Monday, May 05, 2008

Connecticut's Big Bad Deficit

When a deficit occurs in Connecticut – not often, because the state regularly reaps surpluses by overtaxing its citizens – the first instinct of the Democrat politician is to reach for someone else’s wallet.

Millionaires -- the-well-to-do, the redundantly rich, the average Connecticut Gold-coasters who usually, according to those who want to pilfer them, spend their Sundays grinding the faces of the poor -- are a convenient target.

It was Luke, not the relatively inoffensive Mathew, who in his beatitudes called down lightening upon the heads of the rich and heedless. Luke’s beatitudes, unlike Mathew's, include curses: “…woe unto you that are rich, for you have your consolation; woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger; woe to you that now laugh, for you shall mourn and weep; woe to you when men shall bless you, for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Luke’s objection seems to be that the sons of wealth need no God; comfort can well afford to dispense with the Comforter. Therefore, in the last days, when justice shall come, woe will betide those who have turned away from the poor and needy: They will be parched, for their thirst already had been fulfilled; they will be hungry, for they had no need of the Father who commands them to feed the poor and tend to the sick at heart.

A rational politics takes these injunctions seriously. That, in part, was the message left us by the departing Pope Benedict.

Materialism, in its essence, is a turning away from the Father, a rejection of fatherhood itself. As with Hamlet, who could “close himself in a walnut shell” and “count himself the King of infinite space,” this insularity, the imprisoning of men in the little ease of their egos, makes men mad.

All of which brings us to the role of government in the lives of men and women.

The role of government is not to establish an impossible heaven on earth, a utopia, the secular equivalent of a blissful afterlife in the here and now: It is to secure the peace, security and prosperity of the community and to leave men in a condition to live a life in which the beatitudes might possibly be observed.

The first governmental commandment is to do no harm -- not to disturb the peace, security and prosperity of the governed. Constitutions, it is sometimes forgotten, are abridgments on the authority of government, which, more often than not, dispose of a destructive power. The authority to order a community is the power to destroy a community, a notion that would not have been unfamiliar to the founders of the Republic. One of the reasons the founders established a tripartite government in which the dreadful powers of a monarch are divided between an executive, legislative and judicial branch was to hobble potential tyrants and demagogues. And the demagogue must be resisted most strenuously when he appears among us as an angel of light, whose life and works benefit the downcast and the oppressed. He is most dangerous when he appears most helpful.

Deficits are useful reminders that the governing power has spent more money than it has collected, but it is not often enough noted that surpluses are reminders that the governing power has collected more money than is necessary to discharge its budgetary responsibilities. In the case of deficits, the governing power can discharge its responsibility by either raising taxes or cutting spending. In the case of surpluses, the governing power can only discharge its responsibility by returning the misappropriated funds to the people. In both cases, the governing power has enfeebled the people and eaten out their substance, by creating deficits through imprudent spending and by creating, hoarding and spending surpluses through excessive appropriations.

For more than a decade, the Democrat dominated legislature has reaped surplus after surplus, quickly spending the excess. It was not for nothing that former governor and senator Lowell Weicker once rebuffed charges that he might institute an income tax once he was governor by saying that to do so would be like pouring gas on a fire.

He never spoke a truer word. The fire has been raging ever since, stoked with surpluses. And now that the big bad wolf is at the door, the same legislature has decided to confront the problem by going home and permitting Gov. Jodi Rell to commit economies by minimally reducing staffing.

Such pluck and courage has not been seen since Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
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