The Putney Powerhouse, Peter Shumlin, is quitting – and as an odd comparison to what it’s like to quit in the private sector, he gave himself a
year and a half’s worth of down time before he hangs up his spikes. Or his gubernatorial epaulets.
This is somewhat in contrast with Peter’s prior exhortations for Vermonters not to quit, on such things near and dear to his heart like single payer.
“What I would argue strongly is don’t quit before we start,” said Shumlin. “Don’t quit before we start.”
I guess it’s OK to quit after you start, if you’ve got the steely backbone of a Peter Shumlin.
But, since he’s decided to become Sir-Quits-A-Lot, Peter’s now going to be laying out his laurels for all Vermonters (and potential future US Senate voters) to coo over, lovingly, while he puts his feet up in his office as a short-timer, and tells us “we” have a lot left to do:
“Now we have a lot left to do; let’s get back to work,” he said, according to the Free Press.
Shumlin cited his work to reduce unemployment rates and expand high-speed Internet access and preschool education, the Free Press reported. He also touted various laws he’d signed, including one requiring that genetically modified foods be labeled, another raising the state’s minimum wage and a third offering free meals in schools.
Let’s tackle Peter’s accomplishments one by one, since he’s so helpfully listed them for us:
Unemployment: As has been shown elsewhere, Vermont’s low unemployment number is essentially meaningless, and based largely on the reduction in active labor force, not an increase in the number of employed.
In fact, in 2014, the total labor for shrunk from 349,400 (Jan 2014) to 348,400 (Dec 2014), a reduction of 600. The unemployed number for
those two same date ranges increased by 150, from 14,300 to 14,450, but the unemployment rate stayed the same – because the number of people who dropped out of the labor force exceeded the number who became unemployed.
Remember – Peter’s claiming this as an accomplishment.
The state’s own short-term labor outlook shows that 9 of the top 10 growth jobs in Vermont do not require a college degree. What kinds of salaries are generally available if you don’t have a degree? How easy is it to live in Vermont with one of the highest aggregate tax burdens in the country?
Vermont’s total personal income, as measured by the BEA? Ranked 50th out of 57 states. That’s as far from first place as you can get, and Shumlin is touting his economic record here?
Oh, and Vermont’s ranked the 43rd best state for business by Forbes. So Peter’s also got that legacy working for him.
Expanding High-Speed Internet: Well, that’s a feather in your cap, if you think using federal grant money to extend fiber or wireless down the last miles of Vermont’s roads is a critical piece of infrastructure-building. It might very well be, but the market drives those
demands, not the state – unless, of course, there are federal dollars involved and one can make some hay claiming that this infrastructure will help bring jobs to Vermont. If the expansion of access has been so successful, why aren’t we seeing job growth? And why aren’t we seeing new office buildings go up on those scenic Vermont roads, all over the state, where a data pipe is now available?
Why is it you find dockworkers located near docks? That’s where the work is. If there were more work available in Vermont, you would see the demand for data infrastructure increase, and it would already have been built out in those areas where the demand is. That the smallest ends of the demand curve for internet access sit on the last few miles of Vermont roads, out in the sticks, does not mean that providing data to those locations will salve the economic wounds inflicted by decades of anti-business deeds, and rhetoric.
GMOs: Just a quick note to politicians: Every foodstuff is genetically modified. That there are newer ways of doing this does not erase
millenia of modifications, it just makes those changes occur faster. Labeling on the package isn’t going to change anything, in the same way that labeling cigarettes as being dangerous to your health doesn’t change the fact that smokers will buy them.
This is an accomplishment? It’s like saying labeling the weight of the package in the product is an accomplishment.
Minimum Wage: As has been repeatedly and tiresomely noted, raising the minimum wage increases unemployment. The CBO estimated that an increase to $10.10 would decrease employment by 500,000 workers nationally. Again, this is an accomplishment? Raising the cost of anything involving the production of a good or a service means the price goes up, which means (generally) that demand for that product or service will go down. Which means that there will be less demand, or need, for the labor to provide that product or service.
Offering “free” meals in schools: Maybe Peter needs to go back to school himself, because TANSTAAFL says otherwise. Touting something as free does not make it so; those meals are paid for by tax revenues, not a magically free meal-delivery system. Oh, and how are
those meals looking, by the way?
But what’s really driving Peter’s self-imposed exile is the massive and unmitigated failure of single-payer, his “signature” piece of legislation. A failure so large that Peter decided he would only detail how big the failure is until after his last election in November 2014, an election that was so close it had to get tossed to the Vermont legislature to decide.
Only after he was safely back in office in December 2014 did Shumlin decide to acknowledge publicly what everyone else has known for a year or more: That his version of single-payer was a mismanaged hack job that spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a website that still doesn’t work, years later, and so, he bailed on it:
Shumlin had missed two earlier financing deadlines but finally released his proposal. But he immediately cast it as “detrimental to Vermonters.” The model called for businesses to take on a double-digit payroll tax, while individuals would face up to a 9.5 percent premium assessment. Big businesses, in particular, didn’t want to pay for Shumlin’s plan while maintaining their own employee health plans.
He didn’t “miss” them – he purposefully chose not to release his proposal due to political considerations, because there was no way that implementing single-payer wouldn’t raise taxes by an enormous amount. The estimated cost was $2.2 billion and the state’s total budget is already $5 billion. That’s roughly a 50% increase in taxes.
“These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass,” the governor said. “In my judgment, the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.”
Note that implementing single-payer would not guarantee any additional access to care. It would just give everyone an insurance card. There’s an enormous difference between covering everyone under one insurance plan, or even 50 plans, and the insured actually being able to see a doctor. Ask Canadians.
And that was for a plan that would not be truly single payer. Large companies with self-insured plans regulated by ERISA would have been exempt. And Medicare also would have operated separately, unless the state got a waiver, which was a long shot.
Again, since the state’s demographics mean that MediCare spending gobbles up massive chunks of the state’s budget, it also means that
single-payer wouldn’t address the primary cause for commercial insurance rate increases – the Medicare cost-shift. His proposal ignores it entirely.
In short, even Peter can read the writing on the wall. Considering his near-defeat last fall, even in a state as politically progressive as Vermont’s, another Shumlin term was rapidly becoming a pipe dream for the Man With A Questionable Plan from Putney.