Recent news articles have me pondering the conservative perspective on ordinary working people. Jon Lynch, Republican candidate for a House seat in Chittenden County, proposed a self-funding family leave program. John McClaughry, of Vermont’s conservative Ethan Allen Institute, raised a cash-only surgical center in Oklahoma as an example of how to cut health care costs.
Lynch’s idea is a “family leave savings account” which would function the same as a “health savings account.” Taxpayers fund the account—if they wish--with money that is exempt from income tax and can be used to pay expenses during any family leave they choose to take. Lynch views this as preferable to the “heavily regressive tax” that would have funded the mandatory leave bill Governor Scott vetoed. He likes that his idea would “put Vermonters back in control of our own money.”
But you can’t “control your own money” if you have none. You need discretionary income for these savings accounts to be at all useful and the low income people I know live from paycheck to paycheck. They can’t spare the money to fund the account, would get little to no tax benefit from funding it, and could certainly never put in enough to cover the loss of income during an unpaid leave.
The same problem makes John McClaughry's cash-only surgical center unrealistic for ordinary people. The working people I know put off going to a primary care doctor because they don’t have the cash to pay the deductibles in their health insurance, so how would they pay cash at these surgical facilities?
The facts of working class life are public knowledge. For example, a 2019 GOBankingRates.com national survey reported that 69% of people had less than $1,000 in savings. A full 45% had no savings at all. Only 15% had as much as $10,000. Mr. Lynch says frugality is the key to his self-funding plan, but for the low income worker, frugality is required simply to survive.
So I ask myself, do Mr. Lynch & Mr. McClaughry not understand that being poor means you don't have the money to do things that affluent people can do and always have done? Or do they perhaps know but deliberately design policies and programs to exclude people with limited means? The former is indefensible ignorance. The latter is even worse. Both perpetuate the reality of “Two Americas.” 


Charlie Murphy

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