Roper: 40 years of left-wing policy failure

Public Assets Institute

“State of Working Vermont” report by the Public Assets Institute

By Rob Roper

The Public Assets Institute (PAI) recently released a report, “The State of Working Vermont 2020,” which provides a good overall picture of the economic stagnation Vermont has experienced over the past several decades:

For 40 years, Vermont created an average of 4,700 new jobs a year. The best year, 1978, saw an increase of more than 12,000 new jobs. But after the turn of the century, job growth flattened. Vermont employers averaged fewer than 1,000 new jobs a year between 2000 and 2019. The high point was 2012, when 3,800 jobs were added.

Given that timeline, it’s worth noting 1994 was the last time Vermont Republicans held a majority in the state Senate and 2000-2004 was the last time the VTGOP had a majority in the House. While two Republican governors served for 12 years over this period, Douglas and Scott, governors can’t sign any laws not passed by both chambers of the Legislature. In other words, conservatives have never been in a position to put forward and pass any policy initiative.

PAI points out:

During the recovery after the Great Recession, Vermont’s economy grew half as much as the nation’s: 11.2 percent vs 22.2 percent, after adjusting for inflation. With the exception of Massachusetts, New England as a region also underperformed the U.S.

What do all of these New England states have in common? They are all, with the sometimes exception of New Hampshire, run for the most part by progressive liberals.


In 2019, the top 20 percent of Vermont households received almost half (48.4 percent) of the income earned in the state. The top 5 percent of households got 20.7 percent. Average income for the top 20 percent of households had increased more than 8 percent since 2007, after adjusting for inflation. For the bottom 20 percent, average income was down more than 7 percent.

Now, Vermont has, and has had, one of the most progressive tax structures for income and property taxes in the nation. We have, and have had, one of the highest minimum wages. Logical conclusion: Policies like this do not solve income inequality and may, in fact, exacerbate it.


The nation’s longest recovery left Vermont with fewer workers. In 2019, 342,226 Vermonters were working or actively looking for work—11,500 fewer than in 2007.… The share of people of prime working age—35 to 54—shrank. And workforce participation dropped. These factors helped make Vermont one of 11 states, including three in New England, whose labor forces shrank between 2007 and 2019.

Since 2006 we steadily expanded government universal pre-school programs, have engaged in public funded healthcare access programs such as, going back to the early 1990’s “guaranteed issue” and “community rating” and more recently Catamount Health and now OneCare. We have one of the most generous welfare programs in the nation. And, we recently started paying people up to $10,000 to move here. Vermont has also branded itself as a “green” Mecca, putting considerable resources into renewable energy and related environmental programs. Conclusion: these kinds of programs do not seem to attract young, working age people to our state, as politicians promised they would.

And, finally,

At the end of the recovery, Vermont didn’t have much to show for its efforts to reduce poverty. The poverty rate came back down after it shot up in the Great Recession. But by 2019, there were just as many Vermonters in poverty as in 2007: more than 60,000.

We’ll just let that one speak for itself.

If you care about these issues specifically — reducing income inequality, alleviating poverty, and solving Vermont’s demographic and workforce problems — and for broad economic prosperity generally, we must stop doing the same things while expecting different results. As PAI demonstrates, this experiment in high taxes, government micro-management through excessive regulation, and lots of spending on fine-sounding programs important to politicians but, in practice, not the people has been a failure. PAI doesn’t reach that conclusion themselves, but it’s the obvious one.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public Assets Institute

12 thoughts on “Roper: 40 years of left-wing policy failure

  1. As I said, Willem, it will be interesting to see how they handle the killing of the goose that lays the golden eggs. If they think, for example, the plan cut to cut the pension shortfall (see previous TNR article), and keep defined benefits – isn’t pain-free, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

  2. that because all the mexican illegals ran for the border i know they all lived next door to me packed into a house like 25-30 of them.. trump got elected poof they were gone then all the farms i knew that had illegals poof they all disappeared

  3. Bob Roper,

    Any time Dem/Progs appear to glorify the private sector, their real aim is to pluck it some more to pay for their highly-inefficient pet programs, which mainly serve for vote baiting.

    Lately, new pet programs are energy-related, as part of GWSA, to mandate spending of at least $1.2 billion PER YEAR, for the fantasy of VT CEP proposals.

    Remember, the same folks have been at that for about 20 years, and all they have to show for it is:

    – over-taxed, over-regulated Vermonters,
    – minimal job growth,
    – an aging, more needy population,
    – minimal GSP growth,
    – near zero population growth, and
    – AN INCREASE IN CO2, which proves, without any doubt, all these energy programs have been very expensive failures, some more so and others.

    Now they plan to spend quintuple, 5 times as much, in the name of fighting climate change, “meeting Paris”, or other such shibboleths. (Thanks for spell check.)

    There will be Committees of 21, 23, or whatever number, sitting in zoom meetings, “discussing”


    That is exactly how it is done in Norway with 60% of workers on a government payroll,

    Luckily, Norway found oil and gas, and it has been a bonanza ever since.
    No such bounty will ever come to Vermont.

    • “– near zero population growth,…”. This is incorrect. Vermont’s population growth is negative. The coming 10 year U.S. Census will show a nearly 1/2% decline in Vermont’s population. And for several past years Vermont has experienced greater deaths than births. The seeds of destruction of Vermont’s socialist movement is paradoxically found in its success: As it succeeds, the state of Vermont fails, ultimately leading to the failure of Vermont socialism.

      • Tom,

        Near-zero means plus 1/2 percent or minus 1/2 percent, over a period of 5 to 10 years

        Some states had 5 to 10 percent INCREASES, per recent census.

        Personally, I am in favor of a BIG DECREASE, because that would put much less stress on the environment.

        I think about 100,000 people would be more than enough for Vermont.

        Nice and quiet
        Little traffic.
        Trees and meadows everywhere
        Small towns

  4. Another important comparison is Vermont’s productivity index. Vermont’s per-capita GDP was $54,510 in 2019, which was $10,731 lower than the US average per-capita GDP. Even while Vermont’s GDP per capita is increasing, in fact, it’s the highest State GDP ever recorded, compared to an average per capita GDP of $65,241 in the U.S., Vermont still ranks dead last in the country. This is due in large part to the majority of Vermont’s workforce being employed by the government, healthcare and education sectors, as well has having the highest per capita non-profit organizations (twice the national average) in the country. All of these jobs are all greatly subsidized by taxpayers.

    Does the term ‘unsustainable’ ring a bell?

    • It’s little wonder, then, why those on ‘the Left’ of our political spectrum express such rabid support for more government, not less? It’s their livelihood… for now at least. But as the saying goes, while it’s easy for the Left to spend other people’s money, it will be interesting to see what happens when they run out of it.

      • Jay,

        On the the left you have the “have-nots”
        On the right you have the “haves”

        The lefties HAVE to pluck the right, because they do not KNOW how to make money in a private-enterprise manner.
        They likely majored in the wrong subjects while in College.

        All they need is the governmental POWER TO PLUCK.
        They will go to any lengths to get it and keep it, as was clear during the past election; it is existential careerism for them.

        • As I said, Willem, it will be interesting to see how they handle the killing of the goose that lays the golden eggs. If they think, for example, the plan cut to cut the pension shortfall (see previous TNR article), and keep defined benefits – isn’t pain-free, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    • Jay,

      You meant to write HOUSEHOLD income

      The Vermont cost of living index is about 20% higher than the US average.
      Any mention of VT household income should be adjusted for COL index

      Vermont Income Statistics

      The following data are the most current income statistics for Vermont from the US Census Bureau, are in 2019 inflation adjusted dollars and are from the American Community Survey 2019 5-year estimates.

      Median Household Income: $61,973.
      Average Household Income: $81,233.
      Per Capita Income: $34,577.
      5.5% of Households in Vermont are High Income Households that make over $200,000 a year.

      US Income Statistics

      In 2020, $68,400.00 was the median household income in the United States. This is up from $63,030.00 in 2019.

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