McClaughry on David Blittersdorf’s train, exempting Congress from Obamacare

By John McClaughry

Four years ago President Obama exempted Congressional members and staff from the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. Under a subsection of the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats — not a single Republican voted for the bill — voted themselves out of its own employer-sponsored Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The provision required members and House and Senate staff to enroll in the new health insurance exchanges created for other Americans under the law.

But in 2013 the Obama Office of Personnel Management decided to treat the 535 lawmakers and their more than 13,000 staffers as if they were a small business employing fewer than 50 workers. Then they would be exempt from the DC Exchange and relocated to the more advantageous exchange for small businesses. In 2015 a Federal judge rejected a challenge to this by Judicial Watch, citing vagueness in the statute, but a week ago Trump tweeted that he could take away the exemption.

Let’s dial back four decades here. Freshman Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont made a huge splash in Vermont media by declaring to much applause that members of Congress should live under the same rules as the people who are paying them.

Funny thing, I haven’t heard senior senator Patrick Leahy standing firm for this principle lately – in fact, not for over thirty years. Perhaps his 42 years on the Congressional payroll has changed his mind. Maybe we need a new champion to resurrect Leahy’s abandoned principle.

David Blittersdorf’s train

Last week’s issue of Seven Days carried a long and informative story about the prospects for recreating commuter rail in Vermont.

Never mind that Howard Dean’s fabled Champlain Flyer cost the taxpayers $28 million dollars fifteen years ago, in the vain hope of getting commuters from Charlotte, Shelburne and South Burlington to travel to their well paid jobs in Burlington, to arrive at a waterfront rail station remodeled to handle the arriving hordes.

It is a canon of Green theology that irresponsible, selfish Americans must be taxed or subsidized out of their personal vehicles and into a group carriage like a rail car, all to save the planet from the menace of global warming.

Guess who is behind the new push for commuter rail? Mr. Green enterprise himself, VPIRG donor David “Wind Farm” Blittersdorf. He laid out $6 million for some reconditioned rail cars from Dallas in the hope of marrying them with the state owned rail lines and stations, to whisk commuters to Burlington from Rutland and maybe Montpelier.

And here’s the inevitable kicker: Blittersdorf “readily acknowledged that he won’t get this project rolling without public or private subsidies, or both. He imagines that some of Vermont’s large employers such as UVM, Global Foundries and state government will subsidize the trains in exchange for free transit for their employees.”

Oh, really? Are Vermonters dumb enough to fall for this costly foolishness all over again?

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain and John McClaughry

4 thoughts on “McClaughry on David Blittersdorf’s train, exempting Congress from Obamacare

  1. Any foreign tourists would look at these ancient railroad cars and compare them with the local commuter cars used in Germany, Switzerland, etc., countries that are vastly more densely populated than Vermont.

    They would be convinced, Vermonters are playing at being third world, or are so poor that that is all they can afford.

    Being uncompetitive on the world stage resulting in decades of $600-plus billion trade deficits may have something to do with it,

    Blittersdorf should start a tourist trolley museum in Burlington.
    He likely would qualify as a train conductor and docent, after some training.

    Bittersdorf is no dummy. He knows where the free money is and knows how to con the gullibles in Montpelier. He could have shown PT Barnum some tricks. Why is it that when the Dem/Progressives head for Montpelier they leave what little common sense and reason they possess at home?

    The answer is: They become infected with group think, A.K.A., party loyalty, knee-jerk behavior. One has to “fit in”, be properly “PC”.

    Mantras, such as “green is good” are sung at caucus meetings to counter “greed is good”.

    Here is a subsidized green project that would be another nail in the Vermont economy coffin, if more of them were built.

    Scott is putting a major crimp on that behavior by having:

    – No increases in taxes, fees and surcharges.

    – No off-the-books financing of subsidized programs.

    – No heavily subsidized wind on ridge lines.

    – A realistic pro-growth agenda not based on government programs.

  2. Well John let’s start with the $110 million we spend on car welfare for solo driving employees–the free parking space here in VT. And maybe you “made it” in Vermont to own a home and get part of the $160 billion in homeownership subsidies (most nations including True North do not, apparently not a free market you want VT to join). Yes, we need real tax reform and changing our freebees and tax expenditures. One outcome? A quality commuter/VT rail passenger network.

    • would you settle for “free” commuter buses? Cheaper, and far more flexible that commuter rail in a lightly populated area like Vermont. No, you wouldn’t, because then you wouldn’t have a chance at getting your subsidized toy train.

      • John,

        A California company, run be ex-Tesla people, have electric buses. Range about 250 – 300 miles, depending on number of battery modules.

        Unfortunately, the more or less hand-built buses cost about 3 times a standard Greyhound diesel bus.

        With enough subsidies, even pigs can be made to fly.

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