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Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’ — Bob Dylan

What a difference a day makes. I can remember back a week or so ago, like the day before the midterm elections, where the Republican candidates were proclaiming that inflation, crime and being fiscally conservative were their important issues. In less time than it took Rep. Kevin McCarthy to morph from chastising the former, twice impeached, president for his role in the 1-6 Insurrection to flying down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring, the new Republican led Congress has changed course.

Their faux concerns have flown the coop and now it’s all about Hunter Biden. Hunter is today’s Benghazi. You may recall that the last time the GOP had control of the House they spent two years and $7 million dollars on whether or not Hillary Clinton was guilty of, well, something. Turned out that she wasn’t and that their premises had been thoroughly debunked before the GOP even got started, but they opted not to let the facts get in the way of an opportunity to discredit Clinton. The goal was simply to make her so toxic no one could vote for her for president.

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Fast forward. Beginning in January we will be treated to more conspiracy theories and either disinformation or outright lies about the life and times of someone who is, in fact, irrelevant. Sure, Hunter is the president’s son, but already Reps Jim Comer and Jim Jordan are making statements trying to tie President Biden into a child trafficking ring. Of course, exactly like the Benghazi hearings, these new hearings won’t go anywhere either, but that’s not the point. The point is to jack up their base, which consists of some of the more disturbing, QAnon believers of our society.

These twisted legislators would much rather spend your tax dollars on useless things like this than actually trying to investigate the root causes of many, serious issues that are impacting you and me everyday. One need only to look around our immediate area to learn of the yeoman’s effort to help our neighbors in need; and there are a lot of neighbors in need.

This Manchester Journal article clearly points out the magnitude of the problem of poor and underprivileged kids right here in our area:

Some Vermont kids are now so poor that they have to glue a flip flop to the bottom of their sneakers to get a little more out of their shoes, while newcomers are spending millions renovating houses local people can no longer afford to buy, there is something very wrong.

When people have to turn to fentanyl laced heroin to find comfort from the storm of their life, because they appear to have no way out, there is something very wrong. There is a story in the Bennington Banner of a local man whose life took a turn for the worse. To deal with the pain he resorted to the ample supply of drugs flowing around us. Heroin provided him short-term relief from his troubles, but predictably did little to resolve his core issues.

What are these core issues? The number one issue is income inequality and how tax policies of the past 40 years have been more beneficial to the wealthiest among us. Folks who run hedge funds may not outnumber those on the bottom of our society, but they can outbuy them. In my lifetime working people were able to buy land, build a house and raise a family; typically on one income. Today, our good jobs have been exported while heroin is being imported.

The short story is that people are more likely to NOT look to heroin to alleviate their pain if good paying careers are a viable alternative. No, minimum wage jobs are not the answer. People need help and more people need help today than ever before.

To compound our core issues we learned last week that the global population has surpassed eight billion people. Of that eight billion 1.2 people live in abject poverty. In America 42 million people live in poverty. In Vermont 10% of the population lives in poverty. We’re not talking about the working poor or struggling middle class. We’re talking about below the poverty line. We’re talking about a family of four trying to survive on $26,500 per YEAR! That number wouldn’t pay for kitchen cabinets in a house being built today.

What is the newly elected GOP Congress’s plan for addressing these issues? Crickets. Will they work to advance healthcare for all? Will they work to hold those who tried to overthrow our democracy accountable? Will they work to create more jobs? (Our current president has created the most jobs in history). Are they going to work to reduce inflation and/or gas prices? No. Their mission is to investigate Hunter Biden.

As for the people, well they just need to recycle their old flip flops and they’ll be just fine.

Bob Stannard is a longtime columnist for the Bennington Banner. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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