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The problem with Vermont's bright idea

Have you heard? Vermont - home of Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry's and fresh maple syrup on tap - is now ...

Posted: Jun 11, 2018 11:53 AM
Updated: Jun 11, 2018 11:53 AM

Have you heard? Vermont - home of Bernie Sanders, Ben & Jerry's and fresh maple syrup on tap - is now willing to more-or-less bribe prospective migrants to move there, to the tune of $5,000 a year for up to two years, no questions asked. (The only catches, if you can call them catches, are that you need to be employed, working remotely for an out-of-state company, and willing to settle down in a remote, pastoral state with the highest dairy cow-to-person ratio in the nation.)

The initiative is one of multiple campaigns designed to address the Green Mountain State's dwindling working-age population. "We have about 16,000 fewer workers than we did in 2009. That's why expanding our workforce is one of the top priorities of my administration," said Gov. Phil Scott in a statement explaining the novel moves. "We must think outside the box to help more Vermonters enter the labor force."

It's understandable that Vermont is seeking ways to bring in new blood and energize its flat economy, which has been projected as having the second-worst outlook in the nation over the next five years. What's ironic is how inside the box its "outside the box" thinking really is. Because while Vermont could be taking this moment to bring new diversity to a state that's the second-whitest in the United States, it's instead investing in initiatives that could easily end up maintaining the state's culturally monolithic status.

If Vermont had aimed this policy at explicitly encouraging new Americans to migrate to the state (the policy does not), it would be redressing a significant shortfall in the state's demographics.

Consider that immigrants make up about 13% of the nation as a whole, but account for just 4% of Vermonters . The state ranks 39th out of 50 in its percentage of immigrant population -- and as the US immigrant population has risen (by 5.8% since 2010), the immigrant population in Vermont has dropped by 12.8%. Over half of the immigrants that do come to Vermont are from Canada or Europe. Compare that to the top three "sending nations" of immigrants to the US as a whole - Mexico, India and China.

Now, let's be clear here: The reasons for lack of racial diversity are complicated in this state, which is among the most liberal in the nation. It also has America's highest percentage of LGBTQ individuals, at 5.3%. And from my own visits I can confirm that Vermonters are generally warm and welcoming to tourists, whose spending is responsible for about one in 10 of the state's jobs.

But tourists aren't permanent residents. And while the state is progressive, like many places with limited diversity it can also be notoriously insular - it's said that to be considered a "true" Vermonter, a "woodchuck" as opposed to a "flatlander," you need to have been present in the state for generations, not years.

That's a tough barrier to overcome when you're not just from a different state, but a different country, and even more so when you're of a different race or ethnicity than 94% of the rest of the population.

And lack of diversity tends to encourage lack of diversity. It's hard for outsiders to want to move to a place where there isn't an existing community, or a cultural infrastructure to accommodate your food, customs and traditions.

Combine that with the tense rhetoric associated with immigration in the nation today -- which has led to an ugly backlash even in this progressive bastion -- and it's clear that trying to entice out-of-state, work-from-home techno-able-professionals that might look like the overwhelming majority of Vermonters was an easier pill for the state to swallow than throwing open its gates to the world.

The fact is, as Vermont, and America as a whole, ages and sees its workforce decline, immigration is unquestionably a critical part of the solution. But Vermont is paying American workers to move to its small towns and rolling hills, even as millions of people are willing to do just about anything to move to the United States. Some are desperately fleeing horrific conditions in their native countries. Others are simply aspiring to live better lives in a new one.

Not all are "poor, huddled masses" - the H1-B visa program for educated professionals with special skills remains hugely oversubscribed. But here's a tell on Vermont: it had the fourth-lowest number of H1-B visa holders in the nation as of 2017 - just 366, far behind other New England states, like New Hampshire, with 1,906. It was, however, in the same category as far more conservative states like South Dakota (347 H1-Bs), Wyoming (137) and Montana (191).

Does the state of Bernie Sanders really want to be in that company?

If Vermont really wants to boost its economy -- while attracting young professionals and technology entrepreneurship to the state -- here's a radical idea: It should use the funds it has set aside to line the pockets of mobile American workers and put them instead toward becoming a better destination for immigrants from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

It should do this by providing incentives for companies to hire immigrant talent; encouraging universities to partner with business on study-to-work apprenticeship programs; and investing in enhancing its social infrastructure to be more accessible and inclusive of people for whom English isn't a first language, and American isn't a native culture.

Make the Green Mountain State more brown? It's a radical idea for a radical state.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1385749

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1538881574
Cuyahoga1358332341
Hamilton987081326
Montgomery679671161
Summit568451051
Lucas51531869
Butler48000663
Stark42232983
Lorain32046539
Warren30404338
Mahoning27463643
Clermont25990297
Lake24809422
Delaware22566147
Licking20767246
Fairfield20730223
Greene20611275
Trumbull20257516
Medina20074290
Clark18170332
Richland16680236
Portage16389231
Wood15926209
Allen14333261
Miami14018261
Muskingum12927155
Wayne12185244
Columbiana11980242
Tuscarawas11204271
Marion10908150
Pickaway10606129
Scioto10531127
Erie9864171
Ross9612177
Lawrence8934125
Hancock8603143
Ashtabula8474187
Geauga8251156
Belmont8236188
Jefferson7691175
Huron7537131
Union742651
Washington7380126
Athens709365
Sandusky6963135
Darke6875137
Knox6812122
Seneca6519137
Ashland6051115
Auglaize595388
Shelby5820104
Brown575372
Mercer565190
Defiance5564101
Crawford5563117
Madison551071
Highland549282
Fulton542583
Clinton533781
Logan518687
Preble5102111
Putnam4900107
Guernsey484364
Williams468982
Perry462254
Champaign454264
Ottawa442484
Jackson434563
Pike398345
Morrow396451
Coshocton391969
Fayette383753
Adams369275
Hardin366170
Gallia355458
Holmes3321111
Henry329869
Van Wert320771
Hocking310770
Wyandot285458
Carroll266352
Paulding246443
Meigs221742
Monroe192749
Noble174142
Morgan170029
Harrison160741
Vinton141319
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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63° wxIcon
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Huntington
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 60°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 48°
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Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 63°
Monday is another nice and breezy day with warmer temperatures.
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