Over Easy: Ideas to make Vermont more Vermonty 

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 5/3/2019 8:55:54 PM

A recent article in the Valley News said that some Vermonters are sore that the state is dangling a $10,000 carrot in front of workers, presumably young, to get them to move to the Green Mountain State. Fix potholes with the money instead, said one citizen critic, while another called all taxation outright theft, suggesting that he or she is unhappy with everything that followed the wicked U.S. Tariff Act of 1789. That’s a whole lot of crabby.

But I understand tax angst. We Mackies just paid more federal income tax than mighty Amazon, which made more than $11 billion last year and paid zilch. Explain that, Alexa! 

As a longtime New Hampshire resident, I lack standing on the question of whether Vermont taxes are confiscatory. We don’t have an income tax here, but the property tax bill on our Lebanon home (which I would describe as “ramshackle’’ to a city appraiser) would cover the payments on a new Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer every five years. And that’s, as the car dealers say, with no money down! 

That does tempt me to get out the pitchfork and torches when I run the numbers and am feeling crabby myself. “Honey, where did I leave the pitchfork and torches?” I call out, and my wife, Dede, skillfully changes the subject to something more pleasant without disclosing where they are. As men grow older, they do well to have a wife like that.

But the $10,000 offer has me wondering what it would take to make me pull up stakes and move across the river to Vermont. Not that I’m an ideal candidate for the handout. The state launched the giveaway because its population is graying, now averaging 42.9 years old, five more than the national average. Still, you might ask whether Vermonters really are all that much older, or if winter just makes them look that way. 

The fact is, at 66 I’m can’t help make Vermont youthful, even if I consider myself young at heart, a phrase that means there’s a delusional fantasy inside my head. When we installed 25-year shingles on our roof a couple of years ago, I grew wistful. I felt like I was leaving my legacy. 

But perhaps I can help with ideas for making Vermont even more Vermonty. Just a sample:

Guarantee good to excellent cellphone coverage in all Vermont locales, excluding certain mountaintops and caves. I am, if nothing else, reasonable.

If that cannot be achieved, provide regular Old-Time Radio broadcasts on Vermont Public Radio. Given the state’s aging demographics, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and Fibber McGee might be smash hits. 

Require all Vermont radio stations to play Waterbury, Vt., WDEV’s “Music to Go to the Dump By’’ on Saturday mornings. This isn’t mere personal preference: This is a matter of cultural preservation!

Force WalMart and similar big box stores to hire a Vermont-sensitive architect for any new stores.

America’s No. 1 retail giant’s big boxes currently resemble maximum security prisons, which is not ideal.

Support local cows. There was a time when meditators thought they could reduce society’s stress levels by gathering together and pooling their serenity. I think cows already do that.

Require subsidized Vemonters to be able to recite all, or a good portion, of Calvin Coolidge’s “Brave Little State’’ speech. If people had to recite things, they’d have less time for, well, so many things that they are spending too much time on. 

Administer a Vermont loyalty oath to the new Vermonters. They should promise to wear Darn Tough wool socks and Johnson Woolen Mills pants, and attend all four days of the Tunbridge World’s Fair. They should vow to wear a red plaid flannel hat for the first five years (summers optional). Which reminds me:

Create a Vermont Flannel Board to set standards for the material. Imported flannel shirts could cheapen the image of the beloved clothing articles, which should age with dignity, even if we do not.

Finally, the state must have an Oh, Just Stop It Commission to determine when Vermont adoration goes too far. The state has real charms: the green hills, pretty villages and a general lack of the oppressive, brutal ugliness of modern suburbs. But some newcomers go on about it like they’ve died and gone to heaven. No, there aren’t any harp-playing angels sipping maple creemees in the clouds above Vermont. 

I have many other ideas, but I’m not inclined to give them away for free, even with my considerable regard for the Green Mountain State. I deserve some financial consideration. I’m thinking maybe $10,000.

And no Vermont income tax on that, either.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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