How to Diagram

Roll Call GraphicYour representatives in Montpelier are there to, as the name suggests, represent you in the capitol. Do your representatives’ votes represent how you would vote if you were in their place?

This collection of legislator roll call vote profiles is brought to you as an educational service by the Ethan Allen Institute (EAI).

In 2013-14, the Vermont State House of Representatives held over 160 roll call votes on a wide variety of issues. The Senate held over eighty. Some of those votes were for show (of the “who likes puppies?” variety), some were obscure and confusing, some were repetitive (there were several roll call votes on the Gas Tax Increase, for example, and for the sake of simplicity we chose one to feature just one), some were important and illuminating.

Opinions will vary on which votes fall into each category. The  votes presented here were selected because they are important based on the potential impact the legislation could or will, depending upon final passage, have on the lives of the citizens of Vermont. They are illuminating in the sense that they allow the citizen a clear picture of the direction his or her legislator is driving the state. And, finally, they were chosen because they fall within EAI’s free market, economic oriented mission as they pertain to individual liberty, limited government and the founding principles of our great nation.

2013-2014 Legislative Session

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Addison County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Bennington County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Caledonia County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Chittenden County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Essex-Orleans County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Franklin-Grand Isle County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Lamoille County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Orange County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Rutland County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Washington County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Windham County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Windsor County


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posted by John McClaughry

                After four years of avoiding taking a clear position on any issue that I can remember, Lt. Governor Phil Scott finally stepped up and announced his plan for dealing with ever rising school property tax increases.

According to a Vermont Digger report, “Vermont should consider a central, apolitical board to regulate school spending and decide whether districts should consolidate, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott said. …changing the complex education funding formula won’t relieve tax-weary Vermonters unless schools also spend less”, he said.

Scott said he envisions an entity like the Green Mountain Care Board, the five-member panel created in 2011 to regulate health care costs in the state by approving hospital budgets and private insurance premium rates and the amounts that hospitals can receive for the services they provide. An education board could, for example, set parameters within which schools would be able to raise spending each year. Budget increases over a certain threshold might need board approval, Scott suggested.

The board could also be charged with deciding whether school districts or supervisory unions should consolidate, he said. It could also potentially play a role in setting property tax rates, Scott said.

Well there you have it. On top of Peter Shumlin’s Soviet style command and control model for government health care, the Republican Lt Governor wants a Soviet style command and control model for public education. Sigh.

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posted by Chris Campion

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, when not busily touting the successes of his single-payer campaign, recently spoke about how vital the tourism industry is to Vermont, and how the state is committed to boosting tourism in the state.

“Columbus Day holiday weekend is the busiest of the year in Vermont, with visitors heading to hiking trails, inns and lodges, museums, restaurants and other attractions across the entire state,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Given the importance of this industry to Vermont’s economy and job creation, I’m thrilled we’ve had such a strong year, and committed to doing what it takes to ensure visitors across the globe know how much Vermont has to offer.”

Gov. Shumlin noted that the state committed $310,000 to an advertising campaign designed to bring visitors from New York and Boston. More than 2.7 million tourists travel from New York and Massachusetts annually to Vermont, bringing to $370 million the annual spending by visitors. Included in the advertising package is an editorial, print and digital campaign, as well as broad marketing.

Outdoor recreation activity generates $2.5 billion in Vermont retail sales and services (12 percent of gross state product) annually. That sector alone results in $753 million in salaries and wages for 34,000 jobs – and $176 million in state tax revenue.

Well, promoting tourism is a good thing, but should Shumlin be “thrilled” about this:

Tourism Industry salary per job

The bulk of tourism industry jobs are not going to cover the cost of living in Vermont, at least not in the traditional sense of “living”, meaning owning a home, car, etc.  The stat above equates to $11/hour, and I’m fairly confident that the requirements to buy even a 2-bedroom condo anywhere in Vermont won’t be fulfilled by that kind of income.

In fact, if Peter was interested in pitching an industry to work in, he need look no further than the office building he sometimes works in for inspiration.  The government sector of Vermont’s economy has consistently higher earnings than the private sector.  From BLS.gov:

I'm noticing a trend here.

I’m noticing a trend here.

In fact, the annual difference between the salaries in the two sectors would at least cover the cost of a hot tub or a new snowmobile – if you’re on the right side of the two charts:

The bitter fruits of political victory.

The bitter fruits of political victory.

Part of the governor’s job is to cheerlead – so Shumlin’s going to tout “good” news, by hiding or conveniently ignoring the relevant data.  Regardless of the success of the tourism industry, it is an industry dominated by lower-paying jobs, not the kinds of jobs that create massive influxes of highly-educated professionals from out of state, looking to live the rest of their lives in the mountains of Vermont.  As has been recently discussed, Vermont’s labor outlook is dominated by lower-paying jobs with very minimal education requirements, and that’s not the mark of a vibrant and growing economy.  Ideally, the tourism sector should be the slowest-growing in terms of job opportunities, playing catchup to manufacturing, finance, professional services, etc., the sectors that are much higher-paying, stable, with significant career development potential, not because we want fewer jobs, but because we want real job growth in jobs that can support families trying to carve out their existence in the Green Mountains.

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posted by Rob Roper

The Stowe school board announced this week that a long-time benefit for teachers who live out of town is about to end – school choice for their kids.

Well, limited school choice but still a significant choice. Stowe has allowed through what are called “tuition waivers” the children of teachers who don’t live in the district the choice of whether to attend school in their home district or in Stowe, free of charge. According to an article in the Stowe Reporter, an average of 10-15 kids take advantage of this each year.

Here’s how the program is described by superintendent Tracy Wrend:

It’s certainly something teachers value. We believe it helps with teacher attendance, loyalty and commitment. Teachers find it easier to focus on their work and attend teacher conferences when their children attend the same school system in which they teach. (Stowe Reporter, 10/16/14)

Yeah. School choice will do that. Even when it’s a choice between just two schools.

It is disappointing to see any family lose a school choice option, particularly one that so clearly shows the value of school choice and how important an impact it can have on a family and a career. At the same time, it’s hard not to choke on the hypocrisy of teachers enjoying a benefit that their union fights tooth and nail to deny the families of any and all non-public school employees.

Let’s just hope this episode opens some eyes within the public school community that all parents deserve and would benefit from the ability to choose to send their child to a school in the district where they work if that provides a better fit for the family. After all, doesn’t everyone deserve the opportunity to be happier, more focused, more productive, and more committed to the people and the projects in their lives?

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS–Hong Kong has always been a city of contrasts.  Wealth, a free economy, a feisty media, and the rule of law, have always contrasted with poverty, crowding and claustrophobia.  Still, Hong Kong remains a refuge for millions of Chinese who choose freedom despite its doorstep proximity to Mainland China.  Yet, in the past seventeen years, the narrative has somewhat changed as China has tasted the fruits of economic prosperity but has remained politically authoritarian. 

When the former British Crown Colony was returned to China in July 1997, many people assumed that the glory days were over.  After all, this thriving bastion of capitalism and free enterprise was now coming under the wing of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  Though the Beijing communists were treaty bound to ensure and guarantee Hong’s Kong’s social, economic and political freedoms for fifty years, few believed this deal, inked in 1984 between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher, would last for very long.  

Hong Kong’s freedoms, and may I say freewheeling pace and lifestyle, contrast with most of Mainland China save for a few places like Shanghai. 

Hong Kong became the template for Beijing’s reunification formula, “One Country, Two Systems,” in other words the People’s Republic would showcase Hong Kong as an example of political autonomy and peaceful coexistence.  The formula was particularly aimed at the Republic of China on Taiwan whose economic prosperity and democratic political institutions glaringly contrast with the PRC model.  

Having been in Hong Kong at the time of the 1997 handover, the lingering fear was would Beijing’s Marxist mandarins kill the golden goose represented by this spunky Crown Colony?  The Chinese allegory emerged that if you kill the Golden Goose, you have one splendid meal, but it you keep it alive, the goose keeps laying golden eggs.

Having returned to Hong Kong a few years ago, it was more than obvious the golden goose was still alive and well.  This Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic had morphed into the capital of freewheeling Bling-bling with high-end shops rivaling New York or London.  Press freedoms were eroding but heavy -handed Mainland censorship was not the norm either; just “patriotic journalism” in other words, writing either positive accounts of Big Brother or saying nothing at all.

Now of course the political narrative has changed as Hong Kong’s well educated students and young people are chafing over PRC’s political plan whereby pre-selected and regime approved candidates will be the only choice in elections for the region’s Chief Executive in 2017.   True democratic reforms are clearly not on Beijing’s agenda.   Authoritarian “stability” endorsed both by the communist politicians and the capitalist business tycoons remain the order of the day. 

Mass pro-democracy demonstrations, dubbed the Umbrella revolution, have rocked Hong Kong and have equally jolted both the Communist Party rulers in Beijing.  As significantly, the events have warned and reminded onlookers in democratic Taiwan that the “One Country, Two Systems” scheme has imposed a tight political cookie mold on Hong Kong  as it would most certainly would do so on democratic Taiwan.  

Yet, the shimmering dream of the reunification of  China, that of Taiwan rejoining the PRC , either by choice, coercion, or through force,  remains unchanged.

Though the timing was particularly awkward, PRC leader Xi Jinping recently told some Taiwan legislators that,  “Peaceful unification and one country two systems are our guiding principles in solving the Taiwan issue.”  This old Deng Xiaoping era model was dusted off both to woo the Chinese on Taiwan as much as to warn the island’s 23 million people that any plans “to splinter the country” or for the political lightning rod of Taiwan independence would court disaster.  Beijing has never renounced the use of force to “bring Taiwan back to embrace of the motherland.” 

ROC President Ma Ying-jeou has openly decried Xi Jinping’s offer to Taiwan as “unacceptable.”  

As Taipei’s respected China Post newspaper commented editorially, “The pro-democracy Occupy Central students movement in the former British colony are actually as much about Taiwan’s future as about Hong Kong’s present predicament.” The editorial added, “Xi is a bad salesman trying hard to sell Taiwan a product that has already proven stale somewhere else. He hasn’t even tried to sugar-coat the offering for Taiwan.” 

Hong Kong’s restless protesters are demanding the rule of law not the rule by law.  
But beyond the glittering skyscrapers and vistas of this entrepreneurial city by the bay, there’ a wider lesson emerging for the island of Taiwan, an increasingly unwitting and unwilling suitor to Mr. Xi’s charms.   


*****************
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).

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

The Shumlin administration is touting its “conservative fiscal policies” – but there are at least six unavoidable and daunting fiscal issues for 2015.

*     *     *

            How fares the State of Vermont from a fiscal standpoint?

According to the Shumlin administration, state finances, though under pressure, are also under responsible control. A year ago the administration rebutted critics by pointing out that Vermont continues to have a Moody’s AAA bond rating, resulting from “conservative fiscal policies and the maintenance of healthy reserve accounts.”

The governor also argues that under his four year tenure there have been no increases in the three major tax rates – income, sales, and rooms and meals.  He reminds us that he stifled a move in the Democratic House last year to raise a number of taxes to produce new revenues to increase state-funded programs. The state’s three stabilization reserve (“rainy day”) funds are filled to the required levels.

That’s all to the good. However here are six unavoidable issues for 2015.

Falling Revenues, Rising Shortfalls:  Last July the state’s revenue estimators revised their FY 2015 revenue projection downward by $31 million. The governor rescinded $16 million in unspent funds, redirected some one-time funds, and said that the gap had been covered.

But on October 5 Vermont Digger reported that chief fiscal officer Steve Klein concluded that the 2015 legislature will face an expected shortfall of from $90-120 million for FY2016. The governor immediately directed all state agencies to find a way to reduce spending by 5%. Shumlin offered this not too reassuring observation: “We may well be coming to the end of tight budgets, but you just never know, anything could happen.”

Making the fiscal situation worse is a reduction in Federal Medicaid cost sharing, higher pay and fringe benefits under the Pay Act signed by Shumlin in May, and the pressing need for increasing contributions to pay for retired teacher health costs (see below). Jim Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, said in August that he’s running out of one-time pots to raid.

A fair conclusion:  Vermont is maintaining a more costly government than the governor and legislature can make the taxpayers pay for.

Obama Bucks: Vermont profited immensely from a flood of funding from Washington. This included four years of  “stimulus” funds, $170 million to create the failed Vermont Health Connect, $45 million to figure out what health care “payment reform” means, and $37 million to subsidize universal pre-kindergarten. That flood of dollars has driven the national debt to a staggering $18 trillion. Now it’s likely slow down significantly.

Pension Liabilities: The state employees and teachers retirement funds are 40% and 23% underfunded. The total unfunded liability for these funds (pensions plus retiree health benefits) is now over $3.2 billion. A total of $118 million will have to be appropriated next year just to meet annual contribution requirements.

Of particular concern is the retired teachers’ health benefit, which is funded simply by sucking money out of the teachers’ pension fund. Treasurer Beth Pearce persuaded the legislature to (grudgingly) make a small dent in this problem last spring. Solving this problem is likely far beyond the capacity of a legislature eager to keep the spending coming for a wide range of popular programs.

School Property Taxes: The governor and legislature increased the homestead and non-residential property tax base rates in 2013 and 2014, and will have to do it again in 2015. If they don’t, the Education Fund will come up $42 million short. The increasingly likely – and long avoided – response may be Agency of Education school district budget caps.

Unaccountable Taxation: The shortage of revenues to pay for an oversupply of programs has led to the practice of the state forcing other parties to pay the bills, thus avoiding visible taxation. Peter Shumlin has long been a master of this practice.

Over the past eight years the state has extorted millions of dollars from Vermont Yankee to pay for renewable subsidies and algae cleanup in Lake Champlain, and has directed the Public Service Board to make ratepayers finance ever-increasing subsidies for renewable electricity. In 2012 Shumlin personally engineered a utility merger that stiffed CVPS ratepayers to shift even more millions into renewable subsidies.  Such unaccountable taxation is arguably unconstitutional, and not a dependable source of revenue.

Green Mountain Care: Looming over the legislature is the grim prospect of voting $2 billion in new taxes – income, sales, payroll, assets, perhaps others – to underwrite Shumlin’s  single payer health care plan for 2017. Whether he can keep his liberal majority from fleeing panic stricken out of the state house before a vote on a $2 billion tax increase may be the key question of 2015.

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

 

 

 

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posted by Chris Campion

The Senator with the most obscene haircut in 2014 recently complained, again, about the “incredible and obscene” level of wealth inequality in the US.  Despite the tired nature of this old saw, Bernie himself is a key player and contributor to this obscenity, and seems to miss, entirely, the fact that if he wasn’t busily spending trillions we don’t have and will never have, the economy might recover, and more jobs would become available.

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 4 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that the “incredible and obscene” level of income and wealth inequality in America has become a danger to our economic and political systems – and must be addressed.

According to a new Forbes magazine tally, the 400 wealthiest Americans are now worth $2.29 trillion. Their combined wealth grew last year by $270 billion – a 13 percent increase.  These billionaires now own more wealth than the bottom half of America – more than 150 million people.

Sanders’ fix?  Let’s ask Congress to do something!  They really know what they’re doing!

“Congress must summon the courage to take on their big money campaign contributors and pass legislation that asks the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes and overturns the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United.”

Well, that was easy.  Congress need only do two things and wealth inequality is fixed.  As if being unequal in earnings is a bad thing by definition.  If I work two jobs and earn 50% more than my neighbor does who works only one job, are we “unequal”?

But still, this is Sanders, and asking Congress to do something – like pass a budget – might be something they’re not equipped to perform.  They can pass a 2,000 page monstrosity without reading it, but this wealth inequality thing should be a snap.

Here’s the deal on the “fair share”, Senator, and pay attention this time, because you don’t seem to be getting it:  Half the country pays no net income taxes.  Of the half that do pay income taxes, the top half of this group pays 97% of all income taxes collected.  I agree with Sanders (gasp!): that isunfair, to the people paying virtually all the income tax in this country.

That top half is a lot more than the evil 1%.  It includes that vaunted “middle class”, the top end of which can earn over $250,000 per year.  These people are not billionaires, swimming in pools filled with gold coins.  They are professionals: engineers, lawyers, doctors, managers, IT administrators, contractors, and if these people are married, it’s not that rare to find yourself over that $250K threshold.  These are people who work for a living, and the market pays them their “fair share” as determined by supply and demand for their work, not as determined by a Marxist price-setter sitting in a dank sub-basement cave somewhere in DC, where social “justice” is meted out through transfer payments.

If you really want to see an obscenity, how about all the federal spending combined – and we’re setting world records in spending/obscenities in the Congresses that Senator Sanders is a willing participate in – does not effect median household income.  At all.  In fact, if there’s a correlation between federal spending and incomes, it’s a negative correlation.  As federal surpluses increase, household income decreases.

I’m no Marxist theorist, but that seems to be the reverse of the intended effect, no?

Deficits go up and household income decreases?  Golly!

Deficits go up and household income decreases? Golly!

Here are a few other obscenities that Sanders seems to ignore, and are directly leading to the results of virtually zero median household income growth:

1.  As US debt goes up, real median household income goes down.  So Sanders’ solution of more, obscene, and ridiculous federal spending, at record levels of debt, does not fix one damn thing regarding individual income.  If, indeed, that is the federal government’s job, and if it could even do that if 535 knuckleheads thought that it should be so.

Is Bernie going to pay that big loan off for the middle class?  They'll be paying for that via the labor of their children's children's.....children.

Is Bernie going to pay that big loan off for the middle class? They’ll be paying for that via the labor of their children’s children’s…..children.

2.  It’s difficult to participate in an economy when the bulk of the job growth is in lower-paying jobs, and the federal gov’t has created safety nets, well, they’re more like safety condos, that make the decision not to work easier than ever before in the history of man.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in their projections for job growth through 2012, of the top ten categories of jobs with the most growth, only 2 of them require any education beyond high school.

Whatever we're doing, it's not working.

Whatever we’re doing, it’s not working.

3.  Obamacare – which Sanders has supported all along, and has long called for the nationalization of health care, like those other successful countries such as the former Soviet Union and Cuba – will reduce employment by 3%, according to the Mercatus center:

Much of the ACA’s tax effect resembles unemployment insurance: both encourage layoffs and discourage people from returning to work. The ACA’s overall impact on employment, however, will arguably be larger than that of any single piece of legislation since World War II.

  • The ACA’s employment taxes create strong incentives to work less. The health subsidies’ structure will put millions in a position in which working part time (29 hours or fewer, as defined by the ACA) will yield more disposable income than working their normal full-time schedule.
  • The reduction in weekly employment due to these ACA disincentives is estimated to be about 3 percent, or about 4 million fewer full-time-equivalent workers. This is the aggregate result of the law’s employment disincentives, and is nearly double the impact most recently estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Nearly half of American workers will be affected by at least one of the ACA’s employment taxes—and this does not account for the indirect effect on others as the labor market adjusts.
  • The ACA will push more women than men into part-time work. Because a greater percentage of women work just above 30 hours per week, it is women who will be more likely to drop to part-time work as defined by the ACA.

4.  Oh, and Bernie seems to have no problem getting his nest feathered on the public dime.  Bernie’s annual average growth rate in net worth 2004-2012 was 29%.  The average American’s growth rate for the same period?  -0.94%.  So when Bernie’s telling you he’s working for the little guy, remember that in Berniespeak, little guy means “Bernie Sanders”.

I didn't realize Socialism had such a high rate of return.

I didn’t realize Socialism had such a high rate of return.

In short, the Senator himself, through the policies he’s supported, are exacerbating the wealth inequality he so loudly trumpets as the biggest scourge of our time.  It could just be that the biggest problem is not wealth inequality, but wealth transfer, and that the government that Sanders works in is responsible for creating it in the first place.  Instead of demonizing companies that actually employ people, perhaps Bernie should start demonizing the catastrophic spending he’s been responsible for all of his years in the US Congress, and start doing what the rest of us have to do, every day – live within our means.

 

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by Frank Mazur

A few months ago, Rep. Paul Ryan, former GOP candidate for Vice President, offered a thoughtful strategy giving the anti-poverty programs a new direction.  These programs, which were proposed by President Johnson, funneled money to states and municipalities to reduce poverty.  Data now shows despite the infusion of trillions of dollars, poverty hasn’t changed but entitlements and dependency on government has increased.

Ryan’s approach funds block grants to states but it expects work requirements and time limits for aid.  States would provide help to recipients and progress would be measured.   Programs would be focused on recipients becoming more independent rather on “hand-outs” with creative solutions developed at the state and municipal level, not Washington.

There hasn’t been a public debate on Ryan’s proposal.  For too long, federal programs have been funded on measurable data that tell how many people they’re serving but nowhere is it reported on how well we are improving their lives.

It’s time for change…not only on the federal level but also at the state and municipal level.  The private sector strives to create incentives to deliver outcomes at lower costs thereby producing the highest return on investment.  Can you imagine if municipal governments funded departments based on demonstrated successes and not on promises of success?

I applaud Ryan for his approach.  It’s time we budget to improve outcomes which challenge the status quo.  This will require more investment in technology, thinking outside the box, and advance collaboration to do more with less.  The alternative isn’t acceptable.

- Frank Mazur is the former chairman of the Vermont House Transportation Committee and a former member of the Ethan Allen Institute board of directors. 

 

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posted by Rob Roper

An interesting kerfuffle popped up in the comment pages of Vermont Digger’s recent article, Feliciano Claims Shumlin Wants to Take Over Medicare. First, the way the headline is phrased is meant to cast doubt on the “claim.” However, Act 48 as passed – which Shumlin signed and his party and the Progressives wrote and voted for – spells out specifically that the Vermont does in fact want to take over Medicare. It states with emphasis added:

“The director, in collaboration with the agency of human services, SHALL obtain waivers, exemptions, agreements, legislation, or a combination thereof to ensure that, to the extent possible under federal law, ALL FEDERAL PAYMENTS PROVIDED WITHIN THE STATE FOR HEALTH SERVICES ARE PAID DIRECTLY TO GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE. GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE SHALL ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BENEFITS AND SERVICES PREVIOUSLY PAID FOR BY the federal programs, including Medicaid, MEDICARE, and, after implementation, the Vermont health benefit exchange.” (Page 12)

And,

“The agency SHALL SEEK PERMISSION from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services TO BE THE ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE MEDICARE PROGRAM IN VERMONT.” (Page 85)

Digger reporter Morgan True pointed out that Act 48 has since been refined to read,

(e) The Agency SHALL SEEK PERMISSION from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services TO BE THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE MEDICARE PROGRAM IN VERMONT. If the Agency is unsuccessful in obtaining such permission, Green Mountain Care shall be the secondary payer with respect to any health service that may be covered in whole or in part by Title XVIII of the Social Security Act (Medicare).

The new language reflects the reality that Shumlin et al may not get what they want from the feds, but it’s not a “claim” by Feliciano that the governor and the legislature WANT to take over Medicare. It’s a fact codified in law. And, they are legally obligated to try.

Whether successful or not, seniors will be impacted by the transition to single payer should it occur. If Vermont gets its waivers, Medicare will be folded into Green Mountain Care. If not, then GMC will become the secondary or “wrap around” payer. This means that seniors who have private wrap around or Medigap policies could potentially no longer be able to obtain them. GMC will fill that role; how well, who knows? All we know for sure is that the program will be administered by the same people who brought us the Vermont Health Connect debacle. Not comforting.

Many commenters on the Digger article accused Feliciano of trying to scare seniors. But, these are facts. If the facts are scary, we have a problem.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute www.ethanallen.org

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By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  But the Korean Peninsula remains stifled by a wall of division,” stated South Korean President Park Geun-hye.   In a landmark address to the UN General Assembly, President Park made the bold assertion, “I call on the international community to stand with us in tearing down the world’s last remaining wall of division.”  

Stirring words.  Stirring themes.  Especially, punctuating the diplomatic drone of many of the General debate speeches.  

Though Park recalled, “The two Koreas were separately admitted as member states to the UN in 1991. Having two separate seats despite a single language, culture and history is clearly not normal. ”  Since the end of WWII, the historic Korean nation has been divided by the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which has tragically become part of the national geography.  

The DMZ dividing South and North Korea is 4 km wide and 250 km long and while serving as the demarcation line, also has blocked the free flow of people for 60 years. 

President Park presented a broad brush view of contemporary Korean history.  “Once a country that barely managed to survive with the UN’s assistance, the Republic of Korea is today a nation that has achieved both an advanced market economy and democracy.”  

Yet the quaintly-titled Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) the North,
remains a communist state which is both a threat to its own people and beyond, given the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

The South Korean leader called for urgency in “resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, which presents the single greatest threat to peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia.”   She added, “The DPRK is the only country to have conducted a nuclear test in the 21st century.”   This is a sobering reality. 

Naturally, North Korea’s abysmal human rights situation remains a key concern.
She praised efforts by the UN Human Rights Council to keep the political light of transparency on the communist state.  

Not surprisingly, North Korea’s Foreign Minister did not agree.  In a scornful rebuff, Ri Su Yong stated, “The nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula is a matter of sovereignty and right to life of a UN member state before peace and security. “ 

Foreign Minister Ri added, “The nuclear deterrent of the DPRK is not intended to threaten or attack others. Neither is it a bargaining chip to be exchanged for something else.” 

Interestingly in his wide ranging discourse, the North Korean official only made one mention of the “Great General Kim Jong il” and the current ruler, “the respected Marshall Kim Jong Un” once as well.  Most DPRK speeches and documents usually constantly invoke the names of the Marxist monarchy ruling this neo-Stalinist land. 
Also too no mention of the dictatorial dynasty’s founder Kim Il-sung, always a standard rhetorical honorific in the chorus of regime adulation.  

Both North Korea’s nuclear issue and human rights conditions remain serious obstacles in dealing with the isolated regime, especially for South Korea.   

Yet, prosperous South Korea, ever hopeful, calls on its impoverished and isolated cousins to forsake nuclear weapons and come in from the cold.  Should the DPRK choose reform and opening, the Seoul government “together with the international community, will provide our strong support for developing the DPRK economy.” 

Political decompression leading to reunification is something President Park is pushing for as to lessen the humanitarian anguish of its northern cousins as much as to diminish the military threat to South Korea’s prosperous cosmopolitan society. 

Visiting Germany earlier this year, Park Geun-hye  admired many of the places connected with that nation’s peaceful unification nearly a quarter century ago.  

Addressing the UN, Park opined, “A unified Korea will be the starting point for a world without nuclear weapons, offer a fundamental solution to the North Korean human rights issue, and help unlock a stable and cooperative Northeast Asia.”  

Speaking hopefully, Park extolled, “Just as the unification of Germany laid the grounds for a new Europe by integrating Europe, a unified Korea will set in motion a new Northeast Asia.”  

Yet as with Germany’s reunification, there’s a political and diplomatic price to pay.
In Korea’s case this shall be the tacit agreement of  the surrounding powers; China, Russia, Japan and the USA as to the final formula.  

Given the DPRK regime’s decrepit state, President Park’s wish could come sooner than she may think.  Yet, even few optimists would wish to calculate the real cost and sacrifice for South Koreans to see through the price of national reunification.

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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).

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10-8-14 – Climate March

October 8, 2014

posted by John McClaughry The mighty Peoples Climate March has come and gone. Here’s a live interview with one of the more celebrated marchers, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that  tells you the mentality of the people who are  waving the climate change flag. “Kennedy  accused skeptical politicians of “selling out the public trust.”  Quote: “Those [...]

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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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10-21-14 – Phil Scott’s Soviet-model Education Plan

posted by John McClaughry                 After four years of avoiding taking a clear position on any issue that I can remember, Lt. Governor Phil Scott finally stepped up and announced...

10-20-14 – To Have And To Have More

posted by Chris Campion Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, when not busily touting the successes of his single-payer campaign, recently spoke about how vital the tourism industry is to Vermont, and...

10-15-14 – Teachers Love School Choice – For Themselves

posted by Rob Roper The Stowe school board announced this week that a long-time benefit for teachers who live out of town is about to end – school...

10-15-14 – Hong Kong’s Lessons for Taiwan

By John J. MetzlerUNITED NATIONS–Hong Kong has always been a city of contrasts.  Wealth, a free economy, a feisty media, and the rule of law, have always contrasted...

10-13-14 – Obscenity Redefined

posted by Chris Campion The Senator with the most obscene haircut in 2014 recently complained, again, about the “incredible and obscene” level of wealth inequality in the US.  Despite...

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