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So, the federal government is heading toward bankruptcy and our Vermont coffers are in need of emergency repair. The cause in both cases is the same, overspending.
The liberals and progressives blame it on the Bush wars, ignoring the expansion of the entitlement programs and the high pay and retirement benefits given to the public sector unions. The Republicans can be blamed for following the same routine. As a result, all our government representatives were populists, layering on more pork projects to make the voters back home happy and return these scoundrels to office.
Now comes the revolution in the form of the Tea Party. Hundreds of thousands have been awakened by the blatant overspending by the Obama administration, pushing our national debt to an estimated $14 trillion. Oh yes, I know, Bush had his hand in it too, but Obama tripled it. The Tea Party consists of people from all of the parties who are fed up with spending money that is not available. The Tea Party has put a new face on the federal line up. Last November’s election put a majority of conservatives in the House of Representatives and increased their number in the Senate. This also changed the electoral balance in many “blue” (liberal) states but not here in Vermont.
Here in Vermont, an ultra-liberal governor replaced a Republican so that the entire electoral enterprise now is completely liberal. We’ve just seen what happened at the federal level when both houses and the president were from the same party; checks and balances went out the window. In Vermont, these first three months have given us a taste of the future and it is not pretty.
Governor Shumlin has three major issues to deal with: the debt, energy and health care.
Increasing jobs makes good rhetoric, but what does he do? Right off the bat, he wants to increase taxes, not just taxes but taxes on health care providers! Can you beat that? Initially he gave the impression that he understood that increasing taxes, in any form, is not good “form,” especially when trying to increase jobs or reduce debt. This state discourages business because of our already high tax odor and he wants to make it worse.
He should be looking at cutting expenditures. Here are just a few places to look:
Eliminate overlapping programs (especially in entitlements).
Cancel programs that are not up to their mandates.
Illuminate costs created by illegal aliens here in this state: free health care, education and crime expenses. Employers should verify the eligibility of every new hire by using the federal e-verify system (which has a reported accuracy rate of 99.7 percent) to keep themselves on the right side of federal laws. Our attorney general should be actively engaged with the fed’s immigration control people, especially when considering our proximity to the Canadian border.
Return education back to local control to eliminate the costly mess that’s been made of it. The Legislature interpreted the Vermont Supreme Court mandate regarding “equal education” to mean “equal amount spent per student.” Many studies have shown that equal dollars does not equate to equal education. The unions that run our system hobble the educational process by being against vouchers, school choice, merit pay, hiring and firing teachers on a last-in-first-out basis, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the dollars we do spend.
Eliminate any political “pork.”
Energy. He seems to associate the word “atom” with a bomb ready to go off, and because of this obsession he wants to eliminate 33 percent of Vermont’s cheapest electric power by closing the Vermont Yankee station, without any idea of what will replace this source. He talks glowingly about ”green” things, like Quebec Hydro, wind power, solar power, etc., all of which can’t meet the “base load” or cost level of what we have now and approved by the federal government.
His mindset will increase energy costs to householders and discourage new enterprises.
Health care. As mentioned above, he wants to increase taxes, taxes on hospitals, physicians, dentists and equipment for the handicapped. What is he thinking? This is exactly the wrong thing to do. He should be cutting waste, fraud and abuse in our existing health programs.
Single payer system. This can mean only one thing, adding more debt to Vermont’s out-of-control spending. This terminology usually means that everyone will have health care and a board of political elites will decide who gets what treatment and for what cost.
This is a socialist system that, wherever it has been tried, has never had enough capital to cover the ever expanding demand for service. In Britain, according to Dr. Theodore Dalrymple with 20 years of service in their government-run program, expenses increased 300 percent in 10 years. He reports long waiting periods for elective surgery and spending on hospital infrastructure was diverted to meet cost excesses.
The Canadian government-run system has similar problems. Patients can get to see a physician fairly quickly and if a problem can be cured with a few pills, fine, but if a specialist or surgery is needed, that’s the rub. Reports of Canadians using American services to reduce waiting times are frequent.
No, we don’t want anything to do with repeating faults contained in any government-run (socialist) health care system. Just ask those in Maine with their fling at universal service. It was supposed to cover everyone and save businesses and patients money; instead it is costing taxpayers millions. Look at Massachusetts, better still, better not.
At any rate, the solution to the financing problem must involve competitive insurance policies, whereby the state makes and monitors the rules and then gets out of the way, similar to the Part “D” federal prescription drug, which, I understand, is solvent.
When we talk about overspending we should keep in mind what Margaret Thatcher said: “Socialism will continue until it runs out of other peoples’ money.” If we are not careful, Vermont will run out of our tax money and then ask our bankrupt federal government for a bailout from China.
Olin E. Potter lives in Waitsfield.