September 21, 2004
My name is Sue Lucas. I am a working nurse and President of United Nurses and Allied Professionals at Copley Hospital. Working Vermont is a coalition representing more than 50,000 active and retired union workers and their families, united as a collective voice on issues affecting working families.
As the principal organized voice of working Vermonters, it is our responsibility to speak out for the interests of Vermont’s working families and the future of our communities. In a nut shell, we are concerned about trends in the labor force and the performance of the Administration and the Legislature.
We have experienced recessions before. However, in previous downturns, jobs in the US and in Vermont rebounded much more quickly. It is not our intent to discuss the Bush Administrations’ economic policies. Suffice it to say that we believe that with an alternative stimulus package, recovery would have been quicker, with less financial insecurity and suffering for working families.
However, the facts will show that the Douglas Administration’s jobs record is no better than President Bush’s.
The governor claims that "Over the past 19 months, we have helped put more than 7,000 Vermonters to work."
This is misleading. What the Governor referred to is "total employment", which includes self-employment, and should not be confused with jobs. In any case, DET reports that there were 6,600 more people "employed" in August 2004 than in January 2003 (not 7,000) and they don't all have jobs. Indeed, of the 342,500 Vermonters counted as employed, only 301,400 have jobs; a 1% increase during his term.
To be clear, a job means a regular paycheck; most likely some employer assistance with health insurance; and paid vacations and holidays. Self-employment means no security; double the FICA taxes (13% right off the top); pay your own health insurance; and no paid vacations or holidays. Many laid-off workers become self-employed when there are no good jobs available, and at least three out of ten don't earn a livable wage. Although it works for some, let's not romanticize self-employment and let's not confuse self-employment with jobs.
Regarding total employment, the Governor's record is nothing to brag about. Looking at the same 20 month period (Jan. to August) since 1978, Jim Douglas' performance does not even match the average change in total employment (6,600 vs. 7,700).
More importantly, there are only 2,900 more jobs today than when Jim Douglas took office, and only 2,500 of those are in the private sector. The Governor's job creation record is considerably lower than the average for comparable periods since 1990 - 1991 (2,900 vs 4,900). And in the last 12 months, Vermont's job growth has been significantly lower than the national rate (0.7% vs 1.3% ). Moreover, notwithstanding claims that the economy is improving, monthly job figures show declines in four of the last seven months.
What about the quality of the new jobs?
On average, the new private sector jobs created in Vermont pay $15,000 less than the jobs that were lost during the same period.
In addition, inflation adjusted median household income is actually lower than it was in 1990. This makes plain the failure of the economy to serve regular working people. And whatever modest gains we've had in the last 20 years have gone disproportionately to the wealthy. In the `60s and `70s, a rising tide actually lifted all boats. But since "trickle down" policies gained favor in the Reagan years, this is no longer the case.
It has always been an article of faith that if you work hard you can get ahead. But today, we are working longer hours; our paychecks don't buy any more than they did 13 years ago; and our pensions are at risk. We need an honest discussion about appropriate policy responses. Instead, the Governor insists that things are improving! This is a disservice to the public, and denies the real problems of thousands of working Vermonters.
And while median household income is stagnant, costs are rising rapidly. Over the last two years, the cost of home heating oil is up 36% , gasoline is up by 38% , tuition at Vermont colleges is up 11% , health care premiums have increased significantly, and the median price of a single family home has gone up 20%.
The Governor claims that "as a result of our efforts to revive the Vermont economy, our unemployment rate is 38% lower than the national average."
While it's true that Vermont's unemployment rate is lower than the U.S. rate, this is hardly news since it has been lower every year since 1977. Thus, there is no reason to believe that Jim Douglas has had any affect on the unemployment rate in Vermont.
Jim = Jobs: At What Price?
The Governor touts his efforts to make Vermont more “business friendly” and to create more jobs. Since he took office, the State has spent at least $36 million on economic development and job training. For this investment, we have 2,900 more jobs. That's $12,000 of taxpayer money per job. If we're lucky, this investment will be paid back in 15 years of tax receipts; not a good return on investment!
Sources available upon request to High Road Vermont.