Scheuermann: Vermont Republican Party – where to go from here

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Rep. Heidi E. Scheuermann, R-Stowe.

Imagine a political party that truly cares about Vermonters and their families – their struggles, their triumphs, their health and happiness, their economic success and prosperity; one that truly believes in individualism, individual liberties, and personal responsibility; and one that protects our children’s welfare and best interests.

Imagine a party that believes government has an important role to play – a critical role of providing security and safety, of investing in infrastructure, and of ensuring programs and resources are in place to help those in need. But this same party also believes that such a role should be limited – that government cannot, and should not, do everything.

Imagine a party that that truly cares about the careful stewardship of our environment; and one that puts the needs of Vermonters ahead of special interests and political supporters.

Vermont once had a political party that defined and lived all of these characteristics. Not long ago, Vermont had a party that fought for these values.

That party was the Republican Party, and it’s time to bring it back.

Of course, similar faults can be found in the Democratic Party, but that’s not my focus. I am a proud Republican and am no longer content to watch our party drift toward oblivion, and become irrelevant in the discussions about the direction of our great state. It is time we join together to reinvigorate, reinstitute, and revive the Republican Party in Vermont.

In recent years, proposal after proposal has been put forward that strip away our personal liberties and individual rights, and relegate personal responsibility to the back burner. At the same time, our state government has grown into something unrecognizable to our predecessors.

We need thoughtful, intelligent debate on the proposals put forward by others, yet instead of intelligent opposition, we sound lifeless and uninspiring – and sometimes idiotic, angry and petty.

Of course, similar faults can be found in the Democratic Party, but that’s not my focus. I am a proud Republican and am no longer content to watch our party drift toward oblivion, and become irrelevant in the discussions about the direction of our great state. It is time we join together to reinvigorate, reinstitute, and revive the Republican Party in Vermont.

These are important times, and we have serious issues to address. The Republican Party – and its traditional values of caring for those in need, believing in the free market system and individual liberties, caring about the environment, and ensuring all of our children have the best opportunities available – must be part of the discussion and solutions.

In order to do so, however, we need to change.

We need to understand that government is not the enemy of our ideas or of the people. Government is, and should be, an instrument of the people put in place to help those in need. The other party has convinced Vermonters that their vision and ideas are better. I disagree. Economic liberty and free enterprise, personal liberty and personal responsibility, and a limited, non-invasive government are the very ideals that help everyone, and are the ones proven to work.

Vermont Republicans have a proud and accomplished tradition. But it’s time to embrace the 21st century landscape. It’s time to start anew; to break down and rebuild ourselves around our core, timeless principles of liberty and responsibility. It’s time to acknowledge the demographic shift in Vermont; to understand Vermonters’ priorities are different, and their needs more complex. It’s time to become leaders.

Let’s open our hearts and minds and listen to the voices of Vermonters. Let’s speak out when we witness injustices. Let’s work together, within our party, and with those in other parties, so that the very best policies for our great state are enacted. And, let’s do it with compassion and understanding.

As a political party, we are down. But our voice is necessary and our ideals sound. This is not about the Republican Party. This is about the state of Vermont, and the needs of its people. This is our moment. Let’s embrace it.

Comments

  1. Excellent piece, well conceived and accurate. I grew up in a Vermont that was all Republican and, for the most part, acted on the values you expressed. Even though I am a Democratic independent, I believe strongly that the best social, economic and environmental solutions are the result of intelligent and respectful debate between parties with different viewpoints committed to finding a shared solution. We have lost that to some degree and both sides share in the blame. The Republican Party nationally has a long way back from the brink. The Vt Republican Party, however, need only recall its strong tradition of leadership and comity to again rebalance the debate in Montpelier.

  2. Brad Benedict :

    I think this a very well written, solid, statement. Vermont has had a tradition of politics which elect the leaders who best represent VERMONT. Thanks, Heidi…

  3. Ralph Colin :

    Well put, Heidi.

    Now the challenge is how organize to implement your suggestions to re-energise the Party and to make it more relevant. In the first instance, we must be able to agree on that before we can move forward. That discussion should start now!

  4. Until the Vermont Republican party stops using cliches such as “non-invasive government,” “personal responsibility,” and “individual liberty” to thwart any progressive legislation to remedy short comings of the private sector, such as health care reform, they will continue to be a party of less and less significance.
    Ms. Scheuermann’s party and its wealthy backers, for example, in their attempt to derail Act 48 and the goal of real health care reform have adopted a new cliche, “Patient Centered/Free Market” health care, terms that are mutually exclusive of each other.

    • Karl Riemer :

      Nicely put. Anyone who, all evidence being to the contrary, continues to believe (or claims to believe) our health care needs are best met by institutions motivated by profit also has far to travel back from the brink. We, at this time in this place, are more victimized and bamboozled by unscrupulous (often self-righteously unscrupulous) corporations than by any aspect of government. We, at this time in this place, would be better served by limits on insurance companies than by limits on government. If Vermont republicans want to reinvent themselves, begin by siding with us, and our government, instead of with them.

    • Jamal Kheiry :

      Mr. Kilcourse,

      Much depends on how you define a “shortcoming.” For those who lean politically leftward, the shortcoming of health insurance companies is that they deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, charge more for those who are likely to use more healthcare services, and other perceived offenses.

      But to those who lean politically rightward, health insurance companies are recognized as a way for people to pool their money so that major medical expenses don’t cause them financial hardship; if the companies accept everyone, regardless of how much they’re going to draw from this pool of money, then the system either collapses or becomes overly expensive for everyone.

      So criticizing health insurance companies for not covering everyone is like criticizing grocery stores for not being food banks; that’s simply not what they’re for. If we, as a compassionate society, want to make sure everyone gets the medical care they need, regardless of ability to pay, then what we need is a means-tested program to cover those who cannot afford it.

      Placing everyone in the same system simply to meet the needs of those who cannot afford it is a ham-fisted solution that creates myriad unintended consequences.

      • Michael Stevens :

        Mr. Kheiry,

        You assert that “if the companies accept everyone, regardless of how much they’re going to draw from this pool of money, then the system either collapses or becomes overly expensive for everyone” is directly contradicted by the Swiss system, which does in fact require private insurance companies accept everyone, and has prevented collapse due to a combination of subsidies and mandates to widen the insurance pool to all citizens.

        Similarly, you claim that “criticizing health insurance companies for not covering everyone is like criticizing grocery stores for not being food banks; that’s simply not what they’re for.” Is equally inaccurate, these companies exist to provide the public with a service, a service which is provided at less cost, with better results in every developed country in the developed world. If they cannot find a way to lower costs and provide everyone with decent healthcare, then we the people have a right to seek alternative means to achieve these ends.

        As for those who lean right, they seem to be categorically opposed to you proposed solution, namely the expansion of medicaid. From Mitt Romney to Ron Paul to Gary Johnson, the representatives of conservatives and libertarians seem absolutely determined to enact savage cuts to medicaid and/or replace it with block grants to states, many of which have governors who have vehemently opposed medicaid and suggested they might refuse the money and wash their hands of the program entirely.

        • Jamal Kheiry :

          Mr. Stevens,

          A significant difference between the U.S. healthcare system and those of other developed countries is how far advanced ours is compared to theirs. The vast majority of the world’s innovations in healthcare originate in the U.S., which means we are essentially a nation of first-adopters in this area. This means our system is far more expensive. However, I would contend it’s more expensive than it has to be due to the regulations we impose on insurance and healthcare industries limiting their need to compete with one another.

          Also, in terms of the outcomes, I don’t think it’s necessarily relevant that other nations have different mortality rates, infant survival rates etc., as the risk profile for the U.S. is dramatically different. It would be more instructive to look at survival rates and quality-of-life outcomes for those who are treated for cancer, heart disease, and other major maladies. I don’t know what such comparisons would reveal, by the way; I’m guessing they’d look a lot better for the U.S.

          • John Greenberg :

            Jamal:

            Comparative statistics by disease are available here: http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/coronary-heart-disease/by-country

            For heart disease, the US mortality rate is 80.5 per 100,000 which gives the US the 135th highest ranking out of 192 countries. For diabetes mellitus, it is 138th. For diarrheal diseases, 133rd. For all cancers, 58th.

            Long story short, your guess is clearly wrong. US mortality statistics compare poorly on a disease per disease basis.

            The fact remains that the US has the most expensive care in the world by far, but nowhere near the best results.

          • Jamal Kheiry :

            Mr. Greenberg,

            Thanks for that link – very interesting. I don’t think it’s correct to conclude that U.S. mortality stats compare poorly, as you note. On that list, there are many countries that have universal healthcare systems (see a list here: http://truecostblog.com/2009/08/09/countries-with-universal-healthcare-by-date/), but are far higher on the list in terms of mortality rates. I think the conclusion must be that there are many factors that determine mortality other than a nation’s healthcare system.

            Also, I was apparently not clear in what I was referring to in my post – I was referring to *treatment* outcomes of diseases, not survival rates for diseases, as these are very different things given treatment disparities within the U.S. among various populations (which of course goes back to the question of making healthcare accessible for everyone at the most reasonable possible cost).

          • Lee Russ :

            “The vast majority of the world’s innovations in healthcare originate in the U.S., which means we are essentially a nation of first-adopters in this area. This means our system is far more expensive.”

            Well, I don’t know if the majority of healthcare innovations are from America, but even if that is true, I doubt that explains the cost of care here.

            First, most drug and device companies are now multinational. How does that fit into your theory?

            Second, it is a fact that drug companies sell the exact same drugs for less money in other countries than they charge for them in the US, AND many still manage to shift much of their profits to other countries, depriving the US of the corporate income tax on those profits.

            Third, an increasing number of drugs, and probably devices, result from research carried out by universities which often receive funding from the US government, only to sell the marketing rights to private companies without even reimbursing the US government for its contribution to the innovation.

            Firth, health care is mostly a necessity. Its price elasticity is minimal. The usual, traditional (and often wrong) economic theories about how the free market will affect price simply do not work in this field.

      • Lee Russ :

        The complaint from what you consider the left is not that insurance companies don’t cover everyone;it is that insurance is a misguided mechanism for attempting to provide health care to a nation’s citizens. A major reason that it is a misguided mechanism is precisely because the insurer’s motives and goals are absolutely contradictory to the goal of people having access to health care when it is needed.

        We can either replace the mechanism of insurance (my choice) or we can make the insurance mechanism bend its natural purposes in order to accomplish the goal of providing care, or we can stick with the current system (hardly anybody’s choice any more).

        In short, we–all of us, not some of us–need health CARE not health INSURANCE.

  5. Dave Bellini :

    If you think state government is too big, please list specifically what programs and positions should be eliminated. When I hear politicians call for smaller state government I challenge them to be precise and specific about what should be eliminated. The answer is always the same: SILENCE. So besides the GMCB, what departments should be cut and where? What is state government doing that you want them to stop doing?

    • Jamal Kheiry :

      Mr. Bellini,

      I suspect you get the response of silence because politicians are loath to go on record with a recommendation that could be distorted by advocacy groups, which tend to characterize suggested program cuts as tantamount to throwing a program’s beneficiaries under a bus.

      Not being a politician, I have provided a few suggestions below – mostly functions that either shouldn’t be handled by the government at all, or could be handled by private enterprises or civil societal organizations.

      Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs
      Arts Council
      Center for Justice Research
      Office of the Chief Marketing Officer
      Agency of Commerce and Commercial Development
      Economic Development Authority
      Electrical Board
      Elevator Board
      Film Commission
      Commission on the Future of Economic Development
      Health Care Reform
      Division for Historic Preservation
      Historical Society
      Housing Finance Agency
      Liquor Control
      Lottery Commission
      Commission on National and Community Service
      Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
      Office of Professional Regulation
      Scenic Preservation Council
      Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board
      Department of Tourism and Marketing
      Vermont Life magazine

  6. walter carpenter :

    “health insurance companies are recognized as a way for people to pool their money so that major medical expenses don’t cause them financial hardship; if the companies accept everyone, regardless of how much they’re going to draw from this pool of money, then the system either collapses or becomes overly expensive for everyone.”

    Jamal, it would be nice if this were true, but the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, and so on down the line, do not work in this way. Having insurance through private health insurance is no guarantee against financial hardship: claim denials, refused procedures, huge premiums and deductibles, and so on. Insurance companies exist to make money. Whether profit or non-profit, this is their first priority.

    Your comment about “if the companies accept everyone, regardless of how much they’re going to draw from this pool of money,” is also an excellent argument for the need for single-payer. Single-payer is a single pool of all of us, spreading the risk throughout the population, not just to a select few subscribers. Jerry said it best here, about the insurance industry and the Vermont Republican Party: “Ms. Scheuermann’s party and its wealthy backers, for example, in their attempt to derail Act 48 and the goal of real health care reform have adopted a new cliche, “Patient Centered/Free Market” health care, terms that are mutually exclusive of each other.”

  7. Lee Russ :

    What is it that Rep. Scheuermann is recommending for the Republican Party? If its civility and cooperation, kudos to her, but it’s far from clear that this is what she means.

    If listening to the voices of Vermonters would be a change in behavior, shame on the party and its members. If speaking out upon witnessing injustices would be a change in behavior, shame on them again.

    I suspect that the real problem of the Republican party in Vermont is not that they don’t listen to Vermonters’ voices, but that they disagree with most of those voices, and that they disagree precisely because of the core beliefs of the party concerning the role of government, what can and cannot be accomplished through free market principles, and exactly what “liberty” and “responsibility” mean.

    • Jamal Kheiry :

      Mr. Russ,

      I think you’ve hit upon the core issue: the simple fact that Vermont is overwhelmingly liberal and inclined to favor collective action through government rather than outside of it. It’s entirely possible that no amount of additional clarity from, or reform of, Republicans and/or other non-liberals will change electoral outcomes in the state. It seems clear that Vermont is what its people want it to be.

  8. Todd McCosco :

    OUTSTANDING!! I am A Republican and am very proud of your letter.

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