By Don Keelan
I have often written on the subject of embezzlement and its impact in Vermont. I have even gone so far as to note that in some ways it is “the best job in Vermont.” I now stand corrected: the best job in Vermont is that of our state’s U.S. senator.
An embezzler does receive some significant benefits, but it is not without risks. For instance, an embezzler gets a lot of money over a period of years. When the scheming comes to an end, there is, in most cases, very little cost — to the embezzler, that is. Surely, there is no chance for restitution, little if any time in prison, and no income taxes demanded by the authorities on the ill-gotten income.
As lucrative the position the embezzler might temporarily possess, it pales next to that of holding the position of U.S. senator. A candidate for the U.S. Senate crisscrosses the state every six years and expounds on how he or she will be working full-time in addressing, as well as attending to, the needs of the people, businesses, nonprofits and governments in Vermont.
After the successful candidate assumes the position, and being only one of a hundred, he/she comes to the realization that the salary and benefits fall far short of what can otherwise be earned outside their Senate job.
An annual salary of $175,000, along with some attractive perks in health insurance, travel, and office staff reimbursements, just don’t cut it. Even a retirement package, when vested after five years, at 80 percent of annual salary, is a marginal source of income.
Therefore, what really is attractive about the position of U.S. senator and the reason so many chase after the job is that you really don’t have to be at the job most of the time — either in Washington or in Vermont. What’s more, no one can tell you that you have to be in either place if you wish to be elsewhere.
Our present junior U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders, is a case in point. When he ran for office five years ago, he never mentioned to his constituency that, once in office, he would not be in Washington or Vermont very much. This was because he had plans to run for president of the United States, and promote two books.
Last month, Kevin O’Connor, writing in VTDigger, noted that since the last presidential election, our Senator has visited over 15 states, making a case to thousands of his plans for the revolution.
Now add to the above, our senator’s quest to crisscross America (he is just back from an international tour) at the expense of his publisher, Macmillan, to promote his new book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.”
Is there any executive in Vermont earning close to $200,000 per year who could afford to be out of his or her office for so long and not be addressing the problems and challenges of their organization?
Of course in Vermont we no longer have any issues: the opiate crises no longer exists. And the issues pertaining to the lack of mental health resources have been successfully resolved. Could it be that the reason so many of our state’s young people have left Vermont was to follow our U.S. senator on his cross-country jaunts?
And let’s not forget the big three perennial problems that have now been resolved — the lack of affordable housing, the 200,000 residents on Medicaid, and the tens of thousands with food insecurity.
Our U.S. senator may be quite right in taking care of business outside of Vermont. Our state is in fine shape. And what do I know? Maybe when our senator visited all of the places he has been to, it was to bring back service and manufacturing jobs to Vermont. In any case, holding the U.S. Senate seat is the best job in Vermont.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.