Monday, December 22, 2014

Vermont Abandons Single-Payer

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream lives on.

Senator Edward Kennedy (1932-2009), Speech at 1980 Democratic Convention

For each age is a dream that is dying,

Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur O'Shaughnessy (1844-1881), The Music Makers

When I think of Vermont, I think of the movie “White Christmas.”

The movie’s setting was a Vermont country inn, although it was filmed in Connecticut.

I think of a quintessential liberal state with a homogenous generous people.

I think of cows and ice-cream made by Ben and Jerry. I think of its socialist senator, Bernie Sanders, who wears his compassionate heart on his sleeve.

I think of fellow New Englander, Senator Edward Kennedy, whose dream was single-payer.

I think of an April 6, 2014 blog in which I concluded, “Vermont is in the midst of implementing a single –payer, state-wide, health system. It believes it will save money and save its society.”

I think Peter Drucker (1909-2005), who wrote in the Age of Discontinuity, “There are, of course, never enough rich people to carry the burden of any general service. Indeed by the British Health Service and American Social Security (and generally in services of this kind), the rich are subsidized by the working and lower middle classes. In such a service everybody , as a rule, pays the same contribution through his taxes. In proportion to their wealth and income, the rich therefore pay less than lower income taxes.)

And I think of the liberal governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin (D), who has just abandoned the dream of a single-payer system for Vermont. Shumlin says its abandonment is “the greatest disappointment in my political life.”

Shumlin faced reality. He almost lost his governorship in the midterms, and he admitted a single payer would impose “enormous new taxes,” requiring an 11.5% payroll tax on all Vermont businesses, an income tax of up to 9.5%, and it would cost the state $2.6 billion.

Taxes are the cost of a civilized society, but they become intolerable when paying them requires too much of your own money, not somebody else’s, money. And so the dream dies. This year single payer will not be under the Christmas tree for Vermonters. It is the year the dream died in Vermont.

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