Shumlin amps up the rhetoric

This is the kind of thing that inspires Harlan Sylvester conspiracy theories.

The narrative goes like this: Sometime back in 2009, Peter Shumlin tells “the most powerful man in Vermont politics” (h/t Shay Totten) he’ll keep a lid on taxes if Harlan paves his path to the corner office.

I can tell you lies, you can't get enough.

I can tell you lies, you can’t get enough.

It’s one explanation for the volume and desperation of Shumlin’s anti-tax rhetoric — aimed, need I remind you, at fellow Democrats.

Yesterday, the Governor slammed a House-passed plan to cap itemized deductions. And to put it plainly, he lied about it.

Ell. Eye. Eee. Dee. Lied.

“Removing charitable deductions, the ability of Vermonters to deduct home interest from their mortgages, which promotes home buying, and removing the health care deduction when you’ve had catastrophic health care costs is a big mistake,” Shumlin says.

Now, that’s bullshit. Ain’t nobody “removing” nothing, and the Governor knows it.

The House bill caps itemized deductions at 2.5 times the standard deduction. That’s about $15,000 for an individual or $31,000 for a couple.

For most Vermonters, that’s a hell of a lot of deductions. For the top earners, well, their ability to deduct would be limited — but not removed, no way, nohow.

Speaking of “limited,” take it away, Gov:

“I feel very, very strongly that Montpelier should not limit in any way Vermonters’ ability to give to charity both in and outside of Vermont,” the governor said.

Again, bullshit. The House bill would not “limit…Vermonters’ ability to give to charity.” People would be free to give whatever they want. Their ability to deduct would be capped at a relatively high level. But people with enough scratch to give more than $31,000 a year effectively have no limits.

Not to mention that the federal deduction is worth a lot more than the state one, so there’s still plenty of incentive to be generous.

Also, nice touch using “Montpelier” as a pejorative. Peter Shumlin, outsider? Hahahaha.

This is one of his least attractive habits as a political leader: transparently overreaching with his rhetoric, setting up straw men and punching them down. It just reinforces the image of Peter Shumlin as manipulative sneak. And frankly, it stopped working a long time ago.

Just ask Mr. Speaker.

“It seems to me that many charities survive and thrive in our neighboring states that do no have charitable deductions,” he said.

And Mr. Pro Tem.

“It’s not going to be the governor telling us he doesn’t like it that makes us go another way,” he said.

Now, it’s possible that all three men are indulging in a little Kabuki theater, publicly adopting elaborately stylized roles while quietly working things out behind the scenes. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, really. But our Democratic Governor should tone it down a couple notches. As it is, he seems to be trying to damage the brand of his own party.

Which is how conspiracy theories are born.

5 thoughts on “Shumlin amps up the rhetoric

  1. Brooke Paige

    Shumlin is Grandstanding Again – Vermonters may Donate as Much as They Wish !

    “Shumlin raps plans to cap deductions” (Times Argus 5/14/15) Any story that has the words “raps” and “caps” in the title gets me thinking of an urban rant “I’m Pete Shumlin and I want to say, I’m goin’ take all your cash away!” – however this time he’s “raping” the legislature for limiting the tax deductibility of charitable contributions. The Governor makes it sound like the state is going to PROHIBIT the taxpayers from making contributions above a set level; of course this is simply not true. Vermont Political Observer, a liberal political outlet that I rarely agree with, dissects Shumlin with surgical precision that you will surely appreciate:

    My wife, Donna, and I contribute to “several” charitable organizations. I normally would not mention this as I feel that it diminishes the charitable act by talking about it. Grandma instructed that “Virtue has its own reward !” By inference she was admonishing against talking about (or especially bragging about) helping out ! If you run around talking up your good works, the bragging rights become your devalued reward !

    That being said, I do not believe that most folks with charity in their hearts are greatly influenced by the deductibility of a contribution – most certainly they do not think, “hold on now, I am only going to help out the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, my local Church. the American Cancer Society, the Salvation Army … if I can deduct the contribution from my taxable income !~” It is just silliness. Now do I think that the state should allow you to deduct these contributions from your taxable income – yes, in most cases! Here’s the rub, so many organizations have gained tax exempt status and some (many) probably do not deserve to have the exemption,
    Here is a summary of all the Tax Exempt Organizations in Vermont and a link to a detailed list of them all, I’m betting that YOU can easily find hundreds, maybe thousands that should not be included in the approved list for tax exempt status.

    State Vermont (VT)
    Organization Count 8,264
    Assets Total $13,013,985,067
    Income Total $8,179,097,019

    Give all of this the “once over” and see if you agree with me that Pete Shumlin is just grandstanding, “making mountains out of molehills”

    H. Brooke Paige
    Washington, Vermont

  2. Robert Maynard

    John, have you considered the possibility that Shumlin is staging his own “Sister Soulja” moment? He long ago blew off both the right and now may be attempting a Clinton style triangulation strategy in time for the 2016 elections. It will be interesting to see where he goes with his energy plan of 90% renewables. Will he hold firm in an attempt to mollify disgruntled progressives, or will he continue his triangulation strategy? Stay tuned folks!

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      There’s a lot of folks on the left who think he’s been a triangulator since Day One. He has often tried to position himself to the right of the Dem caucus (aside from single-payer, when he was still promoting that), but he seems to have stepped up the rhetoric a tad. If his intent is to be a kind of Phil Scott Lite, then he’s got a difficult tightrope to walk, and he’ll have the fundamental problem that he’s not nearly as likable as Scott himself. If Scott runs, it’s hard to see voters choosing the tainted centrist over the seemingly trustworthy one.

  3. Robert Maynard

    Yes, he does seem to be readying for a challenge from Phil Scott. I have a hard time seeing him avoiding a challenge from the left in 2016. The progs will not run interfence for him again so as to avoid a third party challenge. If I was a progressive, I would be watching him like a hawk on his energy policy. There is a good chance that he does the same thing to them on the 90% renewables goal as he did on single payer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s