Gregory Dennis: In 2016 Progressives shut down Vermont
“Behind closed doors in the Capitol, House Republican leaders laid out their demands for a debt-ceiling increase to the Republican rank and file. They include a one-year delay of the president’s health care law, fast-track authority to overhaul the tax code, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, offshore oil and gas production, more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands, a rollback of regulations on coal ash, blocking new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminating a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, eliminating mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and an increase in means testing for Medicare, among other provisions.”
— N.Y. Times, Sept. 26, 2013
What if it happened in Vermont?
MONTPELIER, May 1, 2016 — The Progressive Party majority of the Vermont House of Representatives emerged from a closed-door meeting today to announce they would immediately shut down state government.
Driving the budget shutdown was Progressives’ opposition to ShumlinCare, the healthcare plan championed by Gov. Peter Shumlin.
“ShumlinCare is a job-buster that threatens all Vermonters,” said Chris Pearson, Progressive leader in the House.
House Progressives have an effective veto over the state budget since they gained an overwhelming majority with their electoral victories in 2014.
“Until we repeal ShumlinCare and provide free, unpaid-for healthcare to all Vermonters, we refuse to approve any legislation to keep state government open,” Pearson said.
While the governor’s healthcare plan is Progressives’ primary target, they also pointed to other conditions that must be met before they would vote to fund Vermont government functions. Among those conditions:
• Legalization of the drug Ecstasy.
• Removal of all pipelines of any kind from the entire state — a process that would require all Vermonters to get their water from an underground well, while turning off natural gas and electricity to much of the state (or as one anonymous Progressive House member put it, “Let them freeze in the dark.”)
• An apology from the administration for an incendiary issue that occurred in Benghazi, Quebec. There, a Vermont official was accidentally elbowed by a Quebecois resident of Benghazi in a crowded coffeehouse — after which the official failed to apologize to his Canadian brethren.
• Peace missions by Gov. Shumlin to the newly independent Vermont Abenaki nation, coupled with a $100 million grant to the Abenakis. That aid would enable Abenakis to open 25 unregulated casinos throughout Vermont.
• An apology from Gov. Shumlin for accidentally picking up his secretary’s phone line while she was talking to her husband about child care — “yet another example of illegal spying by this out-of-control administration” in the words of a Progressives Party statement.
Shumlin and what remained of the Democratic leadership in Vermont have struggled to respond to the Progressives’ demands. With every single Republican having been voted out of the Legislature during the Progressive tidal wave of 2014, Democrats appeared at a loss for measures that would keep state government operating.
In the meantime, state department heads took steps to shut down state functions.
Among the first state workers to be furloughed were meat inspectors — a step expected to lead to an extreme shortage of protein.
Asked how Vermonters could feed themselves until government operations resume, department head Ura Hogg said, “We recommend digging up leftover roots from last year’s garden, and also strangling nearby rodents with your bare hands. We also remind Vermonters that the ‘Joy of Cooking’ has an excellent recipe for squirrel meat.”
Also shuttered was the state Maple Syrup Agency. That step was expected to deliver a blow to many Vermonters who rely upon the agency — including both sugarmakers and those with a sweet tooth.
The agency’s closure also threatens the fall foliage season, with many observers predicting that maples will be taken out of the foliage mixture altogether. That would require leaf peepers to rely only on really boring-looking oaks and birches trees during the busy autumn tourist season.
“We regret that the ravages of ShumlinCare may lead to a shutdown of the maple industry in Vermont,” Pearson said. “However, we remind the governor that if he doesn’t act soon, we will also have to shut down all Vermont ski lifts and cows.”
Environmentalists applauded that last statement from Pearson, noting that ski lifts use energy and that cows are a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
Among other demands from Progressives was the creation of more jobs for poets, college professors, baristas and naturopaths — or as the party statement put it, “full employment for liberal arts graduates.”
When Progressives emerged today from their caucus, they were joined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Progressive Party founder. Sanders led Progressives in singing the socialist “Internationale” song to honor working people on this May Day.
In a move that astounded political experts, Sanders stepped to the podium to announce that he was giving up his Senate seat and would run instead for the Vermont House of Representatives.
“I’m really tired of flying back and forth to Washington,” he explained. “And besides, nobody ever listened to me down there anyway. Being back in Vermont full-time will provide me the best opportunity to work on behalf of working people.”
Asked who he meant by “working people,” Sanders replied, “Basically I mean English majors who wear jean jackets and Frye boots.”
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email him at [email protected]. Twitter: greengregdennis.
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