by Peter Behr,
As a former contributor to this page, I am pleased that the Standard has invited me back. The title and placement of my column is generally indicative of my political philosophy. In some instances I may side with either of the two columnists whose opinions are regular features here!
As some of you may have noticed, last week I announced my candidacy for nomination for President. In keeping with my low-key approach, the Standard cooperated by putting my announcement on page 4 of the Focus section, so many people may have missed it. In today’s column, I have other matters to cover, so I will only mention that I am not subject to migraine attacks. I do have some loss of physical capabilities – normal for a man of my age – which has the advantage of shielding me from distractions that plague many politicians. But I have many more years of experience than any of the other candidates. I will opine on them later.
Every day we are assailed with news about the impending deadline for Congress to raise the ceiling for the national debt. Republicans are balking at any deal which includes tax increases, or even closing loopholes, which they agree needs to be done. At the same time, Democrats are refusing to accept any deal that cuts entitlements, while insisting on the need for more revenue, i.e. tax increases.
Writing in The New York Times, David Brooks has repeatedly suggested that Republicans risk losing their popularity unless they become more flexible in making a reasonable deal, but as of this writing, the newly elected bloc in the House, in particular, has apparently kept Speaker Boehner from doing so. One of the main impediments to a deal is the “no new taxes” pledge initiated by Grover Norquist, which many Republicans have signed. Why anyone, Republican or Democrat, would sign such a pledge is beyond me. As an example, I advocate a significant increase in the tax on gasoline. This idea would find little support from either party, but expensive gasoline is the best way to make people start driving more economical vehicles, and we need the tax revenue to repair and improve our highways and other transportation infrastructure. There are ways to shield people from the extra cost if they suffer legitimate hardship. It is much better for citizens to make decisions to economize on gas usage than for Congress to mandate standards, but Democrats want government to rule our lives. There are other tax-related moves to make, such as closing loopholes that enable corporations and others to game the system. Norquist may have some good ideas, but his rigid stance doesn’t make sense to me. Meanwhile, we hope there is a meeting of the minds on the debt limit.
Another op-ed piece in the Times which caught my eye was by Tom Friedman, datelined Athens. It struck me that Vermont is similar to Greece – our natural entrepreneurship has been stifled by regulations (think Act 250) and high property taxes (Acts 60/68) which target the most productive citizens – while our state government has grown ever larger, and shows no sign of diminishing under our arrogant new Governor, who has surrounded himself with fawning acolytes. His refusal to address the cost issue of the new state health plan, and his cavalier attitude toward the loss of jobs, tax income to the state, and the higher cost of replacement power in the event Vermont Yankee is shut down should be enough to assure him being a single term governor, but this is Vermont!
One more thing about my candidacy: I plan to reduce the White House staff by half. There is absolutely no reason for the executive branch of government to duplicate skills that are already available in various committees and agencies in Washington. I will, however, spare the kitchen staff, since I plan to entertain often, and will feature good American wines at all state dinners.
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by Peter Behr,