Thursday, May 08, 2008

Closing Time, The Punch And Judy Hour

Well, it’s crying time again, you’re gonna leave me. I can see that far away look in your eyes… Ray Charles

The old saw has it that neither a man’s property not his wallet is safe so long as the legislature is in session.

Connecticut may now breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The legislative session has officially ended.

The bad new is that the duffers may be called into a special session.

The legislative plate this year had been pretty full, before the governor and the legislature threw the carefully prepared meal on the floor and stomped out of the room. The boys and girls were supposed to tackle ethics reform, provide relief to hard-pressed taxpayers slogging through a recession, prevent murderers and rapist from murdering and raping us a third time and, of course, give more money to UConn, a reflex action of the last zillion legislatures.

As it happened, the surplus, eaten by recession mice, dwindled to nothing; at which point, the legislature and Governor Jodi Rell decided to push in all the stops. After having chomped down more than a decade’s worth of successive surpluses, the Rell-Amann-Williams consortium decided their collective belly was full.

No ethics reform, no protection provided by a three-strikes-and-you’re out bill, and no additional revenues for, in many cases, non-unionized contract workers who do what unionized worker do – only for less money and benefits. No, no, no…

And that’s how we ended up with the usual Punch and Judy Show.

Punch (the legislature) wants to ransack Daddy Warbuck’s wallet and spend a lot of money on his usual projects: taking care of the poor and needy, really fixing the collapsing crime and punishment joke, preventing corruption in government, building a pipeline connecting the treasury to teacher union pockets, and giving money to an indigent UConn.

Governor Judy goes along with all this -- up to a point.

Both appear to favor ethics reform and a get-tough-on-crime bill that would put violent criminals away for life on the third commission of a serious felony. A serious felony is defined as rape, murder and failing to commit oodles of taxpayer money to UConn. Both are aware that a recession is lowering all the boats, and both express concern, deep verbal concern. The three-strikes-and-you’re-out bill is rejected by the laughably titled Judiciary Committee because, co-chairman of the committee Michael Lawlor argues, there are only a few hundred felons out there to whom the law might apply, and the bill would not have prevented an especially horrific crime in Cheshire. The pension reform part of the ethics reform bill falls apart when (Rep.) Chris Caruso, the saintly chairman of the committee that oversees ethics, inserts into it a provision withdrawing pensions from corrupt officials retroactively that even a sophomore law student would regard as unconstitutional.

Punch and Judy primp on stage: They are so tolerant, so generous (with other people’s money), so fuzzy and warn, so cute.

All of a sudden – owing, Punch and Judy say, to the disappearing surplus – the pillow sized powder puffs appear, and the two begin to bang up on each other. The media follows the mayhem closely and provides a running commentary: Punch good, Judy bad; no, hold on there, Judy good, Punch bad.

In fact this delightful scene has been played many times before. By now, all the actors have got down their parts pat.

Owing to the collaborative efforts of Rell, Speaker of the House Jim Amann and President Pro-tem of the Senate Don Williams, the governor will be able to primp before the media as “an effective firewall,” and the Democrat dominated legislature will be able to enter the coming campaign as lions tearing at the pants of millionaires and providing benefits out of their left ears to a grateful constituency.

We have seen the whole show before.

It’s time to ring down the curtain on it permanently by voting in a new set of actors.

In the absence of term limits, an effective way to clear the stage of aging bad actors, Connecticut’s voters this year should get angry – very angry – at the increasing price of government. Forget the price of gas; Punch and Judy this year have decided not to reduce their take on rising energy costs. There’s a recession don’t you know, and state government needs every penny it has misappropriated through successive surpluses. Focus on the price and size of government.

And throw the bums out who do not want to reduce both.
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