Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pandering To Wealth

I was disappointed when Governor Shumlin declared his opposition to any new taxes for the wealthiest Vermonters, but when I heard John Campbell second that opinion I was outraged. Has the Vermont Democratic party been infected by the illness afflicting the rest of America, “Protect the Wealthy”? Why are we protecting the right of people to get progressively more wealthy while the country, the states and localities suffer from big budget holes? While the national scene seems beyond redemption, and other states cannot be protected from here, I thought that at least Vermont, little, go-it-alone Vermont, would do the right thing. Especially astonishing for me was Shumlin's assertion that “we need these folks to stay around. They'll leave if we tax them too much.”

I'll self-censor my expletives. Who is twisting their arms? Who is making the right policy for Vermont too painful for the Governor and the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate to advocate for a more balanced tax policy? Why are our progressive leaders allowing themselves to be bullied? Am I wrong? Is this a function of thoughtful, independent concern for Vermont? I am not just upset with them as politicians, I am worried for Vermont that we are seeing the rhetoric of the far-right affecting our policy making.

I would like to say to who ever it is that has been talking to Shumlin and Campbell, “You know, if you like your money so much that you don't want to help the state out of its hole, the state doesn't need you.” My house representative Jason Lorbor claimed that more wealthy people are moving into Vermont than are moving out. Vermont has its quality of life, which is so attractive to out-of-staters, and the willingness of everybody to trust and help each other is at the core of this life. To cave in to the pressure of people who don't want to be taxed is to undermine the sense of community which is so essential to that Vermont quality of life. According to a caller to Tuesday's Vermont Edition on VPR, there are at least 60 Vermont millionaires who want to be taxed more so that the state will not need to cut essential services. Who care, apparently, about their fellow Vermonters and want to help out. These are the people that help make Vermont the great place it is.

I smell political arm-twisting. When we consider the willingness of many to pay more, and the income windfall that resulted from the extension of the Federal tax breaks, whatever is the logic of protecting these wealthiest Vermonters, it produces a very unattractive stench. Has anyone uncovered an explanation for this pandering?

I don't begrudge any one the right to earn more than most other people, but I worry about the ever widening gap between the most privileged and the most unlucky, destitute, and vulnerable among us. We have no reason to worry about wealthy people. We need to worry about the wealth-less. There is no benefit to the poor and middle class in “growing the pie” of wealth, if the slices don't get any larger, in fact get smaller, for the humblest of us.