by John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—Both Pope Francis and China’s President visited the United States at the same time. Two men whose paths nearly intersected, but did not touch, in New York at the United Nations are each leaders of 1.2 billion people; the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and Comrade President Xi Jinping, the People’s Republic of China. Pope Francis arrived amid White House pomp and circumstance ceremonies rather improbably in a little black Fiat. President Xi goes around in black limos as one would expect.

Pope Francis, a Jesuit from Argentina brings a pastoral message but often swerves into politics. President Xi a Politburo hardliner visits America both with his business portfolio and the swagger of China’s new paramount ruler. Both leaders were making their first state visits to the U. S.

Both men represent a curious juxtaposition of faith and values; the Pope representing the Catholic Church, a major world religion, while Xi represents the officially atheist PRC.

Contrary to an earlier generation, China’s leaders no longer preach the revolutionary zeal of communist doctrine; yet the PRC’s faith still rests on one party rule, stifling political authoritarianism, and now crony capitalism. Still despite the rigid PRC political rulebook, since the 1980’s commercial changes in Mainland China have created sufficient wealth to lift millions out of poverty, raise others into the middle class, and propel some to a high flying super rich. The common thread is often the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but a richer quilt it is.

Increasingly so, Beijing’s communist system can only rule the indifferent faithful with the unquestionable lure of economic consumerism and high octane nationalism. The formula has worked, the masses seem to have been mollified, and the genie of political democratization has apparently been forced back into the bottle after Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Beijing’s balm to its people has been an unquestionably better economy, a rising middle class, and the chance to leave China for holidays, be it to Western Europe, the USA, and even Taiwan. The ostentatious shopping, kitschy consumerism, and vulgar bling bling habits are on display from Paris to New York and Las Vegas.

Xi Jinping first visited Seattle and the Microsoft Campus as to reforge business ties with the high tech industry titans. The Who’s Who’s of American high tech turned out to meet, greet and   gently chide the PRC leader for China’s wide-ranging computer hacking, forced technology transfer, and internet blocking of Facebook and Google. Of course its all about business, market access, and in Seattle Boeings, so most of the American execs were on best behavior.

President Xi spoke about an Internet in step with China’s “national realities,” (read censorship, and blocking), as well as wishing for a “secure, stable, and prosperous” cyberspace.

While in Washington, President Xi was feted at the White House while also having clear and frank discussions about Beijing’s complicity in massive cybercrime in the USA ranging from the alleged hacking of U.S. government employee records/files, the wider challenge of cyber warfare, and the clear and present danger of the PRC’s island building and naval muscle-flexing in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Growing tensions between Beijing and Washington, never far from the surface, need to be managed not grandstanded.   Still there’s a mixed mood in Mainland China; that of a flagging domestic economy but bolstered by the nationalist patriotism of a massive military buildup. There’s a fine line for the USA to tread in Pacific waters.

The Obama Administration’s much vaunted Pacific Pivot, much more style over substance,     politically irks Beijing but does appreciably little to genuinely rebalance the power from a militarily growing China and offset it with a robust American naval presence.

Pope Francis addressed the UN first, with his universal message of piety, peace, and yes politics; the dogma of climate change and of course sustainable development. But he placed his message in the context of respect for human dignity.

The Pontiff spoke of the “phenomenon of social and economic exclusion with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.”

Pope Francis stressed the painful situation in the Middle East and “where Christians, together with other cultural and ethnic groups” have faced death, enslavement and the destruction of their churches.

Xi’s address to the UN used the broad strokes of China’s “independent foreign policy of peace,” with nods to multilateralism and equitable economic development.

Two men so vastly different yet both navigating tricky political waters in America.


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 Rob RoperRob Roper

At a recent press conference Governor Shumlin and Speaker of the House (and gubernatorial candidate) Shap Smith, flanked by some “socially responsible” businesses called for a new law mandating that all employees offer a paid sick leave benefit to their employees. This issue will be at the top of the priority list when the legislature returns to Montpelier in January.

This is essentially a $14 million tax on poor, small financially vulnerable enterprises throughout Vermont. It’s also a pretty cynical move on the part of the folks advocating for it.

Let me say straight away that offering some sort of paid time off to recover from a cold or deal with a personal issue is a smart benefit for any businesses to voluntarily offer for the purposes of enticing and keeping quality employees. And, most do one way or another, formally and/or informally.

Those that don’t – and this is where our politicians either don’t understand or don’t care – simply can’t afford it.  It’s much like purchasing health insurance. Very few would argue it’s a bad idea to purchase health insurance. Over 90 percent of Vermonters have it. The fraction of people who don’t have it don’t have it because they genuinely don’t have the money to buy it. The same is true of small business that genuinely can’t afford to pay people who aren’t working.

The legislature seems to think that every business has an endless source of cash stuffed in treasure chests hidden away in the attic. The truth is that small businesses are, like people, diverse. Some are poor, operating hand to mouth and struggling each month to make payroll. This can be particularly true of entrepreneurial businesses that are just starting out. Many owners of such businesses don’t make much more, or even make less than, their employees. Mandates such as this come directly out of their take home pay.

Do we want someone with the flu making our sandwich at the local deli, or looking after of our kids when we drop them off at daycare? Of course not. But we also have to recognize that the deli or the daycare provider may only have enough money on hand to pay one person to prepare the food or look after the children, and not enough to pay a temporary replacement plus the person calling in sick. Is that unfortunate? Yes. Is it reality? Also yes.

So, why is this paid sick leave mandate a cynical ploy on behalf of its advocates?

First, this announcement by the governor and speaker ironically came about the same time that Governor Shumlin called for the legislature to prepare for level funded budgets in 2016. If the state recognizes that it can’t afford to do more than it’s currently doing, why can’t they recognize that many small business may be in exactly the same boat? This is really just a way to levy a hidden $14 million “tax” without having to call it that or be accountable for it in an election year.

It is cynical on the part of those “socially responsible” businesses because the ones advocating for paid sick leave already offer it. It’s no skin off their bottom line if the mandate passes – but it will knee-cap their competition by saddling them with a cost they can’t afford. Maybe even knock the competition out of business. These folks get to appear all high and noble on the stage wile actually putting the screws to the upstart entrepreneur next door.

If these politicians and established businesses really think all employees should automatically receive compensation for days they do not work then the state should raise $14 million in new taxes (or cut other programs), establish a transparent and accountable program, and write checks to those workers or their employers based on financial need.

I wonder how those “socially responsible” businesses would respond to implementing something like the current health care claims assessment, taxing them each time they pay out a sick leave benefit to an employee with the proceeds going to help other businesses that are struggling financially and genuinely cannot afford to offer paid sick leave on their own? I suspect their tune would change dramatically.

Mandating hidden taxes like this is cowardly, as well as bad policy. A survey by Vermont Business Magazine recently revealed that 20% of small- to medium-sized business owners in Vermont have “put plans in motion during the past 12 months to move their residency outside Vermont,” and 45% of respondents to the survey have considered moving. Is it any wonder?


by Meredith AngwinMeredith Angwin

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant went off-line seven months ago, on December 29, 2014. The shutdown has had a massive negative economic effect on the region near the power plant. Could this have been predicted?

Well, yes. The economic consequences of closing Vermont Yankee not only could have been predicted, they were predicted. They were predicted early and often.

Local economy takes nine-figure hit 

That’s correct—nine figures. The yearly hit to the local economy is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.

In recent days, people have noticed this, and there have been several articles on the financial effects from closing down Vermont Yankee.

I’ll start with my own blog post at the Northwest Clean Energy blog: it has many references. Pain from Closing Vermont Yankee Lingers.

Vermont Watchdog has well-researched articles, which were later reprinted in several newspapers in Vermont:

For the quick version, a local TV station has brief video clip: Vermont Yankee closure negatively impacting the local economy.

The UMass report comes true

Many articles referenced a report that appeared on Christmas Eve last year. Economic Impacts of Vermont Yankee Closure was ordered by a joint group of planning commissions in three states (Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire), and written by the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth and the Donahue Institute. The report appeared a few days before the plant closed down.

The report predicted direct wage losses to the area at $100 million per year, and indirect losses (secondary jobs, economic activity) adding to a total of $480 million losses per year. Yep, that’s half a billion a year in losses to the local economy. I describe the report in this blog post. Now the predictions from within that report are coming to fruition, and frankly, the worst effects are yet to come.

Vermont Yankee still employs more than 300 people. Here’s the time line:

The plant staffing was at 550 people in December 2014, when it went offline forever. In January 2015, all the fuel in the reactor was transferred to the fuel pool for cooling. At the end of January 2015, 234 people were laid off.

That left 316 people employed at the plant. As of this writing, they are still there, and their presence mitigates the economic effects of the plant closing. However, another massive layoff is still ahead. At the end of April 2016, about 200 more people will be laid off, leaving a staff of 127 for monitoring and security.

Several years from now, in 2020, there will be a burst of activity, transferring fuel to dry casks. After that, the staffing will drop even further, and stay very low for years.

The pain was so predictable

Back in 2011, Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin was touting the idea that the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee would be a billion-dollar jobs bonus. However, decommissioning is not a jobs bonus. In 2011, I wrote posts to challenge that idea, for example Decommissioning: Facts Versus Fantasy. And remember, nuclear plants are often located in fairly rural areas. When they close, the area has a hard time making an economic recovery.

But it wasn’t just me predicting that the closing of Vermont Yankee would be terrible for the economics of its region. In 2010, there were two reports showing the same level of economic losses as shown in the recent UMass report. The first of the older reports was commissioned by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Vermont Yankee’s union) and is no longer on the web. The second report was commissioned by the Vermont legislature, and is still easily available. I describe the two reports in this post. Both of the older reports show the local loss of more than 1000 jobs, as well as severe loss of economic activity.

A major graphic of the legislative report is worth a little scrutiny. Employment Impacts Associated With Various Energy Policy Scenarios, found on page 9, describes expected job loss (or gain) from closing Vermont Yankee. Note that “keep Vermont Yankee operating” is shown as the baseline. This means that the jobs the plant contributes are sort of hidden in the graph. If the plant shuts down, there would be approximately 1000 jobs lost in the area (see red line below the baseline). It’s almost as if the baseline (plant keeps running) isn’t a line at all.

The timeline of the graph extends past 2032, when Vermont Yankee’s extended license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would have ended. At that point, the red job line surges upward to just below the baseline. The shutdown job loss number of 1000 is on the graph, but the number doesn’t exactly jump out at you.

So, if all these predictions were available in 2010, why is the current economic devastation such a big surprise to anyone?

Politics: Why the economic effects were a “surprise”

The economic losses due to Vermont Yankee shutdown were not a surprise. Perhaps Governor Shumlin and his closest supporters truly believed the “decommissioning is a jobs bonus” rhetoric, but I would say that few others believed it. However, Shumlin’s anti-nuclear stance and his “jobs-bonus” pronouncement were important to many people in his political base.

Governor Shumlin is well-known for his recent fierce and unrelenting opposition to the continued operation of Vermont Yankee. Back in 1998, Shumlin did support Vermont Yankee. At that that time, the plant was owned by Vermont utilities, not Entergy.

Did Shumlin change his opinions and begin to oppose Vermont Yankee because Entergy bought the plant—or because of Shumlin’s assessment of his own political situation? We will never know, but this blogger would guess it was the latter.

Entergy claims it closed the plant for economic reasons. Although true, some of Vermont Yankee’s economic problems were caused by the plant having to defend itself in court against state attempts to shut it down. Also, various new taxes were suddenly levied against the plant, all that directly affected profitability.

Most of my friends at Vermont Yankee would say that the plant closed because of politics, not economics. Entergy management would say it was closed due to economics, not politics. In any case, looking at the consequences of the shutdown, all the studies and reports predicted the negative results from Vermont Yankee closing. These reports were ignored.

In other words, the economic consequences of closing the plant were completely predictable. The economic analysis was done by several groups, at different times, and always with the same basic results. It seems to have been a fairly straightforward calculation.

In my opinion, the economic analysis of the consequences of closing Vermont Yankee was not rocket science. Understanding the politicalscience of why the state wanted the plant to close…now, that is more difficult.


by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

Hamilton Davis is a veteran Vermont reporter who has participated in health policy debates since his days as the advisor to Gov. Madeleine Kunin thirty years ago. He is now the health reporter for Vermont Digger, where he recently published a lucid description of Vermont’s likely health care future.

Davis’s account is candid about some of the mistakes made during the Shumlin years. He acknowledges the embarrassing failure of the health insurance exchange, Vermont Health Connect, and especially “the devastating collapse” of Gov. Shumlin’s four-year effort to install single payer health care.

That collapse, to Davis, “dealt a powerful blow to health care reform.” However, as a long-time advocate for government-run health care, he remains hopeful about the further prospects for “reform”.

Davis says there are two main aspects of “reform”. One is shifting the non-governmental half of total health care expenditures from individuals and private insurance to the taxpayers. That requires raising over $2 billion a year in some combination of new taxes. That politically impossible “reform” defeated Shumlin’s grand single  payer plan.

The other main aspect of “reform”, he says, is “cost containment”, something that Shumlin has declared every year since he began his crusade. The goal of “cost containment” is said to be holding health expenditure increases to 3.5% a year.

Davis applauds the Green Mountain Care Board for reducing the rate of cost increases in the hospital system. How did the Board achieve this?  By flexing its regulatory power to cap hospital spending. This brute-force technique for “cost containment” can mandate any desired level of spending – but somewhere the hospital must cut back on patients, services, doctors, nurses, labs, medications, technology, length of stay, amenities and other cost drivers.

In Quebec, which has a similar regulatory regime, the regulatory body (RAMQ) contains costs by limiting the number of doctors, allowing non-doctors to perform more services, limiting the gross revenues of independent practices, reducing available hospital beds, skimping on technology, and above all, making expensive patients wait for treatment, sometimes for more than a year. If patients die while waiting for treatment (as happens in the single payer VA system here), that makes it easier to stay within the government-mandated budget cap.

The major “reform” now under way, Davis says, is “shifting from fee-for-service reimbursement to some sort of block payments to a group of providers to take care of a group of patients.”  The buzzword, Davis says, is “capitation”.

Now here’s the plan. The providers – all the hospitals and most of the clinics and practices – will be pushed into an Accountable Care Organization (ACO). Its management will be responsible for somehow getting all the providers to jointly meet the government-approved health care needs of a defined population.

Instead of the several payers (Blue Cross, MVP, Medicaid, Medicare, self-insured companies, etc.) paying for each of thousands of specific patient services, all the moneys of the various payers will be funneled through the Green Mountain Care Board. Since the Board sits astride all the money flow, it has complete regulatory power over premiums, rates, facilities, services, and practices.

Ever mindful of the need to “contain costs”, the Board will decide how many dollars per covered person it will give the ACO annually (“capitation”). The ACO management then somehow decides how to apportion the available money among the providers to meet what the ACO determines to be the legitimate medical needs of all the patients.

In short, the Board that controls all of the money flow will force the ACO to ration care so that it stays within the Board-imposed global budget. The rationing is thus once removed from the government Board that imposes the global budget. The Board likes that.

Davis, who enthusiastically favors a “One Big ACO” model for Vermont, candidly observes, “A [not integrated] system of 14 hospitals and thousands of doctors spending somewhere north of $3 billion each year is hideously complex. How can the Board manage such a thing? The Board can’t possibly do that.” But Davis believes the ACO can magically manage it, backed up by the coercive power of the Board as needed.

The Shumlin Administration went to Washington last week to see if it can wangle a waiver to get its hands on the flow of Medicare funds for Vermont seniors. If it succeeds, we can look forward to one mighty Health Care Authority that controls all providers, specifies all medical services, sets all rates, and consumes unimaginable amounts of tax and premium dollars.

We are the designated financiers – and guinea pigs – of this coming “reform”.

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


by Rob Roper

Bruce Parker of Vermont Watchdog wrote an excellent article about Vermont climate scientist, Allen Betts, regarding Betts’ signature on a letter asking the Department of Justice to use RICO laws to prosecute those who present alternative scientific research countering the politically correct narrative on global warming. The whole thing is rife with hypocrisy and frightening in its police-state mentality.

However, one other of Betts’ comments deserves a spotlight all its own. Asked if Vermont’s efforts to control climate change – paving our pastures with solar panels and industrializing our ridge lines with wind towers – will have any impact, Betts admitted, no.

“If the whole world went carbon neutral tomorrow, the earth has huge lags in it, and we’ll be faced with rising temperatures and greater extremes for the next 50 years,” Betts said…. “It’s totally unrealistic to pretend that Vermont will control a global problem…”

All the damage we are doing to the aesthetic value of our state, the ecosystems disrupted by this development, the danger posed to birds, bats and other wildlife, potential pollution of our waterways, and the un-discussed question of what to do with tens of thousands of acres of used solar panels when their life-cycle expires will accomplish exactly NOTHING.

Betts, along with other advocates in the State House of moving forward with industrializing Vermont’s rural landscape with renewable energy factories, thinks we should do it anyway. We should set an example for others to follow.

But, we should ask, how is Vermont setting an example for others to follow if we are in fact selling our carbon credits to other states so that they can continue to burn fossil fuels? Our policy – one that some people profit mightily from – is to enable others, not to convince them to change their ways.

Vermont’s current energy policy and the people who put it into place are just plain stupid (Or, they think we are.) By their own admission, the end result will be a despoiled Vermont AND no impact on climate change. Is this really what Vermonters want? I bet no.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute


by Chris Campion

Bernie Sanders is pretty consistent on a few things.  He’s consistently wrong about policy and economics, but he’s also consistent in his messaging.  His current inequality message sells because it puts the responsibility on someone else for things that haven’t gone right, or for things that have gone wrong in peoples’ lives.  It’s a form of absolution.  A cheap form.

In Bernie’s World, taxes are more like a tithe attached to the evil 1% to atone for their sins of earning more money than someone else.  So if you get a second job to earn more money, well, you’re becoming more unequal in the Sainted Eyes of Bernie.  Now you must render more unto Caesar.  Even if you’re earning more because you’re working 60 hours a week versus someone else working 40, well, those additional 20 hours you decided to work aren’t yours to keep in the first place, when everything and everyone belongs to the State.

Bernie waded deeply into Liberty University recently to give more of his hard-earned opinions on how to fix the horribleness of America, a place so fetid and unequal that millions of people want to leave their home countries to come here, and risk their lives in doing so.  Let’s let Bernie’s magical words speak for themselves:

There is no justice, and I want you to hear this clearly, when the top one-tenth of 1 percent — not 1 percent, the top one-tenth of 1 percent — today in America owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And in your hearts, you will have to determine the morality of that, and the justice of that.

I hate to break this to Bernie, but there is nothing – zero – in the Constitution about allocating powers to the US Senate to dispense economic

Hey, what's another $9 trillion saddled onto the unborn?

“justice”, a term so broadly based and Orwellian that it’s laughable on its face.  A Congressman telling us about justice, while he sits atop almost 19 trillion in debt, 8 trillion of which was accumulated in just the last 7 years or so, means he is unconcerned with the debt he’s saddling future Americans with who never got a vote on it.  Bernie has participated in the doubling of our nation’s debt in the shortest window in history – and wants to double it again!  As others have repeatedly stated, there’s not enough national income to tax to cover that kind of spending, let alone double the existing debt and debt payments.

And what happens when interest rates go up?  The percentage of the budget that goes to interest payments skyrockets, crowding out spending on everything else.  One of the many risks inherent in massive debt leveraging.

Bernie’s selling of injustice has the happy by-product of keeping him in his cozy, swaddled gig, where he gets paid – by the half of the country that pays net income taxes – to tell people that they’re earning too much money, and how much, when, and where he shall dispense with the income they have earned.

But if we’re going to talk about income inequality, we also have to talk about tax inequality.  Basically, because Bernie believes in a very progressive tax structure, he’s saying that the government values people with higher earnings at a higher level than those people who earn less.  The tax code does not treat people equally.  It specifically treats them unequally, by design.  An inequality that Bernie himself wants to increase, and has gone so far as to float the idea of resurrecting the 90% income tax.

Bernie continues:

In my view, there is no justice, when here, in Virginia and Vermont and all over this country, millions of people are working long hours for abysmally low wages of $7.25 an hour, of $8 an hour, of $9 an hour, working hard, but unable to bring in enough money to adequately feed their kids.

Here’s a thought:  If you can only earn $8 an hour, don’t have kids, because you can’t afford them.  Secondly, the bulk of people who work minimum-wage positions or slightly above are teenagers or part-time workers, not people who are relying on that wage as their only source of income.

But to take his inequality pretzel to the next level:  If I work 60 hours per week at two jobs for $10 an hour, and earn more money than the person who works 40 hours per week at $10 an hour, are we unequal in terms of income?  Yes.  So by Bernie’s logic, that additional $200 I would earn at my second job would need to be re-distributed to the people who only work 40 hours.

Where, in this roiling miasma of envy, does the motivation to work more go?  Does motivation to work that second job increase, or decrease?  By this reckoning, why would anyone want to improve their educations to go get a higher-paying job?  Get additional training?  Better their skillsets?  Why, when there is no reward for your hard work?

A better question, which cuts to the core of the inequality issue:  Is all labor of equal value?  Is the labor of someone working at a fast food joint equal to the labor of a doctor?  If they both work 40 hours per week, shouldn’t they be paid the same, if income equality is the goal?

The reason they are not paid the same is because people are different, and provide different skillsets at work, and some work is more unique and more difficult than others.  The doctor can walk into a fast food joint and be flipping burgers on day one, but the burger-flipper cannot perform a triple bypass, and 100 million people can be taught how to flip burgers but there’s less than 1 million doctors.

To put this in real terms, would you be willing to receive treatment from a doctor who was paid $10 an hour?

Oh, that's right - of the half of the country that pays income taxes, the top 50% pays 97.7% of all income taxes collected. I agree that this is completely unequal - what is the 2.3% *doing* all day?

But to deconstruct Bernie’s meme a bit further, let’s take a look at the data about who pays what in terms of incomes taxes in the US.  Hint:  It’s not the 99%.  It’s the 97.7%-ers:

Note that the number of returns is roughly half the population, and yes, I know that that includes joint returns, but a significant portion of the country doesn’t even file.

And even given that, almost 100% of the income tax revenues come from the top  50% of earners.  Not on the backs of the poor or downtrodden, as Bernie likes to claim.

Finally, since we’re speaking (endlessly) of inequality, Bernie’s wife, Jane Sanders, strapped on a $200,000 golden parachute while quitting her job at Burlington College.  I assume that that $200,000 in income was equally distributed among those who earn less in the Burlington area?  Of courseBernie and Jane gave this additional income away to those who really needed it, right, under the auspices of equality and justice?

Let’s take a look at how that might have worked out:

Now you can *totally* feel the Bern!

So it looks like Bernie and Jane’s re-distribution plans would net local Burlingtonians something equivalent to a latte’.  Once.  Per person.

Maybe it’s time to stop feeling the Bern and throw some cold water on his false narratives, always “argued” in a vacuum.  When the numbers are actually trotted out, Bernie’s “burn” fizzles out – but as he’s demonstrated, you don’t have to be right to win an election.  You just have to find enough people to believe that they a) deserve something for nothing, b) rich people are keeping them down, and c) the only way forward is to elect people who promise them both (a) and (b).

Bernie has never stopped promising both  (a) and (b), because it works for him, every time – which probably says something about Americans more than it does about a carpetbagger from Brooklyn.


by John McClaughry

The towns of Essex, Essex Junction and Westford are well along in planning their proposed school merger to get the tax benefits offered under Act 46..

A Vermont Digger article on the subject includes this observation: “There has been some concern that Westford residents may vote against the merger because they fear they would lose choice, but [merger committee chair Brendan] Kinney said that the report includes protections for choice. “We heard loud and clear from Westford that choice was an issue in their community,” Kinney said. The panel decided to grandfather choice for students until 2020. “We felt very strongly about that.”

So let’s see. Westford has a K-8 school but is a tuition town for high school. If your 8th grader wants to go to a high school other than Essex Jct. High School next fall, that choice will be preserved. Hooray! And the youngster will be allowed to complete his or her high school career at that school. But your sixth grader, who would graduate high school in 2020, will have to take his or her senior year at Essex Junction, unless you can cut some “unique circumstances” deal with the unified school board.

The Mergercrats are determined to shut down parental choice, but in Essex they agreed to suffer five more years of it to get the plan approved – while  telling everyone that  “we felt very strongly about that.” Yeah, right.


Posted by Rob Roper

The financial site, Kiplinger, recently updated its list of the ten worst states to live in for taxes. Vermont “vaulted” (their word) from ninth worst to seventh worst based on what the legislature did during the 2015 session. They cite raising property taxes, expanding the sales tax to sweetened beverages and limiting income tax deductions for wealthier citizens, as well as already above average fuel taxes.

Some of the numbers:

  • State income tax: 3.55% (on income up to $37,450/individual, $62,600/joint) – 8.95% (income more than $411,500)
  • State sales tax: 6% (The average state and local combined sales tax rate is 6.1%.)
  • Gas taxes and fees: 31 cents per gallon
  • Rooms & Meals Tax: 9%.
  • Alcoholic Beverages Served In Restaurants tax: 10%.
  • Property Taxes: The median property tax on the state’s median home value of $218,300 is $3,727, the ninth-highest in the U.S.

Seriously, folks, this has got to stop.


by John McClaughry

The State of Vermont is demanding that Liberty Mutual insurance company turn over all of its medical claims data to the Green Mountain Care Board. A federal appeals court has held that Liberty Mutual, which manages self-insured ERISA plans for large companies, doesn’t have to do it. So now the state, led by attorney general William Sorrell, is appealing to the Supreme Court to get its way.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals cited privacy concerns as a reason for its ruling:  “Vermont requires ERISA plans to record, in specified format, massive amounts of claim information, and to report that information to third parties, creating significant (and obvious) privacy risks and financial burdens.”..

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons have filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court

in support of patient privacy.  The brief explains how researchers at Harvard demonstrated that it was possible to re-identify the Governor of a state as the patient for medical records, despite the removal of several personal identifiers.

The reason the Shumlin administration is so hot to get hold of everybody’s medical claims data is so it can stumble forward toward the Governor’s goal of single payer health care. Under single payer, the state will control who pays what for which patients, and the state is not concerned with your privacy.

Fortunately for our privacy, Sorrell has been a serial loser at the Supreme Court.

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

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by Rob Roper

A recent article in Vermont Digger called attention to a need for more childcare options in Vermont. However, there was one revealing exchange mixed in with the alarm. “As of 2013, Vermont’s licensed child care – including home care — providers had capacity for 27,500 children.” Vermont has a total of about 26,000 kids aged six or younger. In other words, the capacity already exists.

So, why are some, like the subject of the article, Julie Coffey, executive director of Building Bright Futures, raising the flag of crisis?

For over a decade, the formal expansion of publicly funded “universal” pre-k has been a thinly veiled hostile takeover by the public school monopoly of Vermont’s hundreds of small, privately operated childcare providers. Since the passage of Act 60 in 1997, the public k-12 system in Vermont has lost over 20,000 students, and the unions want to bring those 26,000 infants and toddlers onto their plantation – and send Vermont property taxpayers the bill.

According to ChildcareCenter.US, there are 637 preschools and child development centers operating in the state of Vermont. Most of these are small businesses operated in great part by women. The public school monopoly is waging a long-term campaign to quietly drive them out of business. How?

Ms. Coffee of Building Bright Futures laments not the lack of childcare, but the lack of “high quality, affordable” childcare. Translation: “high quality” means “monopoly run or approved,” and “affordable” means “taxpayer subsidized.”

Under these parameters, private childcare providers can never compete. Those who cannot afford to spend the time and money (because, you know, providing childcare leaves one with so much free time and extra cash) to comply with these “quality” regulations are saddled with the stigma of being of poor or lesser quality. At the same time, if you don’t jump through the hoops and can’t qualify for taxpayer subsidies, your center costs more to the customer than the monopoly approved center.

The perceptions of higher cost/lower quality a no win situation. So, as a result, a minority of private providers may position themselves to be absorbed by the monopoly, but the majority will eventually go out of business. As these small, private businesses fall away, the monopoly that’s killing them will swoop in to take over the market share at property taxpayers’ expense.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 


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.

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