Archive - Apr 14, 2008
“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimming’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”
The song was from the 1960s and Bob Dylan, who is widely noted as the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, was talking about the changes rocking the country during that era of protests, demonstrations, love-ins and generation gaps. He was right on target, saying in his music of the day what political and social analysts would discuss for the next few decades in retrospect.
“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Dylan, who the Associated Press recently wrote “brought rock from the streets to the lecture hall,” received an honorary Pulitzer Prize last week for what the Pulitzer judges called his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”
The break through for rock ’n roll was substantial. The AP noted that “the Pulitzer judges, who have long favored classical music, and, more recently, jazz, awarded an art form once dismissed as barbaric, even subversive.”
Middlebury and Weybridge selectmen were right to reject the state’s plan to close the Pulp Mill Bridge for up to a year for renovations before the town’s proposed Cross Street Bridge was built. The state’s plan would leave the town with just the Battell Bridge on Main Street to cross the Otter Creek — a move that would cripple the downtown’s retail district and frustrate residents who already face traffic jams there several times throughout each day.
It’s as if the town’s shortage of bridges across the Otter Creek has been lost on the state transportation agency, even though the town has been pressing its need for a second span for more than 50 years and has been hard at work on the Cross Street Bridge for the past several years.
Let’s hope the selectboard’s message to do the work on the Pulp Mill Bridge after the Cross Street Bridge is in use is taken to heart and honored.
As important is that the work on the Pulp Mill Bridge is dictated by common sense, not sabotaged by misguided — though well-intended — strictures. In this case, the Vermont Historic Covered Bridge Committee must sign off on any improvements or changes to the bridge, which is being renovated at a cost of over $2 million. The current bridge has structural design flaws, according to at least one expert, that should be corrected as part of the renovation. The state’s plan, however, preserves those design flaws (thus weakening the bridge) in order to maintain its historical integrity. Such stupidity, if the alleged flaws would weaken the bridge, would make a mockery of the state’s historical preservation efforts.
A proposal to correct the flaws and construct a nearby educational exhibit detailing the original architecture — and the design flaw that was corrected — is a reasonable suggestion (see story Page 1A) that we also hope will be honored.
On Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, held a well-publicized hearing with five of the nation’s top oil executives. The theme: Explain why the nation’s taxpayers should extend $18 billion in tax subsidies to an industry whose top five companies posted profits of $123 billion last year.
The obvious answer: Cut the subsidies and make it effective as soon as possible. Then, extend those subsidies to the alternative fuel industry and increase the nation’s conservation efforts.
That is the very least Congress should do to right the wrongs promoted and passed by a Republican Congress and President Bush since he came to office. The Republican Congress and Bush not only have been in bed with the oil companies since 2000, the excesses border on the obscene. Hence, Exxon-Mobil’s vice-chairman was testifying before the committee why it seemed reasonable that its former executive was given a $350 million salary and retirement package — an amount, as the senator from Missouri noted, that translates to $958,904 per day. When the average American is struggling to afford a tank of gasoline and oil companies are pulling in record profits, just how — the Democratic congressman asked — should he explain to his constituents why they are being taxed to pay for $18 billion in oil industry subsidies?
J. Stephen Simon, senior vice president for Exxon, did his best to explain the excess, but it was abundantly clear that greed has tarnished the oil industry as much as the hydro-carbons the industry produces.
The move Tuesday by Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington to abandon plans to close a loophole on a capital gains tax exemption initially proposed by Republican Gov. James Douglas turns state politics on its head. Since when do Democrats fail to close a tax loophole to the wealthy for potential gain to the common good?
Yet, that’s what happened.
Not that there would not have been difficulties proceeding with the proposal. The Democratic Legislature and Gov. Douglas had disagreements over how to spend the estimated $21.4 million annually. Douglas wanted to give the windfall to middle income Vermonters as well as to the very rich. Democrats wanted to split the amount three ways: $4.2 million for targeted property tax relief; $8 million for the highway and bridge program and $7 million to pay off a portion of the $55 million the state owes on school construction projects (the latter two of which would also indirectly lower local property taxes for most Vermonters.)
Because Douglas objected to spending the money for the common good (as detailed above — no new programs, just meeting existing obligations of the state) and because he would be denied the possible campaign claims of saying he had reduced income taxes, a political battle was looming on the horizon. Both sides of the political aisle saw it coming and the decision to bail was greeted by sighs of relief from both parties.
Interestingly, the administration was relieved because it meant Democrats wouldn’t spend the money — even if the expenses had already been committed or, go figure, were for property tax relief. (Why Douglas would support income tax relief, but not property tax relief is unclear.) Many Democrats, on the other hand, were relieved because of the future economic uncertainty and the very real possibility that legislators might need to tap that ready source of income in the near future for critical needs.