Guest Column (4/2/09)

The People's Plan: An alternative to the Douglas budget cuts

April 2, 2009

By Dawn Stanger

Gov. Jim Douglas seems to believe we can cut our way out of an economic crisis: Cut regulation, cut public oversight, cut programs, cut funding, cut jobs and (of course) cut taxes.

It is strange that, while everybody else understands that the collapse of our economic system resulted from insufficient regulation and inadequate oversight, Jim Douglas still seems to believe that cutting regulation and cutting public oversight would be a good thing.

While everybody else recognizes that, in times of crisis, people rely more than ever on public services, Jim Douglas wants to cut the public services that the most vulnerable among us need. With the unemployment rate higher than it has been in decades, Jim Douglas wants to make it worse by laying off hundreds of state employees.

President Obama (and nearly everybody else) recognizes that economic recovery depends on public investment — investment in energy efficiency, in affordable housing, in telecommunications infrastructure, in education and in working people (rather than in obscure financial devices or dubious tax incentives) — but Jim Douglas just wants to cut.

And Jim Douglas does not believe that the wealthy should pay their fair share for the public services that we all need. So his only solution to a revenue shortfall is to act as if the problem is that the budget is too big. Has he forgotten all the tax cuts that have resulted in inadequate revenue?

The Douglas plan is not just bad economic policy. It also represents a threat to the fundamental human rights of Vermonters, because it disregards such basic needs as health care, housing, education, dignified work and the right to security in times of need.

It is time for an alternative to the Douglas cuts. The alternative is the People’s Plan, a plan that embraces the role of government as guarantor of the human rights of its people. The People’s Plan would do the following:

> Maintain and expand programs in areas of fundamental need, including human services, housing, education and employment;

> Institute equitable revenue policies that increase the contribution of the wealthy and tax unearned income at no less than the same rate as other income;

> Establish a system of universal health care that is equitable, is accountable to the people and eliminates all barriers to the enjoyment of the human right to health.

Dawn Stanger is president of the Vermont Workers’ Center and works at UPS in Williston. The Vermont Workers’ Center is a non-profit community organization of working and low-income Vermonters committed to building a movement for workers’ rights and social justice. More information about the People’s Plan is online at www.workerscenter.org/peoplesplan.