As a predominantly blue county in a predominantly blue State, Addison is home to a clear majority of households whose members eschew conservative publications. Therefore, as a public service, I propose to describe briefly, in this space, the contents of a recent commentary in one such publication, in hopes (mostly futile, I'd guess, for the same reason) that they might find it instructive.
It's New Hampshire resident Mark Steyn's "Gray Mountain State", reprinted from the National Review in a few brave Vermont newspapers. Perhaps Steyn's subject matter, demographics in Vermont, will attract perusal from those more literate-than-average modern political enthusiasts?
Public school enrollment decline is the statistical lynchpin of the Steyn thesis that "Vermont is getting proportionately more childless. Which is to say that, literally, Vermont has no future."
Readers already know the numbers: K-12 enrollment down from 105K in 2000 to 93K in 2008, with projected further decline to below 90K by 2014. He also recites a middle-class out-migration stat-"the number of young adults fell by 20 percent in the Dean years"-and continues in the Douglas years, as economist Art Woolf has documented, factoids similarly well-known to county voter/taxpayers/selective-readers (who have already grasped the underlying related notion, the remarkable propensity of career-enhancement-seeking middle-class households, when pursuing better economic opportunity elsewhere, to take their children with them when they flee).
A month earlier there was a France on the Hudson piece in the Weekly Standard which described a parallel middle-class exodus and ensuing morphing of the Big Apple into a two-tier socio-political structure with a well-above-median-income upper class and a subsidized/dependent underclass cooperating to dominate the ballot box and set governance and spending policy.
In a bright-red pull-quote the editors deploy this: "When asked to define the [New York City] middle-class, [Mayor] Michael Bloomberg offered up only one specific group: 'municipal workers, 300,000 of them'."
In the article itself, authors Fred and Harry Siegel recite the stats: "the average city worker receives $107K/year in salary and benefits, while the median annual salary for New York families is $50K". That's a remarkable but unmentioned parallel to the Vermont situation deplored by the Rutland Herald in a Nov. 17 editorial entitled "The Ruling Class?".
Nor do the authors recite the Gallic-reference source, a series of Wall Street Journal articles and commentary, years ago, which described French governance as dominated by the abnormally-large numbers of government employees and income-redistribution recipients, and called the phenomenon, called the French Disease. Vermont, with a ratio of government-employees-to-total-population which is usually no. 1 or 2 in an all-state ranking in year-to-year studies, can legitimately be similarly labeled, something your scribe has occasionally done in this space, always identified as "redux" (a little press-room Latin lingo, there).
They do recite the Brookings Institution stat documenting "NYC second only to LA with the second-smallest share of middle-income families in the nation..." while defining the middle class as "...the people who are leaving", a demographic pattern which Vermont author Fred Jaegels, writing from his cabin-in-the-woods in Cabot, described a quarter-century ago as Vermont's obvious-even-then emerging two-tier socio-political structure. He got no source footnote from the Siegels either.
Similarly, Steyn in Cassandra mode devoted no ink in his no-future argument to society survival via continuous recruiting and in-migration, as demonstrated by such institutions as the church hierarchy and pre-modern high-death-rate cities, interesting subjects in their own right.
Dramatic declarations that a zero-natural-increase state has "no future" are refuted by retiree-dominated counties across the U.S., where continuing in-migration of passive-income types-pensioners, bond-coupon-clippers, and trust-funders-quite readily makes up for zero-natural-increase, even when accompanied by out-migration of active-income types. It's when the passive-income types decide that the governance environment has become repugnant, and pack to flee, that a prediction like Steyn's can come true. Sinclair Lewis' 1935 book, "It Can't Happen Here", is not the final word on the subject.
Retired Vermont architect Martin Harris lives in Tennessee where he enjoys not having to drive in snow and ice.