Here at GMD, we tend to focus on the bad stuff — poor decisions, controversies, the missteps and foibles of the high and mighty. But it’s also good to take note when things go well. Those of the liberal persuasion believe that government can be effective in solving problems and providing a countermeasure to the jagged edges and wretched excesses of the free-market system. When government actually does those things, it does more for the cause than a year’s worth of GMD snark.
And this week, we have two prime examples: a crisis averted at the Vermont Veterans Home, and a huge development project that could lift the Northeast Kingdom out of its seemingly-endless doldrums.
First, and the lesser of the two: addressing troubles at the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, thus ensuring Medicare and Medicaid funding. The Home had faced a September 28 deadline — hey, that’s today! — for cutoff of federal funding. Which would have blown a huge hole in the Home’s budget.
And it would have been a big political black eye for the Shumlin team, right in the middle of a campaign.
But things got busy behind the scenes, and the Home passed a last-minute inspection. Through the combined efforts of the Home’s staff and administration, the state government, and our Congressional delegation, the crisis was averted two days before the deadline. Make that crises: the governmental, and the political. Board of Trustees President Joseph Crawczyk Jr.:
“I mean, you talk about jubilation. The patients are going crazy. They were our biggest cheerleaders during this whole thing, our resident veterans. They didn’t understand what was going on, why it was going on. They didn’t believe what they heard. I’ll tell you, this is there family and they know it.”
Good government, good politics.
The second, and bigger, is the massive development project in the Northeast Kingdom. Say what you will about massive developments, but the NEK needs this desperately. A half-billion-dollar investment, a top end of 10,000 new jobs? Seems like a miracle. What it is, is the creative use of government power. VTDigger:
Ninety-five percent of the money will come from the EB-5 Visa program, which enables foreign nationals to invest $500,000 in “targeted employments areas” in exchange for a two-year green card. Each investment must result in 10 jobs.
There’s a slightly greasy feel to the EB-5 program, which allows wealthy foreigners to jump the queue for green cards. But in this case, it’s hard to argue with the results: a massive infusion of growth into our most downtrodden region. Since 95% of the investment capital is coming through EB-5, it seems safe to say that this project would not have happened without the federal program. Lead developer Bill Stenger heaped praise on Sen. Patrick Leahy, who worked hard to win an extension of EB-5.
It’s a wonderful example of the power of government creating opportunity where the free market had failed to deliver. And it’s exactly the kind of thing that can convince working-class conservative voters that, yeah, maybe government can make a positive difference in their lives.
I’ll close with an odd little passage from yesterday’s announcement of the project. The only cautionary note was sounded by the guy you’d think would be the biggest cheerleader: the “King of the Kingdom,” Vince Illuzzi. Freeploid:
He said he had an inkling of what would be said, but had no idea of the scale. Illuzzi admitted to some trepidation.
“Having served in this area for 32 years, we’ve always tried to attract investment income, but I have to admit it’s a bit scary to have $500 million flowing into two counties, and all this construction,” he said. “It almost feels a little overwhelming. Can the area absorb that much change?”
Weird. He ought to be doing cartwheels. Well, maybe I’m just cynical, but do you know what I think? I think two things: First, he was a bit put off because he wasn’t let in on the project beforehand*. And second, Vince has been a big frog in a small pond for a long time, and he doesn’t really want to see the pond get bigger. Might attract more frogs, y’know?
*Political kudos to announcement organizers for not giving a Republican candidate for statewide office a turn in the spotlight. Must have been some interesting backstage moments before the big unveil. I can almost picture Vince banging on a locked door, begging to be let in.
VTDigger had a similar Vince quote with a really strange ending:
State Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R/D-Essex-Orleans, said he found the prospect of the developments “almost overwhelming and a bit scary to have all of this happening essentially at the same time, but it’s a window of opportunity, not only because of EB-5 but because the world economy has all but collapsed.” More investors, he said, are seeking a safe haven in North America.
Huh. i must have missed the total collapse of the world economy. Where does this guy get his financial news? And is this the kind of insight and deep thinking we want in our Auditor?
Illuzzi weirdness aside, yesterday was the best day the NEK has had in a long, longn time. And it was a government program that made it happen. And as I said at the top, effective government is the strongest evidence for the liberal cause.