Forum, Dec. 27: Lebanon Is Pedestrian-Unfriendly

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Lebanon Is Pedestrian-Unfriendly

I am writing today to bring something very important to light. While the city of Lebanon talks a lot about how it wants to make this town more walker- and bicyclist-friendly, it seems unable to keep sidewalks passable during the winter. I walked to work the other day out in road because, despite it being 24 hours after the end of the storm, the sidewalks had not been cleared or treated. Last Februay, I was one of several people who was seriously injured while using the icy sidewalks; I spent two weeks in the hospital and missed two months of work.

Does the city not believe that pedestrians deserve the same level of safety as motorists? I believe they do. Do better with what you have, Lebanon, before trying to make improvements.

Mica Two-Spirits


Seeking Better Energy Options


Vermont House Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, is dead accurate when he lays responsibility for the environmental and societal costs of the overwhelming increase of fossil fuel infrastructure at the feet of the energy companies that “continue to make carbon consumption the easy option” (“Expanded Energy Infrastructure,” Dec. 22). His examples are apt because they’re local or widely known:  Vermont Gas System’s pipeline in western Vermont, Liberty Utilities’ fracked gas pipeline proposed for Lebanon and Hanover, and the Dakota Access Pipeline. By now it’s startling to see a Vermont politician forcefully make this charge. Few if any in recent memory have had the courage to do this so directly.

But I’m afraid that Rep. Masland’s courage fails him when he asks, “When will we, the consuming public, stop being complicit in their game?” The bother with this is not the notion that we are complicit. We certainly are. The bother is that Masland construes the complicit “we” strictly in market terms, as “the consuming public.” We are considerably more than that.

We are all still citizens of a democracy, and Masland is a legislator within that democracy with the power to propose and work to pass laws. The very problems of climate change and air and water pollution Masland addresses plainly demonstrate that the neoliberal dogma that all problems are best solved by market choices and forces is patently false. Many decades into confronting these problems, we continue to lose ground in solving them largely because market forces defeat us. Government when it functions can devise and enact solutions beyond and contrary to what markets and their masters seek to do.

As consumers we have few options that can compete and provide renewable alternatives to extreme fossil fuel extraction and distribution. But as citizens we can exercise power to make alternatives available. One example is the resolution to be voted on at many Town Meetings come March urging legislators to ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Let’s hope Masland will recapture his courage and become the first Vermont legislator to endorse this basic step toward making more and better energy options available to the citizens of Vermont.

Geoffrey Gardner


Taking Stock of the Tax Bill


Now that the Republican tax bill has been passed, let’s take stock of what’s in store for us.  

First, the corporate tax rate will drop from 35 percent to 21 percent. That’s a whopping 40 percent cut. And it’s permanent. I’m not sure why it’s necessary. According to the Congressional Budget Office, thanks to loopholes in the tax code, most corporations really paid only 19 percent, which is comparable to lots of other countries.  

Second, the middle-class income tax cuts are only temporary. They also favor the wealthy. Why? According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, in 2019 about three-quarters of all middle-class taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $75,000 will get a tax cut.  But virtually everyone making over $500,000 will get one.  And by 2027, less than 20 percent of middle-class taxpayers will still enjoy a benefit, while nearly two-thirds of those making over $500,000 will. 

Third, the tax cuts are supposed to pay for themselves. Why? Corporations and wealthy individuals will have more money to invest in the economy, generating taxable profits and income. But virtually no reputable economist believes this. Most experts estimate that the tax cuts will generate over $1 trillion in budget deficits over the decade. Republicans have long screamed about deficits. Suddenly, they don’t care. Why? According to House Speaker Paul Ryan, they plan to reform social programs next year, which means cutting Medicare, Social Security and other middle-class programs. 

Finally, the tax bill abolished the Obamacare requirement that everybody purchase health insurance. The CBO estimates that, as a result, 13 million people will lose health insurance over the next decade, and the rest of us will pay on average 10 percent more in health insurance premiums. Why? Because healthy people won’t be inclined to buy insurance, thus increasing the percentage of sick people in the insurance pool that cost the insurance companies money.

This is a much better deal for corporate America and the wealthy than for the rest of us. Whether the Republicans pay a price for this next year in the mid-term elections remains to be seen.  I hope they do.

John Campbell