The foundation of economic growth is productivity, not the provision of services. For decades
America has been shrinking economically not because the rich are ripping us all off (though
surely wealth disparity has increased, at risk to all), but because of the twin destroyers of global
competition (manufacturing jobs shifting overseas) and technological advance (which has
eliminated even more jobs than foreign competition). These twin forces have provided
Americans with ever cheaper goods and ease in the short term, but long term have eroded that
production element which is the foundation of all economies –
Vermont’s education costs, pensions, bureaucratic bloat, and healthcare administration expenses
are all unsustainable. Our nation’s unhealthy, environmentally destructive, corporate-dominated
industrial food production system is similarly unsustainable. In our current plight, we see these
twin menaces converge. We are increasingly dependent on toxic food from distant lands, and a
government bureaucracy that is similarly distant: both are disconnected from our Vermont
heritage. It’s as if we have abandoned the lessons of the Great Depression, and must relive that
collapse in order to learn anew.
The 2020 Vermont Farming Manifesto is an integrated explanation of what Vermont needs to do
to reclaim its identity, its culture, its food quality and security, and its physical and economic
health. It is also an unapologetic condemnation of the progressive government expansion that is
strangling us all, and the progressive “climate action initiatives” that have thereby been spawned.
It does not deny that we are destroying the ecosystem -- it calls for us to become “woke” to our
personal responsibility to address pollution, instead of an ideological fascination with an
Orwellian government intrusion which will actually just delay real improvement in our economic
and environmental condition, and lead us to increased dependence on foreign corporations and
Vermont’s government is “serving” us by being the largest consumer of our earnings, while
destroying farms and local communities in a fool’s errand to “save” us. Instead of a grand
government plan to rescue Vermonters, here we present is a simple plan to rescue Vermonters
from grand government plans. It is meant to nurture Vermont with win-win-win proposals for
food security and quality, pollution reduction, and sustained economic and agricultural growth.
This is the 2020 Vermont Farming Manifesto. This is a movement… in the right direction.
Proposals To Highlight:
-- Shortened legislative session.
By abbreviating the legislative session to eight weeks in post-election years, and two weeks for
budget-only passage in alternate years, taxpayers would save more than $5 million dollars
annually, which exceeds the savings projected by Governor Scott if Vermont permitted keno
gambling. More importantly, shortening the session would enable more regular Vermonters to
serve as legislators, rather than lengthy disruptions of their businesses or regular jobs. In fact,
more farmers could serve! Also, with more than 1,200 new laws put forth in 2020’s session, the
government could restrain itself to reality. We need to repeal laws, not pass thousands more.
-- Pension reform.
If teachers and state workers do not work together with taxpayers to reign in the $4.5 Billion
unfunded pension obligations, Vermont will suffer more credit downgrades, more restrictions on
available assets for other programs, and eventual default. The current stock market decline
means that all those rosy games of projecting returns on pension investments at 7.5% are now
revealed as nothing short of fraud. If Vermont does not embrace leadership to remedy those
growing threats, the unfunded pensions system will lead us all over a financial cliff.
-- Reduce government waste and the size Vermont’s bureaucracy.
The overflow of laws and programs exceeds the carrying capacity of taxpayer wallets, however
well-intentioned. State employees receive annual raises even as taxpayer incomes stagnate. Over
500 people earn more than $100,000 per year in Vermont’s bloated state government. School
superintendents earn an average of $153,000 annually, despite shrinking enrollment and rising
Vermont’s state and local employees now exceed 51,000 -- 26% larger than the national
average; nearly double that of neighboring New Hampshire. Across-the-board cuts are unwise:
targeted reductions and limits on expansion are necessary steps to bring the government into
service for the governed rather sap economic growth. Like farms, everybody talks about the
problem of bloated government, but nothing is done.
Vermont spends some $1.7 billion annually in welfare benefits, one of the highest benefit
packages in the nation. People should have public support in down times, especially for
healthcare. However, little is done to ensure those receiving benefits actually need them. With
such high welfare benefits there is a disincentive to work even for $15 per hour.
-- Reduce regulations.
The government is quick to justify how it is protecting the public with burdensome regulations,
but the opposite is true. For instance, failing car inspections for tiny rust spots puts perfectly
good vehicles off the road -- this is not “green,” as huge amounts of fossil fuels and materials are
invested in the manufacture of existing vehicles; also, it is not economical for those on fixed and
Act 250 and Current Use have grown year-by-year. Now there are calls to employ Act 250 as a
climate change tool, and to transfer wealth from white to black people to counterbalance
allegedly unfair “intergenerational wealth transfers.” In 2020, the legislature has tried to exempt
urban areas from Act 250 requirements while expanding its application to farms and farmers --
once again, this reveals an abusive effort to burden rural Vermonters and benefit urban dwellers.
The gentrification of Vermont for the wealthy is in full swing -- and full view. Act 250 must be
pared back to its original intention.
-- Reduce healthcare costs.
OneCare Vermont is unaffordable, but taxpayers are told it will take four years of multi-million
dollar expenditures to even know whether it works. “Administrators” at “nonprofit” hospitals are
paid obscenely more in salaries than those who actually serve the sick. The solution is not
reduced care: the solution is reduced bureaucracy. Vermont also has an opioid crisis,
compounded by a terrible (hopeless?) economy. As domestic violence, mental illness, suicide
rates, and opioid abuse increase, the government uses those crises to leverage even greater
control and solutions -- which is to say, even more costs.
Government is not the solution to these problems: it is the problem. We are using tax dollars to
indefinitely fund synthetic opioids for all who want them, including for prison inmates. We must
be compassionate toward those with substance abuse disorder, by helping them be free from
pharmaceutical dependency. Farm work is good therapy, and gives people hope and purpose.
More widely available, affordable fresh produce will help Vermonters of all incomes combat
obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments, preventively reducing medical costs,
improving workforce productivity, and attracting people of all ages and professions to want to
live here! This shift alone might pay for this entire initiative.
-- Reduce education costs.
This is a complex area, and a separate Manifesto is required for our schoolchildren. Vermont has
the second-highest per student costs in the nation as a function of median income. Vermonters
were promised that their local schools would not be compelled to close against their local will --
but that’s precisely what has been done. Act 46 was touted as the cost-saving solution: instead,
costs are rising while schools are closed. No one disputes that we need good schools for our
children. But we also need schools for our local communities -- how is Vermont to attract young
couples to settle here in towns that have no school?
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, though that is precisely what is being imposed through
the bloated state takeover of our communities. The number of students in Vermont schools has
declined by 25.5%, but the number of administrators, and their salaries, have not declined -- they
increase steadily. More local control, and more school options, are the way to institute
“proficiency based” school systems.
Please read the entire proposal at: https://klar2020.com/FM.pdfMany talk of bringing back manufacturing jobs, even as Chinese workers labor for a tiny fraction of what our workers once earned; even as robots and computers displace all human labor as obsolete. Nowhere has this shift been more dangerous than in food production: as society has watched the slow death of small rural farms, it has made a devil’s bargain with mass-produced, environmentally destructive, less healthy food transported at high environmental cost from ever-greater distances. We do this at our collective peril -- food does not lend itself to the economies of scale of factories, as we see with degraded soils, erosion, chemical and antibiotic dependence, and unseen but massive doses of fossil fuels in production and transport of the foods that are increasingly cheap but also increasingly unhealthy. This is not sustainable: the ecosystem cannot bear this indefinitely, and neither can human health.
At root what is proposed is that Vermont radically “incentivize” increased food production by small, sustainable farms, specifically by providing tax relief to counter the excessive tax burden currently stifling farm profitability. Additional proposals will help improve marketing, distribution, and sales of quality Vermont food products. All businesses will benefit; our culture will be reclaimed; we will actually produce valuable goods for export, built proudly on the world-famous Vermont “brand.” This plan is held up in deliberate contrast to proposed regressive taxes on our poorest citizens to acquire solar panels and EV cars from other states and countries -- such proposals bolster their production lines while transferring wealth out of, not into, Vermont. Economics 101. Agriculture is Vermont’s history: it is also Vermont’s future.
By no means are these benefits limited to farmers -- reduced regulatory impediments, lower tax rates, and increased local food availability and affordability will nurture existing businesses, and attract future entrepreneurs and their workers to set up shop in, or relocate to, the Green Mountains. In short, this is an effort to counter the economic forces that have destroyed Vermont’s farms and rural communities, and make those priceless assets the cornerstones of future growth. It is de-gentrification, designed to shrink rather than enlarge our bloated bureaucratic burden.
It is time for Vermont’s citizens to become the stakeholders -- and the stakes have become extremely high. Instead of a grand government plan to rescue Vermonters, this is a simple plan to rescue Vermonters from grand government plans. Unlike the lose-lose agenda of self-proclaimed climate change “warriors,” nurturing Vermont farms is a win-win-win: food security and quality, pollution reduction, and sustained economic and agricultural growth. It’s a no-brainer for traditional Vermonters.
This is the 2020 Vermont Farming Manifesto. This is a movement... in the right direction. Please read the entire proposal at: https://klar2020.com/FM.pdf