By Rob Roper
Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint, D-Windham, recently penned an op-ed discussing “The financial predicament of millennials.” She opens by quoting a young friend who is struggling to make student loan payments, find affordable child care and pay the mortgage.
Balint concludes noting, “Vermont’s young families face much bigger financial obstacles than their predecessors. They aren’t whining; they’re telling the truth, and we need to listen.” This is true. But the “much bigger obstacles” are the direct result of policies put in place by Balint and others who share her big-government-control ideology.
Take the first example of struggle: student loans. Who dominates the university system today? progressives. In 1964, the average annual cost — including tuition, fees, and room and board — for a four-year public university was $1,051, and $2,202 for a private university. Those are calculated in (nearly, 2007) current dollars. It was common for students to earn their tuition for the year with a summer job as a waiter or life guard. Today you’d have to have a summer job as a hedge fund manager to pay for your college. Those same averages had by 2007 ballooned to $14,203 and $38,400, respectively, and are certainly much higher today. For example, UVM’s 2017-18 rate for in-state students was $29,792, and $53,408 for out-of-state.
So, what happened? The National Higher Education Act of 1965, part of Lyndon Johnson’s big-government, Great Society agenda. The act, as described by the LBJ Library:
is the major law that governs federal student aid, was intended ‘to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.’ It increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, gave low-interest loans to students, and established a National Teacher Corps. The original law… has been reauthorized nine times through the years.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? The government (we’re here to help!) stepped in and messed with the free market to ostensibly make higher education more affordable and accessible. In practice, however, these left-wing politicians in collaboration with left-wing academics have since turned higher education from an affordable path to prosperity into an unaffordable debt-ridden path to poverty for too many young people.
Which brings us to the second mentioned area of struggle: affordable child care. Here in Vermont we are witnessing in real time our ideologically left-leaning government create a child care crisis both in terms of accessibility and cost. In 2016, Montpelier passed a number of draconian regulations that were designed to drive private childcare providers out of business. It worked. According to the Vermont Joint Fiscal Office, since 2015 the total number of childcare slots in the state has dropped by 1,693, or over 7 percent. But, as the report states, “the most striking result of this analysis of child care capacity is the significant reduction in home providers and child care slots,” where capacity declined by over 25 percent.
So, thanks to the progressive policies of our government, young families now have fewer childcare options, and those that are still available are more expensive because they have to incorporate and pass on the additional cost of complying with the 2016 regulations. The nefarious objective here is to create a false crisis of access and affordability that will generate a public outcry so that the government can then provide the taxpayer-funded, government-run “solution” of birth to five public schooling. This, by the way, its advocates estimate will have a price tag of about $850,000,000 annually. Add that to our current $1.7 billion K-12 education spending and see what it does to your property tax bill!
Which gets us to the last point of contention: paying the mortgage. Unbearably high housing costs are, indeed, a plague afflicting young people trying to settle in Vermont. But every initiative the majority in Montpelier has recently pursued and is pursuing will increase — not decrease — the cost of housing in Vermont.
High property taxes are one big cost to owners and passed on to renters, but no serious reform efforts are being considered in regard to lowering them. Our regulatory and permitting processes is expensive and unpredictable — high costs, again, passed along to the owner/renter if the hurdles don’t discourage adding housing capacity in the first place — but no efforts are underway to streamline them. In fact, the Act 250 “reform” being proposed today would make it harder and more expensive to build housing by, for one example, requiring new structures to be “carbon neutral.” That may sound nice, but it will make paying the mortgage a more daunting task.
Add a carbon tax to the complaints Balint lists, making transportation more expensive as well as heating that already unaffordable home. And a $15 minimum wage that will make entry level jobs more scarce. And a new payroll tax that will cost the medium household income nearly $700 a year for a family leave benefit most Vermonters don’t want and will never use. And “progressive” health insurance mandates and regulations that artificially drive up costs for young people.
So, millennials, it may seem nice that Senator Balint is putting her arm around you sympathetically and lamenting your plight. But, you might want to consider that she is the source of your pain.