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Vermont by the numbers

I have a confession to make: While I tend to be liberal in my political views, I often enjoy the guilty pleasure of watching the conservative yakfests staged every weekday evening by Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity on Fox News. There is occasional wisdom there, but it is so heavily and entertainingly larded (especially on Hannity’s show) with screwball, right-wing polemics (e.g., arch-conservative Monica Crowley claiming that Obama is a closet Communist) that it’s hard to take too seriously.


And one thing all the Foxies seem to agree on is that Vermont, so tragically infected by the pox of liberalism, is basically a socialist way station on the road to Commie hell. Derisive snickers were shared on O’Reilly’s show when it was mentioned that Romney was spending a few days in Vermont, at the vacation home of political ally Kerry Healy, preparing for the upcoming presidential debates. This seemed as ludicrous as the Red Sox holding a training camp in Yankee Stadium.


So I decided to check out just exactly what a hell hole liberal government has made of Vermont. Herewith a few interesting stats:


  • Vermont’s unemployment rate of 4.7 percent is (or was when I checked recently) the third lowest of any state in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Vermont is the healthiest state in the country, according to the United Health Foundation, for at least two years running.
  • Vermont is the greenest state – i.e., the state with the cleanest environment – in the country, according to Forbes magazine.
  • Vermont ranks third in child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  • Vermont schools rank first in low teacher-pupil ratios and third in per-student expenditure, according to the National Education Association.
  • Vermont ranks seventh in both high-school graduation rates and the number of college grads, according to the U.S. Census.


Admittedly, many of Vermont’s jobs are low-paying service jobs, but at least they are jobs. Also admittedly, Vermont ranks a distant 37th as a business-friendly state, according to CNBC, in a ranking comprising an amalgam of metrics. The factors that drag Vermont down are its high taxes and poor transportation, and I have no argument there. No one likes taxes and the roads and public-transportation options are pretty sketchy. Yet on the much brighter side, CNBC rated Vermont third in quality of living, which sounds pretty good to me. If a few extra tax dollars and bumpy roads are the trade-off for an exceptionally high quality of life, that seems a pretty good bargain.


One other number that might be worth noting: With about 14 percent of the Vermont population receiving food stamps, the state is right at the national average. Food stamps, of course, are to conservatives a pre-eminent emblem of socialist evil. But interestingly, two-thirds of the states with a higher percentage of food stampers than Vermont, including such Republican strongholds as Texas and South Carolina, are generally considered conservative.


A county-by-county analysis might be even more revealing; based on the percentage of the population receiving food stamps, you must scroll through 115 U.S. counties before finding one – the Bronx, New York – in a genuinely liberal state. The first Vermont county to make the list is Orleans, ranking 479th. Conservatives might raise a great ideological hue and cry against government dependency, but when the government comes offering assistance, they show no compunction about elbowing out “socialist” Vermonters to get to the head of the line.


So trash the state all you want, right-wing blowhards. If you seek a place with a high quality of life that’s healthy, clean, great for bringing up your kids right through college and pretty good for finding a job, Vermont, that sump of socialist evil, is hard to beat. The numbers say so.


Oliver lives in Warren.



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