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Guest editorial: Taxes, regulations help those citizens most in need

Often in discussions during campaign season, many Republicans will claim that business is over regulated and over taxed. Then they suggest the solution to society’s problems is to reduce regulation and taxes and let the free enterprise system free to do its thing and make money. This will, the GOP says, result in business owners making more money and finding a way to trickle down that money to workers. But history shows trickle down economics works better for the rich than the middle class or poor.
In contrast, many Democrats often follow the thinking of President Theodore Roosevelt who realized the truth in the phrase “capitalism works only when it is properly regulated.” President Roosevelt, known as Teddy, was the first to institute federal statutory controls on the powers of corporations at the turn of the 20th Century.
Today, it is clear to me that while we have made progress on many fronts, we have not instituted sufficient regulation or perhaps the proper kind of regulation as we look to correct corporate excesses or misdeeds. Here in Vermont that means we are still looking for ways to clean up superfund sites caused by pollution due to lack of adequate regulations, contaminated public water supplies (such as in Bennington) from industrial pollution, and toxic blooms that plague many of our lakes today.
We have managed to have some success in regulating medicines, although so-called patent medicines, various vitamins and supplements continue to be unregulated to an extent that either fleeces the public or entices citizens to spend money on ineffective “cures.”
Likewise government regulation of aviation has produced a relatively safe and effective airline system and the safety of food is significantly higher than it would be if unregulated. The use of chemicals in industry has gone virtually unregulated, however, with sometimes disastrous results.
Now comes the question of whether or not we should regulate the quality, safety and distribution of marijuana. It seems to me that this discussion goes right to the core of the difference between Republicans and Democrats. The safety of street drugs is highly questionable and the distribution of those drugs on our schoolyards and village streets poses safety risks to Vermonters.
I suggest that society is better off when government steps in to regulate free enterprise when there is potential for citizens to be harmed, and this is an opportunity we need to act on.
We also must find a way to pay for sufficient regulation. That will require that we either raise state revenues (preferably from the sales of marijuana) or cut current state services in some way.
The current administration, and Republicans in general, believe that government spends too much money and we should cut government spending in a number of ways. This administration’s current list includes cutting spending on K-12 education; cutting Reach Up support for those individuals who are struggling to survive and get out of the cycle of poverty; as well as cutting current regulation on various business activities. Their underlying belief is that by making business more profitable, businesses will then take care of the environment, and share their new-found wealth downstream with trickledown economics.
Both of these beliefs and resulting policies have been proven wrong time and time again, as the wealth gap gets bigger, state and federal deficits grow, and the poor and middle class get the short end of the stick. Yet many Americans and Vermonters continue to support this philosophy. I don’t get it!
Dave Sharpe lives in Bristol, has served the district as state representative for several years, but is not running for re-election this year.

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