“Clean” Energy Jobs And The Taxpayers That Pay For Them

The Vermont Department of Public Service (the same entity that served the public by helping to hasten the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee, which means Vermonters will be subject to spot-market pricing for power and increased electricity rates – conveniently timed for after the next gubernatorial election) recently published a study that forecasts 1,800 new jobs in the “clean” energy industry for 2014.  The job forecast is based on a poll commissioned by the DPS.

Two things:

1.  “Clean” energy jobs (as if there is such a thing; every erg of energy created has some kind of cost in terms of its generation, either the burning of fuel, the build of solar panels with its well-known collateral environmental impacts, or habitat impacts of hydro generation, etc) are largely funded by taxes, in the form of grants, subsidies, or contracts issued by local, state, or federal agencies.  These jobs are not spontaneously born in the marketplace.  For the most part, those jobs are created because there is tax money available for revenues.  Ask any company that builds wind turbines or solar panels where their dollars are coming from.

If only personal incomes were so easily renewed.

In other words, those jobs would not exist without tax money.  At best, it’s an economic wash – a transfer payment, not an indicator of economic growth.  It’s just a re-allocation of capital, funded by taxes and borrowing.

2.  The “clean” energy industry is much more mature in other countries where these energy policies have taken root much earlier than here in the states.  So what are some of the longer-term results of those efforts in other countries?

A few examples:

German Wind Turbine Investors Dissolve Operating Company After 13 Years Of Poor Returns, Technical Failures

“The first report, which came from a commission of experts that had been appointed by the German parliament to study the country’s energy laws, recommended Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on Wednesday to abolish all subsidies for green energy which cost the state some €20 billion per year.

It concluded that the current system, in which green power producers are paid guaranteed, above market prices to put electricity on the grid, is financially unsound and not producing a measurable effect on innovation. “For both these reasons, there is no justification for a continuation of the [policy],” it said.”

Germany’s Energiewende bodes ill for the country’s European leadership

“The result is a web of grotesque distortions. On sunny days Germany pushes its excess power into the European grid at a loss. Because producers of renewables are paid a fixed price, their subsidy rises as the spot price of electricity falls. On cloudy days Germany relies ever more on brown coal. Last year its CO2 emissions rose.”

French body blames renewables for EU power market failures

“Europe’s electricity system is not living up to its promises, according to a French advisory body to the prime minister, which published a report on Tuesday (28 January) largely blaming renewable energy subsidies for this failure.”

“Whether on low-carbon growth or boosting competitiveness with lower prices – none of the benefits of a common EU electric policy have materialised, the report says.”

Given the examples set by other countries who adopted a “clean energy or die” policy, rushing headlong into the subsidy industry, er, “clean” energy industry,

Well, that right there is your problem.

Well, that right there is your problem.

might Vermont want to take a look at those efforts before committing to having “90 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2050″, as Christopher Recchia, the commissioner for the DPS, states?  (Hell, why not 100%?  No one likes a quitter, Chris – you’re either in or you’re out.)

But the DPS report’s research methodologies were sampling, in large part, the industries that are direct recipients of some kind of subsidized dollar of one kind or another.  The report itself says that its survey population (10,000 phone calls and 1,200 emails, with a response of 1,464) consisted of “a list of businesses that were identified by Renewable Energy Vermont, various state agencies, and other advisory team members (the “known universe”).”

Well.  If you limit your universe to those entities – private, public, and advocacy – that have an enormous self-interest in the propagation of subsidies, do you really expect to get results back from the survey that paint a bleak outlook for “clean” energy jobs in the future?  The responses to these inquiries are all going to be positive, because if you paint a negative picture, the likelihood of additional subsidy funding diminishes.  It is a self-serving survey.  Given the membership of Renewable Energy Vermont, companies that have an interest in promoting renewable energy and seeking more revenues, it’s like conducting a survey about capital punishment by asking death row inmates their opinions on the subject.  You’re probably only going to get one answer.

In terms of the state’s job growth outlook, I’m not sure if the DPS has talked with the Vermont Department of Labor’s employment projections, but I’m having a hard time correlating 1,800 new jobs with both the occupations and the number of new jobs that the Department of Labor projects for 2015.  Granted, these are two different years, but I would assume DPS does not expect 1,800 new jobs in 2014 to disappear in 2015.

The reason Vermont is rushing forward with clean energy mandates while simultaneously wearing a blindfold is because it’s politically useful to do so.  Peter Shumlin has long backed these subsidy regimes, and even with high-profile, epic failures like Solyndra, no planet-sized levels of reality need slow down a political agenda, one that both brings tax revenues (in the form of subsidies) to energy industry companies, and also allows a politician to claim he or she is actually doing something.  Once again, the only thing being done is political advancement on the taxpayer’s dime, and there will be no net benefit to Vermonters.

In fact, if countries like France and Germany are running away from energy subsidies as fast as they can, all of our policies and budgets that are devoted to emulating those failed models should immediately be halted and put up for legislative review.  Sadly, given Vermont’s politics, that’s about as likely an occurrence as a new nuclear power plant licensing.

 

 

 

Peter Shumlin’s Growing Economic Legacy

The Vermont Department of Labor periodically publishes short-term employment projections, to highlight where the employment growth sectors are likely to be in Vermont, and includes an industry breakdown as well.  Since Peter Shumlin likes to tout economic data as evidence that Vermont is a “great” place for jobs, let’s let his words do the talking:

“With the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, we need to make sure people know that we have great jobs in Vermont – and lots of them,” the Governor said at a news conference at the Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. Beverage Technology Center in Waterbury.

Well.  Peter happily ignores the raft of other information at his fingertips regarding Vermont’s employment outlook, because it might demonstrate a certain lack of greatness for Vermonters seeking to work and live here.

What jobs will have the most openings, based on the Dept. of Labor’s statistics?  Rankings are based on the total number of expected openings in 2015:

Peter's Economic Growth Legacy

Peter’s Economic Growth Legacy

Cashiers.  Retail.  Fast food.  Waiters and Waitresses.  The only occupation in the top ten that requires a college degree is #6, Registered Nurses, which means we have population growth in hospitals, not economic growth.  Personal care aides is growing because of Vermont’s demographics, which features not a youthful and vibrant dominant cohort, buying homes and starting families, but rather the largest growth sector is in retirees – a fact that also helps keep our workforce participation rate low, which has the political benefit of making the unemployment rate artificially low.

Shumlin can tour the state and tell reporters that Vermont’s a great place to work, but that’s so unabashedly untrue as to barely pass the laugh test.  Vermont’s native college-educated graduates leave the state at record levels.  Why?  Take a look at the list of projected occupational growth rates in the chart above and you’ll understand why.  Peter understands that too, which is why he never gets into specifics, other than to tout the one or two companies that are doing well, and have a public presence.  But even companies like Keurig/Green Mountain aren’t growing their footprint here, and in fact their next plant will be built in Georgia – the state, not the Vermont town – as that company expands into cold beverages.

As Peter said, “we have great jobs in Vermont – and lots of them”.  Really?  How’s the 11-30 ranking looking?

11-30 on the "great" list.

11-30 on the “great” list.

The reality is that the state’s largest private-sector industry is tourism, followed closely by retail, and neither industry is known for high-paying jobs.  What does not dominate the job scene are manufacturing, technical, financial, or other traditionally higher-paying occupations.    If you leave Chittenden County, the job conditions just get worse.  Compare the income and population growth numbers between Chittenden County and Rutland County, or the fact that Rutland County has 50% more residents over the age of 65 than Chittenden County does (as just one example) and the picture that emerges is not one of a vibrant and growing Vermont economy.  It is quite the opposite, but these numbers are not the things you’ll hear spoken into a microphone when Shumlin is in public.

Oh, and the BEA ranks Vermont 50th for Total Personal Income.  Dead.  Last.  Even with a 33% increase in personal current transfer payments from 2003 to 2013 (which includes “Government payments to individuals includes retirement and disability insurance benefits, medical benefits (mainly Medicare and Medicaid), income maintenance benefits, unemployment insurance compensation, veterans benefits, and Federal education and training assistance.”) .  Which means we have the fewest dollars, nationally, in income.

Peter's fine work on display here.

Peter’s fine work on display here.

In other words, Shumlin’s legacy is of decreasing opportunity, reduced incomes, and demographic and economic trendlines all heading in the wrong direction.  This is what he’s going to hang his hat on when he runs for a vacant US Senate seat.  The more Vermonters realize what Shumlin’s really been responsible for, the more likely their economic opportunity improves – but until that time, we will be on the receiving end of more of the same.

 

The Trifecta of Incompetence

The Progressive Party Operating Manual

The Progressive Party Operating Manual

Swing and a Miss

The Burlington Free Press, despite its historical track record in defending Burlington Telecom, has just acknowledged what most Vermonters (and especially Burlingtonians) already knew:  BT was at best an enormous financial risk at conception, and that taxpayers are the ones left with cleaning up this mess left by the Kiss administration, and particularly the actions of Jonathan Leopold while he was Chief Administrative Officer for the city.

Still, there are those who defend the city’s foray into providing services that were already being provided by the private sector, because, magically, the good intentions of Progressive politics would ensure blowback-free outcomes. To wit:

Laren-Glenn Davitian, representing various public-access media groups, in testimony filed with the PSB raised another possible consequence of Burlington Telecom going private.

Davitian fears, as the Free Press reported, “a corporate owner would be less likely to attend to the needs of nonprofit media outlet than a public owned utility.”

I guess the needs of the for-profit world, and more importantly, the actual consumers of digital media are to go unmentioned here. Instead, we get the paean for “nonprofit media outlet(s)”, which, one assumes, is a critical media requirement for every Burlingtonian to receive.  For anyone who’s watched cable access, I don’t think anything more need be said.  If this is the best argument for defending the misappropriation of taxpayer dollars – regardless of the get out of jail free card issued by a judge – then virtually any spending by any public entity is not only above scrutiny or criticism, but is essentially unassailable.

In other words, under the guise of public interest, you cannot question the emperor’s decisions – period. Until, of course, you discover that the public’s interest isn’t being served when the organization the political class has willed into being is failing massively, and to fix it, you take their earned dollars out of a cash “pool”, and decide that neither the Mayor, the City Council, nor the taxpayer needs to know about it.  After all, it’s not their money anymore, is it?  It’s the city’s.  Oh, and a Certificate of Public Good?  That’s just not germane to making sure the progressive experimenting in telecoms succeeds.  Why do you need to bother with regulations when you can just go around them?

And why is Davitian is concerned about a nonprofit media outlet? If there’s so much concern, go right ahead and build one your own – and if you build it, they will come, if enough Burlingtonians decide they want to pay for it.  That’s how a market works.  It can also be noted that one of the reasons Burlington Telecom has failed is because their pricing structure was no cheaper than private-sector offerings, and in some cases, was more

...and the idea that someone else is responsible for paying for you.

…and the idea that someone else is responsible for paying for you.

expensive that already-available offerings.

But that’s progressivism in a nutshell: Higher costs, worse service, and it’s always publicly-funded – these three outcomes form the inevitable underpinnings of incompetence. Which means that other such efforts, like single-payer health care, should turn out just perfectly. After all, there’s a long-standing track record of progressive success to stand on.  What’s disappointing is that the Free Press has taken years to come to the same conclusion, and only well after the obvious became indisputably true.

 

 

Putting The Health Care Cart Before The Horse Is Even Born

Shumlin's plan in a nutshell

Shumlin’s plan in a nutshell

There’s nothing quite like being late to the party.  Democrats in the legislature are now calling for a “full understanding” of who pays for health care costs.  This is three years after Act 48 was passed, which mandates a transition to single-payer.  Whew.  Just in time.

“Before entertaining any transition to a new health care system, we need to have a full understanding of who pays today, and how well the system is working today.” Lincoln Rep. Mike Fisher, chairman of the House Health Care Committee.

So now, Democrats are finally getting around to learning the funding mechanisms for the industry they voted to completely overhaul, with the goal of removing all the payers in the system and transforming them into one?  This is like like trying to learn how space shuttle engines work 10 minutes before liftoff:  “Well, we’re pretty sure it’ll work – fingers crossed!”.  Out here in the real world, you can’t buy a house or a car if you can’t afford it, which means someone does an analysis of revenues and expenses prior to execution.

The two words missing in Fisher’s statement are “due” and “diligence”, which, much like the federal health care law, were completely and utterly absent in 2011 when Democrats decided they knew better than anybody else how to manage the largest component of state GDP, while simultaneously putting its implementation off to a much more politically convenient date.  Not only have Democrats now admitted they don’t understand the funding mechanism that they voted to completely remake (even though that data is readily available in dozens of different reports, and has been for years – here’s one from 2009), they still don’t have a financing plan for it, a plan that is estimated will exceed the state’s entire annual tax revenue take.  The FY2015 budget estimates $1.438 billion in revenue; the estimated cost for Vermont’s single-payer ranges from $1.8 billion and $2.6 billion.

In fact, the financing plan is so far back in its prototype stages the state of Vermont is only now receiving bids on an RFP to evaluate financing plans for single-payer.  More money spent to see if we can even afford to do the thing which we’re now going to do.

But let’s get back to the legislators’ plans, plans which seem to duplicate existing work that taxpayers have already paid for:

The work that will be done by consultants for the Legislature will in some ways be nearly identical to the analysis being performed by consultants for the Shumlin Administration. They’ll try to determine not just how much individuals and businesses pay in the form of insurance premiums, but also the impact of health care related costs on other household expenses, such as property tax bills.

There are elements of the original analysis done by Dr. Hsaio in 2011 that are not available, which is not an accident, since those elements speak to the funding mechanism (or lack of one) directly.  As others have noted,

Not pictured:  The taxpayers paying for the marbles in the first place.

Not pictured: The taxpayers paying for the marbles in the first place.

the original pitch for single-payer was that it would reduce costs, but now its being conceded that the only reduction likely to occur is a reduction in the rate of cost growth – if even that can be achieved.  Shumlin himself has said “If we can’t get costs under control,” he said, “we’ll pick up our marbles and go home.”, a sentiment that some legislators are now realizing might be the only rational option.

That’s not what was sold to Vermonters in 2011 by our elected representatives.  Nor was it assumed that the legislature and the governor, both of whom have taken oaths to faithfully execute their offices, would send us down into a dark tunnel without at least thinking to buy some flashlights before we all went in. What this really means, though, is that Democrats are searching for political cover to help their re-election chances in the next several years, but more specifically, after Vermont’s single-payer system blooms into its full flower.  Then they will be able to point back to this fine work and claim that they did their job – even if it was three years too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shumlin’s “Great Jobs In Vermont” Project: Sure, There’s 3,000 Fewer Jobs Than Last Month, But Still, It’s Great

This is my serious face.  You like it?  It's the one I use when I tell people I'm not going to raise taxes, and then raise them later.  See?  I'm serious.

This is my serious face. You like it? It’s the one I use when I tell people I’m not going to raise taxes, and then raise them later. See? I’m serious.  Check your property tax next fiscal year if you don’t believe my Serious Face.

Putney’s favorite son and occasional Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, when not found doing yeoman’s work in creating a business climate that produces, what’s the word I’m looking for here….oh, that’s right – jobs….recently used taxpayer money again to tout Vermont as being a “great” place for jobs.  In fact, things are so great, he’s announced a campaign to tout the inherent greatness of jobs in Vermont, because apparently the previously-mentioned greatness has been hiding under a rock until Peter stumbled across it, and figured that, hey, why not throw this up on a website and start claiming to be the “jobs” governor?

It’s almost as if Peter has recognized his own greatness in creating Vermont’s inherently great job-creating environment.  In fact, he recently claimed that the state has created thousands of jobs in Vermont:

Shumlin says the state has created 11,000 new jobs since he stepped into office in the midst of the economic recession.

Of course, taking a cue from his dear leader, he throws in the “midst of an economic recession” into his claim, because that’s what heroes do -

The Job-Creating Heroes Of The 21st Century

The Job-Creating Heroes Of The 21st Century

they qualify their results so as to color a better impression.  Courage in gubernatorial leadership positions is such a rare commodity, so even flatlanders can understand the unwavering devotion to Shumlin and his good works.

But, in case Peter bumped his head on something solid, let’s look at the numbers, something done last year when Peter was also making claims about greatness that the actual numbers did not support.  Peter came into office in January, 2011.  The actual change in job numbers is 7,500 (not seasonally adjusted), not 11,000.  Total private sector growth is 4,900, government jobs 2,600.  So out of the total job growth, roughly 33% of it is in the public sector.  How many of the new private sector jobs created are required to fund the 2,600 new public sector jobs?  Greatness is its own reward, it seems, so let’s let Peter speak for himself:

“With the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, we need to make sure people know that we have great jobs in Vermont – and lots of them,” the Governor said at a news conference at the Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. Beverage Technology Center in Waterbury.

Vermont’s unemployment rate is low because we have one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the country, not because there are scads of high-paying jobs lying around, waiting for people to apply for.  In fact, there are 850 fewer people participating in the labor force this year compared to last year, so that’s 850 jobs that don’t need to be counted -which makes the unemployment rate look better than the reality Peter wants it to represent.

More Peter:

“Many people have an affinity for Vermont, whether they completed their degree here or just visited for a long weekend, but they may not be aware of the variety of good companies and plentiful job openings available in Vermont,” Gov. Shumlin said. “We’re going to get the word out that Vermont is not only the best place to live and play, but it’s a great place to work as well. We need both Vermonters looking for job opportunities and those from elsewhere who find  that they love Vermont to know that this is a great place to work, live and raise a family – and we have jobs available.”

Plentiful.  Contrary to what job-seekers will actually tell you, Peter says that there’s a virtual cornucopia of gigs out there, just waiting for the legions of job-hungry Vermonters to snatch ‘em up.  But even the state’s own 2012-2014 job projections show an aggregate job rate increase of .7% – not even one percentage point of job growth, and a touch over 5,000 new jobs.  The top 2 categories for this massive increase in projected jobs?  Cashiers and retail salespersons, or roughly 20% of the 5,000 projected job count.  These are not the high-paying jobs the governor seems to think are going wildly unfilled in Vermont’s job market – are they?  Does Peter know something people who actually work in business

If only Peter's Great Jobs In Vermont program had been available 3 years ago, I'd still have one of those great jobs.  Why did Peter wait so long to make Vermont great?

If only Peter’s Great Jobs In Vermont program had been available 3 years ago, I’d still have one of those great jobs. Why did Peter wait so long to make Vermont great?

don’t know, that Vermont was recently ranked 39th best (or worst?) for business?

But in more recent and relevant news, the month-over-month job numbers tell us that Vermont has lost 3,000 jobs between March and April 2014.  Well, it actually lost 3,200 private sector jobs, but since public sector jobs grew by 200, the net loss is 3,000.  So I guess we should say “Great!” and thank our lucky stars that at least some Vermonters are employed, even if those 200 are employed by the tax revenues generated by the rapidly-dwindling number of Vermonters who still have jobs.

 

 

 

Peter The Giant Killer

Peter Shumlin, eager to leave some trace hints of helping Vermonters in time his upcoming re-election season, is putting some of his prior seed corn to use.  Seed corn in the form of millions squeezed out of Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, and then using those millions to temporarily drop electricity rates – because he truly cares about the lives of Vermonters.

MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin today announced that the Department of Public Service has reached agreement with key parties in the form of a

Chaplain: "Do you solemnly swear to reduce domestically-generated power in Vermont, and to hide the inevitable rate increases for these efforts by extorting funds from the very company you're shutting down?"   Peter: "I do". Chaplain: "You may now assume the soon-to-be-vacant US Senate seat".

Chaplain: “Do you solemnly swear to reduce domestically-generated power in Vermont, and to hide the inevitable rate increases for these efforts by extorting funds from the very company you’re shutting down?”
Peter: “I do”.
Chaplain: “You may now assume the soon-to-be-vacant US Senate seat.  Either one”.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Green Mountain Power (GMP), IBM and the Associated Industries of Vermont (AIV) on a total rate decrease of nearly 2.46 percent for GMP customers over the next year beginning in October, 2014.

The Public Service Department and key stakeholders agreed to a 1.46 percent rate decrease, with an additional almost 1 percent decrease that resulted from a revenue sharing agreement credit from operations at Vermont Yankee in 2013. The remaining revenue sharing agreement funds will be delivered entirely to customers over the next three years through a credit on their bills.

A key component of the agreement also freezes IBM’s rates at this level for the next three years.

“At a time when other states in our region are seeing double digit increases in power costs, Vermonters are going to see rates go down this year,” Gov. Shumlin said.

Why are those costs going up, Peter? And why are Vermont’s rates going down?

Vermont’s rate is going down because the Shumlin administration actively extorted Entergy, the owner and operator of Vermont Yankee, into putting millions of dollars into the state’s coffers (never mind the hundreds of millions of dollars of personal income and corporate income taxes that resulted from decades of VY operation that allowed electricity costs to be much lower than national averages) that Peter knew he could then use to offset rates during his next election cycle.

And then take credit for lowering electricity rates when he’s the one primarily responsible for chasing out the lowest-cost provider of electricity in the state’s history, while managing to turn the company upside down on its way out so some more of their money falls out of their pockets into Peter’s political hands, which he then lavishes onto the proletariat. A favor for which I suppose we’re all expected to thank him for.

Peter has a long record of attacking the state’s cheapest energy supplier.  Now that that fine work has been completed, he’s now giving Vermonters a chance to thank him for a brief rate reprieve, one that will inevitably disappear shortly after Peter has moved on to bigger and better things.

I’ll thank Peter for his work by doing him the favor of not voting for him again when it’s election season, and Peter’s out hyping up his anti-business, er, pro-business record by touting this rate cut.  Peter’s comments make it sound like he’s championing IBM’s interests here in VT, too – a little icing on the electric cake he’s whipping up for us.  Let’s remember that a then-Senator Shumlin called IBM’s spokesperson John O’Kane a liar in a public forum.  He’s threatened the company with action because he didn’t believe they were sharing all the “numbers” with him.  He’s the same governor who happily announced that the Circ Highway – once a critical infrastructure project in Vermont and for IBM’s continued growth, and is now largely a weed farm – will not be built.

Bazinga!

Bazinga!

Once Vermont Yankee goes off the grid, Vermonters will be forced to pay higher rates for electricity, and be subject to more spot-market pricing for power, since roughly 1/3 of their consistent, reliable, and cheap energy will be gone, helped, in large part, by the same governor who’s touting a temporary rate decrease as a win for Vermonters.  Will Peter be in front of cameras taking credit for the inevitable rate increase?  And will he also be available for comment when other businesses decide that the cost of doing business in Vermont makes their presence in Vermont financially ruinous?

Congratulations, Peter:  Mission Accomplished.

 

 

Bernie Sanders for President

What proud, patriotic American Senator would refuse to sit by idly, when they are, for example, chair of the Committee On Veterans’ Affairs, in order to get to the bottom of the recent Veterans Administration scandal?

We need more heroes like this one.

We need more heroes like this one.

Well, there’s one proud Senator who’s been sitting idly by – Vermont’s own Bernie Sanders.  As news of the deaths and other scandals at the VA have come out (which is not new news, by the way), our self-proclaimed defenders of veterans’ interests counseled, instead of immediate action, that we should “not rush to judgment“:

On C-SPAN that same day, Sanders, chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, urged calm again, saying, “If we’re going to do our job in a proper and responsible way, we need to get the facts and not rush to judgment. And one of the concerns I have, to be very honest, is there has been a little bit of a rush to judgment.”

I suppose Bernie won’t be scheduling an 8-hour speech on the Senate floor, then, to draw attention to the issues that have occurred under his watch, since he’s been acting in various roles in veterans’ issues for years.  Why the 8-hour outrage over tax rates, but no 8-hour outrage over deaths at the VA, especially when his committee has oversight over that administration?  The Senator’s busy schedule doesn’t allow 8 hours for veterans?  The simple answer is that Sanders is not really interested in doing anything other than grandiose self-promotion and demagoguery, and when the bright lights of reality shine on his “work”, he has been found wanting.  His response to this failure is that he does not want to address it.  Look for Bernie to delay, discuss, push the issue off, and ask for an investigation, until the fire that’s burning brightly right now dies down, and the status quo is restored.

In fact, he’s already switching his tune, to make himself look better.  He’s introducing a VA accountability bill – as if something were wrong with his own committee’s oversight responsibilities.  Too late, Bernie.  You’re

Good luck with that, Bernie.

Good luck with that, Bernie.

accountable.  This happened on your watch.  He’s clearly doing this to recover from his prior statements made just a week before, where he dismissed national concerns over the well-being of its veterans.  Here’s Bernie’s call to action – years too late:

“In recent years, as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1.5 million more veterans have entered the VA health care system,” Sanders said. “Congress must do everything possible to make certain that the VA has the financial resources and administrative accountability to provide the high-quality health care and timely access to care that our veterans earned and deserve.” 

“Congress must do everything”?  YOU are Congress, Senator – you, and those around you, are entrusted to do the right thing by veterans.  When the reality of your failure comes to light, then you state that “Congress must do everything possible”?  How about “This Senator must do everything possible”?   Or “This Senator has failed to do everything possible?”   Because “everything possible” clearly has not happened, and veterans are dying, they are denied access to care, and are forced to queue up in a government-run health care system that you oversee.  Secret waiting lists happened on your watch.

Meanwhile, the people who fight and die for our country continue to receive the very best care that this government-run health care system can deliver, and Bernie is OK with that.  He actually supports that, through his inaction, until it became no longer possible to do so politically.  He is defending a system that leaves deceased veterans’ bodies in county morgues for over a year, with his words and his actions – until it threatened his political viability. Vermont veterans, active duty servicemen and women, and their families, many have voted for and supported Sanders over the years.

Why would anyone ever support Sanders again, given this latest performance?  Why would anyone support a man who is actively sneering at the horrific results of his own “oversight”, all for his own political gain?  What do the lives and futures of our veterans mean to this Senator, other than as vehicles to help him maintain his political career? Now everyone knows who Sanders really is, if there was ever any doubt.  The last question remains:  Why would anyone vote for him again?

Vermont’s Days Of Future Past

Here - let's conjure up a ridiculous budget, shall we?

Here – let’s conjure up a ridiculous budget, shall we?

The State of Vermont, through its Department of Labor, creates projections of future employment, broken down in many ways but here specifically by industry, as part of its mandate (which includes a lot of other labor-related data, too).  These projections aren’t updated annually, but every few years (the data discussed below is from August 2012), and they’re supposed to provide a look forward to where the state’s economic growth, and corresponding tax revenue growth is going to come from.

The Vermont Long Term Industry Projections data is particularly interesting, especially because it provides a snapshot of the employment numbers by industry (using NAICS categorization) from 1988 and 2010, and projections for 2020 based on historical data – and an average annual growth rate by industry using a “compounded formula” (a formula not described on the site).

But the raw employment numbers are there, and it’s worth noting not just the 2010 numbers and their 2020 projections, but the difference in employment numbers in certain industries from 1988 through 2010, and projected through 2020.

Here’s a sample:

Construction of Buildings:

1988 Employment:  6,833

2010 Employment:  3,507

2020 Employment:  4,731

So the projected growth rate is 3.0% (they’re using a formula different than just job growth percentage), but it’s based off the 2010 numbers, not the 1988 numbers.  Raw numbers which are down in total employment from 1988 by 48%.

Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction

1988 Employment:  2,429

2010 Employment:  1,740

2020 Employment:  1,872

Again, there’s a positive projected growth rate but the 2010 employment in terms of raw numbers is down 28% from 1988.

Specialty Trade Contractors

1988 Employment:  8,317

2010 Employment:  8,301

2020 Employment:  10,143

This sector is almost virtually the same from 1988 to 2010, but the projections for 2020 have it 25% higher than 1988 and 2010 employment levels.  I’m assuming this is based on reasonable growth expectations but the data don’t support that projection, although considering the aging housing stock in Vermont, this would be an opportunity sector.

The Manufacturing sector has a huge reduction from 1988 to 2010, the biggest drop found in the Computer and Electronic Product Mfg sector, which was/is largely IBM, but there were other manufacturers in the 1980’s like GE and Digital.

Manufacturing

1988 Employment:  11,744

2010 Employment:  6,866

2020 Employment:  6,101

It’s not new news, but that sector has been cut in half, and 2020 looks even worse.

Other sectors, like Wholesale and Retail trade, are up or even and projected to go up, but the jobs in these sectors are classically low-paying.  If this is your growth sector, your state is in trouble.

Or it’s by design.  One of the biggest growth sectors is in the Educational and Health Services Sector, specifically Educational Services, which includes public education.

Educational and Health Services Sector

Educational Services (incl. Public Education)

1988 Employment:  24,732

2010 Employment:  37,872

2020 Employment:  38,940

From 1988-2010, that’s a 53% growth rate.  Even as student populations started declining, the state and local employment was grown or maintained.  Even the 2020 projection shows roughly another 1,000 employees.

If Peter won't cut this budget, then I will, Bub.

If Peter won’t cut this budget, then I will, Bub.

What the data tells us is clear.  The state is open for business as long as the business involves the state, and any other businesses left lying in the gutter, left for dead, might get $4.5 million tossed at them.  Or not, if the revenues don’t appear.

But hey, hope springs eternal, in that there might be yet another wealthy Vermonter who miraculously leaves the state with an unanticipated inheritance tax windfall, so the state’s budget can stay in the black.

If we needed more evidence that whatever policies our “leaders” are implementing are not only failing to work, they’ve been

pushing the state in the wrong direction, I’m not sure where else anyone in government would need to look, beyond its own Labor Department data.

In case we needed any additional affirmations that our “leadership” thinks it’s doing a swell job, only in Vermont can a state budget increase of 4.1% be hailed as a victory while the state’s anemic 1.2% GDP growth rate (2012) demonstrates the reality of all that’s wrong in Vermont’s legislative and gubernatorial priorities.

There are pictures in the article of legislators applauding each other.  Applauding.  Note that the biggest elephant in the room, Shumlin’s Single-Payer plan, exists to this day without the legally-mandated funding mechanism for its projected $2.2 billion price tag.  To put that expense in perspective, the just-approved budget is $5.1 billion.

Oh, and the state’s still-ignored unfunded pension liabilities?  It’s still in the billions – and the legislature continues to avoid addressing this critical financial issue to the detriment of those Vermonters that will be forced to address this kicked can at some

You've earned the praise of Costanza.

You’ve earned the praise of Costanza.

point down the road.

Why is anyone in Montpelier applauding?  The applause should only be coming from Vermont’s citizens, when they’re in receipt of a mass resignation of the Legislature and the Governor for its joint abdication of duties, and violations of public oaths.  There’s no justification for celebration here – only a chilling reminder that our body politic does not live in the same Vermont that real Vermonters live in.

 

 

 

On The Wealth Re-Distribution Road – With Bernie Sanders

One of Vermont’s aging but still marginally feisty Senators, Bernie Sanders, recently took his Progressive dog-and-pony show “on the road” to points other than ones in Vermont to sell his agenda.  For Bernie, the rich don’t pay their fair share (despite all the evidence to the contrary that Bernie happily ignores), so his job is to fight for ever more re-distribution in order to fix the horror that exists in that some people make more money than others.

Not pictured:  An aspiring Senator from Brooklyn.

Not pictured: An aspiring Senator from Brooklyn.

Let’s take Bernie point-by-point, to better digest the insanity.

Sanders last weekend took his fight for progressive politics to stops in South Carolina, North Carolina and Minnesota. In Charleston, S.C., on Friday, he spoke to a packed meeting at the College of Charleston about the high cost of college education and student indebtedness, the need for a national health care system guaranteeing health care for all and how income and wealth inequality are moving our country toward an oligarchic form of government.

College education:  College costs are high because of federal subsidization and the availability of student loans.  Why do college tuition rates go up at 2-3 times the rate of inflation annually?  Because they can.  The reason is that student loans are a huge part of the average financial aid package and the government is guaranteeing them, so what incentive is there for a school not to build a new cafeteria with huge TV screens and water slides and laser tag if part of their mission is to recruit the largest possible number of qualified candidates, and there are thousands of schools to choose from?  Sanders complaining about high costs of education is like someone complaining about the heat after they turned the thermostat up to 85 degrees.  Sanders is part of the problem, not the fix for it.

As this Pell Grant analysis shows, the more dollars that are available for higher education, whether it’s in the form of a grant or a loan, the price for education goes up:

Since 1982, the cost of attending college has increased 439 percent, more than four times the rate of inflation. Increases in college costs exceed increases in health care costs, which have risen more than 250 percent over the same time period.

Costs have risen because of the expansion of available federal assistance in Pell Grants and student loans.  If you have a business that attracts more customers than it can handle, and those customers are willing to take out loans to buy the product you sell, what incentive is there to reduce the price of your product?  In case Bernie skipped his econ classes (and all the evidence shows that he did), there is every incentive to increase the cost of the product.  Every time you raise the price, you don’t see a decline in enrollment.  So why would a college slow its spending?

Health care for all:  Well, there was health care for all before ACA, there’s just less of it now after ACA, an act that Sanders voted for.  The thermostat analogy applies here, too.  As does a

Bernie's health care for all mantra in full bloom.

Bernie’s health care for all mantra in full bloom.

useful idiot analogy.

Income inequality:  Continuing to bang the inequality drum as a warning about oligarchic government is hilarious in the extreme.  The same government that regulates industries to death can’t complain about regulatory capture, but Sanders here is actually making that argument.  If the SEIU is about fixing income inequality, why are they such a huge contributor to political campaigns, including Bernie’s?  Talk about oligarchical tendencies.  The same pro-labor movements that Bernie has been a big part of are huge participants in the aggrandizement of government, and influence election outcomes.

But the indefatigable Bernie plows ahead:

That evening, he spoke to another large crowd in Charleston at the Longshoreman’s union hall about the need for a massive federal jobs program to address the unemployment crisis. 

Ah, more economic fixes by spending more money taken from the half of the country that actually pays income taxes.  So let me get this straight:  You grow the economy by taking more earnings from people who have jobs, route it through a federal bureaucracy, then pay people to work on dubious federal programs with the dollars other people earned?  All this does is transfer wealth around, it does not grow an economy.  Which means it is a net zero gain in employment, since the dollars taxed to pay for this jobs program aren’t being used somewhere else in

the economy.

He also called for a significant increase in the minimum wage. In Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday, Sanders met with more than 50 young workers from throughout the South who work at fast-food restaurants.  Organized by the SEIU, the workers are fighting for increased wages and better working conditions.

Yet again, let’s increase the cost of businesses that operate on already-thin margins and wonder why unemployment doesn’t magically go down.  If you raise the cost of something, demand for that product goes down – which negates the reason for hiring someone at any wage level, since fewer people want the product that business is offering.  Did Bernie take any notes in his Econ classes?

Later on Saturday, Sanders addressed a large gathering of students and faculty at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C.  In Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday, Sanders joined Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for a well-attended meeting at the SEIU Hall.  Among other issues, Sanders spoke about the disastrous Citizens United

Re-distribute your wealth to me NOW!

Re-distribute your wealth to me NOW!

Supreme Court decision, the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision and for the public funding of elections.

Well, the coup de gras:  The same Senator that decries oligarchical government attends a meeting of the largest public-sector union in the country, the same SEIU that gave $28 million to President Obama’s campaign in 2008.  Sanders complains about Citizens United, but attends a meeting of united citizens who spend tens of millions to influence elections and are themselves

the recipients of federal, state, and local paychecks, so their interest in politics is all about expanding government.  I guess the irony is lost here on Sanders, or he just doesn’t care, as long as the size of government increases, he gets re-elected, and he still gets his $174,000 per year salary, with lifetime benefits.

If there’s to be a poster boy for everything that’s wrong with Congress, Bernie should be knocking people out of his way to pose for the camera.

 

A $4.5 Million NothingBurger

Trust me, I'm going to do all I can to make sure IBM stays in Vermont. Now call it:   Heads or tails?

Trust me, I’m going to do all I can to make sure IBM stays in Vermont. Now call it: Heads or tails?

Gov. Peter Shumlin, in a rare about-face regarding IBM’s future in Vermont, unlimbered the state’s creaky wallet and found $4.5 million sitting in a dusty corner somewhere, and decided that hey, maybe we can throw some coin at the state’s largest private employer and they’ll decide that yes, now, of all times, Vermont is serious about trying to keep IBM in Vermont.  From VT Digger:

“I’m going to do whatever I have to do,” Shumlin said. “Whatever I can do, to keep IBM — or, if it’s sold, as I’ve read conjectured in the press, whatever entity owns it — growing and thriving in Vermont.”

I guess that doing “whatever I have to do” includes calling an IBM spokesperson a liar.  Granted, that was way back in the day when Shumlin was just running for governor, but how much of an incentive is it for a company to stay in a state that continually kicks the largest employer in the shins – or kicks even higher than that?

Shumlin’s work in both demonizing Vermont Yankee (the loss of which will result in higher electricity costs, a key component of costs in the manufacturing environment) and his casual back-handing away of the concerns of the state’s largest employer speak more to Shumlin’s real interests, rather than this limp and so-small-as-to-be-almost-comical $4.5MM economic incentive.

The $4.5 million is political cover, something he can point to later as being a governor who’s so concerned about jobs he carves out .08% of the 2015 budget in order to incentivize business to “grow and thrive” in Vermont.  To keep this in perspective, the governor’s 2015 budget calls for $28 million to be spent on the Housing and Conservation Trust.  This seems to me to be clear evidence of the governor’s priorities about business in Vermont.  Shumlin’s telling you everything you need to know about his priorities by what he wants to spend Vermont’s tax dollars on.

What else could Peter have done?  He could have fought for Vermont Yankee’s relicensure, so as to keep electricity costs low and power availability consistent, which won’t be the case when VY goes offline.  He could have pushed for

You don't need a highway when Vermont has the INFORMATION superhighway!

You don’t need a highway when Vermont has the INFORMATION superhighway!

infrastructure improvements that have never, ever been forthcoming, and all businesses, not just IBM, need right now and could have used 20 years ago when something once described as a “circumferential highway” was being discussed as a critical piece of Vermont’s infrastructure.  He could also have failed to publicly insult a company representative, but even being polite is a challenge to Putney’s favorite son.

The reality is that Shumlin has done much more to create the conditions that make it more likely that IBM will leave the state, even if the company itself hadn’t long ago decided to move out of the hardware business itself (albeit slowly).  Considering how small the IBM workforce is now, and even if there’s a buyer for the existing fab, the fab’s technology and manufacturing infrastructure is outdated and not built for high volume, which makes a return to the days of thousands more Vermonters being employed in Essex extremely unlikely.

If you add Shumlin’s historical actions and statements together, it almost seems like he’s purposefully tried to take IBM out of Vermont.  $4.5 million of Vermonters’ tax dollars cannot erase Shumlin’s history, no matter how much he might want that to happen.

Which only leaves one question:  Why do Vermonters continue to vote for someone who is so clearly anti-business?