Single payer: a third party is heard from

I’ve been wondering when this would come. A statement, with the title in ALL CAPS, from the Progressive Party:


And no, the Progs don’t usually go ALL CAPS.

The reaction is understandable; the Progs had put their statewide ambitions largely on hold for the sake of single payer.

The Vermont Progressive Party dis not run Progressive challenges against Governor Shumlin in the last three cycles, in large part because of his unwavering promise to lead on single payer.

If the Progs had run a candidate this year, no matter how perfunctory, we’d almost certainly be talking Governor-elect Milne right now.

The anger continues:

While we are outraged by Shumlin’s broken promises, we are not terribly surprised. … rather than work through [the] issues or scale back the project, Shumlin decided to scrap it entirely (and with it, many Vermonters’ hopes of a just and accessible healthcare system).

Indeed, it’s easy to conclude that the Governor put his thumb on the single payer scale in order to make it seem more unattainable than it already was. He opted for a top-level plan (94 Actuarial Value) instead of more modest coverage (80 AV), which increased costs. He insisted on a three-year phase-in of the payroll tax for small businesses, which slashed revenues. (His team also suddenly realized that those long-touted “administrative savings” weren’t going to happen.) Those may have been reasonable policy choices, but when you have Shumlin’s reputation for slickness and hippie-kicking, it’s not hard to assign the worst possible motive: the Governor wanted to squirm out of his promises, so he stacked the deck against single payer.

Governor Shumlin only seems concerned about the projected future economic burden to businesses, not the burden that working people are bearing right now.

Yup. His announcement was chock-full of references to financial realities and business concerns — and reminders of his own personal pain, awww — while conspicuous by their absence were any mentions of equity, accessibility, or the burdensome nature of the current system. And he sure as hell didn’t call health care a “human right.”

The Progs’ release includes a not-so-veiled threat of a Progressive candidate for Governor in 2016. Imagine, if you will, this scenario:

Shumlin has spent his third term tamping down expectations, cutting programs to balance the budget, pursuing incremental rather than transformational progress. The Republicans nominate Phil Scott, who doesn’t look much different ideologically than Shumlin, has a much more attractive personality, and can win back the business donors who’ve been backing Shumlin.  And the Progs challenge from the left.

In that scenario, Shumlin is well and truly screwed.

2 thoughts on “Single payer: a third party is heard from

  1. Robert Maynard

    Hi John,

    What do you think about the speculation that Shumlin has no intention to run for Governor again and intends to go after Leahy’s potentially vacated seat. (Vacated for health reasons)

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      That scenario looked inevitable six months ago. Shumlin seemed politically invincible, his DGA work had opened the floodgates to national funding for his political machine, he could appeal to the center (and many in the business community) with his efforts to keep taxes down, and his drive for single payer made him more than acceptable to liberals.

      Now, having nearly been beaten by Scott Milne and having abandoned single payer, his Senatorial ambitions (if any) have taken a royal beating. It’s way too early to rule anything out or in, but at this point I think it’s more likely that he steps down as Governor and gets out of politics, at least for a while. It’s hard to imagine the Dems flocking to his Senatorial banner with his invincibility aura gone and the left wing feeling double-crossed.


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