Let's complete the welfare state

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From a political perspective, Peter Galbraith, one of three candidates running in the Vermont Democratic primary, and I are poles apart. Nevertheless, when it comes to expressing his opinion of his vision of Vermont, he is quite clear.

In an interview with Neal Goswami of the Vermont Press Bureau, reported in the July 10, 2016 Rutland Herald, Galbraith stated his position on how he would have the state finance a single payer health care system: "It's really the unfinished part of what's called the welfare state. Every other country has it and we don't. I thought we could do it in Vermont."

Senator Bernie Sanders, Sue Minter, and Matt Dunne (the other two gubernatorial candidates) have the same vision of Vermont (Sanders has a national vision) and that is to create a welfare state in Vermont, but they are not willing to express it as such. Kudos to Galbraith, for at least having the chutzpah in saying so.

The above noted politicians have one overriding goal, and that is to have all Vermonters become dependent on state government for their well-being. It's their subtle way of buying the voters. For starters, it is universal free health care and free tuition at state colleges. It is their belief that free health care and college tuition are fundamental human rights – comparable to the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. My question to them is why just these two "new rights"? Why stop here? Or will additional "rights" be just around the corner?

More fundamental to the "right" of a free college education should be the "fundamental right" of housing. No Vermonter should have to be concerned about whether or not they have a roof over their head. In a welfare state environment, this fundamental entitlement will be provided by the state. But there are other "rights" that are even more fundamental that should be the state's responsibility.

Currently, through a host of nonprofit agencies and our public schools, meals are given freely to our state's seniors and school age children. The proponents of the welfare state firmly believe that all Vermonters have an entitlement (right) to food security and it is the responsibility of state government to see that they are fed.

Galbraith notes – as do the other candidates, albeit silently – that the welfare state is only partially complete in Vermont. From a statistical standpoint, they are correct. By recent count, about 200,000 Vermonters, a third of the state's population, receive their health care from the state as well as some form of heating assistance, housing, and meals.

If Vermont is successful in becoming the first state in the nation to be a welfare state, there will be other rights. Such as a "right" to free transportation, utilities, heat, clothing, employment, annual time off for vacations, unlimited sick and family leave, all of which are to be provided and funded by state government. And why? They are "fundamental rights."

The funding for Galbraith's welfare state will come from the wealthy one percenters, who, according to state officials, are moving into Vermont. To be fair to Peter Galbraith, he did state to Neal Goswami that he would assess a 2% payroll tax (which assumes of course that people are still working) to fund his vision of a single payer health care system. I find this interesting – Governor Shumlin, after spending tens of millions of dollars to come up with a similar program, dropped it because it would be too costly – and his payroll tax idea was closer to 10%.

Over the past 30 years, I had a sense that the Vermont was moving to become a welfare state. Peter Galbraith's veracity is refreshing, but it is so sad for a state that had once prided itself for being independent and self-reliant of government. Has nothing been learned from what has taken place in Greece and Venezuela?

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington.


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