The political picture is a lot less clear than most people believe, and that applies to Vermont as well as it does nationally, the reason being that the havoc wreaked by Covid-19 is not fully understood and voters are, by nature, fickle. States are just now budgeting for the next year and who gets support and who doesn’t will play out in November. Voters will judge for themselves who acted in their best interests.

This understanding makes it all the more puzzling, and maddening, to watch as Republicans and Democrats in Congress make additional aid to states a political issue. Republicans in particular — led by their president — are leery of giving more money to states controlled by Democrats saying it would be throwing good money after bad, as if Republican states are better managed.

So Vermont, with one of the nation’s best bond ratings, isn’t?

The argument is as dysfunctional as an argument can get. It exists because Congressional politics is a name of numbers. In the Senate, where much of this dysfunction is taking place, there are 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents. Republicans need a simple majority to prevail on most issues and they look at issues in ways that support their majority.

But the politics that drive Washington are most often not the same politics that drive state governments. Vermont, for example, is a deep blue state, but it has a Republican governor. Vermont is also more fiscally conservative than is commonly believed, hence our bond rating. These contradictions are in play in many of our states and, as is often asked, if a state is considered Republican red, but just less than 50 percent of the voters vote for Democrats, is that state not in play for Democrats? And wouldn’t voters in blue states be open to Republican ideas if they meant being helped?

As history shows, of course they would.

This is why it makes absolute no sense for Republicans to block aid to the states because of political identification. They are shutting themselves out.

As the depth of the recession becomes fully appreciated, it will also become painfully apparent states are going to need far more help than what has already been approved. Those who need help, including hospitals, transportation departments, schools, etc., don’t wear political labels. But those who are helped, are going to remember who did the work.

Which raises the obvious question: Why wouldn’t Republicans want to take credit for improving the lives of voters in Democratic states? If politics is about numbers, why would they not do what’s necessary to keep these states running and then take credit?

Here’s the thing: if states are left to their own limited resources, they may be forced to choose between cutting jobs for teachers, police officers, health care workers and state employees. As the pain trickles down, these same choices could be felt at the local level in other skills.

Once jobs are lost, they are slow to come back. Some never will. If this loss is prevented, the upside is more quickly established, which means states would be closer to recovering lost revenue. Much of this will happen before the November vote.

To not recognize this is the true mark of dysfunction.

by Emerson Lynn

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