Earlier today I was writing a piece about Randy Brock’s advocacy of captive-insurer regulation as a model for boosting the Vermont economy. When I was just about done writing, I came across a rather startling statement by Phil Scott, the putatively moderate Republican candidate for governor. I added it to the post, but I think it deserves fuller exploration on its own.
Brock, for those just joining us, would like to open the door to new niche markets by offering a “friendly” regulatory climate, as Vermont has done with the captive insurance industry. And South Dakota has with credit cards, and Delaware with corporate registration, and Liberia with flags of convenience.
Well, in a statement that escaped any scrutiny at the time, Phil Scott called for an across-the-board deregulatory scheme that would open all businesses to the same kind of friendly regulation as the captive insurance industry.
The occasion was Scott’s webcast following Governor Shumlin’s State of the State address. That’s the one made infamous by Scott’s odd wavering from side to side, and the fact that he was just a little bit too close to the camera for the viewer’s comfort.
Maybe that distracted us from the substance, but here’s the key passage.
The state has enjoyed significant benefits from the renewable energy industry and captive insurance, he said. “Imagine if we had a governor’s office that treated every sector in the same way,” Scott said.
Does he really mean that? Because if he does, he is staking out a remarkably radical position.
He’s basically calling for the Mississippi-ization of our entire regulatory structure. He wants to eliminate the barriers and let corporations do pretty much as they like.
Lest you think I exaggerate, let me refer you to my previous post. There, I noted the downside of the seemingly harmless captive insurance business — it’s on the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” list of tax avoidance schemes — and the fact that we are effectively shackled to the industry. There are other states actively pursuing the captive industry. If we were to tighten regulations to eliminate abuses, captive insurers would likely flee to friendlier states.
And Phil Scott wants to throw open the barn door to any and all who seek a “friendly” (read: permissive) regulatory climate.
That’s not a moderate position, not at all. I didn’t notice it at the time, and neither did anyone else in Vermont media. That’s due, at least in part, to a general acceptance of the Phil Scott image by our guardians of the fourth estate.
(Another example: his campaign launch party was piggybacked on the annual conference of the Association of General Contractors, of which he is a member and a past president. Everyone remarked on the elaborate theatrics of the event; nobody (except Yours Truly) questioned the idea of holding the event in concert with the annual gathering of a major interest group that does large amounts of state business. What would have been said if Peter Shumlin had launched a re-election bid at the annual meeting of Green Mountain Power, just as a for instance?)
At some point, I sure hope, Phil Scott will be called to account for his public rhetoric — as well as all the issues where he’s playing it resolutely safe. There’s plenty of time for this sort of vetting to take place. So far, though, the Vermont media is not stepping up to the task.