In Vermont, Slow But Steady Wins the Race

UPDATE: Apparently the link below is subscriber's only. However, if you click on the very same link returned by a Google search, you can read the whole article.

An interesting article caught my eye last week on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, about how our state avoided the mortgage crisis and is weathering the national economic crisis relatively well.  The article is titled Vermont Mortgage Laws Shut the Door on Bust -- and Boom.

You certainly do get a whiff of anti-regulatory sentiment from that title and the reporter's opening paragraph teaser:

In plenty of other states, Andrea Todd would have been a homeowner years ago. Here, she bought just this month -- a difference that helps explain how Vermont avoided the housing bust, and shows the possible pitfalls in President Barack Obama's plan to tighten mortgage regulation.

Yet if you read the article, the facts speak for themselves: Vermont's tough lending regulations have proven to be ahead-of-the-curve. That, combined with old-fashioned fiscal conservatism of our bankers, and nonprofit organizations' efforts to give good economic counseling to prospective home-buyers whom the bankers have turned down, have earned our state the lowest foreclosure rate in the nation - and our economy continues to expand while other states' economies are contracting. It's a tortoise and hare story: while it's true Vermont hasn't had a booming economy, we've kept a steady pace that over the long haul has kept us on par with the nation and ahead in our own region:

Vermont, with its fairly stable population, saw its economy grow relatively slowly -- its aggregate state product up 2.2% in 2005, 1.3% in 2006 and 1.7% in 2007. By comparison, Arizona and Nevada, which enjoyed population explosions, had economic growth rates as high as 8% during those years. But by last year, those two boom states had both contracted while Vermont continued to grow, at 1.7%.

Over the decade, such differences appear to have evened out. Vermont's economy grew 60% in the 10 years ending in 2008, just behind the 63% rate nationally, according to the Commerce Department. Vermont lagged Arizona, Nevada and California over the decade but outpaced most of its New England neighbors.

There's more...

You Can't Take It With You, Vermont Edition

Vermont politics has been pretty interesting lately.  In April, our Legislature became the first in the nation to vote in favor of marriage equality for gay couples. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, but our Republican governor, Jim Douglas, vetoed it nonetheless.  This posed no problem in the State Senate, where Democrats hold a huge majority.  But in the last election cycle, Democrats (along with a handful of Progressives) also gained enough seats to comprise just exactly a veto-proof majority in the House. Still, a handful of conservative Democrats would not support marriage equality (including the two who happen to represent my district.)  Fortunately they were balanced by a handful of Republicans who voted for equality (including, most surprisingly, a conservative Republican in my parents' district: you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that, I had assumed that guy was a total dittohead!), giving just enough votes to override our obstinate governor - who then obnoxiously sniffed that "this is not a time for congratulations". OK Jim, if you don't happen to care that a minority has just gained a right they had always been denied, or if you haven't spent years in the grassroots working to build support for this civil right, or if you don't know or can't even imagine anyone who has, then I suppose it's not a time for you to offer congratulations, it's just a time to pout.  Goodness knows that's something our Governor excels at!  

Then just about a week ago, for the first time in Vermont history, the Governor vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature.  The Democrats held together, and along with the Progressives, overrode the Governor for a second time.  Don't tread on us, Jim!

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Jim Douglas Channels George Wallace

Crossposted on Daily Kos on Fri Apr 03, 2009 at 10:17:43 AM EDT

After the Vermont Senate voted overwhelmingly (26-4) for a bill that would allow same-sex couples in Vermont to obtain the same state marriage license that is afforded to opposite-sex couples  - and in advance of last night's tremendous support (95-52) for this bill in the Vermont House - the Governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, announced he would veto the bill.

Douglas says he believes that only members of his own group should be allowed to enter this public institution.

"I say segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"

--Gov. George Wallace

Vermont was the first state, and indeed the first sovereign nation, to outlaw slavery.  Vermont would be the first state to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses without being required to by a court ruling. Apparently uninspired by this egalitarian tradition, Jim Douglas is taking his cues from another place and time in American history.

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The Prime-Time President

A president, especially one very gifted in public speaking, can move mountains simply by going on television and appealing directly to the people. (Much, much more effective than hiring a Tom Daschle or anyone else.)

Reagan's experience as an actor on the screen and on television gave him an enormous advantage as politics moved fully into its television era. His mastery of the television medium earned for him the title, "the great communicator."He perfected the art of "going public," appealing to the American public on television to put pressure on Congress to support his policies. The rhetoric of this "prime-time president" suited television perfectly. Whether delivering a State of the Union address, eulogizing the crew of the Challenger, or speaking directly to the nation about his strategic defense initiative he captured the audience's attention by appealing to shared values, creating a vision of a better future, telling stories of heroes, evoking memories of a mythic past, exuding a spirit of "can-do" optimism, and converting complex issues into simple language the people could understand and enjoy.

(emphasis added)

Museum of Broadcast Communications

Our current president could do the same thing as Ronald Reagan did. He could go on TV in prime time. Explain his stimulus plan (or healthcare plan, or energy plan) in simple terms.  Illustrate how the plan makes sense with everyday examples. Be compelling. Appeal to patriotism, to our common goals as Americans to move the country forward. Urge all Americans, Democrats and Republicans and Independents, to write and e-mail and call their Representatives and Senators.  Urge Americans to tell Congress, especially the loyal opposition in Congress, to support this sensible plan. United we stand...

President Obama's career has been as a legislator. He's already accustomed to the tools and strategies of that arena. As president, he now must become accustomed to using a powerful new tool - the bully pulpit.  The sooner, the better.

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A Teaching Moment

Here is an example of a long, well-written, fact-filled diary on a subject:

Facts Belie the Scapegoating of Black People for Proposition 8

And here is an example of the opposite, on the same subject:

why are african americans so intolerant of others?

By the way, it took only a single Recommendation to send the latter onto the Recommended list, which suggests some adjustment is needed in that algorithm. (There are actually two Recs for it now, but for a while, there was just one.)

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There is a Name for a Lopsided Electoral Victory

One thing I've noticed the absense of: the word "landslide".  It is a landslide, but I don't think I've heard the MSM talking heads utter it. I don't see this word in the storyline, for example at CNN or CBS or MS-NBC or NY Times or Washington Post.  One would think if the numbers were reversed, every other word would be landslide or mandate.

I imagine this is partly a reflection of the biases of the MSM, but also a reflection of the humility of the winner - as well as a genuine, shared sense that tonight's results represent a great historical event that, for the moment, transcends politics.

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Wave Goodbye to Conventional Wisdom

Without California, Democrats literally cannot win back the White House.

--Rick Jacobs, Huffington Post, August 9, 2007

Among the bits of conventional wisdom that may be demolished this year is that Democrats must win California to win the White House.

Take a look at the latest electoral maps, for example at MyDD or

Currently Obama wins the White House (with 279 electoral votes) even if he doesn't win a single state outside the Eastern and Central time zones!

Of course, I'm posting this merely because it's a little kick in the shin of conventional wisdom...I'm not making any predictions here...

But just in case: I will now go outside, turn around three times, and spit.

Palin confirms: Bush lied to Congress

I gave the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States -- the UN -- in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted.

--Sen. Biden, Oct. 2, 2008 debate

Because here you voted for the war and now you oppose the was a war resolution.

--Gov. Palin, Oct 2., 2008 debate

Bush's own words about the resolution:

Later this week, the United States Congress will vote on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.

--George W. Bush, Oct. 7, 2002 speech

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Palin's Counter-Reagan Strategy

Palin has brought plenty of energy to the campaign, attracting huge, enthusiastic crowds, like one at Capital University.

Her trademark feistiness is on display as she delivers a punchy sound bite about her rival, Joe Biden.

"I'm looking forward to meeting him, too. I've never met him before. But I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in, like, second grade," she said at a campaign rally.

Couric: You have a 72-year-old running mate - is that kind of a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden's been around a while?

Palin: Oh no, it's nothing negative at all. He's got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we've been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he's got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I'm the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he's got the experience.

--CBS News

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Now Is The Time

"The worst thing we could do in this economic climate is to raise people's taxes."

"And the reason, one of the major reasons why we're in the difficulties we are in today is because spending got out of control. We owe China $500 billion."

--John McCain at the Ole Miss presidential debate

As far as I can tell, John McCain supports $700 billion in spending for the Wall Street bailout. How does he intend the government pay for it?  He proposes no increases in taxes. McCain was originally against Bush's budget-busting tax cuts, before he was for them: he now supports those tax cuts be made permanent, and proposes even more tax cuts.

All the Federal "earmark" spending on local projects and scientific research that he famously rails against look pretty piddling - $18 billion - in comparison to the $700 billion price tag of the Wall Street bailout he supports.

Barack Obama rightly advocates government investment in a number of crucial areas - such as improving Americans' ability to get access to health care - and he has at the same time proposed ways to pay for these proposals, including rolling back the Bush tax cuts on Americans whose incomes are $250 million thousand or higher, so these wealthy Americans would pay the same rate in taxes as they had in the Clinton years.

But I don't think Obama has yet mentioned how his tax proposals might be affected with regard to the $700 billion bailout.

There's more...


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