Wow, the ratings are in and the world swamped Trump!

It is well known Donald Trump, former reality TV performer, is obsessed with his own popularity in polls. He once called himself a ratings machine, but following a few short months in office, his worldwide numbers are in: a poll shows more than three quarters of the world has no confidence in President Trump.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world. It is worth noting the survey was conducted before Trump’s widely unpopular decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords.

Pew Research found the biggest decline in worldwide public trust in Trump and his administration was with our closest allies in Europe and Asia.

Mirroring the numbers garnered by President Obama, the poll also showed that America as a country was popular then, and much less so now: In the closing years of the Obama presidency, a median of 64% had a positive view of the U.S. Today, just 49% are favorably inclined toward America. Only in two countries — Russia and Israel — out of the 37 polled, did Trump get higher marks than former President Obama had while in office.

Trumparrogant The resoundingly negative view around the world is an issue of the Trump character as well as policy. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader [a bully?]. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.

Although the American people and popular culture are maintaining a reservoir of favorable opinion, the Guardian.com sees a troublesome trend developing, noting the Pew findings: […] also shows that the low level of support for the president is leading to a decline in support for wider American values. Just 49% expressed a broadly positive view of the US, compared with 64% in surveys carried out 2015 and 2016.

And Vermonters have only to look north to see what effect Trump’s “charm” has on our Canadian neighbors. For the first time in Pew Research history, most Canadians no longer regard America as a force for good in the world.

Just 43% of Canadians have a positive view of their neighbour.

I recall Trump’s 2016 New Hampshire primary victory speech when he promised: “And the world is going to respect us again. Believe me.”

Well maybe it’s time to cancel his show due to low ratings. Not so good Donald … sad, believe me.anvil3

Off the chart GOP hypocrisy

Well, this is a few days old but still there’s nothing like a side by side comparison. In 2010 the GOP screamed long and loud about what, at the time, they claimed was a secretive process the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) was taking through Congress to become law.healthcare ramchartThe chart from The Health Insurance Resource Center compares the process the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA aka Obamacare) took through the Congress to the one the Better Care Reconciliation Act (the Senate version of the House of Representative’s American Health Care Act) is now taking.

And as a sort of bonus document to GOP hypocrisy here’s a 2010 quote from a lengthy Washington Post compilation of GOP Obamacare criticisms :“When it comes to solving problems, Americans want us to listen first, and then, if necessary, offer targeted, step-by-step solutions. Above all, they’re tired of a process that shuts them out. They’re tired of giant bills negotiated in secret, then jammed through on a party-line vote in the middle of the night.”

That was Senator Mitch McConnell Feb. 23, 2010 complaining about the ACA process he imagined to have been secretive. Now as Majority Leader he has embraced a giant bill negotiated in secret, soon to be jammed through on a party-line vote.

That level of hypocrisy is not unheard from Mitch McConnell. Sadly it may prove almost off the charts unhealthy to those who need healthcare but not (ahem) for the Majority Leader.

VP Mike Pence checks in with the boss: a pause to refresh

In the face of multiple official investigations into Trump campaign’s possible Russian contacts heating up and a key vote due in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) and trash Medicaid funding, Vice President Mike Pence Pence somehow found time to sneak off and have a private chat with Charles Koch.the koch machine1

According to The Hill.com the first instinct of the Veep’s office was to deny the meeting took place. But it turns out while at a conservative Christian celebration in Colorado, Pence had an unannounced meeting with Charles Koch and representatives from the Koch brothers’ political finance and policy arm, Americans for Prosperity.

Pence, in town to headline a banquet celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family, sat down with the chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, along with key members of the Koch team.

 The meeting was not on the vice president’s schedule released by the White House late Thursday.

A spokesman for the vice president’s office denied to The Hill earlier Friday that Pence would be meeting with the Koch brothers’ network. The spokesman did not respond to requests for comments late Friday.

 For anyone harboring happy dreams of a scandal-plagued Trump leaving office one way or another before his term expires, it’s sobering to consider the Vice President may be just as bad in his own unique way. He has expressed a desire to copy former VP Dick Cheney’s governing style. And Pence has enjoyed a long relationship with the Koch machine, even if he’s not just an outright puppet of the oligarch-wannabes.

 The Hill.com reminds readers: While President Trump had an almost non-existent relationship with the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers, Pence has a much longer history with both Charles and David Koch. 

 Americans for Prosperity touted Pence’s record as governor of Indiana. His former pollster Kellyanne Conway, now a senior adviser in the Trump White House, worked for a Koch network group. And [Marc] Short, the White House’s top lobbyist and former Pence chief of staff, once ran the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a key wing of the Koch brothers network.

President Trump or President Pence: name your poison, America … bottoms up.

 

A golf pro, a lobbyist and Governor Scott walk in to the legislature

Since becoming governor Phil Scott has twice had the chance make appointments to the state legislature. His choices to replace Republican legislators a lobbyist and a golf pro hardly fit the image most citizens may have of an average Vermonter.

Scott’s first legislative appointment to the state House of Representatives was Jim Harrison, a lobbyist and former president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association. And his most recent pick, for the state Senate is David Soucy, a golf pro who now manages the Green Mountain National golf course. FDTF

The course, located in and owned by the town of Killington, has struggled for years to cover as much as $5 million in debt originally incurred to build the facility. In 2011 with golf revenue down 13.5 percent in Vermont, town officials were critical of spending $25,000 per year to promote the course while facing a large municipal debt restructuring.

At the time Soucy appeared to dismiss worries over the debt and said reporting on it had been “sensationalized.”  He championed the golf facility, telling WCAX: “[…] as far as the debt is concerned, the pressure is on the town, not the course. It really comes down to the debt structure, not our operations; we make money on our operations. The debt structure is what needs to be taken care of,” he said. [added emphasis] So the Gov’s  newest pick for the legislature hardly your typical Republican town budget hawk worried.

David Soucy may actually be a good match with Scott’s earlier appointment to the legislature, Jim Harrison the former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association president. Under Harrison the VRGA opposed taxing sugared drinks, any paid family leave policy, and the Vermont Genetically Modified Organism labeling law. A lobbyist and a golf pro selected to represent average Vermonters in the state House and Senate that’s par for Republican Governor Scott giving business an even bigger voice in the legislature. Making Vermont Affordable for Whom?

 

Phil Scott Races Away from ‘Moderate’ Govs’ Bipartisan Healthcare Effort

Back in January  VPR reported  Phil Scott made some public noises about working with what he calls moderate GOP Governors to help maintain health care in the face of Trump and the Republican efforts to repeal (gut) the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka ObamaCare) and Medicaid. He was reported to have joined in conversations with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts about ways to work with the Trump administration.ACAkeepit

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) legislation that would gut the ACA was passed in the House; now it is being negotiated in secret talks in the Senate  — and Trump’s budget proposal is threatening Medicaid.  But Gov. Scott’s name was inexplicably missing from a recent letter sent to Senate leaders this week by governors expressing concerns about affordable health coverage.

A group of Democratic and Republican governors wrote Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging that efforts to improve the health care system be bipartisan in nature while reiterating their concerns with the House Obamacare repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act.

Democratic Governors John Bel Edwards (LA), John Hickenlooper (CO) Steve Bullock (MT) and Tom Wolf (PA) signed the letter along with three Republicans: Govs John Kasich (OH), Charlie Baker (MA) and Brian Sandoval (NV).

The Hill.com reports  the letter to Majority Leader McConnell in part says: While we certainly agree that reforms need to be made to our nation’s health care system, as Governors from both sides of the political aisle, we feel that true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion,” the governors said.

The governors are particularly concerned about the bill’s Medicaid provisions. All of governors who signed the letter are from states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare, but the Republican bill in both chambers is set to end the federal funding for that expansion.

This seems like just the kind of act a simple bi-partisan effort he might have signed on to. Neighboring Massachusetts GOP Gov. Baker joined in, and Gov. Kasich, whom Scott supported for President, also signed the letter to Senator McConnell.

Maybe signing on to the multi-state Climate Change Alliance (under pressure) fulfilled his monthly quota for bi-partisanship. But he’s a busy man meeting a host of challenges  facing a possible state government shutdown with down-to-the-wire state budget veto negotiations  and, of course, he’s somehow finding time to race his car.

Job preservation at work in Vermont

Country Home Products named one of Vermont’s best places to work in 2017 has announced it is laying off dozens of Vermont workers. There’s a major layoff announcement in Winooski. Country Home Products informed employees this week that dozens will soon be out of a job.[…]selffeeding layoff The Vermont-born maker of outdoor power tools gave 67 employees a letter or reached out by phone, telling workers they are out of a job and when their last day will be.

In 2009 the longtime Vermont business Country HomeProducts/DR Power raised $12 million from 24 foreign investors through the EB-5 investment-for-visas program. The $12 million was used to fund product development and market expansion. As a designated “troubled business,” the company escaped the normal EB-5 requirement to create 10 jobs and only had to preserve existing jobs.

Six years passed, and in 2015 Country Home Products, now with a market value of $2.1 billion, was sold to Generac Holdings Inc., a larger publicly traded business. Generac is headquartered in Waukesha, WI, the CEO is Aaron Jagdfeld, and the company employs 4,202 people. Jagdfeld’s overall compensation in 2016 was $3.9 million, while all executive compensation was up 6.51% the same year.

And so now the layoffs start. Country Home Products president Matt Bieber says the full-time, part-time and seasonal layoffs are in addition to the complete closure of their Winooski assembly plant. [Emphasis added.]

Kind of raises a few questions about what “job preservation” in Vermont actually means. And whose job and for how long was it supposed to be preserved?

I am sure we will be told there isn’t much the State can do other than speedily provide unemployment benefits and perhaps job counseling.  Although Governor Scott offers this: “Any job loss in the state of Vermont is concerning,” His suggestion that, “It reinforces that we have to watch every dollar. We have to make Vermont more affordable,” might ring kind of hollow to those now out a good job. No prescriptions available for this malady from the Gov., just take two ‘affordables’ and call me in the morning.

Cradle-to-College Public Education Can Revitalize Vermont

Vermont is looking for ways to grow economically without betraying its sustainability commitments. In order to succeed in competition for a skilled workforce with other states, we must provide unique living opportunities tailored to the needs of young families.

At the same time, we are learning that daycare services, vital to a youthful workforce, are drying up in Vermont. The poor pay for providers and lack of possibilities for professional development make fast-food service jobs look almost like an attractive alternative.

What better incentive could Vermont offer, in order to retain and attract desirable businesses and young careerists, than to provide a new tier of public education to serve that essential need?

With a declining primary school population, many communities have more brick-and-mortar capacity than they can currently fill, and statewide efforts are focussed on consolidation.

Why not redirect those assets to a program of certified public daycare/early childhood ed, and roll it into the administrations of local school boards that are already in the process of adapting to consolidations?

If we begin now to provide tuition-forgiveness incentives for qualified students to enroll in early childhood education programs at colleges and universities in the state; and provide a professional track for daycare providers to become certified early education providers under state rules, we could begin to rebuild that essential work-support infrastructure.

Under this plan, as qualified teachers, early childhood care/education providers should be allowed to negotiate their contracts with school boards just as their primary and secondary school colleagues do.

All indications are that investments made in early childhood care and education more than return their value in reduced costs to society from the many undesirable outcomes that are avoided over the years: drug addiction, domestic violence, persistent poverty, crime and incarceration, .

Even costs associated with mental illness and poor health habits can be greatly reduced by early childhood education interventions.

At the same time, being a pioneer state in providing cradle-to-college public education would set Vermont above others as a singularly desirable location for any up-and-coming business requiring a skilled workforce to locate it’s operations for the longterm.

Trump: A uniquely unwelcome visitor

Immediately after the latest horrible terrorist attack in London President Trump impulsively burst through the headlines, in form of a twitter storm. Trump attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a self-serving way, promoting his own proposed immigration ban, by twisting the Mayor’s statements out of context — and all this before offering any condolences to the victims and families.

This is the second time he picked a feud with the Mayor following a terror attack. Kahn, a Muslim and a forceful Trump critic (he warned: “[Trump’s] ignorant view of Islam could make both of our countries less safe”), was the target of an earlier tweet storm, raising questions that anti-Muslim sentiment may motivate Trump.trumptweets2

About Trump’s latest the Washington Post writes: Before British authorities detailed exactly what happened on the London Bridge, before they blamed Islamist extremism and even before they publicly concluded it was an act of terrorism, President Trump fired off a tweet to his 31 million followers: An unconfirmed bulletin from the Drudge Report.

This outburst may only serve to complicate beyond precedent a presidential state visit to the UK in October which was already drawing serious opposition. As of January, 1.8 million Britons had signed an online petition objecting to President Trump’s visit. Reportedly Trump wants to forego his armored limousine and has demanded a ride through London to Buckingham Palace in the royal golden carriage, an expensive security nightmare because its so much easier to tip over.

On Monday Mayor Khan suggested that the Trump trip should be canceled: “I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for. When you have a special relationship it is no different from when you have got a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity but you call them out when they are wrong. There are many things about which Donald Trump is wrong,”

Can’t say I disagree: no country needs an unwelcome guest who can’t control himself to meet the standards of common decency, much less those of diplomacy.

The budget is bigger than one political sparring point

No sooner have we cautiously congratulated Gov.Phil Scott for stepping up to the plate on Climate Change, than we have to call him out on the budget veto.

As Lauren Hierl of Vermont Conservation Voters points out that the budget is not all about teachers’ health insurance:

“The Vermont budget funds numerous programs that support safe drinking water, clean air, healthy communities, a thriving outdoor tourism economy, and so much more. We can’t afford to play political games with funding for these vital programs, and that’s why we’re calling on Governor Scott to sign the budget,” said Lauren Hierl, political director for Vermont Conservation Voters.

With environmental protection so jeopardized under the Trump administration, any delay by the state in continued support for its many responsible initiatives threatens our future.

Despite all the squabbling over teachers’ healthcare, the Legislature has met its obligation to put forth a budget for the entire basket of statewide operating costs. It is now up to the Governor to set politics aside and sign it.

As John Walters notes in Seven Days, even though Governor Scott went ahead and vetoed both the budget bill and the property tax bill in a single sweep, the state Constitution requires that each bill be addressed separately.

The upshot is that Governor Scott has a chance to reconsider the political heavy-handedness of his veto; so we ask him to reconsider the greater good of the state as a whole and sign the budget.

GOP governors’ climate of denial

As of now only two out of 33 GOP (red state) governors have joined the newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance, providing only a thin bipartisan veil. USclimateAllianceThe new U.S. Climate Alliance was put together by three Democratic governors in response to Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreements President Obama had agreed to. The new association has no power to form a legally binding treaty, but is made up of a group of state governments with similar policies regarding climate change.

Polls show a majority of people in all 50 states supporting the Paris Accords on Climate Change. Support for the Paris Climate Accord was running as high as 69% among Democrats and 51% with Republicans. Nearly eight out of ten registered voters (78%) support taxing global warming pollution, regulating it, or using both approaches, while only one in ten opposes these approaches. The influence of campaign money from climate denial groups (Koch Bros.) and fossil fuel industries, or just fear of a late night Trump twitter lashing seems to keep GOP governors in line.

In Democratic New Jersey, where they have faced recent extreme flooding, Republican Gov. Chris Christie wouldn’t quit Trump. Florida and low-lying Gulf states of Alabama and Mississippi aren’t breaking ranks. And 25 states that have GOP governors and GOP controlled legislatures are unlikely to join the new climate group. Gov. Chris Sununu (R,NH) in solid GOP New Hampshire says “it’s a federal issue” but  “stands by” Trump’s decision. Only governors Charlie Baker (MA) and Gov. Phil Scott (VT) publicly signed on. Governors Larry Hogan (MD)  and John Kasich (OH) are  referred to as potential members  still sitting on the fence.

Until the unlikely event that GOP governors start to break with Trump’s anti-science party line, the U.S. Climate Alliance will be looking distinctly Democratic and blue. Good to know which party is really looking out for people.