Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Temper, Temper


It’s a little early in the political season for politicians and political watchers to be losing their tempers. But, then again, the stakes are high, particularly here in usually placid Connecticut, first in the nation in per capita debt.

In an eye-opening op-ed column, retired state House Republican press secretary Joseph Santangelo reminds us that we are fast approaching the edge of the abyss.

Connecticut’s tax supported debt is the highest in the country at $4,490 per person. Even Taxachussetts’ debt is lower.

Nutmeggers owe $58.9 billion in unfunded obligations, which includes “outstanding debt, state employee pensions, teacher pensions, and retired state employee health and life insurance benefits, according to the state Office of Fiscal Analysis. For every man, woman and child in Connecticut, that means we each owe about $16,800, with no repayment plan in sight.”

Assuming a recovery – The last post recession recovery in Connecticut was painfully slow; it took the state more than 10 years to recover it’s lost jobs -- the state Office of fiscal Analysis projects a five year budget deficit estimated of $10.1 billion through the 2013-14 fiscal period. Connecticut “now spends about $2 billion of its $18 billion annual state budget in debt service. In 1989, debt service amounted to 6 percent of the budget, but by 2009 it almost doubled to 11 percent…”

Such figures, even when we do not worry ourselves daily over them, grate on the nerves.

The Day of New London reported, before the New Year was a week old:

“When Mark Davis, the chief political correspondent for WTNH-Channel 8, persistently questioned [U.S. Sen. Chris] Dodd about his primary challenger, Merrick Alpert, and the challenger's claim that the senator shared blame for the financial crisis because of support for deregulation efforts in the 1990s, Dodd was curt.

"’I reject that argument,’ he said sharply, then looked around for the next question.”

Dodd was visiting Colonial Han-Dee Spring, attempting to spread a bit of good news. Businesses have found it difficult to get credit, and Dodd was in Connecticut to assure business leaders that help is on the way from Washington, the nation’s monetary piñata. Some of the money used to bail out Wall Street had been returned to the Beltway, and the Obama administration intended, Dodd said, to divert some of the returns as “loans to small businesses that have still not been able to get banks to extend them credit to continue their operations.”

That problem, said president of Han-Dee Spring William J. Lathrop, had not affected his company, which receives credit through its parent company. But, Lathrop offered, his company was concerned that Connecticut may not preserve its state-level worker training programs. Other worries tormented him.

What other worries? “Anything that raises costs.”

Dodd may be distressed to learn that pretty much everything done – and left undone – by Connecticut’s Democratic leaders in the legislature raises the cost of doing business in his home state. Peter Schiff, the Cassandra-like economist running against Dodd, has insisted that solutions offered by Democrats to these pressing problems are the problem.

And then there was Davis, scraping his fingernails across Dodd’s soul; and Alpert, Dodd’s Ned Lamont, puttering through the state and hurling imprecations at the senator.

It was enough to make a saint squirm.

Dodd’s reception in his home state is not the unruffled experience the senator has been used to around campaign time.

Even Kevin Rennie, an elegant writer who maintains a column in the Hartford Courant, has succumbed to these intemperate times.

U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro has been mightily upset with former Democratic senator Joe Lieberman -- now styling himself an Independent Democrat, after having been ritualistically tossed out of his party by progressive Democratic sans culottes -- for having stood in the doorway of President Barack Obama's preferred health care initiative yelling "Stop!"

DeLauro, Rennie wrote, "sounded, there's no way to say this nicely, like a ranting loon when she said Lieberman should be recalled from office for pressing his demands. There are no provisions for a recall, but DeLauro is only in her 10th term in Congress, so how can she be expected to know of such things?”

Yes, looney DeLauro.

Some may think the sentiment discourteous but true; others may think it simply true.

One expects such raw bursts of energy from the new and untried communications director for state Democrats, Colleen “The Attack Husky” Flanagan, but if even if the mild and inoffensive Rennie cannot keep his temper in his holster, who can?
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