by Chris Campion

Vermont’s semi-favorite son and quitting Governor Peter Shumlin will, in the space of a year and a half or so, probably be shopping around his “legacy” with a hand out, looking for a job.  So let’s take a quick look at Vermont’s employment picture, since Peter routinely brags about Vermont’s low unemployment rate, and we’ll use, oh, let’s just go ahead and use North Carolina because I live here now.

In comparing Vermont’s data to another state, we’ll see how Peter stacks up against something other than himself.  Let’s start at the top, with the Unemployment Rate – remember, the calculation for the unemployment rate is:

Number of Unemployed / Labor Force

As an example, if you have 5,000 people unemployed, and your labor force is 100,000, that’s 5% unemployment.  But note – if you have 4,500 people unemployed (a reduction in the total unemployed), and your labor force shrinks to 99,000, your unemployment rate drops to 4.5%.  Fewer people are unemployed, but more than that number are no longer in the labor force, which has the happy (political) result of reducing the unemployment rate:

When less is more, politically.

So let’s look at the Unemployment Rate, NC on the left, VT on the right, for the past 10 years (data from


unemployment vt vs nc

Both states follow the same percentage arcs, although North Carolina’s rate was significantly higher than Vermont’s (and continues to be slightly higher), and has also hit a slight uptick in early 2015.  Does that mean that Vermont and North Carolina are roughly the same, in terms of employment outlook?

Not exactly.  Let’s take a look at the Labor Force detail, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics describes as:

The labor force is the sum of employed and unemployed persons.

Basically, this is everyone working and everyone who could work but is looking for a job (actively looked in the last 4 weeks).  Obviously, North Carolina has a much larger population than Vermont (9.9 million to 626,000) , but we’re looking for trends here, not a specific numerical comparison – and the trend is obvious:

One of these things is not like the other.

North Carolina now has close to 500,000 more people in the workforce than it did in 2005.  There are some ups and downs, but the trend is obviously positive.  If you look at 1/2011, the date of Shumlin’s inauguration, there’s roughly 4,600,000 in NC’s labor force.  By 1/2015, it’s at 4,750,000 – an increase of about 150,000 in four years.

Vermont’s labor force?  It’s at the same number as it was in 2005.  10 years of “growth” have netted a labor force that grew and shrunk back to the level it was 10 years ago.  Granted, Shumlin came into the governor’s office in January of 2011, near the peak of Vermont’s labor force.  But it has declined steadily ever since he was inaugurated.  Roughly 10,000 fewer people are in Vermont’s labor force since Shumlin was inaugurated, and the lower that number is, the lower the unemployment rate becomes – so, insanely, the reduction in the number of Vermonters working contributed to one of Shumlin’s primary economic selling points, the lower unemployment rate.

Another feather in the cap of Shumlin.

Now let’s look at Employment itself:

employment vt vs nc

Vermont was already in a downturn when the recession hit in 2007 (officially the recession ended in 2009), but it’s still roughly at exactly the same number it was 10 years ago.  Compared to North Carolina, Vermont’s 10-year performance is almost perfectly flat; North Carolina has added something like 450,000 employed in the same period.  That’s 100,000 more employed than Vermont’s entire workforce.

Note that Shumlin, coming into office in January 2011, has managed to be the Governor who’s watched the state’s numbers decline from what looked like a mini-recovery in 2011 to levels below the low mark in 2005, when it dropped below 335,000 in 2014/2015:

How long until we get back to 344,000 employed?  Who cares, when you're a quitter!


Shumlin’s not going to be running for governor again, which is probably a reflection on his policies he’s implemented that have contributed to the slow-rolling death of Vermont’s economy.  These policies look like they came home to roost in the 2014 elections that he won by only a few thousand votes.  Those votes, or lack of them, speaks to the average Vermonter’s ability to see through his administration’s talking points to the reality felt on the ground, out in the real world, outside of Montpelier.  The real world, and its future, looking like something less than paradise, and something more like rampant abandonment.





by John McClaughry

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders now has the opportunity to tell America what it can become when he’s in charge. He only needs to point to the notable socialist government of Greece. Here’s Jim Geraghty of National Review:

“Greece has moved to close its banks and impose capital controls to prevent financial chaos… There will be limits on withdrawals from cash machines. The cashing of cheques would be halted and the stock exchange was about the be  closed.”

“Greece is a left-wing entitlement mentality run amok, far worse than the United States, and we may be about to witness an epic economic ‘teachable moment.” We’re familiar with the Margaret Thatcher line that the problem with socialists is that they always run out of other people’s money. In Greece, they look like they’re about to run out of other people’s money and it’s going to be delicious as a nutty far-left government gradually recognizes that no one is willing to loan them anything.”

George Will adds: “There cannot be too many socialist smashups. The best of these punish reckless creditors whose lending enables socialists to live, for a while, off other people’s money. The world is indebted to Athens  for the reminder that reality does not respect a democracy’s delusions. This protracted dispute will result in desirable carnage if Greece defaults, thereby becoming a constructively frightening example to all democracies doling out unsustainable, growth-suppressing entitlements.”

On second thought, Bernie probably won’t use this example.

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


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by Rob RoperRob Roper

Tucked away in the education bill just passed in Montpelier – the one that has everybody talking about consolidation – is $300,000 earmarked for a study. A legislator familiar with the back-room horse-trading that goes into moving these bills into law said that this little provision was key to getting the bill passed; its absence a potential deal breaker.

So what is this study for, and why the fuss?

The study will explore putting a number on what Vermont taxpayers really need to spend in order to provide an “adequate” education – a very important term with legal implications. In a recent article by VPR, Speaker of the House Shap Smith (D- Morristown) justified the need for this study, saying, “Many people these days are asking whether the per-pupil spending average that we have is too high or too low.” Too low? Really?

The National Education Association ranks Vermont number one in the nation for per pupil spending at $21,263 (NEA Research, March 2015). The Agency of Education calculates the number differently at around $18,000. With our property taxes also some of the highest in the nation and, consequently, the number one issue on people’s minds in the last election, I don’t know of too many people who have been asking if our spending average is too low. Outside of the State House, that is. And, hence, this study…

The majority in the legislature do not want to cut spending on public education despite a greater than 20 percent decline K-12 student population because doing so means cutting back the cash flow to a very powerful, allied political interest group in the teachers’ union. But, they also don’t want to upset voters who have reached the end of their patience with this ever-expanding tax burden. Commissioning a study accomplishes a couple of things. A) In the short term, “delay” while creating the appearance of doing something to fix the problem. “We’re digging hard to find places where we can and should be spending less.” B) In the long term, manufacturing the justification for future increases in that spending.

I will bet a very large sum that the “adequacy” number determined by this study will come in — by quiet direction from these legislators — higher than the current state per-pupil average. The reaction will be, “Oh’m’gosh, we’re not spending enough!” The chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. David Sharpe (D-Bristol), hinted at this in the VPR story, saying, “If you look at what our traditional academies are spending, what it actually costs to educate a child at St. Johnsbury Academy or Burr & Burton, I think it is close to $20,000.” That’s 11 percent higher than the $18,000 the Agency of Education says we spend on average now.  (Taxpayer funded tuition to the academies is around $16,000.)

A study producing such a higher number would justify, at least in the minds of the majority in the legislature, either doing nothing to reduce property taxes, or more likely, serve as a mandate for future increases.

Furthermore, “adequate” is a highly subjective term that, if other states are any guide, will open the door to lawsuits demanding that the state spend more to become adequate, whatever that means.  Several states that have adequacy language written into laws regarding education have been subject to court mandates that taxpayers spend more money. In Kansas, for example, Shawnee County District Court judges ruled that taxpayers be forced to spend between $548 million and $771 million a year more on schools. (Heartland, 2/5/15)

Closer to home, New Hampshire is enduring a decades long struggle between the legislature, the governor, and the state’s Supreme Court over adequate education funding that has reached the point of a constitutional amendment battle to remove the judiciary from school finance decisions.

If the courts assume the power to dictate education financing decisions in Vermont, it would take the legislature off the hook as far as responsibility for increasing property taxes. It would also obliterate what’s left of local control.

If the legislature wanted to embark on a worthwhile study, they would be looking at how the Village School of North Bennington has been able to cut their baseline spending by over 10% while expanding programs and services since “going independent” in 2013.  Or how the Compass School in Westminister, with 40% of its student population qualifying for free and reduced lunch and 30% identified with special learning needs, achieves a virtual 100% high school graduation rate with 90% of its graduates accepted into college — all for roughly $5500 less than the statewide per pupil spending average.

But, they’re not going to look at that. Unfortunately, this adequacy study is wholly inadequate.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

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Posted by Rob Roper

The website FactCheck.Org recently took Bernie Sanders to task for claiming that 1 in 5 seniors “live on an average income of $7,600 a year.” Not true.

Without getting into the weeds about how that number was incorrect (and low) in and of itself, Fact Check pointed out that Bernie’s calculation does not count things like food stamps, housing assistance, LIHEAP heating assistance, Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements, proceeds from reverse mortgages, withdrawals from savings, insurance proceeds, gifts, capital gains (such as profit from sale of a personal residence), or lump-sum insurance payments or inheritances.

These folks, while perhaps still in tight financial shape, are not “living on” just $7,600 a year.

Which gets to an important part about poverty statistics and how they can be confusing. The U.S. calculates poverty based on money income before taxes and does not include benefits such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps, etc., or capital gains. So when the government or a politician tells us X percentage of Americans are “living in poverty,” in many cases they really aren’t. They are living middle class lives, albeit subsidized by the taxpayer.

It would, therefore, make a whole lot more sense to calculate poverty rates AFTER taxes and taking into account government redistribution programs.

A few years ago, Gary Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, calculated, “the single mom is better off earnings gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income [after taxes] and benefits of $57,045.” Using Alexander’s example, in both cases, when it comes to calculating where someone lies on the poverty/middle class/wealthy scale, aren’t the $57,327/$57,045 numbers more accurate and revealing than the $29,000/$69,000?

This is how we should calculate whether someone is living in poverty or not. And, as such, perhaps we need a new classification: “Dependent.”


by John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—The number of refugees fleeing their native lands as well as people being internally displaced in their home countries has surged beyond even the most dire predictions. Just six months ago, a UN report launched an urgent appeal for $16.4 billion to assist 58 million people; a record number of refugees, internally displaced persons and victims of famine. Now six months later, stunning new demands have arisen to now needing nearly $19 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of 79 million people in 37 countries from Chad to Sudan and Syria. Of these, nearly 17 million are refugees. These numbers rival the flood of refugees at the end of WWII.

The UN’s new humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien concedes that despite the dire need, only about a quarter of the aid requirements have been met by donor governments and relief agencies. Indeed the UN’s current humanitarian appeal is five times larger than in 2004, a figure reflecting a world in calamity and chaos.

It’s appears that the human tsunami from civil wars, failed states, and famine threatens to overwhelm relief agencies. More troubling longterm becomes the deeper problem of crisis overload, where the world simply shrugs the latest tragedy away.

Syria’s high profile civil war presents a clear and present danger not only geopolitically but on the humanitarian front where 12 million people need humanitarian help. According to the UN’s Stephen O’ Brian, “7.6 million have been forced from their homes and four million people have left their country.”

Millions have settled or are in the refugee limbo of neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

These numbers are staggering and particularly destabilizing for small countries such as Lebanon.

The quiet horrors of Sudan and South Sudan where intra-Islamic violence in Darfur continues, is largely forgotten by a once fixated world. Likewise, the tragedy and trauma of South Sudan, the Christian breakaway state, continues; some 4.6 million people face food insecurity.

In other cases, migrants from Chad, Nigeria and Eritrea are trying to slip illegally into southern Europe via Italy. These unfortunates are at the mercy of trans-national criminal gangs and cartels who use and abuse these people most of which “make it” to Europe but then are shuffled into a netherworld of camps and holding facilities. Thousands others drown in the rough Mediterranean Sea usually because their boats are not seaworthy. European governments seem confounded to craft an equitable solution for the migrants fleeing misrule in the homelands.

Germany gets the largest number of asylum applications, 248,000 last year, while Hungary followed with 74,000, Italy with 64,000 and France with 58,000.

Clearly, the widening swath of radical Islam, especially the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as Al Qaida affiliates, have been the singular deadly catalyst for the troubles in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Then there’s the entrenched Islamic Taliban threat to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Doctors without Borders, (MSF) the French medical agency adds, “Iraq is experiencing its worst humanitarian crisis in recent decades.” MSF advises, “Intense fighting has forced three million people to flee the war torn areas of central and northern Iraq and many are now stranded in areas without the most basic humanitarian assistance.” Yet in 2014, MSF carried out 219, 000 outpatient consultations for the displaced persons.

Brutal ethnic strife continues to plague the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) , Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. Natural disasters such as in the recent earthquake in Nepal, added 2.8 million to the list.

According to the UN Global Humanitarian Response Report, there are 5 million people needing assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 10 million in Sudan and South Sudan, 8 million in Yemen, and 331,000 in Libya. The dire list continues.

When one thinks of the uprooted, say the Hungarians escaping the Soviet crackdown in 1956 or the Cubans fleeing Castro in the early 1960’s or even the Bosnians and Croatians of the early 1990’s we assume most asylum seekers soon integrate and assimilate into their host countries such as the USA or Canada.

This is less the case today. Sadly the average time a person stays displaced is seventeen years, according to the UN. This reflects the tragic case of the Afghans in Pakistan, a South Asian country which still hosts the world’s largest number of refugees.

Antonio Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees described the matter succinctly; “the world is a mess.”

Humanitarian agencies are doing an admirable job of treating the symptoms of global disorder, but politicians have failed in treating the problems which stem from an increasingly unstable world order which leads to disaster and the tragically growing netherworld of refugees and displaced persons.


John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).


by John McClaughry

The ObamaCare law plainly says that premium tax credits will be distributed to persons purchasing health insurance through “exchanges established by the state.” Thirty four states declined to establish such exchanges, so the Federal government, under another provision of the act, set up a Federal exchange. However the federal exchange is not “established by the state”, so persons buying policies there are not eligible to enjoy the tax credit.

The Obama administration, via the internal Revenue service, ruled, “no problem, we’ll rewrite that to read “established by a state… or by us”.

Last Thursday, in King v. Burwell, Chief Justice Roberts and five other liberal justices held that if the act as passed by Congress and signed by the President wouldn’t work the way this particular president wanted,  this president could just rewrite it himself to correct Congress’s “inartful drafting”. Never mind the plain meaning of the words “established by the state”.

Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas were simply outraged, and rightly so. They wrote “The somersaults of statutory interpretation the [majority] have performed will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” Scalia even suggested the act ought to relabeled “SCOTUSCare”.

Yes, this decision is another judicial outrage, written to save the act that has become Barack Obama’s dubious legacy.

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


by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Iowa reminds us of a Vermont Supreme Court case in 1996, which two years later had a happy ending.

An Iowa woman called the police amid a domestic altercation in June 2013. When an officer arrived, she stepped out of her house to talk with him. She told the officer that she and her boyfriend frequently fought and he had refused to give her car keys because she was drunk and did not have a driver’s license.

The officer thereupon arrested the woman on her own front steps for being intoxicated in a public space. At trial, the woman argued that her front steps were not a public space under Iowa law, but the prosecutor said any modicum of public access would make a place public. She was convicted in a bench trial and raised the same issue on appeal.

The Iowa Supreme Court wasn’t buying the state’s argument. In an opinion by Justice Daryl Hecht, the Court said it did not believe that state lawmakers intended Iowa law to be so heavy-handed. “If the front stairs of a single-family residence are always a public place, it would be a crime to sit there calmly on a breezy summer day and sip a mojito, celebrate a professional achievement with a mixed drink of choice, or even baste meat on the grill with a bourbon-infused barbeque sauce — unless one first obtained a liquor license,” Hecht wrote. By that standard, he concluded, an intoxicated person could be arrested and convicted for walking up the stairs of their own house after securing a ride home from a sober designated driver.

The Iowa case is reminiscent of a very similar case decided by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1996. A Rutland man was convicted of driving while intoxicated in his own driveway.

A state trooper followed a car into the driveway of Dennis Eckhardt. The trooper was in the process of writing up the driver for speeding, when the homeowner carefully drove his own car down the driveway to its parking place. The trooper, smelling liquor on Eckhardt’s breath, then arrested him for DUI.

It turned out that Eckhardt had not driven his car on the town road. A sober friend had driven him to the “top of his driveway”, then got out and allowed Eckhardt to navigate, without incident, to his parking area. He was, however, convicted of DUI.

The Vermont Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a citizen for driving while intoxicated in his own driveway, on the grounds that the driveway was a “public highway”, and other citizens, not being barred from the driveway, might suffer injury.

The Court’s unsigned opinion said that “defendant’s driveway, like most driveways in Vermont, is open to the general circulation of vehicles, and, in keeping with the objective of protecting the public from injury, thus constitutes a public highway …  Law enforcement officers should not have to wait until drunk drivers are in traffic on the highway to make a DUI stop.”

To its credit, the 1998 legislature refused to accept this decision. Thanks to Rep. Tom Koch (R-Barre), who retired in 2014, it inserted a section in a major revision of the DUI laws that overturned the Supreme Court’s Eckhardt holding. The Koch Amendment passed 121-21, and was later accepted by the Senate.

The Koch language says that “ ‘highway’ does not include the driveway which serves only a single-family or two-family residence of the operator. This exception shall not apply if a person causes the death of a person, causes bodily injury to a person, or causes damage to the personal property of another person, while operating a motor vehicle on a driveway…”

The Iowa Supreme Court has now happily come to the same view as the Vermont legislature that overturned the Eckhardt decision.

Those views reinforce the celebrated of ruling of Sir Edward Coke in 1604, translated from Latin as “everyone’s house is his safest refuge” (“Every man’s home is his castle.”) Your private space belongs to you, and if you aren’t engaging in criminal activity, the long arm of the law cannot reach into it. That’s one of the liberties that Vermonters should always cherish and defend.

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



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by Frank Mazurimages

Amtrak service to Montreal was promised by Gov. Shumlin back in 2011 and promoted by the Vermont Rail Action Network. Sen. Leahy said the service would be used by “relatives and friends on both sides of the border.” This is a dream for rail advocates as long as someone else pays the bill.

In 1958 the Interstate Commerce Commission wrote that passenger trains were destined to “take a place in the transportation museum along with the stagecoach, the side-wheeler and the steam locomotive.” Still, Congress insists on supporting an extensive nationwide system of passenger rail that doesn’t make economic sense. It runs trains that serve political purposes as opposed to being responsive to the marketplace. Studies show that routes that run less than 400 miles make money; routes with more miles post a loss. The former accounts for 83 percent of ridership; the latter 15 percent. However, the 15 percent, like the Ethan Allen and Vermonter routes, continue to exist because of congressional pressure.

Government has put $44 billion into Amtrak since inception thinking that it will eventually subsist on its own. However, it has lost money every year despite claims by bureaucrats and environmentalists that profitability was on the horizon. The reason why is politics.

The state passenger subsidy for FY16 is $7.75  million or $54 per passenger which reflects costly poor ridership.

This is evident in Vermont where the focus of environmentalists, activists and political progressives has been to preserve current routes and expand new service to Montreal. The state passenger subsidy for FY16 is $7.75 million or $54 per passenger which reflects costly poor ridership. This subsidy doesn’t include any capital expense like track maintenance or cost of rail cars. Increasing service to Montreal will only exacerbate the deficit per rider.

Nationally, the demographics served by long-term routes tend to be retirees who use it for recreational and leisure trips and does not show a need for taxpayer subsidies. Premium service like food cars most likely required for a Vermont/Montreal route would greatly contribute to the operating losses.

The business case for the Vermont/Montreal route shouldn’t give equal weight to geographic equality and economic efficiency. The only way to solve this runaway train that consumes huge subsidies with little return is to get politicians out of decision making and privatize Amtrak’s operation. Private operators would be able to continue routes that profitably serve passengers and they would most likely be more innovative in attracting new riders.

You get what you accept.

– Frank Mazur is a former state representative from South Burlington who served as chair of the House Transportation Committee. He is a former member of the EAI board of directors.


by Chris Campion

The Putney Powerhouse, Peter Shumlin, is quitting – and as an odd comparison to what it’s like to quit in the private sector, he gave himself a year and a half’s worth of down time before he hangs up his spikes.  Or his gubernatorial epaulets.

This is somewhat in contrast with Peter’s prior exhortations for Vermonters not to quit, on such things near and dear to his heart like single payer.

“What I would argue strongly is don’t quit before we start,” said Shumlin. “Don’t quit before we start.”

I guess it’s OK to quit after you start, if you’ve got the steely backbone of a Peter Shumlin.

But, since he’s decided to become Sir-Quits-A-Lot, Peter’s now going to be laying out his laurels for all Vermonters (and potential future US Senate voters) to coo over, lovingly, while he puts his feet up in his office as a short-timer, and tells us “we” have a lot left to do:

“Now we have a lot left to do; let’s get back to work,” he said, according to the Free Press.

Shumlin cited his work to reduce unemployment rates and expand high-speed Internet access and preschool education, the Free Press reported. He also touted various laws he’d signed, including one requiring that genetically modified foods be labeled, another raising the state’s minimum wage and a third offering free meals in schools.

Let’s tackle Peter’s accomplishments one by one, since he’s so helpfully listed them for us:

Unemployment:  As has been shown elsewhere, Vermont’s low unemployment number is essentially meaningless, and based largely on the reduction in active labor force, not an increase in the number of employed.

In fact, in 2014, the total labor force shrunk from 349,400 (Jan 2014) to 348,400 (Dec 2014), a reduction of 600.  The unemployed number for

Great news!  More people are unemployed!

those two same date ranges increased by 150, from 14,300 to 14,450, but the unemployment rate stayed the same – because the number of people who dropped out of the labor force exceeded the number who became unemployed.

Remember – Peter’s claiming this as an accomplishment.

The state’s own short-term labor outlook shows that 9 of the top 10 growth jobs in Vermont do not require a college degree. What kinds of salaries are generally available if you don’t have a degree?  How easy is it to live in Vermont with one of the highest aggregate tax burdens in the country?

Vermont’s total personal income, as measured by the BEA?  Ranked 50th out of 57 states.  That’s as far from first place as you can get, and Shumlin is touting his economic record here?

Oh, and Vermont’s ranked the 43rd best state for business by Forbes.  So Peter’s also got that legacy working for him.

Expanding High-Speed Internet:  Well, that’s a feather in your cap, if you think using federal grant money to extend fiber or wireless down the last miles of Vermont’s roads is a critical piece of infrastructure-building.  It might very well be, but the market drives those demands, not the state – unless, of course, there are federal dollars involved and one can make some hay claiming that this infrastructure will help bring jobs to Vermont.  If the expansion of access has been so successful, why aren’t we seeing job growth?  And why aren’t we seeing new office buildings go up on those scenic Vermont roads, all over the state, where a data pipe is now available?

Why is it you find dockworkers located near docks?  That’s where the work is.  If there were more work available in Vermont, you would see the demand for data infrastructure increase, and it would already have been built out in those areas where the demand is.  That the smallest ends of the demand curve for internet access sit on the last few miles of Vermont roads, out in the sticks, does not mean that providing data to those locations will salve the economic wounds inflicted by decades of anti-business deeds, and rhetoric.

GMOs:  Just a quick note to politicians:  Every foodstuff is genetically modified.  That there are newer ways of doing this does not erase millenia of modifications, it just makes those changes occur faster.  Labeling on the package isn’t going to change anything, in the same way that labeling cigarettes as being dangerous to your health doesn’t change the fact that smokers will buy them.

This is an accomplishment?  It’s like saying labeling the weight of the package in the product is an accomplishment.

Minimum Wage:  As has been repeatedly and tiresomely noted, raising the minimum wage increases unemployment.  The CBO estimated that an increase to $10.10 would decrease employment by 500,000 workers nationally.  Again, this is an accomplishment?  Raising the cost of anything involving the production of a good or a service means the price goes up, which means (generally) that demand for that product or service will go down.  Which means that there will be less demand, or need, for the labor to provide that product or service.

Offering “free” meals in schools:  Maybe Peter needs to go back to school himself, because TANSTAAFL says otherwise.  Touting something as free does not make it so; those meals are paid for by tax revenues, not a magically free meal-delivery system.  Oh, and how are those meals looking, by the way?

But what’s really driving Peter’s self-imposed exile is the massive and unmitigated failure of single-payer, his “signature” piece of legislation.  A failure so large that Peter decided he would only detail how big the failure is until after his last election in November 2014, an election that was so close it had to get tossed to the Vermont legislature to decide.

Only after he was safely back in office in December 2014 did Shumlin decide to acknowledge publicly what everyone else has known for a year or more:  That his version of single-payer was a mismanaged hack job that spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a website that still doesn’t work, years later, and so, he bailed on it:

Shumlin had missed two earlier financing deadlines but finally released his proposal. But he immediately cast it as “detrimental to Vermonters.” The model called for businesses to take on a double-digit payroll tax, while individuals would face up to a 9.5 percent premium assessment. Big businesses, in particular, didn’t want to pay for Shumlin’s plan while maintaining their own employee health plans.

He didn’t “miss” them – he purposefully chose not to release his proposal due to political considerations, because there was no way that implementing single-payer wouldn’t raise taxes by an enormous amount.  The estimated cost was $2.2 billion and the state’s total budget is already $5 billion.  That’s roughly a 50% increase in taxes.

“These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass,” the governor said. “In my judgment, the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.”

Note that implementing single-payer would not guarantee any additional access to care.  It would just give everyone an insurance card.  There’s an enormous difference between covering everyone under one insurance plan, or even 50 plans, and the insured actually being able to see a doctor.  Ask Canadians.

And that was for a plan that would not be truly single payer. Large companies with self-insured plans regulated by ERISA would have been exempt. And Medicare also would have operated separately, unless the state got a waiver, which was a long shot.

Again, since the state’s demographics mean that MediCare spending gobbles up massive chunks of the state’s budget, it also means that single-payer wouldn’t address the primary cause for commercial insurance rate increases – the Medicare cost-shift.  His proposal ignores it entirely.

In short, even Peter can read the writing on the wall.  Considering his near-defeat last fall, even in a state as politically progressive as Vermont’s, another Shumlin term was rapidly becoming a pipe dream for the Man With A Questionable Plan from Putney.


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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.

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