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Press Release

    Vermont Report September 1st

    09/01/2005

    Government-Run Health Care Schemes Don’t Look Promising

    A series of political and logistical setbacks for the advocates of taxpayer-funded, government-run health care are giving proponents of alternative, common sense solutions a good opportunity to voice our concerns. By speaking up now we can have a powerful impact on the debate and move reform forward in a positive direction.

    The Governor’s Health Care Forums

    Governor Jim Douglas’ first of six Health Care Forums took place in Bennington on August, 22nd. FreedomWorks members were in attendance, and took the opportunity to speak up with concerns about the dangers of waiting lines in a government-run system, and to offer up ideas for common sense solutions.

    FreedomWorks State Director, Rob Roper, pointed out to the crowd of 150 that replacing insurance premiums with a government imposed tax, as Democrat-led plans call for, would place businesses and individuals in an extremely dangerous position. “If you can’t pay your taxes, the government has the power to shut down your business, seize your property or put you in jail. Is that really a position that small businesses who either can’t pay, or are having trouble paying their premiums as it is, want to put themselves in,” asked Roper. He went on to urge Governor Douglas to explore allowing Vermonters to buy cheaper health insurance available across state lines, and to incorporate Health Savings Accounts into any future reforms.

    Proponents of taxpayer-funded, government-run systems are well organized, and had a large presence at the event. This is why all who are able to attend these forums should make every effort to do so. The next forum will be held in Lyndonville on Wednesday, September 7th.

    For more information please contact: the Governor’s Office at (802) 828-3333.

    The “Keystone Docs”

    Meanwhile, as the Governor was gathering input from Vermonters at no cost to the taxpayers, the Democrat-led Health Care Commission has been floundering, despite a budget of nearly $800,000. The panel has so far been unable to even hire a director to oversee its operations.

    Consistent logistical and political fumbling by Rep. Gaye Symington (D-Jericho), Peter Welch (D-Widsor), Jim Leddy (D-Chittenden), and John Tracy (D-Chittenden) are making these four look more and more like the “Keystone Docs” of health care reform.

    Their string of failures has been so bad that Governor Douglas actually called upon them to give up the Commission entirely, and return what’s left of their budget to be put to better use. (He suggested home heating assistance.) Strikingly, the Burlington Free Press agreed. Vermont’s largest paper editorialized on August 30:

    The panel was stacked with Democrats, a politically lopsided decision that virtually doomed any hope of a bipartisan solution…. [Because of this rank partisanship and political mishandling of the issue] It would take a near-miracle at this point for all sides to come together and find a comprehensive plan to expand health insurance to more Vermonters and hold down premiums for those with coverage…. The $800,000 should not be wasted on what is now looking more like a political charade. .

    What Vermonters should learn from this is that our current crop of House and Senate leaders -- who are promising to recreate our health care system from soup to nuts, increasing efficiency while containing costs -- can’t even successfully manage a committee of ten people (plus staff) given a budget of $775,000 with the very modest goal of studying health care. This does not bode well for their ability to handle the monumental task of dismantling, rebuilding and managing a full-blown health care system with 620,000 people and an annual budget of nearly $4 billion.

    Please Contact: the Burlington Free Press at letters@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com and support the call in their August 30 Editorial for Symington & Company to return their Commission Budget, to discard their partisan politicization of health care, and to concentrate on common sense solutions to the problem.

    Please Contact: Rep. Gaye Symington (speaker@leg.state.vt.us; 899-3324) and Sen. Peter Welch (295-9347) and urge them to give their Commission budget back, and to concentrate on bipartisan, common sense solutions to our Health Care problems.

    Please Contact: Your local Representatives (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/) and tell them not to support or take part in a “political charade,” and to urge Speaker Symington to return the Commission’s budget to the treasury, so that the money can be put to good use for the people of Vermont.

    To read a list of 12 hard questions to ask about taxpayer funded healthcare, go to: http://www.freedomworks.org/informed/issues_template.php?issue_id=2237

    To hear an excellent analysis of Health Care in America by Newt Gingrich, listen to his recent interview on NPR by going to:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4790698

    “Sugarcoating” the News

    Media bias can be a very subtle thing at times. Scanning the headlines, this one caught my eye as wacky enough to pass around for some uncomfortable laughs: “Vt. law firm, sugarmaker win round in landmark climate suit” by David Gram, a reporter for the Associated Press. Gram wrote:

    A Sharon maple syrup producer and a Burlington law firm have won a key initial round in a lawsuit that environmental groups say marks the first time a federal court has allowed someone to sue over alleged harm from global climate change…. Arthur and Anne Berndt, who operate a 16,000-tree sugaring operation they call Maverick Farm, joined the environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and other plaintiffs in suing two federal agencies for work that the plaintiffs said promotes global warming.” .


    Now, referring to someone a Vermont maple sugar producer carries with it certain images and evokes some specific emotional assumptions on the part of the reader – down to earth, a real-old-time Vermonter, a farmer hard at work on the land….

    Well, here’s the full story regarding Farmer Berndt. He is, for starters, the biggest single Vermont contributor to political campaigns (100% Democrat, according to Follow the Money & other related websites). He was the biggest individual donor to Howard Dean from VT. While there is certain duplication of campaign reports, he (with his wife) has topped $100,000 in donations since 2000. He is listed variously as “self-employed,” "entrepreneur," “maple producer,” “investor,” “investment counselor” (Philadelphia), and “retired.” He is on the board of VT Alliance of Conservation Voters, and of Greenpeace, NA. His donations in the Dean Campaign were $39,500; in the 2004 Vermont election cycle he gave $5800 and his wife $7700, all to Democrats. He also donated $8000 to Inez Moore Tenenbaum in South Carolina in '04.

    Sugarmaker? More like Sugar Daddy!

    No one begrudges Mr. Berndt his right to spend his time and money any way he sees fit. The issue here is the Vermont AP’s ability to be candid, accurate and fair.

    With this in mind, let’s take a moment to look at another AP story, this one by Ross Sneyd, regarding Skip Vallee. Vallee is the owner of Maplefields, the Vermont gas and convenience store chain, and under the “Berndt Standard” could rightfully be classified as a “Vermont Shopkeeper” -- evoking the imagery of the quaint, small town General Stores that help give Vermont its distinct and wonderful personality. However, Vallee is a conservative. So, in one article randomly Googled, the AP’s Sneyd takes pains to point out that Vallee is: “a Burlington-area businessman who is the state’s Republican national committeeman.” “Perhaps the White House’s top contact in the state,” and “a “ranger,” one of Bush’s top fund-raisers.”

    Given this clear and present double standard, it’s easy to see that Vermont’s premier news source has a pretty bald-faced agenda here – not to accurately report stories, but to provide political cover for a particular agenda. Sadly, as long as the Vermont media is going to sugarcoat one side of the story, Vermonters are going to need take their reporting with a hefty grain of salt – and find more and better ways to get their news.

    Thanks to Bruce Shields, who got more than a laugh out of Mr. Berndt’s story, and contributed research to this piece..

    Please Contact: Chris Graff, VT AP Bureau Chief, (cgraff@ap.org) and tell him that Vermonters deserve better, more balanced, professional reporting out of his office.

    New Hampshire is Mocking Us

    It’s hard enough living with the knowledge that Vermont’s tax policies are for the most part a foolish collection of painful, debilitating, self inflicted wounds. But listening to beneficiaries of our economic masochism laugh at us outright really stings. This from the New Hampshire Union Leader (Aug. 22):

    [T]he St. Johnsbury, Vt., Select Board released a study showing that Caledonia County, Vt., right across the river from New Hampshire, loses roughly $36 million a year in retail sales to this state. Score another victory for the New Hampshire Advantage…. Throw in the absence of a sales tax in New Hampshire, and you have a whopper of a shopper magnet…. Total retail sales in [Caledonia] county actually have fallen two-thirds since 1958. Retail sales in Grafton County [NH] more than doubled in the same time period. Keep it up, Vermont! At this rate, we won't need towns like Killington to secede. We'll get all their money through retail sales.

    Ouch! But this illustrates how and why tax CUTS are an important tool for raising revenue. Cutting taxes historically increases tax revenue. And in Vermont’s case, making our tax code competitive is necessary for spurring economic activity, creating more sales taxes, income taxes, and jobs.

    The recent surprise budget surplus Vermont enjoyed (and used to temporarily bail out our Medicaid deficit) came about as a direct results of tax CUTS at the federal level. In a recent article by Amity Shales, the author points out, “The Bush White House and Congress flattened the steep stair-step progressive rate structure of the income tax, lowering the top marginal rate. They cut the tax on dividends to 15 per cent from 39.6 per cent; 15 per cent became the new (lower) top rate for capital gains. They likewise created a one-time amnesty programme for companies repatriating profits. [The result…] Corporate tax revenues this year increased 42 per cent upon the year before.” Shales also cites examples of tax cuts leading to revenue increases during the Reagan administration, the Clinton administration, in Britain, in Ireland and several other countries around the world.

    So as our elected officials continue to hold forums and town meetings wondering where we’re going to find the money for health care, roads, education, or whatever… tell ‘em to CUT TAXES. They, and we, will be much better off. And until they do, New Hampshire will continue to kick sand in our faces (proverbially) and take our milk money (actually).

    The Power of Advertising

    FreedomWorks full page ad in the August 17 edition of the Vermont Times has succeeded in bringing Rep. George Cross (D-Winooski) and Senators Don Collins (D-Franklin) and Jim Condos (D-Chittenden) out into the light on the public school preschool issue. The trio made a joint appearance on Charlie & Ernie (WVMT, 620 AM) to make their case on early ed – and to register their outrage with FreedomWorks.

    Sen. Condos has an op-ed in the August 31 edition of the Vermont Times, much of which is PRINTED IN ALL CAPS TO DENOTE SCREAMING!

    Without getting into the petty sniping, the basic gist of their claims is that expanding the responsibility of the public schools to include managing and operating preschool programs for 3 & 4 year olds won’t raise anybody’s property taxes. And, anyone who doesn’t believe children’s best interests are served by getting them into a one-size-fits all monopoly system at the earliest possible moment in their young lives is “attacking” children.

    Their first point is obvious nonsense. You can’t expand the scope of any government funded program without raising taxes – and the language slipped into the budget bill allows schools to take money out of the education fund to pay for these expanded programs. The money they take will come from somewhere, and that somewhere is primarily property taxes. How much? Here is an example from Louisiana where they implemented public preschool programs in 2002. In just three years, the cost to Louisiana taxpayers has jumped from $15 million $55 million – this, keeping in mind that the average amount Louisiana spends per pupil is about 40% less than what Vermont spends. So, hold onto your wallets.

    Their second point is laughable. What Condos, Collins and Cross are doing is not giving early ed opportunities to at risk kids. There are already provisions for aid to at risk kids in Vermont law (properly passed, and funded). What the three Cs want to do now is make taxpayers pay for the preschool of kids who are already in private programs and already getting the care they need. They claim that the care private providers give just isn’t up to snuff, and if the public school districts only controlled the curriculum it could mean for children the difference between a happy, productive future and a life of crime and incarceration (I’m not making this up, they are actually arguing that the earlier public schools get their hands on kids, the less likely those kids are to go to jail).

    What do public school preschool do that’s so miraculously different? Again a quick look to Louisiana. First, they get a certified teacher (read Union Member) to teach the class. Then, they re-name the common terms of “day-care” and “after-care” to “pre- and post-school enrichment programs.” What do kids do in these pre- and post-school enrichment programs? According to an article in the Louisiana Sentinel, “Learn their letters, get acquainted with computers, paint, listen to books and learn social skills.” So, one has to ask, how is this any different from what kids are doing now in their private programs, at no cost to the taxpayer? And, is this a change worth pouring millions of dollars of tax money into to make?

    Please Contact: The Vermont Times (grahamcomm@adelphia.net) with a letter to the editor, responding to Jim Condos’ op-ed, and Sen. Condos directly (jcondos@leg.state.vt.us, 863-4654) telling him that now is not the time or place to expand the scope and cost of public schools at property taxpayers’ expense.

    Save the Date – FreedomFest Coming Oct. 15th.

    The Ethan Allen Institute and FreedomWorks-Vermont are putting together a full-day event to take place on Saturday, Oct 15th at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center. The keynote speaker will be Stephen Moore, founder of the Club for Growth and member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.

    Presentations will include, “Successful Grass Roots Organization” by FreedomWorks Grassroots Manager, Brendan Steinhauser, author of The Conservative Revolution: How To Win The Battle for College Campuses. And “Impact: Crafting Messages that Work” by FreedomWorks-Vermont State Director, Rob Roper, formerly an award winning copywriter at Young & Rubicam Advertising.

    This event will be a fun and informative. A great way to meet likeminded individuals, network, and plan for the future.

    To register or for more information, Please Contact: John McClaughry of the Ethan Allan Institute (eai@ethanallen.org, 802-695-1448), or Rob Roper (rroper@freedomworks.org, 802-999-8145).

    Notes and Events

    9/7 – The Governor’s Forum on Health Care, Lyndonville

    9/15 – 7:10 – 8:00 am Rob Roper vs. Sen. Jim Condos on Charlie & Ernie (AM 620 WVMT, Burlington)

    Look for: Rob Roper’s article on Education Reform in the latest edition of Livin’.

    Highlights from the FreedomWorks National Website

    Spooked by the Obvious: Tax reform revenue projections should include the revenues from changes in behavior. By Richard Rahn
    http://www.freedomworks.org/informed/issues_template.php?issue_id=2342

    We’re launching a new web site for the Center for Global Economic Growth. Check it out! http://www.cgeg.org

    Please Contact:
    Your likeminded friends and neighbors. Forward them this edition of the Vermont Report, and encourage them to join FredomWorks’ growing email list by signing up at www.freedomworks.org/processor/signup.php or by contacting State Director, Rob Roper directly at rroper@freedomworks.org or 802-999-8145.