Wednesday, April 9, 2008


If this were a normal week, I would be guiding you towards the highlights of our April 16th Arts Achievement Day celebration in the Vermont State House. But, like many people across the country, every year around tax time I get anxious about money, and April 16th is just one day past the dreaded “Ides of April.”

About seven years ago I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman that instructed us, every time we read the word “tax” followed by the word “cut” emanating from the Bush Administration, to substitute the word “service” for the word “tax.”

A couple of weeks ago the Brookings Institution—a so-called “left-leaning” think tank based in Washington DC—published an article on the implications of the Bush II Tax Cut legacy.

Reading this article made me understand better why there is no money in the state of Vermont. The burden of paying for everything we depend on our government for has fallen almost exclusively on the shoulders of the state. And Vermont, like a few others, doesn’t have a large enough population to support all the programs and services that used to be covered either wholly or in part by the federal government.

The state of Vermont is unable to support the ambitious plans to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival on the lake that now bears his name. Funds that could have been used for that purpose have been-or will likely be—diverted to shore up the worst parts of our crumbling transportation, health care, public safety and education infrastructure.

There is nowhere near enough money in the State House to replace funds that no longer come from Washington. Since 2001, as a country we have foregone $1.7 trillion (with another $1.8 trillion if the tax cuts are made permanent) in tax revenue and borrowed heavily to pay for not one but TWO foreign wars at the same time.

Every time I turn around I hear more bad news. As a result, I have come to one inescapable conclusion:

What terrorists could never have accomplished in their wildest dreams by destroying the World Trade Center in 2001, our own government has accomplished in its response to that terrible crime in less than seven years.

Our country is bankrupt, dependent on China to purchase our ever-increasing debt burden in order to stay operational. Manufacturing jobs are gone; and service jobs are next on the chopping block. We live in fear that our innocent calls to our relatives living and working overseas will be tapped and we will be put on some “no travel” list. We have to all but disrobe every time we get on a plane (jackets, belts, shoes, toiletries over 3 oz.—what’s next, dental floss?). We are, in effect, no longer free citizens living in a democratic republic.

You put all this together, and “shock and awe” doesn’t come close to describing how I feel.

For those of you that haven’t had to pay your heating bill lately, or haven’t had to pay for emergency medical services at your local hospital out of pocket; if you haven’t had to buy milk, bread or eggs in the past couple of weeks, or fill your car with gas, you might not necessarily agree with what I’m about to say. But here it is anyway.

Repeal the Tax Cuts. Put that money back into the system. Starving government for the sake of starving government is no way to establish, much less enforce, good public policy.

And next time, pay attention when someone offers you $600 in return for “a better economy.” And pay double attention if they offer you $1200 (plus $300 per kid).

Like I said, every year at this time I get anxious about money. So my advice to me and to you is to get past the 15th, and come to State House on the 16th for Arts Achievement Day. It will restore your hope and faith in the great things we can accomplish together. After all, this is the United States of America. And even better, this is Vermont…