Keelan: whoever we send to Washington, make sure they bring back money

by Don Keelan

Vermont has a collection of candidates seeking to represent the State in Washington next January. Today, they are campaigning in each corner of the State, presenting their position on dozens of issues. 

It is disappointing that the candidates are not addressing the most critical reason why Vermont sends its top three congressional candidates to Washington: to bring back federal money. 

Don Keelan

Money flowing from Washington to Vermont is equivalent to what blood is to the body. If not restored, any measurable decrease is fatal. 

Knowing a candidate’s position on the front page issues of the day is worthwhile. What matters is how a candidate proposes to bring back to Vermont the hundreds of millions of dollars Vermont needs to function.

Specifically, how will the candidate(s) cozy up to their 532 non-Vermont colleagues in the House and Senate? Without such support for Vermont’s needs, our State could face catastrophic fiscal conditions. I am not just referencing earmark funds, of which $200 plus million for Vermont was announced in early August.

Senator Patrick Leahy was a legend in accomplishing such feats. He will be remembered more for the dollars he brought back to Vermont than any specific piece of legislation he sponsored, co-sponsored, or committee chaired. 

There is no hyperbole: throughout Vermont, there are buildings, attractions, and events that bear the Senator’s name—only exceeded by his former colleague in the Senate from West Virginia, the late Senator Robert Byrd. 

It is strictly an American tradition: the taxpayers pay for the project, but the politician gets their name on the building. Oh well, not important! 

For some, it might be news, but Vermont cannot function financially without vast sums of cash from Washington. Some projections put the annual amount at around eight billion dollars. It is not just to fund the state government but also a large number of funds–aside from Social Security and Medicaid payments–pass through State agencies to Vermont-based nonprofits. 

For example, the Vermont Council on Aging, which has five regional centers, oversees Meals on Wheels. Before the five councils get their annual funding, the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) must determine the distribution to Vermont from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although the focus of this column is not on bureaucracy, it is interesting (and disappointing) to see all the “hands” that handle the four dollars and change for a daily senior meal.  

After 48 years in Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy’s retirement announcement was a cataclysmic strike for Vermont. The second shoe will drop when we hear Senator Sanders is ready to come home. Soon, 79 years of seniority on Capitol Hill will have evaporated. Then where are we?

Vermont has tragically allowed itself to become financially dependent on Washington. Even local police departments can’t purchase body cameras unless they procure funding from the U.S Department of Justice. 

It’s not the U.S. Senate and House of Representative candidates’ positions on issues that matter, but how they bring the dollars so many State agencies and nonprofit organizations annually depend on back to Vermont. How will Vermont receive $100 million to clean up Lake Champlain? Or get millions to build new wastewater lines throughout Vermont’s towns and cities? That is what is essential.  

When our representatives arrive in Washington, they will be up against an army of lobbyists–at last count, about 12,000; many of whom will be stalking the halls of Congress seeking funds for their constituents, the other 49 states. 

The folks we send to Washington act as conduits,  defined by Google as “a person or organization that acts as a channel for the transmission of something.” In Vermont’s case, the transmission of money.          

The author is a U.S. Marine (retired), CPA, and columnist living in Arlington, VT.

Categories: Commentary

9 replies »

  1. Just another reason for “term limits”. If the Senate had a two term limit as the Presidency does, that would mean Seniority and the “pork” that it generates would be less of an issue, and isn’t 12 years enough time for anybody to become swampified, and rendered a defacto elected bureaucrat ? No one should be allowed to become that entrenched in Washington !

    • 100% agree Patrick Finnie; I have to wonder if 1 term is enough….it is 6 yrs…..after all……….tired of this rat pack running the show……and hurting all of us while padding their pockets and future…….sick of it

  2. Unfortunately, in today’s DC political climate, Keelan’s words ring true. Doubly unfortunate that the heir (welch) and heiress apparent to welch’s congressional seat, balint will fit right into that democrat/socialist atmosphere- advocating for ESG, Social justice and the like- without remembering to represent all of Vermont, not just those of the donor class that paid to get them elected.
    Sadder yet- is that Vermont will indeed suffer by virtue of the reductions in federal spending heading for Vermont. Four decades of Vermont government spending were predicated by what jeffords, leahy and sanders sent to Vermont as handouts. We are about to see how the socialists react to cuts in the pork. Or, as Margaret Thatcher is attributed: “The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other peoples money”

  3. It is sobering to read advocacy for pork dollars.

    Vermont received $10.16 billion dollars in so-called pandemic-relief funding, or $16,285 per person. That ranked Vermont as #2 in per person COVID dollar “assistance” from the federal government.

    At the beginning of relief funding if you were a renter you could call and say I cannot pay my rent. No problem says the State we have pandemic relief dollars to cover you! Any paperwork needed to prove the renter was unable to pay. Nope.

    Every dollar of pandemic relief funds was either borrowed by the US government on global capital markets or created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve by pushing buttons on a keyboard. Both count as federal debt.

    Aggregate federal debt is now $31 Trillion dollars, up 444% since the year 2000!

    That debt is the legacy adults are leaving to society’s children. I call it economic rape of society’s children.

    So when Pat Leahy proudly proclaims he is bringing home the bacon, he is also proudly proclaiming he is economically assaulting the future of society’s children. That is not something I would be proud of (and probably why I am not a politician).

    It is all about immediate gratification, a cancer that defines all too many Americans.

  4. This is what is to be expected from states that embraces Socialism. They lose self-sufficiency and self-respect and forfeit their freedom.

  5. Golly, since when has the money sent to the states the feds? Last I knew it is paid to them, or printed creating more inflation. Vermont has had a looming financial crisis for years. Might be because they can’t live within a budget. Time for the Federal government and Vermont balance their budgets.

  6. Vermont will have to go on a financial diet. If we can’t support programs, and many of them questionable as to if they are a good use of funds, then we need to eliminate programs and subsidies. Soon enough the U.S. government will run out of money. The solution is not to tax we the people more, the solution is to stop spending what you haven’t got.

  7. More $$$$$ for more, unending social programs! Vermont is going to save the world…you’ll see! Maybe even the entire universe!

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