Bove’s of Vermont” label. But the tomatoes were from California and some of the sauce was made in New York. State law prohibits companies from using the word “Vermont” to market products made outside of the state.

Granted, there is a concern about something being labeled inaccurately, but where is the line drawn?  Does the glass for the jars need to be made in Vermont, too?  The manufacturing tools used at the manufacturing facility – are those made in Vermont?  The jar lids?  The labels?  The oregano?  Modern manufacturing is a worldwide supply chain equation, and the state has no knowledge of, nor expertise in, any one single product, much less everything made in Vermont.

As an example, the state regulates wood.  Well, thank God that that issue has been figured out.  I was concerned that Christmas trees would be mislabeled, and angry Christmas shoppers would riot when this duplicity was discovered.

Vermont's lingering wood question, finally resolved through governmental excellence.

 

EB-5:  Long a darling of the Shumlin administration, the EB-5 program was designed to attract foreign investment in Vermont capital projects, of which there is something of a shortage.  Like water in a desert, Vermont needed a federal program to let dollars rain down on its citizens, because without Progressive leadership to fix Vermonters’ problems for them, where would they be?

Well, they wouldn’t be investigated by the SEC for fraud, for one thing.  But hey, what’s a few hundred million in loans floated around in what seems to be a Ponzi-like effort to leverage investor dollars in every place but the capital project itself?  As others have noted, when campaign contributions come from people benefiting from public dollars, even a thin veneer of deniability shatters upon closer inspection:

The current circumstances at Q Burke and Jay Peak are a blow for the entire state of Vermont. Economic development in communities which have been historically neglected is absolutely essential to the financial vitality of our state. The fact that the EB-5 funding scandal is the product of, in this case, a handful of angel funders who have little connection to Vermont speaks loudly to the desperation of public officials who wanted to believe that the primary developers of these projects, Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger, were white knights. They weren’t.

Many will point to the fact that the alleged fraud in this case was eventually uncovered and point to the hard-working forensic accounting specialists who largely go unheralded as evidence that our system of oversight worked. To the extent that these alleged white collar crooks dipped into the public till and enriched themselves at the expense of all Vermonters that is in fact true. But, we should have never, EVER gotten to this point.

Campaign contributions showered the state Democratic party and its leaders, most notably Gov. Peter Shumlin and Sen. Patrick Leahy. Quiros and Stenger did not make those contributions out of the goodness of their hearts. They expected something in return for those campaign monies. While unseemly, under our system that kind of relationship between elected officials and supporters looking to gain or sustain influence is not illegal.

Single-Payer:  Another Progressive fantasy, “Single-Payer”, which mostly involves getting other people to pick up even more costs in addition to what they’re already covering due to the cost shift and Medicaid block grants, wound up being mightily flushed into the outhouse of Vermont’s history, along with a couple hundred million in taxpayer dollars to pay for a site the state did not need, but Peter Shumlin did in order to raise his political profile to national levels.

So Vermont spent someone else’s money, again, for nothing.  Although the fact that it failed in Vermont, and Shumlin had to admit to its failure, which probably contributed to him not running for office again, might have been worth the investment.  In a jaw-dropping turn of phrase, though, Peter keeps the Progressive dream alive, by using phrasings like “Vermont’s not ready yet”, as if there’s an as-yet untapped pile of Vermonter-hidden gold in the $2.6 billion dollar range that’s just lying around, ready to be used for single-payer.

Instead, Shumlin hid his financing “plan” until after an election.  Why?  Because that’s just good science, Vermonters!

The governor kept the development of his financing plan under wraps for several years and had come under increasing pressure to include members of the public in the process. He waited, however, until after the election to make his move. The delay may have cost him voter support as he narrowly defeated an relatively unknown Republican challenger, Scott Milne, by only 2,434 votes in November.

The reality was that the Progressive dream Peter touted was not even remotely possible, under any set of financial circumstances, yet Shumlin rode the wave of its popularity to successive elections until even he could no longer hide from facts, or hide the facts from the public.

“We obviously wish that the numbers were different. It’s a huge disappointment for me, it’s the biggest disappointment of my public service so far, but we’ll make progress by pushing forward in other ways,” Shumlin said.

What should be disappointing to Vermonters is how he spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a vehicle to national office, yet Vermont was still stuck with him.

Now it’s easy to complain, so what’s the cure for Vermont’s ills?  Is there a federal grant program that could be tapped to repair what might have become an irreparably broken Vermont, after decades of abuse?

Or, instead, can Vermonters figure this out on their own?  Here’s a few suggestions that might help the state change course:

Cut taxes:  Match other states that have similar population size, demographics, geographics, etc.  New Hampshire comes to mind here.  It turns out that their aggregate rate of state and local taxes (as of 2011) ranks them 44th (at 8%), and Vermont 9th (at 10.5%).  Here’s an idea:  If people have more of their own money to spend on goods and services, aggregate demand goes up.  The economy grows.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Encourage business:  The costs of business can be broken down into some simple cost drivers:  Labor, materials, and energy.  What did Vermont do for its businesses in those categories?

a.  Increased the cost and reliability of energy by shutting Vermont Yankee.  Shumlin took pains to make sure he was credited for increasing business costs for Vermonters.

b.  Increased the already-high cost of labor by mandating health insurance coverage categories for everybody, essentially, mandating a Cadillac plan.

c.  Increased the cost of gas by raising taxes on it, a cost which every business uses in one way or another, and Vermonters use to drive to work and to drive to places where they might, oh, buy wood.  This cost is passed on to the buyer at every level of a business’s operations, for everything they purchase.

Cut Taxes:  Did I mention cutting taxes?  Vermont is ranked 49th for economic outlook, which, unless I’m doing my math wrong here, means Vermont is near to reaching Progressive nirvana, by being next to the best at being worst:

Only New York is worse than Vermont when it comes to tax and regulatory policies that foster economic growth, according to a new report on economic competitiveness between states.

According to the eighth annual Rich States, Poor States, Vermont is 49th out of 50 states on economic outlook due to the state’s ratings on 15 different variables, including tax rates, labor policies and overall regulatory burden.

Oh, and cut taxes.

Finally, there’s a broader, more philosophical argument to make, one that aligns with what used to be something of a political signature for Vermont, the town meeting.  The idea of subsidiarity, essentially meaning a de-centralization of political control, kicks all the way back to de Tocqueville, but is anathema to today’s Progressivism.

Alexis de Tocqueville‘s classic study, Democracy in America, may be viewed as an examination of the operation of the principle of subsidiarity in early 19th century America. De Tocqueville noted that the French Revolution began with “a push towards decentralization… in the end, an extension of centralization.”[1] He wrote that “Decentralization has, not only an administrative value, but also a civic dimension, since it increases the opportunities for citizens to take interest in public affairs; it makes them get accustomed to using freedom. And from the accumulation of these local, active, persnickety freedoms, is born the most efficient counterweight against the claims of the central government, even if it were supported by an impersonal, collective will.”[2]

Virtually nowhere in the Progressive agenda do you find calls for a reduction in power, or control.  Every Progressive item in Vermont, and at the national level, is to either take control of decision-making from the citizens, or to reduce their Constitutionally-based rights, if it furthers

agenda, and garners more votes, which equates to an even further increase in control.

The idea that others represent us politically becomes less and less realistic the further away from us they get, both physically and philosophically.  Ideally, however, the opposite should be true:

The laws you live under should be made by the people you live with.

Progressivism, in its most modern sense, is a champion of centralized control.  Great Britain has learned that lesson.  As Churchill once said, the US will be sure to do the right thing, eventually, after we’ve exhausted all the other possibilities.

Let’s hope that doesn’t take too long.

{ 4 comments }

by Rob Roper

Vermont Digger reports that the state is considering 35 new pages of regulations (up from one) that would apply to innkeepers, bed and breakfasts, and summer camps. These are businesses that play and have played a pretty key role in establishing the Vermont brand. The gist of these new regulations would be to force these mostly small businesses to meet the same health standards as major hotel chains.

Give… Me… A… Break.

Does anyone go to a summer camp expecting fresh towels delivered daily and a brightly lit parking lot? Or do we expect the cookies served in a bed and breakfast to be baked in an industrial kitchen? No. In fact, we go to these places because we expect and are paying for the opposite – rustic solitude and a home cooked meal.

What’s really going on here is another attack on small businesses, instigated by their larger competitors using government as the cudgel. The big businesses that can afford to absorb the cost of complying with these regulations benefit when those that can’t drop out of the market.

As one B&B owner explained in the article, in order to comply she would have to install locks on all the doors in her establishment, and hire someone to be on duty 24/7 to replace any potentially lost key lost by a customer. A totally untenable, unaffordable mandate.

In the information age we live in, certainly any potential guest would know ahead of time that doors in this particular B&B do not lock. If that’s a turn off for you, don’t go there. If it’s been a problem for other guests, read about it on the comments section on a ratings website and make your own informed decision.

Technology has changed the marketplace for rental properties, and the status quo players don’t like the fact that AirBnB, etc. have lowered the barriers to entry to participate in this market, allowing many people to compete for customers. These customers are looking for a good deal, convenience, more home-like amenities, whatever. Government wants to come in and say, no you can’t have that. If a customer says, I really don’t care that the meal I received did not come from a kitchen with three sinks, the government says you must care. And, you must pay.

This is an abuse and misuse of government power.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 4 comments }

by Chris Campion

In a state that ranks 41st for business, nothing sells better politically than taking a stand on…food?

Vermont, a state with apparently nothing better to do,  has recently become the 1st state to require food labeling on product made with genetic engineering.  Vermont’s champion of all things natural (including his own hairstyle), Peter Shumlin had this to say about Vermont’s
historic moment:

“This is a true David and Goliath story, a small state fighting big food, big agriculture, big business and big money in Washington,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

No mention from Peter about how instituting single-payer in Vermont bends the state over (backwards, mostly) in terms of bowing to big business and big money in Washington.  But let’s get to food!

  1. All food is genetically modified.  Corn, wheat, soybeans, you name it, have all been bred for centuries so the most desirable traits in the product are prevalent.
  2. The state does not address meat or dairy, because, obviously, the dairy industry has a healthy interest in modifications made to cows so they can produce more milk.  I guess some GMOs are more equal than others, in the political science realm.
  3. Making crops virus-resistant  (as many genetic modifications do) improves yields and drives cost down, making food availability more widespread and cheaper.  Humans are injected annually with the flu vaccine.  Should we stop vaccine production immediately?  Should vaccinated humans be removed from store shelves immediately?
  4. Kale, (sorry hipsters) is a GMO.  Just ask the Smithsonian!  And Peter “Kale Boy” Shumlin!

As others have noted, there’s a host of reasons why GMO opposition exists, and it ignores the realities of the current food supply, and how food that today isn’t under the GMO labeling requirement has long been modified.

Ian Godwin, University of Queensland Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics, told Coach that a lot of the opposition to GMO foods stems from the fact big American multinational companies were some of the first to start using them.

“Part of it is an ideological thing against large multinationals, which was aided and abetted by the European Union because it seemed US seed companies were going to take over the seed industry in Europe,” he explains.

Secondly, the fact that organic certifying organisations refuse to certify GM products organic, has contributed to the belief that GM foods are less healthy or good for the environment.

“I have argued that [organic certification] shouldn’t just accept it or reject it –look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Professor Godwin says.

“If there is one that will allow us to not use [pesticides or insecticides] to control fungal diseases on tomatoes and potatoes, environmentally that might be a good thing.”

Australian Organic argues that there is not enough understood about GMOs and, “with many safe and proven forms of farming already available, the organic farmer believes it is important to allow Mother Nature to provide us food the way nature intended”.

But Professor Godwin counters that our current food supply is a far cry from how Mother Nature originally designed it.

“We have to recognise that agriculture is not natural,” he points out.

“We are taking one species and trying to make that the only species that grows on a hundred hectares of land. That doesn’t occur in nature.”

Professor Godwin says that apples naturally would be bitter and the size of cherries, while maize grasses were carefully selected by humans to find ones with more seeds to produce more yield.

“Wild maize has maybe 20 seeds in each cob but through domestication we selected bigger cobs that have 800 seeds,” he points out.

“We have done a lot with domestication of plants to make them unable to survive in nature.”

But what’s the short-term impact of the labeling requirement in Vermont?  Food taken off shelves by grocers, that know they are not in compliance with Vermont law.

Price Chopper, one of Vermont’s leading chains, announced Friday that it would no longer sell about 3,000 products manufactured by companies which refuse to put the Vermont label on their product.

So, when the average Vermonter goes to buy groceries, what they can choose to purchase is reduced, meaning someone else is making their choices for them, again.  Politicians are making the choices for them, so the politician can yet again buy votes by appealing to a demographic slice that wants nothing more than to dictate how Vermonters live their lives, and what the “right” choices are.  As Venezuela is ably demonstrating, centralized planning as to what you can get, when you can get it, and price controls on crops, etc, result in utter chaos and shortages.

When the politicians are making the choices for you, everybody loses.  Like single-payer in Vermont, where you get all the options to choose from that you want, as long as you choose this option.

Why do all of Shumlin’s political victories make Vermonters worse off?  Single-payer.  Vermont Yankee.  GMO labeling.

And why did they keep voting him in?

{ 0 comments }

by John McClaughry

A lawsuit against Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell over a refusal to deliver public records has prompted different reactions from the two candidates seeking to replace him.

In March, 19 Democratic AGs, including Sorrell, announced a plan to apply the antiracketeering Act to fossil fuel companies for not telling the world what they knew about global warming three decades ago.  In response, two nonprofit legal centers requested that the Vermont Attorney General’s Office turn over documents from private email accounts that discuss the plan in more detail. Sorrell blew it off.

Deborah Bucknam, the Republican candidate to replace Sorrell, said “The public records statute is very simple and straight forward: if you get a request for public records, you have to provide them… There are some exceptions, but they are very limited. … The attorney general didn’t even bother to respond to say somehow that there was an exception”

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, Bucknam’s Democratic opponent, twice refused to comment on Sorrell’s inaction, citing a possibility that litigation is pending.

Bucknam told Vermont Watchdog that she will follow Vermont’s public records law if elected. The law requires a timely response to requests and allows for a delay of only 10 business days.

It seems pretty straightforward to me that AGs are required to comply with legitimate public records requests. Bucknam affirmed that, and I don’t know why Donovan wouldn’t at least say as much.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments }

by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

On July 7 Energy Independent Vermont, the coalition of enviro groups headed by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), announced the findings of its statewide poll on its proposal for a Vermont carbon tax. The poll found that 63 percent of respondents supported the carbon tax, while 31 percent opposed it (six percent were undecided).

But before we take that seriously, maybe we ought to inquire into exactly what question was asked by the EIV pollsters.

Here’s the question. Take a deep breath – it’s one hundred words long: “The Energy Independent Vermont proposal would do the following: Establish a statewide Energy Independence Fund to help voters reduce their home heating and transportation costs and weatherize public buildings, like schools; finance the Energy Independence Fund with a carbon pollution tax paid by the companies that import oil, gas and other fossil fuels into Vermont; it would not apply to electricity; cut state taxes for all Vermonters and Vermont businesses, with additional rebates for low income Vermonters, so that we are protected from fossil fuel companies passing on their costs. Does that sound like something you would support, or oppose?”

Given the attention span of most people responding to telephone poll questions, what do you suppose came across? “New fund to help us voters – pay my heat and auto bills – tax businesses that import pollution –tax cuts for everybody.” What’s not to like?

Well, to start with, Merriam Webster defines “Pollution” as “the action or process of making land, water, air, etc., dirty and not safe or suitable to use”. That describes emissions like sulfur dioxide, ozone, VOCs, and particulates that have indisputably harmful effects on human health.  But atmospheric carbon dioxide has no negative effects on human health. We breathe it out all the time, and it is the planet’s leading plant food. Nonetheless, the enviro groups battling “climate change” seized on the idea of labelling CO2 emissions “pollution” for the plain reason that pollution is bad – yuk!

Then we learn from the question that only those nasty businesses importing pollution into Vermont will suffer from the carbon pollution tax. What if those companies pass on the carbon pollution tax, in higher prices to homeowners, motorists, truckers, industry, farms, schools, and so on? The question admits that the tax will be passed on to consumers, but tells respondents that everyone will get a tax reduction to protect them from the tax-inflated energy costs. (The EIV bill specifies a reduction in the sales tax from 6% to 5%, plus selective rebates.)

Note that there wouldn’t even be any higher costs for fuel oil dealers, gasoline distributors, and natural gas companies to pass on to consumers, were it not for the new tax.  And note also: the question doesn’t claim the tax will be “revenue neutral”, because it won’t. Even if the legislature were to include offsetting tax reductions to “protect us from the tax” it just increased, the proposal has a ten percent revenue skim-off to subsidize wind, solar and weatherization interests. For them, the proposal would generate tax revenues of $50 million a year by 2028, a thought that certainly has occurred to the interests that are financing the carbon tax campaign now.

Let’s turn the poll question on its head. “Would you support or oppose a tax on heating oil, gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane, to increase the cost to consumers of those products, with ninety percent of such higher costs offset by selected tax reductions, unless the legislature redirects the revenues to other programs?”  I’m quite sure EIV will not be asking that question.

The five major party candidates for Governor aren’t being very supportive. Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman have answered that question with a resounding No, and a promise of a veto. Democrat Matt Dunne said he preferred to fight “climate change” with a “cap and trade” plan (proposed by VPIRG and Sen. Shumlin in 2010). Democrats Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith said they wouldn’t support a carbon tax just in Vermont. Like Shumlin, Dunne and Galbraith live on the New Hampshire side of the state, and are clearly sensitive to the potential migration of energy-related commerce into states that didn’t enact a carbon tax.

What the EIV polling investment makes clear, along with VPIRG’s summer deployment of 55 carbon tax canvassers, is that the carbon tax advocates believe that in early 2017 they will have 2-1 public support for installing their $500 million a year (in 2028) tax.

That might be overly optimistic. Put the carbon tax question to your candidates for the legislature, and see how many brighten up and say “Yesss!”

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

{ 5 comments }

by John McClaughry

One of the big deals to come out of Obama’s Paris conference on climate change was a pledge by the western nations to fork over a start toward the $100 billion dollar Green Climate Fund. This fund was created to pay third world countries to impoverish their people by getting rid of fossil fuel energy.

Last March, despite a refusal by Congress to pay into this fund, Obama grabbed half a billion dollars from another fund and threw it into the Green Climate Fund pot. Last month, the House passed a spending bill that again refused to put up money for Obama’s fund.

But the Republican controlled Senate Appropriations committee, on a voice vote, stuck half a billion dollars back into the bill to pay for this handout.

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out that it’s against the law to appropriate any funds for any United Nations entity that recognizes Palestine as a state. The UN FCCC, which will receive Obama’s billion dollars, recognized Palestine in March, so it can’t be given the money. “Moreover,” says Ebell, “by agreeing to provide $500 million in start-up funding for the GCF, a majority on the committee have implied that they are willing to provide full funding of over $21 billion annually when the GCF becomes fully operational in 2020.”

Taxpayers need to say “not one dime in giveaways to buy third world support for goofy climate schemes.”

- John McClaughry is the founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 0 comments }

by Rob Roper

Here’s the latest from Peter Galbraith: a 2% payroll tax ($240 million) to pay for what he calls “universal basic [health] care.” Add this to the new taxes necessary to pay for “free” college, “free” childcare, and, of course, the Carbon Tax.

The way a universal primary care system would work is the state would pay primary care physicians to maintain an office on a per capita basis. (“Under a publicly financed system, primary doctors need only keep track of the number of patients that they have.”) The patients would then come and go as they please, assuming they can get an appointment, “with no cost sharing by the patient.” Folks would still need to purchase insurance for non-basic or catastrophic care.

The model is very loosely based on what some private practices term “concierge” medicine. Here the doctor charges the patient a flat annual fee (usually between $1000 and $2000 annually), which covers the overhead and salaries of running the practice. In return, the patient receives pretty much unlimited access to that doctor’s services. It’s a good system for delivering high quality care, but what makes it work in the private sector is the ability of these practices to cap their total number of patients at around 400-500. This ensures the ability of the doctor to eliminate paperwork, spend abundant, quality time with the patient, and still have a life of his or her own.

Traditional practices in Vermont have, however, an average of about 2400 patients. Galbraith’s budget rounds out in easy math to less than $350 per Vermonter (a little more if Medicare recipients are exempt) after factoring in Galbraith’s estimate of administrative costs born by the state. A doctor running such a practice would have to have a very large number of patients to be financially viable. This combination of overcrowding and the removal of co-pays and other gatekeeper costs would likely cause a serious run on medical services. Imagine your favorite restaurant switching from a la cart to “all you can eat” for a mere 10% increase in the check. Do you think that would work out in the restaurant’s favor?

The other obvious flaw in the plan is that doctors under a scenario in which all they have to do is “keep track of the number of patients they have” would be incentivized to take on only healthy customers who don’t require a lot of care, and refer the sickies to the other guy down the street. (Not to mention the temptation to fabricate patients out of thin air.) Politicians and taxpayers wouldn’t stand for this very long and one suspects that the paperwork for keeping track of who a practice’s patients actually are, and ensuring that doctors are treating a broad population would end up being pretty complicated.

And this raises the question of who picks one’s doctor? Does the individual get to choose? Does the Doctor get to say yes or no? Does the state assign? The only way to ensure that all the healthy folks don’t self-select one doctor, or one doctor accepts only healthy patients, is for the state to assign patients to doctors, either strictly on an individual basis or loosely by some demographic formula. This, of course, is fraught with problems of its own, the United States being a free country and all.

Galbraith does do a service in pointing out that independent doctors are paid less for performing the same services than their counterparts who work directly for hospitals. There is an overall hostility in government toward independent practices that is neither healthy nor desirable. Ending this policy bias and creating price transparency for all medical services should be a top goal for whomever ends up in Montpelier next January.

The real solution to our healthcare issues is to increase the supply of doctors in this state, which means we have to make Vermont an attractive place to practice medicine. Generally, that means getting government out of it as much as possible.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 0 comments }

STOP THE CARBON TAX!

The left wing lobbying and activist organization VPIRG is engaged in its annual summer ritual of sending college kids door to door to propagandize citizens. For the second year in a row, the issue d’jour is passage of a statewide Carbon Tax.

Readers who have experienced a VPIRG visit report that these young spokespeople are not revealing to their audience several facts, such as the tax will, among other things, raise the price of gasoline by 88¢ per gallon, home heating oil by $1.02 per gallon, etc.

VPIRG does not have a sterling reputation for honesty when it comes to promoting its causes. (See: More Vermont residents say VPIRG canvassing drive used names fraudulently), so if you want to make sure your name is not misused or your position regarding the Carbon Tax misstated for political purposes, be prepared.

We have put together a list of quick facts for when the VPIRG representative knocks on your door. Use it, and five minutes of high quality entertainment guaranteed. Apparently, they don’t stand up to questioning very well.  (PDF Version: Carbon Tax Fact Sheet)


DO YOU WANT TO PAY AN EXTRA 88¢ PER GALLON OF GASOLINE?

A LOT OF LEGISLATORS WANT TO PASS A CARBON TAX.

 

WHAT IS A CARBON TAX? The proposal on the table is an excise tax on fossil fuels of $100 per ton of carbon when fully implemented, which would amount to a total tax of $500 million a year. For real folks, this translates into adding 88¢ to each gallon of gasoline, $1.02 per gallon of diesel and home heating oil, and similar increases for propane, natural gas, kerosene, butane and aviation fuel. (Other names for the Carbon Tax are “Carbon Pollution Tax” and “Carbon Pricing.”)

WHO GETS HIT HARDEST? Households earning more than roughly $25,000 per year (the top four income quintiles) would shoulder the bulk of the burden. Businesses will pass the added costs onto consumers wherever possible, and these taxpayers would not qualify for proposed income based rebates.

Working Vermonters who commute to a job will be hit hard, as will farmers, tradespeople and others who depend upon trucks, vans and tractors to do their jobs.

The massive discrepancy in fuel prices between Vermont and border states not subject to this radical level of taxation would provide yet another incentive to cross the border to shop, hurting many Vermont small businesses.

WHO BENEFITS? Wind and solar developers, weatherization programs, and other “green” energy outfits will receive 10% of the Carbon Tax revenue to subsidize their businesses and projects.

WHERE DOES THIS STAND? In 2014, Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier), chair of the House Energy & Natural Resources gave an interview stating that “it’s at least a three-year process,” and that “you don’t [pass a massive tax increase] in an election year.” This means 2017 – after this November’s election – is the target for passage.

WHO IS PUSHING THIS? A coalition of 15 special interest groups called Energy Independent Vermont, led by VPIRG. VPIRG pays seven state house lobbyists and army of summer “interns” going door-to-door to ensure passage of Carbon Tax on Vermonters. There were two Carbon Tax bills put forward in the 2015-16 legislative session (H.395 and H.412). These bills have a combined 28 sponsors (that’s a big number), all Democrats and Progressives.

OVER 90% OPPOSED. In January 2015, the Ethan Allen Institute ran a statewide online survey of Vermonters regarding support for or opposition to a Carbon Tax. 1546 people responded, over 90% opposed the tax.image001

{ 3 comments }

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

7-28-16 – Vermont Highest in Nation for Excise Taxes

by Rob Roper The Tax Foundation recently released a study of states and the per capita burden of excise taxes on their citizens. Vermont came in first (that’s...

7-26-16 – Hawaii Direct Care

by John McClaughry Here’s some heartening news on health care from Hawaii. A husband-and-wife team of doctors is now offering patients membership in the state’s first direct primary care...

7-25-16 – Vexit: The Vermont Exit From The Progressive Union

by Chris Campion Great Britain, in re-claiming its sovereignty by famously voting to exit the EU, has set a new standard in terms of trying on new political ideas,...

7-22-16 – Keep the Government Out of Our Bedrooms!

by Rob Roper Vermont Digger reports that the state is considering 35 new pages of regulations (up from one) that would apply to innkeepers, bed and breakfasts, and...

7-21-16 – PMOs: Politically Modified Organizms

by Chris Campion In a state that ranks 41st for business, nothing sells better politically than taking a stand on…food? Vermont, a state with apparently nothing better to do,...

Video