Ross: January's cold hard look
January is in many ways the most important month in the calendar. It is named to honor the Roman god "Janus". Janus was known as the 'two-faced' god, but not in a derogatory sense. His two-faced nature was not one of deceit or treachery. His two faces symbolized the need to look back and evaluate what did happen while looking forward to evaluating what can or must happen. A heavy task.
Applying the Janus tests to Vermont does not produce a positive set of conclusions. Our "brave little state" seems to be locked into a pattern of self-abusive behavior that needs to be looked at with an eye toward serious re-evaluation of where we are trying to take ourselves.
The "brave little state' description is from a speech by ex-President Coolidge when he came home for a visit in 1929. He, like almost every other famous Vermonter you can name, left the state as a young man and never lived here again. Stephen Douglas, John Deere, Horace Greeley, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were the proto-types for the young Vermonters whose exodus in recent years has resulted in a population imbalance that produces dire predictions for our future on an almost monthly basis. We are in perpetual competition with Maine for having the oldest population in the U.S. The state government has resorted to paying people to move here.
This, so far, is an unsuccessful attempt to plug the drain.
Our public education system is, at best, suspect in terms of quality in relation to costs. As sure as the sun rises in the east, the annual school funding process will begin with lamenting the decline of the student population while announcing an increase in school expenses that exceeds the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, there is a decline in the overall performance of our students on the National Assessment tests. Do not worry, we are told, it is all for the good of the kids. Baloney. Malarkey. B.S. It is mostly for the good of the Vermont NEA and the ever-increasing cadre of administrators and 'system-wide specialists' that are the staple of every school district's budget.
A few years ago the slogan was "Vermont is the mouse that roars" in terms of social programs and other state policies. This has been replaced with the mantra that "Vermont can be the state that shows the nation" how to solve all its' troublesome issues. The mouse that roared turned out to be, in the end, still a mouse. In the name of showing the nation how to improve itself, Vermont has produced some policy proposals that only serve to harm most of our population while benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the working classes.
"It will save the planet from global warming" has replaced "It's for the good of the kids" as the shibboleth in support of social and economic programs that promise a lot and deliver little. Consider the several thousand dollar subsidies that are given to people who purchase expensive electric vehicles. Working people's taxes pay for the feel-good deeds of the wealthier classes. Consider the carbon tax on all fossil fuels. This will add significantly to the costs of heating homes, driving to work and every business need for transportation. Where is the logic in this? We will all pay more in taxes to live normally, but there will be no reductions in the use of fossil fuels anywhere. Even if we were to remove every fossil fuel-powered vehicle from our roads, the effect of this on the planet's climate would be too infinitesimal to be measured.
The nature of our democracy is under attack disguised as moves to increase democracy. There are demands to allow non-citizens to vote in elections. Some people want to lower the voting age to sixteen. Burlington is proposing to revive the 'instant runoff' voting system which they abandoned after the candidate that finished third in the voting ended up being elected Mayor because of the convoluted system of reassigning the votes for the losing candidates. Many people support the idea of some kind of voter I.D. system to prevent voter fraud in elections. The do-gooders resist this on the grounds that any requirement to prove that you are who you say you are will harm minorities. Since we have very few minorities of any kind in Vermont, this is a suspect claim. More importantly, according to Judicial Watch, Bennington has three hundred more registered voters than they have persons of voting age living in town.
The list could go on. What is clear is that Vermont needs to give itself a reality check and plan our public policies to meet the needs of Vermonters, not the fantasy needs of those who don't understand that our "brave little state" is long on attitude and short on resources.
We have to play the cards we are dealt, not the cards we wish we had.
Weiland Ross writes a regular column for the Journal.
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