Opinion

Weakening National Security

INTRO: Commentator Rick Hubbard is concerned about whether our possible invasion of Iraq, and its consequences, will in the long run strengthen or weaken our national security.

COMMENTATOR
I believe our country is strongest when using its power and prestige working collaboratively with other nations to safeguard citizens, spread democracy and freedom, protect basic human rights, provide political and economic choice, and expand and strengthen the rule of law throughout the world.

Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military and economic power. We have much to lose. With only four point six percent of the world’s population, we bring home twenty four percent of the world’s entire economic production. Whether we use our power to invade Iraq, and under what circumstances, and with what consequences, poses a truly watershed moment for our country.

There are those amongst us today who advocate for an imperial United States, pre-emptive invasions and military domination of space. In the name of fighting terrorism and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction they are dismissive of the United Nations and the rule of international law.

This is a false choice which will affect our political influence and reputation, our economic strength and our national security itself over the next ten, twenty, even fifty years. Continue reading

Improving Vermont Health Care

INTRO: A good manager routinely sets a goal and then analyzes which alternative best meets that goal. Commentator Rick Hubbard thinks our Vermont political leaders should use this approach to improve delivery of our health care.

COMMENTATOR

Most of us would agree that the overall goal of health policy in Vermont should be to deliver quality health care to all Vermonters at the least cost.

Although little discussed to date, there are now at least two ways to reach that goal.

Currently, Vermont spends two point two billion dollars a year on health care. Our present competitive health insurance approach leaves over fifty thousand Vermonters without any insurance, ninety thousand more without adequate insurance, and leaves our government paying when low income Vermonters cannot afford insurance. Moreover, current administrative costs are astronomical. Over the last 30 years, the number of health administrators have increased nationally by almost 2,500 percent, the bulk of this over just the last decade of managed care.   By comparison, the number of doctors and nurses increased by only 160 percent.

Recently, our legislature commissioned a major study of health care in Vermont by the Lewin Group, a nationally respected consulting company. It concluded that channeling the same two point two billion dollars through a single money collecting and bill paying system is much more efficient. With this approach, every one of us would receive quality health care, privately provided by doctors, while still saving over $100 million dollars. In addition to dramatically increasing health care, these annual savings are the equivalent of almost five hundred dollars for every family in Vermont, a benefit for everyone, whether moderate, liberal or conservative.

This study provides us with a wonderful opportunity to debate whether our present competitive insurance approach or the more efficient alternative recommended by the Lewin Group, or still some other alternative, best meets the goal of delivering quality health care to all Vermonters at the least cost. Continue reading

Without Public Financing – Vermonters Lose

Vermont Public Radio Commentary 

INTRO: Commentator Rick Hubbard thinks Vermont voters lose something important when candidates refuse public financing.

 

In the 2000 election cycle, gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina qualified for public financing by raising funds from what was at the time, the largest number of individual contributors to a single political candidate in the entire history of the state of Vermont!  That totaled about thirty-eight thousand dollars in amounts of less than fifty dollars each from more than sixteen hundred Vermonters.

Governor Dean raised the bar further by qualifying for public financing with small contributions that totaled about sixty-two-thousand dollars from more than twenty-two-hundred Vermonters.  But Dean decided to forego public financing and went on to run a million dollar campaign, more than six-hundred-thousand dollars of which were contributed by just one-hundred and thirteen out of state contributors. Dean’s Vermont contributors outnumbered out-of-staters twenty to one, yet out-of-staters provided four and a half times more money.

Money from a wealthy few influences the election process. With more money, candidates can buy bigger megaphones to amplify their voices and drown out those of less-well-funded candidates. This discourages many good candidates who lack either the money or wealthy contacts. That gives us fewer choices. Continue reading

Vermonters Respond to Terrorism

Vermont Public Radio Commentary

Announcer: Recently commentator Rick Hubbard had knee surgery. His doctor suggested walking as therapy and since early September, he’s been walking about Vermont, taking his own informal opinion poll.

 

Whenever I take a break from my walking, which is pretty often, I try to talk to those around me. As you might expect, since September 11th, the main topic of conversation has been “How can we bring those responsible to justice and most effectively reduce the threat of future terrorist attacks?”

I’ve spoken with a lot of people. 4 older hikers who’d gotten off the Long Trail at Cuttingsville to hear more of the news over dinner at a local restaurant, storekeepers in Peru and Mt Holly, a salvage dealer from Chester, a waitress and a shopkeeper from Ludlow. People in Landgrove, Londonderry, Windham.

On the afternoon of the attack, a Shrewsbury land planner had just given me permission to camp overnight in her pasture. As we stood outside on a brilliant fall day, she worried that it would be a mistake to feed the cycle of violence with an overly aggressive or too broad response.

Later the next day in Proctor, I sipped tea on a sunny front porch with a retired minister. He passionately argued that many of our international policies have been too self-centered and thus perceived as unfair by many throughout the world. This must change he stated, to effectively reduce future terrorism. Continue reading

Remembering Granny D

Vermont Public Radio Commentary 

Announcer:

“Today is the 4th of July when we celebrate America’s Declaration of Independence, and commentator Rick Hubbard is thinking about 91 year old Doris Haddock, a neighbor in Dublin, New Hampshire.”

 

You may remember Doris as Granny D, the great grandmother who, in her 90th year, walked over 3000 miles, coast to coast, to promote campaign finance reform.

A year ago on February 28th, Granny D reached the steps of Congress where she  presented petitions from thousands of Americans calling for comprehensive reform of the way we finance our political process. A few months later, on April 21, Granny D again mounted those steps and made her way into the Capitol’s rotunda.

There she began speaking about The First Amendment to our Constitution which says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble to petition the Government for a redress of grievances which is just what she and 31 others accompanying her were doing. Continue reading