Flemming: Vermonters thrifty in spite of lower incomes, higher taxes and irresponsible legislators

By David Flemming

Vermonters are falling behind the rest of New England in terms of tax competitiveness and income growth. Thankfully, we haven’t used our legislators’ poor behavior as an excuse to live beyond our means.

Vermonters had a lower median household income than all other New England states, aside from Maine in 2017. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island all had median household incomes that exceeded Vermont by at least $3,000. You might think that such a huge gap in incomes might spell more bankruptcies in Vermont than elsewhere.


In fact, Vermonters are actually the least likely New Englanders to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcies were 64% more common among New Hampshirites than Vermonters in 2017.

This could be for any number of reasons: differences in costs of basic living expenses, differences in costs of “must have” luxuries that encourage living beyond one’s means, or strong family and community structures that encourage mutual support.

Despite mounting taxes and stagnant incomes, Vermonters are resilient. If I had to guess, we resist the urge to purchase shiny new baubles that others say will make our lives better. Accordingly, we pay less than interest on our debts than our neighbors. Our legislators like to pat themselves on the back for being virtuous public servants. But if our pension crisis created by our legislators is any clue, perhaps it is we, the working class Vermonters who exhibit greater fiscal virtue.

There is a world of difference between Vermont legislators and Vermonters in general. Despite an antagonistic business landscape which discourages income growth, despite higher taxes, despite our legislators willingness to spend our tax dollars on unnecessary baubles, despite all of that, we refuse to use such irresponsible behavior from “our brightest” as an excuse to buy debt-financed items that we don’t need. As households, we are more financially responsible than other New Englanders, and more financially responsible than our own legislators who hold the public purse.

It is time that our legislators learn that we, the taxpayers, know how to handle our money better than they ever could. They must regain our respect before they start asking for more tax dollars.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/401kcalculator.org

6 thoughts on “Flemming: Vermonters thrifty in spite of lower incomes, higher taxes and irresponsible legislators

  1. How’s this for a theory:

    The bankruptcy rate is lower than in a normal society because the pool of potential clients is smaller. A very significant percentage of Vermonters are living by means of multiple welfare programs, both Federal and State. They have little or no debt because they can’t get credit. Without debt there is neither the need nor the grounds to declare bankruptcy.
    Ah! Such a beatific existence.

  2. The problem lies in the fact that for the most part our legislators are FLAT LANDERS!!! They wouldn’t recognize a pure bead thrifty Vermonter if they ran into them. It truly is time for a change to get Vermont back on the track of fiscal responsibilty.

  3. Vermonter’s thrifty in spite of lower incomes, higher taxes, and irresponsible legislators !!

    Yes, most Vermonter’s live within there means, they drive a five or ten-year-old Vehicles,
    not an overpriced Tesla or Prius, in order to go to work to pay there ” High Taxes ” due to
    the rash of foolish Legislation like the ” Green New Deal ” and our fools support it !!

    Then we have our Socialist Senator, promoting Free College, Free Medical, Free everything
    maybe you’ll have to keep your current vehicle twenty or thirty years to pay for his foolishness
    if it passes Vermont’s Inspection Laws then !!

    Don’t forget, you vote these fools in.

    • Certainly it is not correct to say “you” vote these fools in. I have not voted for any of them, ever. But obviously the majority of Vermonters are voting for these arrogant spendaholics who know absolutely everything. The reason for this is the majority of voters derive a feeling of moral superiority by voting for the party they have been brainwashed into believing cares for us the most. The takeaway is that it is more important for them to feel good about themselves than it is to make informed, rational decisions about who should represent them. Also, having a thorough understanding of the issues, the candidates and the solutions is hard, and takes time. Vermont is now populated by a majority that votes in accordance with their feelings, not the rational side of their mind, so do not expect anything to change anytime soon. Not to worry. You can always enjoy reading about their folly from your new, low-tax state.

    • When a State, like Vermont, provides 42 separate give-away programs and when more than half the population receives assistance from one or more of those programs, do you honestly believe they’ll vote for a fiscally responsible person?

      The only solution for this State is for enough wage-earners to move out and let Montpelier drive the economy off the cliff. Eventually they’ll learn that saying about running out of other peoples’ money is accurate; they they can move on to ruin some other State.

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