Progressive Vermont senator Mark MacDonald, a member of the state’s Natural Resources & Energy Committee, was pondering how to explain new heating fuel taxes imposed under the state’s “clean heat standards” to voters. These fees will apply to fuel oils, redistributed by the state to residents wealthy enough to install heat pumps and other “green” technologies. Elderly folks unable to afford furnace upgrades can thus subsidize new second-home construction for transplants flocking from New York City to Vermont -- yet Vermont legislators can’t fathom how this is not helping the poor.
Senator MacDonald then engaged in the following exchange with Senator Chris Bray:
“Well for the person who says, ‘I don’t like that. I don’t want to be paying extra.’”
Sen. Mark MacDonald: “Well then, get a blanket for Christ’s sake.”
Later, Senator MacDonald jokes “Yeah right” when Bray mentions climate change and slaps his fellow progressive jokingly on the arm, revealing that even these eco-zealots don't buy the “save the world” party line used to shift tax burdens onto poor retirees and welfare moms.
The backlash has been fierce, with many calling for Senator MacDonald to step down:
Fuel prices this year have gone through the roof and so have the prices of everything else. Even when prices were much lower it was not easy for many of us to make ends meet while paying to stay warm… While on my daily route I listen carefully to the pain of low- and middle-income Vermonters who have had no choice but to go cold and hope for spring to come early. You cannot help but feel the anguish of your neighbors. I understand it. Everyone in the industry understands it. The dominant political party in Montpelier does not understand it.
The parallels to Marie Antoinette are inescapable, yet perhaps the distinctions are more noteworthy – Marie Antoinette ruled for less than twenty years; Mark MacDonald has reigned as out-of-touch legislator for nearly four decades! Moreover, Marie Antoniette never actually said “Let them eat cake!” -- Mark MacDonald actually did advise thicker blanket protection.
Senator MacDonald enjoys being the controversial agitator:
MacDonald draws inspiration from legislative debates, poking fun at his political opponents and illustrating the absurdity of his august surroundings… When he speaks, MacDonald is often incomprehensible -- it’s as if his brain is working too fast to follow.
In one case, he suggested Vermont public employees should be “machine-gunned” for failing to provide requested materials. This senator relishes the limelight of controversy:
“I think people are eager to discuss politics face-to-face and get back to the way communities deal with political issues....”
Vermonters are very eager to speak with Mark MacDonald face to face about his blanket comment -- many of them are trying to catch up on their heating bills for the winter, despite layering themselves with blankets. Of course, with net metering in place, electric blankets also now cost more to energize. Vermont’s blanket brouhaha is just warming up, recalling an apropos quote:
The blanket is such a great invention that, from inside it, looking at your life being ruined also feels nice and comfortable.
These are the blankets the Vermont senators are handing out, as perceived by many Vermonters. Their economy, rights, incomes, culture, and way of life are all being systematically dismantled by interlopers pretending to save everyone.
Americans are not losing their courage, but storing it up. Vermont taxpayers are (figuratively) boiling tar and gathering feathers, so they can warm things properly this November.