Sunday, November 16, 2008

Surprise!!! We’re Broke

It’s Sunday, and everyone knows what this means: A brillig day, the fierce wind shaking the last leaves from now barren trees stripped for winter; church bells sounding in the cold air, summoning all but a few sour atheists to the Lord’s supper; and, peering out the window, what is that lying like a beached white whale in the clustered leaves just under the blue container marked The Hartford Courant?

Why, it’s the Hartford Courant. Wrapped in the fat of ads is this precious paragraph from the editorial page:

“Ironically, the state income tax, begun in 1991, was supposed to stabilize state revenues, which were then fluctuating wildly with the volatile sales tax. Connecticut's treasury, however, is now dependent on a wildly volatile Wall Street — so volatile that on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average dipped below 8,000 but finished the day up 553 points. The state income tax depends on the stock market for a quarter of its revenue. Greenwich alone — home to many whose livelihoods are tied to the market — supplied 13 percent of all state income tax in 2006.”


Let us parse this graph, painful sentence by painful sentence.

“Ironically, the state income tax, begun in 1991, was supposed to stabilize state revenues, which were then fluctuating wildly with the volatile sales tax.”

Whence this irony, this wide-eyed surprise shining in the irises of the members of the editorial board of the Hartford Courant? Why so taken aback? And, to vary a song title from the immortal Tina Turner – What’s irony got to do with it?

After then Governor Lowell Weicker broke some arms to get the complaisant state legislature to pass the income tax, the Courant said that it would replace the niggling little taxes other governors had relied upon to patch holes in the budget. But why should editors believe their own propaganda? The Courant also said that the broad based tax would bring “stability” to revenue collections. But this was pie in your eye even then, as is shown in the pudding. It is perfectly obvious, looking back through the surplus filled years from the present towards that luminous last pre-income tax O’Neill budget, a modest $7.5 billion, that spending has gone wild. The income tax was passed in 1991; we are now on the cusp of the year 2009. The editorial writers at the Courant have had 17 years to do the math and discover the incremental increase in state spending: Spending in Connecticut has increased threefold since the last Democrat governor was displaced by Weicker.

At the same time, the editorial board members of the Courant knew – how could such brighties help but know? – that a good portion of the succeeding surplus slurping budgets were Wall Street reliant. What they know now -- "The state income tax depends on the stock market for a quarter of its revenue. Greenwich alone — home to many whose livelihoods are tied to the market —- supplied 13 percent of all state income tax in 2006” –- they have known through year after painful year of increased spending.

Wall Street takes a bath; Connecticut takes a bath. No surprise here; no cause for ironical astonishment, eh?

And what is the non-ironical prescription for all this bloody spending?

Stop spending, does anyone suppose? Not a bit of it.

The Courant’s solution is to raid the so called Rainy Day Fund because – well, it’s raining. Just look out the window.

Some of us, more familiar with the real causes of Connecticut’s venture into poverty, would consider this solution to be, in the precise sense of the word, ironic.

Why?

Because you cannot end the horror by more spending; and providing more money to a spendthrift legislature and a compliant governor, is, ironically, a non-solution to the problem. It always was a non-solution to the problem.

Those who are feeling the pinch of exorbitant state spending this year may want to save a few pennies by canceling their subscriptions to this beached white whale. After the rainy day fund is gone – it will happen in a trice – a few pennies in the piggy bank might prove useful.
Post a Comment