Op/Ed

Editorial: Good news, local and national

Good news comes in many forms at the local level and this week is no exception. Leading the list in Addison County is the distribution of $280,000 in aid to area restaurants, and the donation of an especially scenic 130-acre parcel in Lincoln by Cornwall resident and philanthropist Will Jackson via the Middlebury Area Land Trust — both are stories profiled on the front page of today’s paper.
But there are two other good news stories — one local, one national — that deserve your attention.
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PMC ADOPTS TEAM-BASED LEADERSHIP MODEL
It wouldn’t surprise me if readers skipped over the front-page news concerning the restructuring of Porter Medical Center system of management. Admittedly, it’s not the sexiest of topics. So here’s the short-hand version: the effort will move away from a top-down management system getting its orders from University of Vermont Health Network in Burlington to a more locally-based system that allows local doctors and management positions to have a bigger role in decision making.
The folks at UVMHN-PMC are terming it a switch from a hierarchical management system to a team-based model. If it works well at PMC, it could be a model for UVMHN’s other affiliate medical centers. The system has been used at the prestigious Mayo Clinic since 1908, so it’s a proven model with a good track record.
Why put a story about the management change at the local hospital in the lead spot on today’s front page? Because the efficient and effective operation of our local hospital and nursing home affects all of us at one point or another, and we need to understand as much as we can about the problems they face and the solutions they are pursuing.
The takeaway from today’s story about a change in management is that UVMHN-PMC is willing to experiment with differing management structures in a search for the most cost-effective system, rather than sticking with a status quo that may not deliver the best results. We should applaud that willingness to improve and seek new ways beyond the norm, and be willing and eager to work with our medical professionals to seek ways (including exercise, healthy diets and good habits) that can go a long way in lowering our health care costs.
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BIDEN’S $1.9 TRILLION PLAN HITS THE RIGHT GOALS
On the national scene, Congress passed President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan late Wednesday. The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill will counter the negative economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and, importantly, pull millions of American children out of poverty.
Here’s the broad stroke of what the rescue plan provides:
• Direct stimulus payments for almost 80 percent of Americans, with residents getting $1,400 checks per individual for those making under $75,000 income in 2019 or 2020.
• Supplemental unemployment benefits will not end in March, but will be continued through August 2021.
• Child tax credits will benefit about 93% of American children, increasing the credit from its current $2,000 up to as much as $3,600 per child.
• $40 billion in subsidies for COVID-19 testing and vaccination. The additional aid will help states and local communities pay for that effort and allow the nation to reopen its economy safer and faster.
• About $350 billion in grants to state and local governments to offset COVID-19 costs and lost revenue, which will help keep firefighters, police, road crews and other municipal employees from being laid off due to budget crunches in cash-strapped communities. It also includes about $130 billion to schools to help them reopen.
• Needed financial support to expand broadband access, help lower the cost of health care for lower-income families, help with student loans, and food stamp benefits, among many other benefits.
Is the aid necessary, and why did it not gain Republican support?
Here are a few facts to put the size of the bill into perspective:
• When Republicans pushed the 2017 tax cuts through Congress at a cost of $2 trillion with a budget reconciliation process, just as this legislation was passed, those tax cuts overwhelmingly favored the richest 5% of Americans. Those in the lower 90% (based on income) received a pittance of the benefit. Moreover, there was no national crisis. Trump inherited a robust economy from President Obama.
President Biden’s bill provides the overwhelming benefit to those with the least income and who have been hurt most from the pandemic, while giving the top 10% of America’s wealthiest virtually nothing. Not only is that putting the money to its greatest use, but it’s needed to recover from the millions of job losses the nation suffered under Trump’s last year in office. The nation still has 6 million fewer jobs than it did at the start of the pandemic.
• Biden has successfully argued that his bill is bipartisan because polls show that almost 70% percent of the American public supports the measure, including more than a majority of Republicans.
• Notably, more than 93 percent of American children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan. The bill also raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing. With those changes, the measure is projected to cut child poverty in America by 45% and by more than 50% among Black families.
The stark contrast between the $2 trillion Trump tax cuts in 2017, and the $1.9 trillion in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — and the difference between how Trump approached the Covid-19 pandemic and how Biden has approached it — speaks volumes about the difference between Republicans and Democrats in today’s America.
Angelo Lynn

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