Democrats losing heart

October 31, 2014

Valley News

There seems to be a growing trend of Democratic politicians in Vermont preparing the ground rhetorically for a retreat from the state’s commitment to true universal health care. I first noticed this at the People’s Forum on Human Rights and the Economy held in Hartford on Oct. 16, where several Windsor County politicians expressed their love for universal health care in theory, while sounding uncomfortably vague, even fiscally conservative, on questions like how it would be paid for and what it would cover. Asked whether they would support a financing plan which meets our health needs and is funded through progressive taxes instead of out-of-pocket costs, most refused to take a position until Gov. Shumlin releases his proposal, which conveniently won’t happen until after the elections. I left the event in no way confident that they’ll stand firm against attempts to scale the program back in the coming months.

I was incredibly disappointed to find my own representative, Sarah Buxton (D-Tunbridge), echoing this line of thought. As this paper reported on Oct. 26 (“Familiar Rivals: Buxton, Ainsworth Square Off Again for Royalton-Tunbridge Seat”), she stated in a recent debate that she has “deep reservations about our capacity to manage a complex health care system” and expressed doubts that the outcome will be a single-payer system.

I have no intention of voting for her Republican opponent, ultra-conservative perennial candidate David Ainsworth, who outright opposes universal health care and has been trying to scare elderly voters into thinking Democrats want to take away their Medicare. But I see no reason to support Rep. Buxton either, if the best I can hope for from her is a watering down of the state’s ground-breaking achievement in passing Act 48 in 2011.

Kevin Wagner
The writer is a state committee member of the Vermont Progressive Party.