Time for Vermonters to Unite

By: Bruce Lisman

I was disappointed to read the editorial “Ethan Allen’s Legacy,” on September 10 in both the Times Argus and Rutland Herald, which continues a harmful trend of divisiveness over politics and our economy.

Our nation and state are undergoing major economic change. But Vermonters continue to possess incredible dedication and commitment to hard work and self-sufficiency. We stand on our own two feet, always with a ready hand to help neighbors in trouble. The true character of our state and people can be seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

Vermont is made up of patch work of personalities from different backgrounds, cultures, and economic standings. Together, we are all Vermonters and bound together by our great love for Vermont.

But daily we hear reports about how the next generation will be worse off than their parents. An unfathomable notion given America’s well known mantra of being – “the land of opportunity.”

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Vermonters are employed, uneasiness is in the air. Hard work seems to equate to barely making ends meet. Vermonters long to return to the security of economic prosperity and the sense that tomorrow will be better than today.

Opportunities and economic prosperity can be achieved but only if we stop the political fights and stop choosing which businesses are welcome and which are not. Vermonters have welcomed the engines of economic prosperity; from Ben and Jerry’s to IBM; from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to IDX.

Economic prosperity is a magnet for workers and creates the ladder for all to reach economic health. It lessens issues around crime, substance abuse and domestic violence, events more evident when jobs are absent.

A vibrant economy provides the resources to train our unemployed and underemployed, to clean our lakes, protect those needing protection, and help those needing help. It fuels our social contract and the amenities that draw so many to Vermont.

A vibrant economy is a theme of tremendous importance-it towers over everything else. Economic prosperity isn’t equal to a quality educational system; it doesn’t share the spotlight with affordable housing or our struggling dairy industry or the excitement of alternative energy. Without economic prosperity none of those are affordable.

Economic prosperity isn’t a casual goal; it requires extraordinary commitment regardless of political affiliation to build consensus. Vermont possesses an enviable foundation upon which to grow; we have diversified and sophisticated innovators coupled with powerful economic clusters such as our hospitals and institutions of higher education; and the distinctive “Vermont brand” which exudes a level of quality second to none.

If we are to succeed, and I very much believe we can, we must get rid of the arguments from the right that decry the social benefits of a strong economy and the arguments of the left that decry the value of the economic machine that creates those social benefits.

It is past time we recognize that it is a balance of a vibrant economy and a strong social contract that makes this country and our state great.

It is unfortunate when the media fuels negativity; pitting one against the other. Such rhetoric and posturing has no place in Vermont. We must all work together, as Vermonters, to secure solutions that ensure a prosperous future.

About the author: Bruce Lisman retired as Chairman of the JP Morgan Global Equity Division. A native of Burlington, he is abusiness man, an environmentalist, an advocate for our social contracts, and a staunch supporter of the arts. Mr. Lisman resides in Shelburne.