Daily Archives: May 27, 2015

Nobody’s figured out how to make this economy work

Vermont Republicans are fond of slamming the Shumlin Economy, cherrypicking statistics that make the Governor’s record look bad. They criticize his policies as crippling to economic growth and middle-class prosperity. (And now that Bernie Sanders is running for President, they try to blame all the ills of the last three decades on him, even though he hasn’t been running the place and would clearly have adopted very different policies if he had been. Protip to Republicans: correlation is not causation.)

And yes, in spite of very low unemployment, it’s inarguable that the recovery has been slow and spotty for most Vermonters. Their purchasing power has remained stagnant. But this isn’t just a Vermont phenomenon, and if you look at other states with conservative governments, they’re failing at least as badly as we are.

Last Friday, Talking Points Memo posted a piece about how four Republican governors are seeing their presidential aspirations undercut by severe budget problems back home — problems attributable to the failure of their policies to hotwire their economies.

The basic concept is as cartoonish as when it was first sketched on a napkin by Arthur Laffer: cut taxes and the economy will flourish. Revenues will rise, as government takes a smaller slice of a growing pie. Business, freed of its public-sector shackles, will lead us into a prosperous future.

Trouble is, it doesn’t work. In Louisiana, WIsconsin, Ohio and New Jersey, Republican tax-cutting policies have failed: all four states have sluggish economies and huge budget shortfalls. It’s worse on both sides than anything Peter Shumlin has inflicted on the state of Vermont.

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So, Bernie.

I don’t want to sound churlish here, but I probably will. Yesterday’s Bernie Sanders campaign kickoff was a nice event. If nothing else, it was a celebration (and validation) of #FeelTheBern’s unlikely political career; whatever else he accomplishes is gravy. If he can fight the good fight and push progressive issues into the mainstream political discourse, he will have done something meaningful.

My problem is this. In advance of the kickoff, the Vermont media was stuffed to the gunnels with Bernie coverage. The most ardent Bernie outlets were the Burlington Free Press and VPR, which previewed the event as though it was a combination of the Gettysburg Address and Woodstock. Both outlets posted previews entitled “What You Need to Know About Sanders’ Campaign Kickoff” or something like that. To which my response was, “I don’t need to know anything about that.”

Nothing against Bernie. I just can’t get excited about an opening gambit in a year-and-a-half-long process. And I can’t get excited about reading endless, breathless Bernie coverage. I already know what I need to know about the man and his politics.

For the Vermont media, Bernie’s presidential bid is the best kind of clickbait. It draws eyeballs AND it’s certifiably “important” in journalistic terms. There’s a corner of the editorial heart that curdles a little bit whenever they have to post another Heady Topper piece or foodie listicle; when they can have their clickbait cake and eat it too, as with Bernie, well, it’s open season.

After the last few days of #BernieBernieBernie, I’m already tired of it. And I’m sure I’ll be reading a whole lot more over the next year or so.

Well, actually, I won’t be reading it; I’ll be skipping over the Bernie coverage and looking for other news.

As for this blog, I’ll write about Bernie on occasion, when the spirit moves. But I won’t be following his every move, posting his every press release, or seeking his comment on campaign happenings. There’s not enough hours in the day, and there’s lots of other stuff to write about.