Politics is nothing more than understanding ambition and the conditions that produce it, and there is a surfeit of both as the Vermont Legislature begins its work.
It will be a session unlike any other. Legislators will be faced with a $150 million hole in the budget that needs to be plugged. It has an unemployment trust fund that is about to run bone dry. And it is dealing with a state economy that is anemic, at best.
The general conclusion is that we must learn how to do more with less, or, as the governor suggests, to do less with less.
The coincidence of having two of my three post-college-age daughters home over the holiday and it being the end of the first decade of the 21st century prompted this observation: While New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning economist Paul Krugman called the decade past “The Big Zero” for the economic stagnation that pervaded the Bush years, my daughters’ view of the decade was one of excitement and optimism.
Consider their perspective.
The legislative session that began this week will be one of the most important in years. Key budget policy issues — for the state and for school districts — are on the agenda. Vermont Yankee’s license expires in just over two years, and the Legislature must take positive action if the plant is to continue operating. Much of the session will be driven by the politics of the first open-seat gubernatorial campaign in eight years.
As the first decade of the 21st century slips into the annals of history, a review of the nation’s progress is useful if we are to avoid past mistakes and set a better course for the next decade. And it is as important for individuals to understand, as it is for the nation as a whole.