Peter Miller: Cold weather, hard state

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Peter Miller, who is a photographer and author who recently published “A Lifetime of Vermont People,” a collection of photos and stories on rural Vermonters created over the past 63 years. He is 80 years old and lives in Colbyville.

Cold penetrates my neck, creeps down my backbone, seeps into my limbs … cold … I am cold … my arms … fingers … toes.

Thirty days of below zero weather since December, not counting March … another eight or 10? I wear socks, flannel pajamas and sometimes a sweater when I slip under the wool blanket and duvet in my unheated bedroom. Like so many others in this state, my house is frigid as I cannot afford to keep the thermostat above 60 and I turn it down at night, and then make sure the faucets are dripping. Yes, I have suffered frozen pipe syndrome. I insulate, I conserve, I do what I can, but the energy costs are ever more each year. This winter I have spent, so far, close to $5,000 on fuel oil, propane and firewood. I am only warm when I sit in front of my wood stove. Yes, I live in an old house, as do so many Vermonters.

The temperature soars to just under 50, then like a burst bubble, dips to 10 below, sometimes in a day. The snow-rain-sleet blends into a porridge that flows onto roads and sidewalks, settles on walking paths and invades garages; by alchemy it smooths into the hated black ice.

Sometimes it is too cold for salt to melt the ice spread on roads. Cars slither down ditches and burrow into snow banks. Lawyers are off the mark with fistfuls of torts for those with fractured wrists, elbows, shoulders, cracked hips and ribs. Concussions too. Yes it is a slip and fall type of winter and hospitals harbor many of these injuries; nine people attached to broken wrists sought succor one day at a Burlington ER.

Fire and ice … the cold that freeze-sucks my body is matched by the heat it creates in the belly of my psyche — the heat of anxiety. After all this, how am I going to pay my bills?

This anxiety attack hit hard when I, and many homeowners throughout Vermont, received our property tax bills last summer and we saw the increase in the homestead education tax. That bill might as well have stamped on it: “You cannot afford Vermont!” (34 towns turned down their school budget this past Town Meeting Day. I was lucky I am so poor for I received for last year a hefty payback. Still, I’m behind.)

This past fall I was traveling through Vermont, delivering my new book to bookstores and talking to strangers. People told me they placed their homes for sale or had seen their neighbors put up for sale signs right after the tax bill was in the mailbox.

I talked to a young woman who lives in Wolcott. “My husband and I both work, but I don’t know how we can make it.” Worry lines were creasing her forehead and puckering her natural beauty.

“We recently retired,” said a friend who is now a clerk in a bank. “We don’t have as much work and our retirement funds are not enough to live here anymore. We have to move. Vermont is not what it used to be.”

“My house has been on the market for a year and no one has made an offer,” said a store clerk. He frowned, and looked away to something only he could see. “I want to leave but I have to sell first.”

Bleak it is. Vermont property taxes are rated among the top 10 most expensive in the country. This week in Vermont the average cost of fuel oil is $3.92 a gallon (17 cents below average); propane $4.34 a gallon ($1.17 above average); gasoline, $3.59 a gallon (eight cents higher in Waterbury); electricity (17.05 cents per kilowatt hour, fourth highest in continental U.S.). Food costs keep climbing in this “… one of the 20 coldest years in U.S. history.”

A friend in New Mexico pays a property tax of $1,400 for their abode home and it is appraised at half a million and could be sold for more. When they lived in Middlesex, Vermont, they paid $3,900 property tax on a house they sold for $150,000. Another refugee Vermonter living in Florida tells me if I sold and bought and lived in his community, I would save over $5,000 a year in living costs. “You can’t afford to own a house in Vermont,” he said, “You now support those who rent, on welfare and town and state employees who have a helluva lot more benefits than you.”

Many of us “new poor folk” are independent Vermonters, meaning we work for ourselves. Creative people (I’m a writer and photographer), mom and pop owners of village stores, people who work the woods or land, carpenters, landscapers, repair people — these are the Vermonters who crafted Vermont and gave it a flavor so different from most of America. Many of us are bereft of any lifeline — associations, lobbyists and public relations firms. Bankers don’t like our sporadic cash flow. We are the grunts of Vermont.

I’m suggesting that we need to embrace the democratic principles of governance by the people — legislators need to hear our stories so they can make informed governmental decisions on funding during their sessions in Montpelier.

 

Many a Vermonter has a certain foreboding of their future and it is evidenced by the ads and edit you see in Vermont Life and Vermont Magazine. Most of us can’t think of buying some of the lush windows and kitchens shown in ads. Luxury homes and their gardens are marvelously photographed and landscaped. Then there are the magazines that advertise estates for sale that run from $900,000 to $3 million or more. The thrust here appears to be that Vermont wants the newcomers with big bucks and then hit them with a property-education tax that makes them shed dollars like melting snowflakes, but hey, many a new Vermonter can afford it.

“What are we going to do, just work for a bunch of wealthy people?” said the son of a farmer who sold his farm. “We can’t afford to buy a home or land in the town we grew up in.”

But there is also a light side. One new homeowner in Stowe who bought fancy digs was talking to his landscaper (he mows the lawn, plows the garden and the driveway) and pointed to a neatly stacked woodpile of about three cords. “That wood looks shabby. Do you think you could get rid of it?” he asked the landscaper.

He looked at it and thought, hmmm, it’s been there three years, good hardwood … maple and beech … worth about $300 a cord mid-winter. … “Yes, sir, I can haul those logs away and you know what, I won’t even charge you a cent!”

Banks have often turned their back on the self-employed and some frown on approving loans for older people, unless their assets are quickly convertible. Many independent Vermonters have switched their banking to credit unions. And did you see there are more restrictions on your home insurance plan?

I love Vermont — have ever since I moved here in 1947. I love the hillside farmers I have met, the beauty of the land. I have written five books on Vermont that are recognized as classics on rural Vermont. I have been recognized as Vermonter of the Year and honored by the Vermont State Legislature and the U.S. Senate for my documentation of rural Vermont. “I am a treasure to Vermont,” I was told, “You can’t move away.”

I don’t want to leave Vermont that has been such a large part of my life and soul but I cannot afford to live in Vermont, own a home and pay property taxes and support the money our towns and state say they need so they can support me. I see our mountains becoming billboards for subsidized wind turbines. A Canadian firm owns our two largest power companies; other businesses are interested in pipeline and transmission stations to send energy through Vermont not to Vermont.

We need a return to the values that made this state free in thinking and bound by a common unity of spirit. I’m suggesting that we need to embrace the democratic principles of governance by the people — legislators need to hear our stories so they can make informed governmental decisions on funding during their sessions in Montpelier.

Wishful thinking, and meanwhile … many creative people have given up and taken salaried positions. Rob Hunter, the director of Frog Hollow, which is located in Burlington and is Vermont’s leading gallery for craft and art, reports a number of artists stopped paying dues as they cannot afford to create art they can’t sell. True, it is tough all over for creative people. The copyright is under attack. New business models created by CEOs with the expectations that every intellectual property is as free as the Internet has crippled the photography, illustration, writing and music creators. The effect reverberates. With the money crunch, buying artwork is not an option for average Vermonters. I put off repairing my car and winterizing my house because I need to pay taxes and fuel oil.

The Central Vermont Community Action Council’s weatherization group was going to winterize my old house and lower my heating costs 15 percent, they said. So a flock of them finally showed up, white-suited and wearing helmets — look-alike astronauts. They found Vermiculite that I put in the attic over 30 years ago.

“It has asbestos in it,” the boss said. “We don’t work in houses like these,” and they left. White suits and helmets marched out. He promised I would get a sample testing of the Vermiculite. I never did. (However, CVCAC did install a new fuel oil furnace in my cellar that burns as much fuel oil as my old one but doesn’t leak carbon monoxide.)

Alpine skiing, my favorite sport, is too expensive and new Vermonters have posted most of the land I used to bird hunt on. Instead of thinking of new book projects, I repair my house, shovel snow and spread salt, haul firewood, because of the cost of gas don’t drive around the state looking for photographs or people to talk to, argue with the companies who charge me too much on those monthly costs, stare aghast at my shrinking income but I thank god for Medicare.

We self-employed Vermonters grumble but we have carried on and every so often we remember that we live in beauty. That’s the Vermont Way and I think it is coming to an end.

This tome started out as a rant but it is not. It is a fact and a warning that perhaps the people who run this state have shot themselves in the foot.

My house, according to one real estate agent, is over appraised by a large amount and this is true for many homeowners. Our old homes were built large to hold families and farmworkers and usually had little or no insulation. When houses are reappraised lower will the towns raise taxes or lower salaries or cut staff? It is getting to the point that self employed Vermonters might do better going on the dole and using state and federal funds to pay their bills.

Back to the effects of a cold, cold winter … the cold that travels down my backbone — that seesawing of temperatures — is here to stay, says Roger Hill, our knowledgeable northern Vermont meteorologist. (www.weatheringheights.com)

Roger gave me the statistics on minus zero days this winter in my region. Roger went on to say this cold — ice, flooding and blizzards — according to a study at Rutgers University, is likely to become a constant for residents of Canada, North America and Britain. The high altitude jet stream, a river of air, is sucked up north. As the Arctic temperatures are rising rapidly, more so than the rest of the world, the jet stream slows down and creeps over the polar region, sucking up cold from the arctic sea that is no longer ice-capped so it is not reflecting back the heat of the sun. The meteo-techies feel the cold jet stream is going to hover over our small state for a while.

I love my home state but I can’t afford to own my house and now I hear rents are way too high too. Well, my old house is an anachronism and so am I. I have to minimize or go off the grid. I do have an out, and it is my 18-foot, 45-year-old Airstream trailer, but damn it makes my Jeep overindulge at the gas pump.

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64 Comments on "Peter Miller: Cold weather, hard state"

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Matt Fisken
1 year 10 months ago

This piece could be channeling Noel Perrin or Elliot Merrick. Nice writing about the tough life in Vermont.

Bill Olenick
1 year 10 months ago

Good piece indeed,
The Apache Indians had a form of torcher called ,”Death by 1000 cuts” and what you,Mr.Miller and many others in VT are experiencing, is Death by 1000 government workers.
As long as the good people of Vermont keep electing self righteous leadership, who can not see past the ends of their collective noses, it will only get worse.

Bradford Little
1 year 10 months ago

Very well said! There needs to a balance between idealism and reality, between want and ability to afford, between individualism and the good of the group. If Vermont were attractive to business, or , retirees by the multitudes, or had vast natural resources, or , enticed large numbers of vacationers ( as it once did) or if private agriculture was still the “backbone of America”…..we would not be having this discussion. Property tax is the worst abomination…..it taxes inanimate non income producing stuff regardless of the income of the owner and it is income that determines anyone’s ability to pay… Read more »

1 year 10 months ago

If our children, or someone’s children, were actually receiving a decent education and their way being paved into a future full of opportunity and possibility as a result, some of this would be easier to bear. When I look at the pay and benefits our unionized and collectivized teachers receive, and the mountain of money that “OUR” Legislature itself chews through and the generous benefits legislators have voted for themselves, I want to tell Peter to take Old Betsy down off the wall before Bird Season this year and oil her up! There’s varmits in the garden! We need to… Read more »

Anders Christiansen
1 year 10 months ago
Meg Streeter
1 year 10 months ago

This is very moving and well said. I’ve long admired Peter Miller’s books and the way his photos capture the uniqueness of people, especially old timers. I am stunned to know that the man who creates such beauty is not living comfortably and warmly at age 80. His comments reflect the many issues we Vermonters face if we continue on our current course..

Jeffrey Marshall
1 year 10 months ago

There is almost nothing the state of Vermont can do about the high cost of food, oil, propane, or electricity. This is Vermont. It’s cold, we’re at the long end of just about every pipeline. We have no economic clout and we never will. I dislike the property tax too, but I’ll gladly pay my share so that starving artists like Mr. Miller, whom I greatly admire, don’t have to pay so much.

Patricia Crocker
1 year 10 months ago

Mr. Marshall, I believe what Mr. Miller is saying here is that he doesn’t want your money. He just wants to keep more of his own money, and he wants you to keep more of your money, and everyone to keep more of their money. The best way to pay for roads, schools, police, etc is to have a healthy economy, where people have jobs and are working and paying fair taxes. When you start overtaxing businesses and the wealthy, they leave. It’s already happening. Mr. Miller captured the way so many people are feeling. I can certainly relate. My… Read more »

Peg Coutermarsh
1 year 10 months ago

Very well said. It hurts deeply to see your words of so much truth. My husband and I are native Vermonters and as soon as our property sells we will take our skills and money and permanently leave the state we grew up in, got schooled in and buried our loved ones. We have fallen out of love with irresponsible government and a runaway legislature. Do you remember the bumper sticker: “Endangered Species, Working Vermonter.”

Ann Stanton
1 year 10 months ago

Ms. Crocker and others, I am a native New Mexican and have paid big taxes first in NY state and now in VT to live elsewhere. There’s a reason the taxes are low there and in Texas; primarily, there are no social services to speak of. Money is made by drug-running (Breaking Bad is not all fiction). Business doesn’t stay away from VT bcs of high taxes but bcs there is a tiny population here (no market and big transportation costs). Rich people don’t leave bcs of high taxes. Let’s see real data instead of anecdotes and emotions. I agree… Read more »

Patricia Crocker
1 year 10 months ago

Ms. Stanton, with all due respect, when IBM and Dealer.com are telling the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that they are having a hard time staying in this state, you know there is something wrong. “We could move our operations to California quickly…” They were not happy about the prospect of the impact of Single Payer Healthcare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t32jcxtTpV0 I have siblings living in very nice and beautiful states, paying much less in taxes, lower cost of living. VT now has a huge Heroin Problem, so I guess those drugs that you speak of in Texas have made their way north.… Read more »

Patricia Crocker
1 year 10 months ago

This is utter nonsense. Many business leaders have been explicit in naming high taxes for staying away. That is the primary reason why IBM built its 300mm “Fab 2000” in Fishkill NY, rather than expand the existing site here in Vermont, which was the plant that was on the cutting edge of technological innovation in the semiconductor industry. Despite this obvious advantage, we lost out to FishKill NY mostly because the taxes are too high here. IBM went from 8,500 workers to the shell it is today. Instead of the downsizing and road to obsolescence that the Vermont plant is… Read more »

Kim Fried
1 year 10 months ago

Thank you for writing exactly how so many Vermonters are now feeling about the state that they love so very much. Your’re warnings are not being heard at all in Montpelier and a “return to values that made this state” is not even understood in our State House by the majority of Senators and Representatives that only follow the politics of their party and consider you, me and many, many other Vermont citizens a nuisance. Destroying the ridgelines with industrial wind turbines and driving away the citizens that love Vermont the most does not bode well for the future of… Read more »

John Donovan
1 year 10 months ago

Amen bro! My brother living in Colorado owns property that is valued similar to ours and pays one-tenth the property taxes we do.

Sandy Gregg
1 year 10 months ago

This should be required reading by every elected official in Vermont starting with our governor. Thank you for this observation… You are not alone.

Janice Prindle
1 year 10 months ago

Bless you, Mr. Miller, for your lifetime of fine work and your moving words here. I can honestly say I know exactly what you’re struggling with, if that’s any comfort. It’s my struggle too. And after all you’ve done for Vermont, I too find it appalling that you should find your life and your work so compromised by poverty. Don’t blame this on teachers, Mr. Morisseau! They are not rolling in dough as you suggest, and their hard-earned salaries are not the reason for the high taxes. (Which teachers pay as well.) Schools are like every other employer, they too… Read more »

Paul Donovan
1 year 10 months ago

Thank you, Ms. Prindle; teachers are not to blame, any more than “new Vermonters”, “welfare” recipients, or state employees. Census figures show that those who are moving to Vermont are young and well-educated. Labor statistics show that state employees have lower salaries on the whole than private sector employees, even when including their benefits. Villifying those “usual suspects” serves only to maintain the status quo, while alienating those who should be our allies.

Tatum Sinclair
1 year 10 months ago

Thank you.

Tom Haviland
1 year 10 months ago

“Mr. Miller’s problem, and all of our problems, are really part of a pattern of growing income inequality in the U.S.”

This is exactly it. Our wages are not increasing, but our costs, and the state’s costs, are. Those at the top hoover up new wealth like the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ on a coke binge.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-02/top-1-got-93-of-income-growth-as-rich-poor-gap-widened.html

Patricia Crocker
1 year 10 months ago

Envy, one of the “seven deadly sins”, is just as bad as greed. I remember when people used to admire people who achieved the American dream and this caused them to aspire to success. This country was founded on equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. I’m tired of the “eat the rich” and entitlement mentality that seems to be so pervasive nowadays. The people who stoke the flames, like Bernie Sanders, are the very same people who empower the crony capitalists. How do you think Bernie Sanders became a millionaire? And he’s always thumping his chest and crying about… Read more »

Candy Moot
1 year 10 months ago

Great truth here. And for me, usually an optimist, the future looks bleak. Vermont was also ranked one of the 5th worst states to retire in (from a financial perspective). And if wealthy people (the top 5% of the tax payers) still pay 90% of the income taxes in this state, they can easily cross the Connecticut River or move to Florida for six months and a day. We’re not wealthy, but we are retired and that’s our plan. People aren’t stupid, and money usually goes where it’s treated the best.

1 year 10 months ago

This is not only one of the most effective commentaries I have read in years, it is also beautifully written and reads like an elegy. Many thanks Peter for your aesthetic contributions to Vermont which celebrate and enrich our communities, your innate understanding of Vermonters, your art, and your good humor. I, too, moved here in 1947.
Bill Schubart

James Leopold
1 year 10 months ago

Peter,
Thank you for your eloquent commentary on life and taxes in Vermont.

And thank you for your wonderful photos of our beautiful state and it’s people.

virgiinia burgess
1 year 10 months ago

I had JUST posted similar sad comments on facebook and read this subsequently. I am heartsick at the thought of leaving my physical and spiritual home! Choices are limited and becoming more so. Thanks Peter!

John Grady
1 year 10 months ago

http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2014/03/26/vermont-13th-expensive-state-renters-report-says/ http://www.modularhomeplace.com/modular-prices.html Vermont could address multiple problems by giving tax breaks to the construction of low cost small energy efficient 1 and 2 bedroom cottages that are used by full time residents of the state. They would use less energy, the property taxes wouldn’t be much on them. Add supply to the housing market and the cost of rent goes down. It also gives people the option to avoid rentals that aren’t energy efficient. A 800 square foot cottage at $50 a square foot is $40,000 plus the cost of a building lot and hooking up utilities, septic, drill a… Read more »

Phil Bronz
1 year 10 months ago

Henry Ford also doubled the wages earned by his workers so, he reasoned, people could afford to buy his cars. Revolutionary at that time.

Rickey Gard Diamond
1 year 10 months ago

Thank you, Peter Miller. This writing matches your splendid art. And thank you, Jan, for your wider perspective. Government is part of the problem, but here in Vermont at least, it can still be part of the solution. I’m struck too by the overwhelming sense at the Statehouse of everybody feeling broke–it’s a symptom not only of U.S. wealth inequality, but a worldwide inequities, and a political process more and more bought and sold behind closed doors. Peter’s call for old ideals of Vermont democracy are well placed–and frankly, I think it should start with a state bank. Why send… Read more »

Anita Lefteroff
1 year 10 months ago

Is there room in the Airstream for two?

larry potwin
1 year 10 months ago

My dads family had 15 kids living in vt..The kids all had chores and a lot to do on the farm..Each depended on the other to do there part..What do kids have to do today? Watch tv and play games online..
I was lucky because he taught me to ride a pony at age 5,shoot a gun at age 7,drive a tractor at 9,cut with a chainsaw at 14,grow my own food,raise my own meat. Real vermonters can do anything and take care of themselves but no one is passing along the life style..

1 year 10 months ago

I am amazed at the comments on my words but more so on the ideas that came forth.
I have talked to a number of people who want a small home mostly off the grid and can’t afford one of those energy cars. Grady’s ideas make sense and then I say, maybe Vermont needs a new political party, or at least a new name and working for the Vermont Grunt. The Vermont Party, huh? Or is it a group just to pressure those folks that just raised our property tax 4%? There are other solutions.

Patricia Crocker
1 year 10 months ago

“A group to pressure folks raising taxes”….Green Mountain Patriots, Vermonters for Liberty…Ethan Allen Institute…. There are groups out there doing just that.

1 year 10 months ago

“We need a return to the values that made this state free in thinking and bound by a common unity of spirit. I’m suggesting that we need to embrace the democratic principles of governance by the people — legislators need to hear our stories so they can make informed governmental decisions on funding during their sessions in Montpelier.”

Not a chance until you get rid of the half-year legislative sessions … so you have some chance of the legislature being a representation of the population. See if this plot does not fit the decline of Vermont. http://www.markshepard.us/VermontersHouse/index.htm

James Ehlers
1 year 10 months ago

I would like to suggest statewide tax reform, immediately. Right now, we are trying to float a boat with duct tape. Instead of trying to keep a sinking boat afloat we should consider building a new boat or even consider a plane instead of a boat to get to where we want to go. We look at the whole system and transform it to ensure it invests in our current and future needs. A system that does this will create the jobs and revenues necessary to sustain itself. I expect this will be a job for stateswomen and men, and… Read more »

John Grady
1 year 10 months ago

The Vermont Grunt Party for working class people would be nice to see. People in office who actually think about how to improve the lives of the people struggling would be nice. Throw food stamps at them is the current mentality. Keeping people dependent on government isn’t the way to go. Small Senior duplex’s for single seniors with a shared well and septic would keep the cost of construction down. Zoning laws probably don’t allow something like that on 2 acres, but will allow a 4 bedroom 2 1/2 bath house. Vermont doesn’t seem to have much in the way… Read more »

Tim Seaver
1 year 10 months ago

Great piece. It’s interesting to the the GOP emailing this around as some kind of political piece, ridiculous as that is on it’s face. Anyone who thinks the misogynistic and wholly bought Republican Party is going to save us from the cruel arms of Big Gummint is smoking some strong stuff.

Carl Werth
1 year 10 months ago

Well then – who will save us, Tim? As far as I can tell – the Democratic Party is not doing us any favors at the moment either. This is why I have given up supporting BOTH parties – and have tried to focus on what might REALLY do us some good. So far, I have only turned up folks who cling to the old beliefs. It is rare I find anyonbe with an open mind anymore. The people who I talk to wear their agenda like a parka in a blizzard.

John Doherty
1 year 10 months ago

Tim, I know it is convenient to blame the boogeyman Big Business Republicans for all of your problems but that doesn’t make sense if they are not controlling the reins of Gov’t. The minority party is trying to lower taxes, trying to retain the jobs we still have and maybe attract some new industry to the state. I identify myself with the republicans because I like an underdog. I don’t agree with everything they stand for but I disagree with most of the stuff Dems are about. i.e. Amnesty, anti-2nd amendment, welfare state etc. I believe in Freedom, Liberty, Equality… Read more »

Maureen Gour
1 year 10 months ago

I am a native Vermonter, age 61, approaching retirement, who worries every day about whether I will be able to afford a decent place to live in my home state as I get older and am no longer able to work. It is a sad state of affairs indeed when people like Mr. Miller, who has created and shared with the rest of us his moving and often poignant portraits of Vermonters, has to live in a 60 degree home and sleep in an unheated bedroom at night. I hear similar stories from others who live here. I wish I… Read more »

Patrick Cashman
1 year 10 months ago

Give it a moment and Doug Hoffer will be along to tell you that you are mistaken, your situation is hunky dory, and then everything will be fine.

George Wilson
1 year 10 months ago

As the premier chronicler of Vermont for 6 decades-the beauty and the ugly-you have now issued the wake up call . This message should be required reading for everyone. This is the future unless we act. Peter, Digger, everyone who has read this-get the message out.

Tim Daley
1 year 10 months ago

As a native and lifelong resident of Vermont I felt strangely comfortable with Peter’s words as I slowly have come to feel like a stranger in my own town and state. Many of his comments reflect the reality of growing old here today as we contemplate our personal future in Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. Job opportunities are constantly being dangled before our eyes by over-thought, over-built EB-5 projects but the jobs are minimum wage (in spite of what the big boys say) and now, even the state education bus has joined the scam, promising to create training programs for… Read more »

1 year 10 months ago

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1 year 10 months ago

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Hunt Melville
1 year 10 months ago

I can’t wait ’til people like Tim Seaver are the only ones left in the state.

Study the reduction in population growth for Vermont from the last three censuses. It’s clear that the population will go negative in the 2020 census. It already is in the 12 counties outside of Chittenden. No kids, no middle class, no future.

Paul Lorenzini
1 year 10 months ago

It is all by design. reference Agenda 21.

Virginia Simmon
1 year 10 months ago

It took real courage to write what you did, Peter. And you nailed it. There are many more of us that you can imagine who share your opinion (and circumstances).

1 year 10 months ago

Mr. Miller: I was waiting for a doctor or nurse to comment on this story, but they haven’t, so I will. You need to turn your thermostat up to AT LEAST 65 F, or you are going to succumb to hypothermia. You said you are 80 years old and feel cold most of the time. Elders are more susceptible to hypothermia than the general population. If you can’t do this at home, please go and stay someplace where you can be warm. Put a cot by your woodstove, with a pan of water on the stove, so you can breathe… Read more »

rosemarie jackowski
1 year 10 months ago

Ellin…There are many old folks in Vermont who keep the thermostat at 55 degrees. I am one of them. My doctor ‘tells’ me about it every time I am examined. I now have developed Raynaud’s.

Actually, I am more concerned about the water pipes than my health. People on a fixed income cannot afford oil. It is just that simple. Many of us have no alternative heat.

Janice Prindle
1 year 10 months ago

My thermostat stays between 50 and 58, tops. I hear you! One small step would be for Vermont to join a number of states that do not tax Social Security income. And just as we do not tax food, maybe we should not take home fuel, at least for people over 75, which would reduce the cost somewhat. This won’t change the system, but we have to start somewhere to bring relief: Small measures that can be “paid for” by raising taxes on the highest-income households, or on second homes. (Like many of us, I am now surrounded by second… Read more »

John Grady
1 year 10 months ago

Grandma and Grandpa are freezing to death while Child Worship runs wild. On you-tube there is a George Carlin video about Child Worship, he swears a lot so I’m not posting the link which would be offensive to some people. If Vermont had spent 10% less on schools over the last 15 years the money could have been used to build new energy efficient housing for every senior household with $25,000 or less of income and the places would last for years. Reducing school spending 10% could provide health insurance to over 30,000 people in the coming years so if… Read more »

Janice Prindle
1 year 10 months ago

I do not begrudge the schools. And it’s short-sighted. Our future as a state, a nation, a civilization is in our children, our grandchildren (for those of us who’ve gotten that far along in years). They are the ones who will need to get the money out of politics and deal with the impact of global warming threatening the distribution of resources we now take for granted (like water). It’s not child worship to want children to have a good education, good enough to see past these boogey-bears of yours, to the larger pattern of economic exploitation that exists and… Read more »

Don Peterson
1 year 10 months ago

Some years ago I decided that the net income I might receive from Social Security might be enough to cover my property taxes in retirement. Any more than that was probably wishful thinking. With that as a yardstick (or just as a stick) my lifestyle centers more around not spending than it does on earning . As a result I don’t pay a surcharge on my efforts in the form of taxes for money I don’t earn. Red or blue, governments would do well to note this strategy, because it leaves you all out of the picture. Mr. Miller is… Read more »

Carl Werth
1 year 10 months ago

Again – this year’s Senator Bill Doyle Town Meeting Survey results:

Do you believe Vermont is an affordable place to live?

No 60% – Yes 26% – Not sure 14%.

60% say NO! Wow! That says something.

Gail Graham
1 year 10 months ago

Mr. Miller,
Your article is excellent, albeit chilly because it is all so true. I

Gail Graham
1 year 10 months ago

Mr. Miller, Your article is excellent, albeit chilly because it is all so true. I am struggling to remain on my family farm, which has been a long time goal for my retirement, but here I am. Some days I want to cry, but so far refuse to allow “them” to get me down. I am third generation on my property, which my parents and grand parents worked hard for. I am also sixth generation Vermonter, so what is happening in my native state is beyond belief. I’m sure my ancestors are “rolling over in their graves”. Good luck to… Read more »

Emer Feeney
1 year 10 months ago

I appreciated your candor, Mr. Miller. I agree with you that Vermont’s become too pricey to get by in, but unfortunately I think that is reflected in many of the best places to live in the country: the working and lower middle classes are now truly feeling the pinch everywhere, and our elders and other vulnerable populations are getting hit the hardest. Even as a city employee with benefits, I can barely pay the bills, can’t fix my car properly, have to put dental work and the like on my credit card, am still paying student loans, and will soon… Read more »

John Grady
1 year 10 months ago

Carl Werth March 30, 2014 at 9:33 am ” It is rare I find anyonbe with an open mind anymore. The people who I talk to wear their agenda like a parka in a blizzard.” The American culture is cult like with people totally brainwashed to believe in things. I know a woman from Hungary who told me the Communists never dreamed they could brainwash their population as well as it’s be brainwashed in this country. Red Koolaid drinkers, Blue Koolaid drinkers, GREEN Koolaid drinkers. People who blindly believe something without question are brainwashed cult members. Anything thrown at them… Read more »

Carl Werth
1 year 10 months ago

John – I appreciate all that you have written here. I especially appreciate it because it is rare I find someone who actually is a free thinker. Heck – you even question authority. Imagine that. Cheers!

John Grady
1 year 10 months ago

Thanks Carl

It’s not likely I made a dent but I spoke up which is better than total apathy.

The American Culture is based on some unwritten 1950’s rule book people mindlessly follow chapter by chapter from birth to dead.

People have nostalgia for the good old days but wouldn’t want nothing to do with working or living like lots of their parents or grandparents did.

Green Acres is the place to be, Hillbilly living is the life for me {with power equipment}

John Gilman
1 year 10 months ago

Property taxes could be abolished by replacing them with an income tax. This would base taxes on an ability to pay and take away the threat of people losing their homes to taxes.

There are those in this state who want it to be nothing but a park for the rich though. I can only imagine what Ethan Allen would have done about that.

George Wilson
1 year 10 months ago

Ethan Allen would have consumed a bottle of rum, yelled at his lieutenants to get ready to move out, and marched unsteadily to Montpelier. Imagine Shumlin confronted by Allen, if Shumlin didn’t slink off before.
Those of us with common sense can do the same rhetorically, if not literally, by getting the message out and marching to the polls and voting the bums out.

Ronald Allbee
1 year 9 months ago

My family goes back to the 1770’s and my cousin still farms the farm given to us as a King’s Grant. After Vietnam and grad school I worked for the Vt. legislature and then served as Secretary (Commissioner) of Agriculture and Director of Energy for Vermont. In the 1970’s many legislators were no more than one generation removed from the land or were business people. They cared for those in need, but treated every dollar spent as though it came out of their pocket. As they say, Vermont was a small d or even though republican, was a “democratic state”…..what… Read more »

Tom Anderson
1 year 9 months ago

Dear Peter, I am haunted by your words, your feelings, your thoughts, and I am ashamed that we as local Vermonters who have enjoyed your marvelous photos & words through the years have not been able to repay you for the treasure you have given us now and for future generations. You truly are a Vermont Treasure and I propose that all who read these comments will send you a check, cash or money order in any amount they can afford so that you, our treasured State Hero, can plan a trip south next winter and have enough cash to… Read more »

1 year 3 months ago

Peter Miller is dead on correct in this article. Unfortunately, since it was written back in March 2014, things have continued to become much worse in Vermont. Years ago, I remember people saying that eventually, only the rich would be able to afford to live in Vermont. It seems that the middle class is being pushed out or forced to live under entitlements. Sad to see Vermont, formerly a state of hard working people, on such a tragic path.

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