An Introduction to our Vision
Side-by-side, across lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and economic background, we can create an economy that serves us all, not just a wealthy few. We can unite to face climate change and resist the fossil fuel industry and other industries that threaten the health of our planet and communities. We can get money out of politics and build a true democracy. We can dismantle structural racism and sexism, and invest in each other.
The time for action is now. Our communities desperately need change. Wealthy private interests have bought their way into power and have forwarded a policy agenda that protects and increases corporate profits at all costs and leaves immense human and environmental destruction in its wake. By capturing our government and our economy, a wealthy, elite class (largely white and male) has shaped our laws and institutions around a short-term, individualistic ideology that glorifies, prioritizes and protects private profits, private wealth, and private markets. This oligarchy uses its money and influence to block all efforts to build institutions that promote human well-being, community and ecological wealth, and the public good.
The rigged economy this ruling class has created is tearing our communities apart. It leaves people unemployed or stuck in low-wage and often dangerous jobs, which generates poverty, insecurity, and poor physical and mental health. Virtually all of us, at one point or another, find ourselves dependent on the vagaries of job markets and our employers’ whims without any assurance that we will be able to secure affordable housing, put food on the table, heat our homes, access healthcare, pay for childcare, and care for aging or sick loved ones. Without economic stability and a social safety net, we live in a perpetual state of insecurity, preventing us from from switching to better suited jobs, pursuing entrepreneurial dreams, spending more time with our families, and investing energy and resources in our communities. While this insecurity has universally deleterious effects, it disproportionately impacts those of us who are most likely trapped in low-wage, part-time, and otherwise insecure work: communities of color, immigrants, women, transgender people, individuals who grew up in impoverished settings, and, most prominently, those who fall into more than one of these categories.
The same economic system and corporate profiteering that are wreaking havoc in our communities are wreaking havoc on our environment. We depend on our environment for our food, water, livelihoods, health and wellbeing, which are all threatened by climate change, pollution, and the degradation of our local environments. From extreme weather events like Hurricane Irene to less visible, more insidious changes that affect everything from our respiratory health to our crops, climate change threatens our communities, our economy, and, most importantly, our children’s future. At the same time, local level environmental threats including workplace exposure to toxic chemicals, air and water pollution, and destructive land use and development practices are jeopardizing the health of our workers and our families.
While we are all affected by the undemocratic elevation of corporate profits over people and our environment, our most vulnerable communities—including people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+ people, the working poor, children from families lacking resources, the elderly, and people with disabilities—are consistently and systematically hurt most of all. These communities are systematically marginalized from the economic and political decision-making process resulting in the incorporation of racism, sexism, classism, and other oppressions into the structures of our society. These structural oppressions serve to divide-and-conquer, scapegoat, and engender feelings of fear and insecurity. By physically and socially separating us from one another and coloring how we see others, ourselves, and our community, these oppressions blind us to our shared values and common needs. The net result is an economic and political system in which structural inequalities divert wealth, resources, opportunities, health, and well-being away from some communities and toward others. Ultimately, structural oppression and divisive political tactics serve to obscure our common interest and discourage conceptualizing and fighting for a radically different economy and society.
In order to overcome these oppressions, we must acknowledge how they operate structurally in our political and economic systems and even within our own minds. We must interrogate how they produce different opportunities and outcomes for different communities in our state. We must intentionally, proactively, and relentlessly work to dismantle these oppressions in our institutions and society by centering the needs, rights, participation, and leadership (both in terms of identifying problems and developing solutions) of marginalized communities. We must demand a restoration of our democracy by taking money out of politics and empowering communities to make democratic decisions about healthcare, education, the economy, and the environment. We must take ourselves and our leadership seriously, and know that we can move others to act with us on our shared values and to dismantle structural oppression internally and externally.
We envision a society that upholds the dignity and worth of all human beings and of our environment. This means that we must organize together to dismantle structural injustice and to build a society, a democracy, and an economy that is grounded in the needs of all people and our planet. Together, we can build a New England for all.
Our economy today in Vermont, New Hampshire, and across the globe is structured to benefit a small number of the richest people. It leaves everyone else dependent and insecure and forces tragic numbers of people to do without things like healthcare and decent housing that are so essential to our lives. Based on the deeply flawed ideology of “trickle-down economics,” this economic model extracts wealth by exploiting workers, communities and the environment. It exploits workers through inadequate and unequal pay, dangerous working conditions and attacks on unions and the right of workers to organize. It exploits communities through a blind adherence to market ideology that values private profits, property and wealth over human lives, denying enormous numbers of people fundamental needs including housing, healthcare and social security.
Rather than making equitable use of society’s wealth to ensure that human rights are protected through universal community-controlled public systems, this economic system literally lets people die rather than challenging the dire concentration of wealth and the supposed “rights” of corporations. This extreme concentration of wealth—and of human suffering—particularly hurts communities of color, women, LGBTQ+ communities, young people and old people. At the same time, this economic system also exploits our environment by prioritizing short-term profits over long-term sustainability and well-being, thereby pushing the costs of poverty, poor health, uneven educational opportunities, housing insecurity, dangerous work, fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, pollution, climate change and the loss of ecological habitats and biodiversity onto the rest of society, particularly onto marginalized communities, our children and future generations.
There is nothing natural or necessary about inequality and exploitation. The struggles that people across Vermont face every day are the results of policy decisions. Vermont is suffering from decisions that hurt our communities and the environment on which we depend, but we can decide to build a new economy: an economy that supports and nourishes human lives, communities and our environment rather than exploiting them.
Our people and our natural environment are our greatest assets and must be cherished, invested in and replenished. We must measure the vitality of our economy not by GDP, but by by whether our economy meets the needs of our people. Together, we can craft an economy that works for us all, affirms the full humanity of everyone single person and restores the environment in which we live and on which our economy and our future depend. We can do this by:
Putting people at the center of all policies by explicitly recognizing in law that economic output is a means toward fulfilling human needs, not an end in itself; instituting annual participatory assessments of human and community needs; reorienting public budgets and economic policies to divest from exploitative industries and activities and invest instead in public goods; providing a universal basic income; and providing a publicly backed guarantee of good jobs for all workers regardless of economic cycles, criminal records or any other factors.
Advance racial and gender justice by ending criminalization and mass incarceration; ending discrimination in jobs, housing, healthcare and education against people with criminal records, people without immigration documentation and LGBTQ+ people; ensuring equal pay for equal work; establishing universal, high-quality childcare and eldercare; respecting the work of care workers; establishing paid sick leave and paid family leave; ensure that part-time, contingent and temp workers have access to all rights and benefits; and equitably directing public spending toward the communities of color, immigrant communities, women, LGBTQ+ communities and other communities with the greatest needs.
Ensuring that all people have a living wage, beginning by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour; ending worker misclassification; ensuring full rights and protections for part-time, temp, contract and informal workers; and implementing a public jobs guarantee.
Protecting the rights, and health and safety of workers by safeguarding and protecting the rights to organize and unionize; strengthening public sector unions; developing and funding new worker-led accountability systems that empower workers to protect their own rights; funding workplace monitoring, public enforcement systems and training for workers and employers; funding community-based workers’ organizations to do outreach and training with non-union workers who are least likely to know about and be able to protect their rights; holding employers, including executives, accountable for labor and environmental violations; and ensuring adequate medical care and income replacement for workers who are hurt or made sick by their work.
Rejecting the race to the bottom by working across municipalities and state borders to end competing tax subsidies that hand over community wealth for private gain, and ending outsourcing.
- Introducing democratic control of land, capital and resources by directing public spending to support our communities and environment through responsible public contracting and subsidies that steer public contracts away from private profiteers and toward fulfilling the public good, especially for communities with the greatest needs; ending outsourcing of government functions; establishing a public bank and capitalizing community-controlled loan funds; financing worker- and community-owned coops; financing community land trusts to permanently protect non-speculative affordable housing, community space, recreation space, farmland and ecological refuges; regulating banks; requiring corporations to meet the triple-bottom-line of enhancing the economy, ecology and social equity; requiring corporate boards to include worker, community, consumer and environmental representatives; levying a tax on financial speculation; ensuring that tax-exempt institutions deliver community benefits; and implementing progressive taxes to ensure that wealthy individuals and big businesses who benefit from Vermont’s workers, economy and environment pay their fair share back into the state’s economy.
Our democratic systems have been captured by wealthy corporations and individuals to advance their own private interests. When our elected leaders’ campaign coffers are filled by the very interests they are charged with regulating once in office and corporate lobbyists are given unlimited access and influence to our halls of governance, public policies no longer serve the public.
As dark money pours into elections, our voting rights — especially of people of color, women, young people, seniors and new Americans —are under attack, and the media fail to critique the system due to negligence, at best, or complicity, at worst. When our state was founded, only white male property owners could vote, and everyone who was explicitly excluded from voting rights — people of color, women, poor people and young people — continues, along with immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, the elderly and people with disabilities to be ill served by our electoral system today.
Together we can regain control of our democracy and ensure that our legislators represent the will of all of us, not just the monied and well-connected. We can do this by:
Supporting people from our communities who share our values, who understand racism, sexism and classism, and who are committed to advancing policies that equitably meet the needs of all of Vermont’s people, and by developing and investing in community leadership by supporting training and mentorship.
Introducing democratic control of public systems, public budgets and public goods that give people meaningful participation in the the decisions that affect their lives (with a particular emphasis on advancing racial and gender justice by making democratic participation fully accessible to working people, caregivers and people with limited transportation, mobility and English) by funding community-based organizations to conduct outreach and engagement; flexibly scheduling hearings and other public meetings; providing people with multiple avenues for participation; and ensuring language access for people whose native language is not English.
Holding the private sector accountable to our democratic values and processes by implementing a 5-year ban on lobbying after elected officials and high-ranking public administrators leave office and developing new worker- and community-led accountability structures that hold corporations and their executives accountable for labor and environmental practices throughout their supply chains.
Promoting community control of land, resources and budgets by creating and publicly financing community land trusts and other non-speculative models of land ownership and supporting worker- and community-owned cooperatives.
Reforming our legal and immigration system by ending criminalization, mass incarceration, community surveillance, deportations and solitary confinement; abolishing private prisons and divesting from the prison industry; ensuring due process; introducing police accountability by creating citizen review boards and implementing mandatory long-term training on structural racism and classism and implicit bias; and decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs that require service to recover from addiction.
Getting money out of politics and bringing people in by limiting private spending in elections; publicly financing electoral campaigns; ensuring transparency in elections and all public processes; limiting large electoral donations from corporate interests; closing the revolving door between government and lobbying by placing a 5-year lobbying ban on elected officials and senior appointees; automatically registering voters; and working to overturn Citizens United.
Replacing the narratives of austerity, scarcity, individual blame and the scapegoating of people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, LGBTQ+ people and poor people with narratives and a political culture that affirm our common humanity, recognize and celebrate our differences and affirm the importance of taking collective action through equitable taxation and democratically controlled institutions.
- Advancing freedom from fear and intimidation by ending all forms of discrimination, beginning by passing non-discrimination legislation, especially as it applies to members of the LGBTQ+ community; establishing policies that allow state and federal identity documents to be changed to reflect the gender identity of the individual person; passing laws to protect women, transgender people and others from domestic violence, sexual violence and harassment; ensuring mental health care, including addiction services, is accessible to all; and reforming policing by ending school pushout and the militarization of schools and local police departments, creating oversight structures, providing anti-discrimination training, and funding community-led safety initiatives.
Our environment - the air we breath and the water we drink - is being degraded by corporations that extract public profits by poisoning our air and water, dumping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and aggressively working to limit the growth of renewable energies. The exploitation of our environment is inextricably tied to the exploitation of our communities, and both local environmental justices and climate change especially hurt communities of color, low income communities, the elderly, our children and future generations. Our economic model incentivizes corporations to maximize their profits by extracting as much wealth as they can from our environment, communities, workers and public coffers while simultaneously pushing off the costs of their activities onto our society, particularly onto these marginalized communities.
Climate change is a global problem of truly overwhelming proportions. We are in the midst of a mass species die-off that is decimating our ecosystems and biodiversity, and are experiencing weather events like Hurricane Irene that are increasingly extreme and common. Our agricultural systems and food security are under threat, seriously threatening our economic livelihoods and perhaps our very survival. Climate change increases the frequency of floods and droughts, affects what crops, like sugar maples, can grow in our soil and results in unpredictable freeze/thaw cycles that destabilize agriculture in our state and generate polluted runoff that flows into our waterways and soil. Decreased snowfall has already and will continue to take a toll on our winter tourism industry, part of the lifeblood of Vermont’s economy. Though Vermont is one of the greenest states in the country, we continue to emit some of the highest carbon emissions per person of anyone in the world.
We cannot afford to delay bold action to safeguard the health of our communities, economy, natural environment now and in the future. We must move from a carbon-based economic model built on extraction and consumption to a new economy that runs on renewable energy, regenerates the health of our environment and our natural resources and nourishes and invests in the capacity and wellbeing people and communities. It is crucial that we work together to make decisions about our infrastructure, regulations and resources that respect the environment and all of us who rely upon it. We can do this by:
Defending our air and our water by ensuring our resource management infrastructure, land use planning, regulations of private industry and public subsidies and contracts are transparent and accountable; developing a proactive plan for achieving resource security; and holding the private sector, and particularly the worst polluters, accountable.
Protecting our communities and workers against toxic exposure and other environmental hazards, particularly those who are most frequently exposed and those who are most vulnerable, including people of color, low-income people, children, pregnant women and low-wage workers.
Stopping the warming of our planet by leading the United States and the world in rejecting any further investment in fossil fuel infrastructure and establishing democratic control of energy, in part by overhauling the energy markets.
Building a green economy that nourishes both our environment and our communities by investing public money and hiring locally to build green infrastructure; prioritizing projects that mitigate the effects of environmental injustices and climate change on communities of color, women and other highly impacted communities; and hiring people to provide public goods such as healthcare and childcare that promote human well-being and the long-term health of our economy rather than extracting wealth by degrading our environment.
Developing a democratic structure that gives communities and workers meaningful participation in decisions around the utilization of our land and resources to ensure that the transition to a new, sustainable economy is a just one that provides good jobs to Vermonters as well as income to people and communities who are negatively impacted by the economic transition away from environmentally destructive industrial sectors.
Building a sustainable food system that promotes the health of our environment, food chain workers and our communities through public support for sustainable and diverse farming; publicly backed community loan funds to secure farmers against crop and market risks; and worker-led accountability systems.
Our Public Goods
One material consequence of structural injustice is many of our people are denied access to fundamental needs such as comprehensive healthcare, quality education, affordable housing, work with dignity, social security, transportation, a clean environment, clean water and healthy food. These human needs are so vital to our ability to live full, healthy lives that they are recognized around the world as fundamental human rights. We live in the wealthiest country the world has ever seen, and yet people go hungry, become homeless, forego health care and miss out on a quality education not because of any absolute scarcity, but because we, as a society, have failed to allocate our resources toward where they are most needed. The denial of a human right to even one person in our state is an immoral affront that cannot stand, and forces us all — even those of us who are not directly or materially affected by the denial of a human right — to live in a sicker and more precarious, dangerous, polluted and unequal society than we would otherwise enjoy.
Today, rights are both protected and denied unevenly across social groups. People of color, immigrants, women and LGBTQ+ people, among other marginalized groups, are disproportionately and systematically denied fundamental rights. Without universal systems of protection and a robust commitment to equity, tragic numbers of Vermonters, especially from these communities, fall through cracks and are left out of our healthcare, housing, labor and other systems. Women, who shoulder the great majority of caregiving and reproductive labor in our society, bear a tremendous burden of helping families and communities cope. And not only do we fail to invest enough in these crucial programs, we steer our resources instead toward criminalization, mass incarceration, deportation and militarization of our schools, workplaces and local police forces—all projects that research has revealed do not increase public safety, but serve instead to allow private prison and security companies to reap enormous profits from public contracts and human suffering. These activities do much more harm to society than good, and they particularly hurt communities of color, immigrant communities and Muslim communities.
The only way to universally protect everyone’s human rights is to ensure that all fundamental human needs are provided as public goods that are financed equitably through public taxes, and that the needs and participation of communities whose rights are most denied are centered in all policies and solutions. Healthcare and social security, which benefit from economies of scale, must be financed through universal, public financing. Other public goods, such as housing, work and food, need not be financed through a unified public system, but must be backed by a public guarantee, such as publicly guaranteed affordable housing, good jobs and healthy food to guarantee that nobody ever has to go without. To remove barriers to access, public goods must be designed and operated with community participation to meet community needs, must be held accountable to human rights principles and to the people of Vermont through participatory democratic structures, must be designed and operated transparently, must be provided proactively through community outreach and, at least for those with the fewest resources, must be provided at no cost.
Public goods not only protect all of our human rights: they also support our economy by promoting a healthier, better educated population that can put its energies into productive, societally beneficial activities instead of into daily coping and survival. They support our democracy by bringing much-needed transparency, participation, accountability and equity to our systems and protect our environment by shifting our labor and resources away from extraction and depletion toward activities that generate our environmental and community health and wealth.
Despite what opponents of public systems say, public goods do all this while providing public services extremely effectively and efficiently. They eliminate the private profits that corporations pocket by exploiting our fundamental needs, capture the enormous public subsidies that currently go to private industries and put them back to public use, strip out the wasteful administration and marketing created by the needless competition between health insurance companies all offering partial healthcare coverage, produce a healthier population and redirect workers’ time and society’s resources toward societally beneficial work.
We can build an economy and democratic systems that protect our human rights and our environment by divesting from destructive private profiteering and making community-controlled public goods a cornerstone of our economy. We can do this by:
Following through on passing equitable public financing for universal, single payer health care to ensure that everyone in Vermont has access to all needed health care, including preventative medicine, disability care, reproductive health care, family services, dental care and mental health care, including addiction services; training medical personnel on gender justice and transgender medical needs; and passing comprehensive reproductive justice legislation that protects access to contraception, abortion, gender transition and all other reproductive and gender-appropriate healthcare for women and transgender people.
Create an education system that values children, teachers, families, and community members, and has the necessary structures for all of us to act as partners in the process of nourishing young minds by investing in wrap-around services in communities of color and low-income communities, removing all police presence from our schools and ending the school-to-prison pipeline; ending property taxes as the basis for education funding and ensuring that all schools are adequately and equitably supported through a progressive income tax; embracing the Community Schools model; investing in early childhood education and funding universal preschool; ending the cycle of student debt by providing tuition-free education at public universities and community colleges; establishing curricula that acknowledge and affirm the existence and participation of people of color, women, young people and members of the LGBTQ+ community in human history; and establishing more holistic sex education that includes curricula on gender and gender justice.
Providing a comprehensive, unified system of income supports to assist everyone through unemployment, sickness, child rearing, elder care, retirement and other stages of life, as well as a public jobs guarantee and a universal basic income paid regularly to all state residents regardless of employment, age or other characteristics in order to promote our well-being and the vitality of our economy by guaranteeing everyone a baseline of economic security and freeing people up to do pursue entrepreneurial dreams and to spend more time on caregiving, community work, making art and other societally beneficial work.
Creating permanently affordable housing by putting public money toward creating community land trusts that protect housing from market speculation, and providing public subsidies for weatherization, renewable energy, greywater systems and other retrofits to improve the affordability and sustainability of people’s homes.
Supporting local economies by establishing a public bank and capitalizing community-controlled loan funds; financing worker- and community-owned coops and small businesses, particularly those owned by women, people of color and others who face a high barrier of entry to business ownership; and financing community land trusts to permanently protect non-speculative, community-serving coops, businesses and farms.
Providing access to transportation, clean water, clean air, parks and recreation space and clean, affordable energy by investing in public transportation and utility infrastructure; enforcing regulations against polluters; holding keystone corporations accountable for the environmental and labor practices throughout their supply chains; investing in research, infrastructure and practices that promote human wellbeing and environmental regeneration; permanently protecting open spaces for recreation and biodiversity by removing them from private speculation and granting their ownership and control to the public and to community land trusts; and developing democratic, participatory community planning and development structures to guide land use toward community-serving, environmentally sustainable needs, particularly spaces that serve and are accessible to children, adolescents, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Advance racial and gender equity by prioritizing public goods that are most routinely denied to specific communities; prioritizing those communities within policies and democratic processes to design and operate public and private systems; eliminating racial and gender discrimination in hiring, employment, rental and real estate practices and credit and lending; desegregating housing and education; developing democratic structures that both devolve control to local communities and hold all communities accountable to meeting human rights standards; implementing equitable tax structures; recognizing and valuing women’s reproductive and caregiving labor; and divesting from divesting from private prisons, mass incarceration, militarization, immigration enforcement and fossil fuel infrastructure.
- Creating a fair tax system by basing public expenditures on assessments of human and environmental needs, then equitably raising the revenue needed to cover expenses; structuring our payroll and income taxes progressively so that the employers and individuals who have the most resources and benefit the most from our economy, our people and our environment pay the most back into the system; closing corporate loopholes; and levying taxes on speculative activities and highly inequitable wage structures.