Phil Scott’s press releases are so damn predictable. I’m sure he has a template on file. Anytime there’s a bit of bad economic or business news, no matter how irrelevant to state government, you just plug in the bit of news and add boilerplate language about “affordability” and “bad business climate” and “those scalawags in Montpelier” (by which he means Not Phil Scott, which is itself worth a laugh since he’s been part of Montpelier’s in-crowd for a good fifteen years).
Click “Save” and “Send.” There you go.
The latest cookie-cutter release from the Scott campaign is about the closure of the Manchester-area Chamber of Commerce. That Chamber apparently existed solely as a conduit for health insurance coverage for its members. After the onset of health care reform, it was stripped of that function — and it became apparent that nobody was interested in supporting the Chamber for any other reason.
Does that mean health care reform was a mistake? Of course not. If the Chamber can’t gin up enough money to keep the lights on without being an insurance middleman, then it won’t be missed.
Well, it did serve one purpose in dying: it gave Phil Scott a pretext for firing up his Press Release-O-Meter. A flimsy pretext, but that’s all he needs.
He starts out by blaming the closure on Vermont Health Connect, which is ridiculous. The Chamber would have lost the insurance business even if Vermont had never tried to open its own exchange. But hey, we’re talking Phil Scott press releases here, not logic.
“While it’s long past time to transition to a health insurance exchange that works and is affordable, the impact of Vermont Health Connect on this local chamber is a painful symptom of the underlying disease: The business and political climate in Vermont is increasingly hostile to small businesses and their employees.”
Wow, that’s so brimming with bullshit I hardly know where to start. But let’s try, shall we?
— The Chamber’s troubles have nothing to do with Vermont Health Connect’s troubles. “The impact of Vermont Health Connect” on the Manchester Chamber is a figment of Scott’s imagination.
— The Chamber’s closure has nothing to do with the business climate in Vermont. Having lost its position as a barnacle on the Good Ship Health Care, it couldn’t generate enough money to keep going. secThe Chamber’s supposed purpose is to support and foster the thriving retail and food service sectors in Manchester, which has the strongest downtown in Vermont. If all those merchants were unwilling to support a Chamber, then maybe the Chamber wasn’t worth saving.
Finally, we have the evidence-free assertion that Vermont is “increasingly hostile to small business.” Hey, you want to see a small-business-unfriendly climate, you go anywhere outside Vermont, where large retailers and franchises rule the roost. There’s a lot of room for small business in Vermont. We might be a bit more unfriendly than most to LARGE business, but not to small business.
Underlying Scott’s assertion is the fundamental belief that “business climate” is purely a matter of taxation and regulation. Our taxes may be higher than Mississippi’s, and we may take better care of our environment than Texas, but that’s only a small part of what makes a business climate. We offer plenty of advantages to small business, including:
— A human-scale economy that minimizes the invasion of the giants, mentioned above. The lack of large-scale distribution offers small startups a much better chance to show their wares. In states dominated by large retail and food service, a small producer can’t even get a nose in the door.
— A top-quality education system.
— Decent infrastructure, compared to many other places. Could stand improvement, but it’s not bad.
— Low crime rates. Business property is relatively secure here.
— A thriving tourist industry that brings plenty of shoppers to our cities and towns.
That’s a partial list off the top of my head.
It’d be nice if politicians who claim to be pro-business would stop constantly slamming Vermont. It doesn’t help. It’d also be nice if Phil Scott actually put some thought into his press releases. It’d make him look like the leader and visionary he claims to be, instead of just another Republican politician.