The Great Men of Vermont Political Discourse Once Again Enthrall Us With Their Brilliance

This week’s opinion pages bring us the latest emanations from two of our most frequent — and most mockable — opinionators. Coming up, Art Woolf Looks At A Chart. But first…

Tom Pelham Is Full Of Himself.

I know, it’s a shocker.

Pelham, the consummate ex-insider who now finds himself an outsider because the In Crowd won’t have him, has produced another 800 words of fulsome praise for the financial wisdom of his former boss Jim Douglas and, er, himself.

(Side note: How smart is it for the #2 man in the putatively nonpartisan Campaign for Vermont to keep yammering about how the policies of Jim Douglas are the cure for all that ails us? Doesn’t that make CFV seem, oh, just a tad Republican?)

Pelham bemoans the state of Vermont’s economy and public finances, and offers up the same tired solution he offers every single damn time:

In 2009, as the Great Recession squeezed Vermont’s economy and state and family budgets, the Legislature smartly initiated Challenges for Change, a program to identify reforms in state government to both preserve vital services while saving money. The Douglas administration complemented this effort with Tiger Teams, comprised of capable state employees who volunteered to research and make recommendations to improve state government effectiveness.

… Unfortunately, along with Challenges for Change, the Legislature in 2011 shelved the Tiger Team reports… The easy but short-sighted path of one-time stimulus money flowing in from Washington trumped the political difficulties of enacting program reforms.

It’s funny. What I’ve heard about Challenges for Change is that Governor Shumlin’s functionaries have spent a goodly part of the last three years cleaning up the wreckage left by CfC. As for Tiger Teams, in my experience they’re mostly a punchline in Dilbert cartoons.  

But in Pelham’s eyes, if only Shumlin had heeded the wisdom of Jim Douglas (and, ahem, Tom Pelham), Vermont would be strong, prosperous, and efficient.

Here’s a thought. Even if you posit the effectiveness of CfC — which I do not — then why did Douglas wait until the dying days of his Administration to launch the program? Why didn’t he start it back in 2003 when he still had a goodly number of Republicans in the Legislature, and when he had a relatively strong economy and stronger state finances? Like in the Bible, save up in the fat years so you can live through the thin ones. It’s almost as if Challenges for Change wasn’t so much a real good-government initiative as it was a big “F*ck You” to state government as Douglas was heading for the exit.

Okay, now let’s turn our attention to Art Woolf Looks At A Chart. In which Our Hero, Vermont’s Laziest Economist, spends roughly 750 words stating the obvious and about 50 making a tepid conclusion.

(Side note: I sure hope his monthly Vermont Economy Newsletter — subscriptions $150 per year! — offer a lot better material than his weekly Freeploid column.)

Woolf’s latest dribble is entitled “Vermont immigration trends differ dramatically from U.S. picture.” This should clue you in that you’re about to experience an avalanche of the obvious.

He begins by recounting a recent visit to New York City, whose diversity he found “overwhelming,” which led him to helpfully conclude that “The difference between Vermont and New York — and Vermont and the U.S. as a whole — is striking.”

But wait — there’s more!

He kicks it up a notch by quoting statistics showing that Vermont is overwhelmingly white, while the U.S. is much more heterogeneous. Hey everybody, the rest of the country has more blacks, Hispanics, and Asians than we do! Stop the presses!

Art’s not done, either. Best be sitting down for this one:

Vermont’s immigrant population is mostly European or Canadian.

…The country that sends the most people to Vermont is Canada. In second place is Germany, and third is the United Kingdom. For the U.S. the top three sending nations are Mexico, India and China. Take a trip to New York, or any major city, and that fact becomes obvious very quickly.

Oh, Art. That’s not the first fact to become obvious very quickly.

Finally, he gets to a question that might provoke thoughtful conclusions. Unfortunately he has no space to ponder them because he squandered virtually his entire column letting us know that Vermont is awfully darn white.

What does all this mean for Vermont? First, our state does not look at all like the rest of the U.S.

Okay, yeah, Art, we got that. Anything else?

That demographic difference makes many comparisons between Vermont and the U.S-in terms of income, health, education, and more-highly skewed.

Ah. Do you mean the kinds of comparisons Art Woolf makes on a regular basis? Like when he finds our taxes too high compared to other states, and our public spending too generous? Good to know that Woolf’s comparisoins are “highly skewed.”

Second, it means that one solution to Vermont’s stagnant population is to hope that more immigrants and more non-white people move to the state. Not only would that provide additional workers when the state’s labor force is declining, but it would make Vermont a much more interesting place to live.

Well now, there’s a teensy tiny skosh of daring at the bottom of this giant vat of oatmeal. Art’d like to see “more immigrants and more non-white people move to the state.” Wow.

And if those immigrants come from troubled parts of the world, so much the better. It’ll increase the competition for minimum-wage jobs and make Vermonters grateful for any crumbs that fall off the table.

Art Woolf. What would we do without him?  

4 thoughts on “The Great Men of Vermont Political Discourse Once Again Enthrall Us With Their Brilliance

  1. is the Douglas legacy that is now netting us the penalty for food stamp and AFDC errors that are the result of the understaffing and move to paperless applications  and verification assumptions (uncorroborated) thou hat the feds didn’t fall in love with.   it saved money then and made Jimmy the jokester look frugal… but it was a calamity of error for the people actually trying to administer the programs.   Douglas tried to make state government run on three wheels with tires and one without….you can still get someplace, but it is hell to pay later…

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