What have you got to lose?

When Donald Trump was just an unlikely twinkle in the eye of voters unhappy with the first non-white president, he premiered the “What have you got to lose?” argument.  In the midst of the most conspicuously xenophobic election campaign in living history, he posed the rhetorical question to black voters, for whom he could offer no other reason for voting for him: “What have you got to lose.”

Without belaboring the disrespectful nonsense of the argument, suffice it to say that it was unsuccessful with the targeted audience even before we’d had a bellyful of his lies; but Donald Trump is not one to part with a losing strategy before beating it to death.? So it was unsurprising that in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, with Americans dying all across the country, he trotted it out one more time to promote a very sketchy treatment, chloroquine, that had struck his fancy after being pitched by some of his equally sketchy “friends.”

“What have you got to lose?” by trying chloroquine, he urged repeatedly, sounding more like a medicine show huckster than the president of the United States.  

In this case, the answer to his question turns out to be, “Your life.”

Approved for the prevention and treatment of Malaria, and in use since the 1930’s chloroquine is not without serious potential, side-effects.  Cardiac issues are the ones that have been getting the most attention in the COVID-19 pandemic, but I have personal experience with one of the less familiar side-effects of the drug.

Thirty-seven years ago, my husband and I travelled to India for an East-West artist’s symposium.  It was an extraordinary experience for which we prepared with all the necessary shots and a prophylactic dosing of chloroquine that began a week or more before we flew to Mumbai (then Bombay) and continued briefly after our return.  I’m sure we received literature from the doctor describing possible side-effects, but we both felt fine and never gave the chloroquine a second thought.  

Luckily, I kept a journal during our travels because somewhere in the midst of the trip, I began to have terrible nightmares and a growing sense of foreboding.  India was full of sights and sounds that could easily account for some of this mental distress; but, by the time we returned home, it had grown into such a wave of paranoia that I had the notion we might die forgotten in the streets there if we didn’t leave at once.

That was, of course, crazy thinking.  After we returned home, the fantasmagoric nightmares continued for a brief time, then slowly receded.  I can still vividly recollect one of the last, in which I saw a figure huddled in dirty rags at the back of a cave.  When I approached it, the creature looked up at me and screamed horribly.  It had the face of one of my closest friends.

Some years later, my sister happened to mention the psychotropic effects of cholorquine and the penny finally dropped for me: the acute paranoia I had experienced in India and afterward was a known side-effect of my anti-malarial drug!

When Donald Trump began his “what have you got to lose” promotion of chloroquine  for COVID-19, I immediately recalled my own paranoid trip.  I was a completely sane and stable young woman on holiday.  

Nevermind the risk of heart attack, imagine what indiscriminate use of chloroquine among a population already in the grips of of the worst pandemic in modern history might produce in the way of psychotic complications!  

“What have you got to lose?”  How about your mind?

No April Foolishness

There’s no appetite for April Foolery around our house this year.? Every April 1, while my son was still home, it was a tradition for me to wake him up early, shouting, “Get up! Get up!? You’re late for school!” ? Even though it was an old gag, he fell for it most years, if only for the first few seconds before his mind cleared of sleep. ?

Today he lives and works in Montreal and, for the time being, we can only visit via FaceTime where the gag would be pretty much wasted.  I speak to him almost every day and am reassured that he and the cat are surviving his work-from home tenure in reasonably good spirits.

As of this afternoon, Vermont has 321 confirmed cases and sixteen deaths.  4,495 people have been tested, so far.

As of yesterday, the number of deaths was “only’ 13; so today’s death tally represents a single day increase of roughly 25%+…not great.

Still, we are in better shape (right now) than many other states; better enough so that Vermont Digger dared yesterday to ask if our “curve” was “flattening.  Monday, there were 256 cases and on Tuesday, there were 293 cases, an increase of just 37 new cases. Today’s increase represents just 28 new cases.

I already had to up the tally from 13 to 16. By the time I finish writing this brief diary, the stats may have changed and there may be no reason to be even cautiously optimistic.

Our son worries about us.  Even though my husband and I are generally pretty healthy, we are in the age bracket that has the most to fear from this disease.  I put myself in his place and remember how I would worry about my aging parents who lived far away in Chicago.

I worry about him, too.  Is he eating right and sleeping enough?  COVID-19 is fully prepared to take down young people as well as old.  I know he is observing social distancing and I feel for his stunted social life, being a young single male in the normally lively city environment. 

Fortunately, he has a great roommate and a sociable cat; so even without the internet, he won’t end up resorting to chats with the living room furniture.

For our part, down here in Vermont, my husband and I are finding a different kind of social distancing helpful; he, in his studio, and I, in the house.  With so much unrelenting togetherness forced upon us, a fair measure of “me-time” preserves the peace.  I can well imagine how difficult it is if you don’t have the luxury to go to separate spaces.

My friend Mary Beth, who lives alone with her cat in Tuscaloosa, is actually glad right now to be single.

She can’t imagine being confined to the house with any other human being for days unending! She chats with me and other friends via Skype, while working from home.  I think she’s writing about the Alabama experience from a northerner’s perspective.  Her neighbors provide quite a cast of characters and situations!

As I remind my 73-year-young husband, our job, is to observe strict social distancing, stay healthy and keep out of the way so that we do not complicate the already impossible lot of healthcare and essential service providers.  Not everyone will be able to manage that, so it doubley behooves those of us who can to do so.  

This is not the moment to climb a ladder or move a piano, if not absolutely necessary to rescue someone…and don’t let that “someone” be you!

Aged as we are, we are not the real victims of this thing.  As per usual, it is the poor and infirm who will inevitably pay the biggest price for the lack of preparation and poor response of our government.  Uniquely, though, scores of healthcare workers will join them this time as primary victims,.  

For the wealthiest nation in the world to fail so miserably in its duty of care is inexcusable…but there we are.

The Worst of Times

We’re in it now.  As of this afternoon, Vermont has 95 cases of COVID-19 and five deaths; but those figures represent only a moment in rapidly moving time.

When I take my little dog out for our daily walk through the empty streets of St. Albans,  I am largely impressed by my neighbors’ self-discipline.  We pass only the very occasional individual or couple, also out for a walk;  we wave from a careful distance and wish each other health.

If only this sort of distancing was being observed everywhere.

Social distancing is the single most important thing we can do in this crisis, but the President of the United States is dangerously using his “bully pulpit” to undermine that message and the urgency of the situation. 

Rather than focussing on supporting the needs of the poor, the sick and the unemployed, Donald Trump has turned his attention on the fantasy casino that is the U.S. stock exchange.

As it gyrates wildly in a largely downward trajectory,  he’s throwing good money after bad to prop it up, yet another time.

His daily press appearances get longer and longer, further and further distanced from reality: orgies of self-congratulatory nonsense.  He doesn’t want to listen to anyone who isn’t singing his praises, yet he assumes that the American people have an endless appetite for his repetitious blather.

This isn’t news.  We’re all stuck indoors, at the mercy of the ever worsening news cycle; and a side helping of Trump talk goes with every serving.   I promise myself daily that I won’t get sucked-in, but it’s damned hard not to peek every so often to find out what he’s been up to.

The answer is always the same: no good.

So I go back to knitting, reading, writing and planning our storeroom dinner, with the occasional reach out via Skype or FaceTime to family and friends.

It feels, for all the world, like the end of one of those “Twilight Zone” episodes, where an ordinary family awaits the apocalypse, all the while maintaining the routines of an irrelevant past.

“Bolt the hatch and pass the potatoes, Ma.”

Coronavirus in America: Another Healthcare Failure

In typical fashion, Donald Trump is ignoring the experts and offering his own opinion that he has done a fantastic job of meeting the Coronavirus challenge. In fact, he insists that he’s just about got it licked.

At this point, it is wholly unnecessary to tell anyone outside the Fox & Friends universe that this is utter bullshit because he completely lost his credibility somewhere south of his first thousand lies in office.

What we cannot assess, thanks to the “Fog of Failure,” is what exactly the dimensions of that failure are; but we are on notice that the identified cases in the United? States are likely just the tippity-tip of the iceberg, since the Trump administration, either through gross incompetence? or plain malfeasance, seems to have gone out of its way to keep us from discovering the truth.

Of the nine countries tracked on worldodometers.info, the U.S. has administered the fewest tests per capita…by a magnitude.  The only figures available are from March 1 because that tracking information was removed from the CDC’s website on March 2.  

With a population of 331-million, as of March 2, the U.S. had only administered 472 tests; whereas the U.K., with a population of just 13-million, had already administered 13,525 tests…roughly two-hundred times the penetration of U.S. testing.  The number of positives in the U.S. was 14 and the number of positive in the UK was 13.  Even Turkey has better numbers than we do.

Now why might that be?

Apart from deliberate opacity and gross incompetence by the Trump administration, it could have something to do with the fact that Great Britain has a National Health Service and the U.S. still maintains a private, for-profit model.

The Coronavirus provides a rather timely demonstration of one of the benefits of universal healthcare administered under a unified, not-for-profit system.  I’m afraid that nothing in the for-profit model we cling to, not even an expanded Obamacare, fits the bill here.

Quite apart from obvious cost-efficiencies, a universal system is likely to be far more nimble and prepared in the event of a pandemic or, God forbid, mass attack. 

Standardized testing and treatment; streamlined record sharing  and protocols, combined with non-profit testing, lab analysis, vaccines and/or remedies, would result not just in lives saved, but also in productivity preserved.  That’s dollars and cents, my friends; something even Donald Trump might understand, if explained in single syllable words.

The U.S.’s anemic Coronavirus response is just another example of how our president’s daily brain-farts threaten not just our health and safety, but our national security as well.

Sweet Home, Alabama

What is wrong with this country??

On the one hand, we have a president who amuses himself by pardoning his friends, celebrities he fancies, and anyone he thinks can help him politically.

On the other, we have the State of Alabama, with its shameful history of systemic racism, executing a man for a murder that everyone freely admits he didn’t actually commit.

Apart from the fact that execution is a barbarous punishment that has been demonstrated to be a poor deterrent to crime; the argument has always been made that, while theoretically just, it should be extremely rare and meted-out only in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

By that standard, the execution of Nathaniel Woods, without a unanimous verdict on the sentence, is an abomination. 

The actual killer has confessed his guilt, given exonerating testimony on behalf of Woods, and himself sits on death row, awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

It transpired that, after being apprehended at the scene of the crime shortly before the triple shooting occurred, the plight of the luckless Woods was worsened by an incompetent defense and the truly Byzantine inclinations of southern law.

This is the stuff of Kafkaesque nightmares.  Woods seems to have only been guilty of fleeing the scene and being  young, black, and male in the state of Alabama.

For the interest of the press, Alabama Department of Corrections Public Information Specialist Samantha Rose offered details of his final meals:

Woods refused his breakfast, Rose said. The breakfast meal consisted of milk, eggs, syrup, prunes, two biscuits, and oatmeal. He did request a final meal of sweet potatoes, spinach, a chicken patty, a chicken leg quarter, cooked apples, fries, two oranges, and an orange-flavored drink. According to Rose, Woods ate just one bite of the chicken leg quarter and did not eat any of the other items.

Bernie, Biden and the Billionaire

Democratic presidential candidates are dropping faster than the hairs in Donald Trump’s comb-over.  In the past 24 hours alone, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both folded their tents and departed the battlefield…and despite a recent comeback, there is speculation that money problems will soon force Elizabeth Warren to join them in retreat.  

So much for the great diversity that once distinguished our Democratic roster.

After South Carolina, middle-of-the-road Democrats are putting all of their eggs in Joe Biden’s basket, rather conspicuously empty before S.C.  Now, it’s an unveiled rush to stop Bernie.

Warren will hang-on through Super Tuesday, picking up some delegates here and there, and should have some serious clout in negotiating the platform, come convention time, regardless of whether Bernie manages to weather the anti-Bernie scrum to secure the nomination.  If the Biden Bunch freeze out both popular progressives, they do so, not just at their own peril, but at the risk of ensuring Trump’s hate agenda gets another four years.

…And, what if Biden stumbles again and they push Bloomberg into the breach?

It’s easy enough for us old-timers to see how essential it is that we hold our noses and vote for the party’s pick, regardless of whom that might be; but it is shear self-delusion to expect such sangfroid from young voters who represent our best hope of decisively defeating Donald Trump this year.

Will the successful nominee have the presence of mind to choose Kamala Harris for VP?  I wouldn’t count on it.  

Our hallowed “two party system” and the imperial presidency it has engendered, seems to be careening toward its inevitable end.                                                                                                                                  ……………………………………………………………………………….

Imagine what four more years of Trump will look like.  I have. 

Trump will adopt some kind of goofy uniform to hide his shame at being a known draft-dodger. 

Using coronavirus as a lame-brained reason to exclude non-white immigrants,  he will, by ’emergency’ decree, finally close the border with Mexico. 

He’ll print a new denomination of paper money with his picture on it. It will have to be a HUGE denomination… a billion dollar bill has a nice ring to it.   That billion dollar bill will have roughly the value of a $100. bill after he finishes manipulating the currency. That way, plenty of billion dollar bills, with his picture on them, will be in circulation.  Free advertising!

After appointing a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsberg, he’ll finally be able to do away with Obamacare, once and for all.  Instead we will be treated to his own personal product:“Great Care,”  from the newly formed entity, “Trump Insurance.”  It will replace Medicare, eliminate Medicaid and, of course, be mandatory…for a “nominal” fee.  No prior conditions need apply.

Rape, sexual harassment and discriminatory practices will be decriminalized, because “Boys will be boys.”  Punishment for violations of what few prohibitions remain will be meted out in community service sentences, to be served by clearing trash and weeds at a ‘needy’ Trump property.

Ivanka will finally get to chair the Fed and Don Jr. can hunt freely, after hours at the National Zoo…or any other place that takes his fancy.

Liberated at last from the need to smile frozenly to ‘sell’ her husband’s humanity to the unwashed masses, Melania will ditch the White House, take a lover and move to a castle in Transylvania.

The editorial staffs of the NY Times and the Washington Post will be arrested and detained without trial, as will anyone who ever dared speak ill of the Orange Emperor. This should come as no surprise to Bill Maher!  

Finally created “Attorney General For Life”, William Barr will abandon all pretense and give his liege the “Roy Cohn” he has always pined for.

The super rich will get richer and the poor will get lots more children (after birth control and abortion are outlawed);  and minimum wage will be a thing of the past.

There will be no standards for anything.  Food safety will no longer be monitored,  infrastructure projects, housing and commercial developments will proceed without inspections or permits.  Instead, people will be encouraged to buy a whole lot of accident and injury insurance, just in case. The Trump Insurance Co. LLC. will create a product  called “Accidental Living,” for the new marketplace. 

Life will be short and brutal, but the stock market will never again have a down day.

“Bernie Bros?” I Think NOT.

Seventy-year old cash-poor female weighing-in here, (for what it’s worth):

Please don’t perpetuate the myth that Bernie Sanders supporters are mostly young, male and angry. For all we know, you may be guilty of disseminating Russian misinformation .  

Sanders supporters are representative of voters across the age and gender spectrum.  Their loyalty to the candidate is a reflection of Bernie’s own consistency throughout forty years of public service.  Smart voters have learned to distinguish authenticity from pandering, and trust Bernie to be true to his principles.  

He does not claim that he can deliver Medicare For All on his own, but charges American voters with holding Congress’ feet to the fire until they find a way to make it happen here, just as similar programs have been adopted across the advanced world. That’s good enough for me.  The presidency was never intended to be a platform from which to arbitrarily impose a single person’s will, nor should it be the special instrument of any lobby or industry.   

A  president should provide vision and leadership, but bend to the will of the voters who have the absolute power to replace underperforming congresspersons.  If, as polling suggests, we truly want Medicare For All, or any other form of universal healthcare, we must insist that our representatives make that their priority. 

As a long-time Sanders supporter, I am getting pretty tired of hearing non-supporters characterize our thoughts and inclinations.  

“Mr. Sanders followers have no affinity for anyone other than him.” (Emerson Lynn, St. Albans Messenger)

Not true.  Most supporters whom I know have had to struggle with the choice between Bernie and Elizabeth Warren.  I certainly did and will be more than glad of either candidate as the nominee.

I would have added Kamala Harris to that roster had she stayed in the race.  

Those are just my top choices, beyond which I can readily get behind Amy Klobuchar for her level-headed people skills and Pete Buttigieg for his Obama-like statesmanship.

I can, in fact, willingly support any of the viable Democratic candidates.  They all have different ideas as to how we can achieve it, but share the conviction that we must find a way to provide universal healthcare.

We will have a single very strong ticket coming out of the convention, no matter which two people are chosen to run, and this is not just because any alternative to Donald Trump would represent a vast improvement.  They would each, individually, bring a different and valuable set of talents to the office while restoring some of the ethics and gravitas that have been stripped from government in the Trump administration.

I suspect that tales of the so-called “Bernie Bros” may be largely the product of disinformation campaigns generated from the right (or Russian cyber sneaks?) to divide voters on the left.   From my experience of decades of Vermont campaigns, the abusive behaviors attributed to these supporters simply do not ring true.  I have no doubt that there are individuals of every stripe who behave badly, but I simply can’t give credence to the idea that this is at all common among Bernie’s supporters.  

Quite the contrary, in fact.  I have attended numerous local “town halls” over the years, where Bernie shared pizza with all and sundry and fielded questions from constituents, friend and foe. ‘No sign of those “Bernie Bros,” leaving me to wonder from whence they materialized in national politics.

His authenticity may be one of the reasons why, throughout the decades, he has enjoyed consistent support even in Franklin County, still a Republican stronghold.

Now that Bernie appears to be the “front-runner” (whatever that means), there seems to be a drive toward hysteria in the center-left political class over what they are certain is his “unelectability.”  Rather than attempting to draw Bernie and his supporters out with informed discussions of the true meaning of Democratic Socialism, the media seems to be joining the panic parade.  That Bernie refuses to lie to voters with a comfortingly pat narrative about how we get to Medicare for all, should reassure anyone with common sense, but we have become so accustomed to political lies that we are suspicious when a candidate doesn’t play that game.

As harsh as it is, I’ve pretty much abandoned hope for the long-term future of American democracy as a whole. The founding fathers made a few huge miscalculations in not better limiting presidential powers and screwing around with “representative” government rather than direct democracy.  Those failures just became exacerbated over the duration by unprincipled gerrymandering and money flooding into the electoral process.  With Citizens United we unlocked the candy store and threw away the key.

There’s little chance Congress will ever plug the giant holes in the democratic dike so we will probably become little more than a cautionary tale for future societies toying with competing models for fair governance.  

We’ve had our shot…and we blew it…bigly. 

Dershowitz to the Defense

Ever since Mitch McConnell signaled his intention to herd the Republican caucus right over the cliff in supporting Donald Trump’s “perfect call” argument, the burning question has been what sort of defense was possible on the facts. This weekend offered a glimpse of where this might be going. ?

(Appreciation to “The New Yorker for the accompanying illustration!)

Newly announced as a member of DT’s defense team, perennial camera moth, Alan Dershowitz  has been making the rounds of talk shows, insisting that he is representing the Constitution rather than the president.  His former student, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin did perhaps the best job of ripping away that particular fig leaf, returning repeatedly to challenge this bashful conceit in their lengthy exchange last evening.  It was pretty obvious that Dershowitz already recognizes the stigma that will be forever associated with being another one of Trump’s stooges, so he is doing what he can to distance himself while still serving as the president’s defense attorney.  An impossible conflict?

He was at great pains to repeatedly insist that he is a “liberal” and voted for Hillary Clinton, and, of course, that he would be appearing on behalf of the Constitution, not Donald Trump. Toobin wryly asked if the Constitution had hired him and if he would be paid; a question he rather side-stepped.

Mr. Dershowitz’s argument is that the two Articles of Impeachment against Trump are not technically “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as specified in the Constitution.  This was a difficult argument for him to make, as Toobin reminded him that there was no criminal code for the U.S at the time the Constitution was drafted; so what precisely constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the Framers’ minds remains a matter for interpretation.  Dershowitz kept saying that “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” were “things like bribery and treason.”  That suggests that even he acknowledges that chargeable offenses are not limited to bribery and treason.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Trump’s actions with regard to Zelensky seem for fall well within the parameters of bribery, not to mention it’s fraternal twin, extortion; and his overall behavior has at least flirted with treason on numerous occasions over the past three years; I would have liked for someone to ask Dershowitz  A) whether he thought the president’s phonemail with Zelensky was “perfect”, which apparently is the official position of Trump’s Republican defendersd; and B) What exactly should be the remedy for Trump’s bad behavior if not impeachment?

Undoubtedly, he would have countered that removal of the president should be left to the voters in the next election, but when the “crime” involved was an ongoing attempt to corrupt an election, surely such a toothless consequence as “leave it to the voters” is itself a danger to the Constitution.

I would have liked to see the mental gymnastics he would have to perform in order to defend his position on that one!

Dershowitz, who himself has an accumulation of dirty dark clouds over his head ought to eschew demonstrations of high-minded outrage at those like Toobin who dare question his motives.  The problem with “originalists” whether they be constitutional or biblical, is that they will deny the sky is blue if it isn’t so stated somewhere in the original document.

I wonder if Mr. Dershowitz, once again basking in the glow of klieg lights, is aware that, should he survive impeachment, Donald Trump is already planning on decriminalizing bribery, which he claims unfairly handicaps American businesses in the global marketplace.  

You can take the slumlord away from his gangster environment, but you can’t take the gangster out of the slumlord.

Donald Trump: Please Eat More Kale.

We’ve wondered how the Commander-in-Chief maintains that nuclear orange glow.  We’ve asked why he spent several hours at the hospital recently in an unscheduled (emergency?) visit.

Now there is another question that begs asking: what the heck is he eating that so stubbornly resists evacuation from the White House potties?

The answer could provide valuable insight, not only into the plumbing challenges the nation faces to keep the Chief Executive satisfactorily toileted.? It might also explain the Prez’ perpetual attitude of dyspepsia, a condition that has come to affect the affairs of the nation, both foreign and domestic.

When he scowls at Justin Trudeau and hops on a golf cart rather than waddling the hundred yards or so to the finish line at an international photo op, is it because he wants to grab the front-center spot in the lineup; or is it due to discomfort in his nether regions?

As everything the Big Banana thinks or says centers on himself, we can only conclude that his anguished complaint that “people” are flushing ten or fifteen times, must reflect his own daily struggle to vacate his bowels.  Perhaps they have to offer hazard pay to the restroom attendants at Trump Tower?

We know how fond DJT is of his fast food burgers and fries, and suspect he regards ketchup as a vegetable.  Is anybody bothering to slip him some roughage on the sly or is the kitchen staff just waiting for him to explode like a ripe pi?ata of poop and gore?

As little as our President thinks of the news media and freedom of the press, they are to be credited with remarkable restraint in not seizing on the rather obvious narrative of hyperbolic gluttony that this opportunity presents. Not belonging to that noble trade, I simply could not resist a little scatalogical speculation. 

With so little he can talk about in the face of impending impeachment, it seems fitting that his febrile mind focused on the one thing that he will be left with, regardless of the outcome: his relentlessly composting body.  

So, Mr. President, please save the taxpayers a fortune in emergency plumbing fees:  Eat more kale.

Does the Vermont Remote Worker Grant Program Earn Its Keep?

The Vermont Remote Worker Grant program is the latest “incentive” give-away to fall under the critical eye of Vermont’s intrepid state auditor, Doug Hoffer.

Auditor Hoffer has just released an audit report that suggests that the governor and enabling legislature have once again put the cart before the horse, failing to establish meaningful benchmarks and sufficiently detailed parameters to ensure that the program actually gives real value for the investment of tax dollars.

After evaluating the Agency’s “compliance with statutes and guidelines of the program, the report offers a summary of the “compliance and judgment” issues that were identified:

1 The Program used seven percent of its funds ($18,120) to reimburse grantees for security deposits, which are expenses that are also assets temporarily withheld and then returned by landlords if certain conditions are met. The Agency has no mechanism to recover these funds when grantees move and retrieve their deposits.

2 The Agency did not establish guidelines or caps for certain types of reimbursements. For example, one grantee enjoyed a prepaid year of high-speed internet. Another grantee received $5,000 for a 100-yard underground conduit for broadband cables, which adds value to the property and will not be recovered by the State at resale.

3 The Agency reimbursed some grantees for storage of possessions in Vermont covering storage periods prior to grant approval. 

4 The Agency did not verify the actual costs necessary for grantees to perform their jobs or whether such expenses were job-related.  

5 The Agency did not always exercise due diligence when verifying grantee claims. For example, the Agency permitted one grantee to sign as employee and employer, and it approved another grantee with inconsistent employer data.

While an audit report does not make recommendations, it does provide feedback on the existing program that should inform Legislative decisions about changes that might be needed to make it more effective; or if indeed it should be suspended altogether and the funding devoted to a different priority.

Mr. Hoffer’s findings are not encouraging.  It would seem that, urged on by Governor Scott, who has never met a growth incentive he can’t love, and in their haste to counter the narrative of a dwindling and aging Vermont workforce, the program’s framers too quickly seized upon an idea that was attractive on the surface but rather under-baked at its cored. Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein seemed to anticipate problems, early on, and the bill’s co-sponsor, Becca Balint, agreed last year that the program was not really ready for prime-time:

“It’s disappointing we didn’t do a thorough enough job for her to have the information she needs, but I don’t find this alarming,” Balint said. “When you have committees that only meet from January to May, there are going to be details that need to be dealt with and parts of legislation that need to be tweaked.”

Balint added that she believes the committee will be able to get Goldstein the information she needs next year, before anyone submits an application for reimbursement.

“If she feels like she has not gotten enough guidance from us, I believe her,” she said. “It was really uncharted territory. She has tried her utmost best to make sure this can launch successfully.”

As for Goldstein, if she doesn’t get the details she needs in time for the program launch, she said, “we’re going to proceed with the ambiguity, because what other choice do we have but to follow the law?”

As for Goldstein, if she doesn’t get the details she needs in time for the program launch, she said, “we’re going to proceed with the ambiguity, because what other choice do we have but to follow the law?”

…And so, apparently, they did.

This is precisely why input from the auditor’s office is of timely value, even if it does give a less than flattering impression of one of the governor’s pet programs.