We must challenge austerity efforts in Vermont; there is no question in my mind on this. For me, as a legislator, this would mean standing up to any budget cutting efforts that would negatively affect the needs of Vermonters, up to and including voting against the final budget. We must invest in our communities and in our people if we truly want to fight income inequality and be economically prosperous and successful as a state. It is long past time for Republicans and Democrats alike to stop balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and most vulnerable Vermonters.
Beyond a people’s budget, the legislature can take many other actions to fight back about against the growing wealth and income inequality. The number one action is raising the minimum wage to a living wage, which is calculated to be least $15 an hour in Vermont. We must also work to make it easier for workers to unionize and harder for employers to punish, directly or indirectly, employees who seek to form unions. We also must take a hard look at the many state tax loopholes in Vermont that benefit only the wealthy, with little to no economic gain for the state or its people.
The best way for the government to create jobs right now would be to raise the minimum wage, in order to stimulate the economy. The government should also be working to create jobs, rather than continuously trying to cut them in existing or new government agencies and programs. Tax cuts for the rich and other efforts that benefit only the wealthy, as well as austerity budgeting, have done nothing to create jobs or improve the economy. It’s time we moved past the outdated neoliberal idea of trick ledown economics. It simply doesn’t work.