Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dannel In Wonderland

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
On the other side of the rabbit hole, we all know, things are upside down and inside out. Wonderland has an awesomely terrifying logic of its own, unrelated to the sensuous world. And that is why Humpty Dumpty can make words mean so many different things. The connection between words and things are irreparably broken in Wonderland, the very definition of madness.

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
The logic here is faultless – but wrong.

In politics, power carries the point, however ruinous. Humpty Dumpty, not yet fallen off the wall and shattered into a thousand pieces, knows that in the end all political dickering reduces to this: “which is to be master, that’s all.”

When Republican leader John McKinney rose within the circle – senators in the General Assembly refer to themselves collectively as the circle, because they are arranged in a circle facing each other – to respond to a budget cobbled together by the Democratic caucus and the first Democratic governor since former Governor William O’Neil threw in the towel, he gave the best single speech of the day, not because he was master in Humpty Dumpty’s phrase, but because he was right.

The ferocity of Mr. McKinney’s attack was both surprising and cleansing. Did the Democrats say they had cut spending in their budget? They had not cut spending. They cut projected spending, a phantasm, and called their reduction a cut; but, as a matter of fact, bottom line spending for the two years budget, Mr. McKinney said, is greater in each year than it had been in the last budget, and the difference represents an increase in spending, not a decrease.

With one clean wipe, the chicanery disappeared.

Sitting next to McKinney in the circle, Democratic President of the Senate Don Williams fidgeted with his papers, seeming somewhat put upon that he and his comrades had been called out so publicly for having attached such disparate meanings to the word “cut.” But Humpty Dumpty knows that power, and with it budget mastery, covers a multitude of sins. The question “Which is to be master?” had been answered long before Mr. McKinney started speaking, and Mr. Williams was appropriately tolerant.

As Mr. McKinney continued, pricking bubble after bubble of misdirection, a gorgeous flower of righteous indignation unfolded. The Democrats had smuggled into their budget a billion dollar surplus. A surplus! In this hour, when their constituents are losing their jobs? When they have been raked by the devil’s claws? And the Democrats arrange a surplus? Mr. McKinney was just beginning:

“Maybe someone in this room can explain this to me. The price of food and education is going up so we can have a surplus? That’s irresponsible. They didn’t do that in New York. They didn’t do it in New Jersey. They didn’t have an historic increase in taxes in Rhode Island. In the Massachusetts legislature – which has far fewer Republican legislators than we have here, believe it or not – they’ve taken steps that would be unthinkable in Connecticut to control costs. [The reference is to the Democratic led effort in Massachusetts to eliminate collective bargaining)]. But we can’t do that here. No, we’re different, we’re told. Connecticut’s different. Well, here are the consequences of Connecticut’s being different: We’re losing jobs. We’re not losing jobs to South Carolina and Georgia – Yeah, we are – but we’re not just losing jobs to South Carolina and Georgia. And we’re not just losing jobs to Mexico and China. That’s what we all thought, right? Connecticut’s different. Well, in April, Precision Camera And Video said they’re cutting 234 jobs from Enfield, a company that a couple of years ago was awarded for its growth – now cutting 234 jobs. We just learned a Waterbury company is leaving to move to Armonk, New York – not Georgia, not South Carolina, not Mexico, not China, forty five minutes down the road to Armonk, New York. And they have a deal with the state of New York where they’re actually going to add jobs. We learned that Pfizer was moving their neuro and cardiovascular research unit not to North Carolina, not to Mexico, not to China, but to Cambridge, Massachusetts. We learned that Yardley Technical Products from Pawcatuck, Connecticut was relocating 165 manufacturing jobs, not to Georgia, not to South Carolina, not to Mexico, not to China, but to East Greenwich, Rhode Island. We’ve lost jobs to Massachusetts; we’ve lost jobs to Rhode Island; we’ve lost jobs to New York. New York didn’t raise taxes. Massachusetts is making reforms hat are unheard of in Connecticut, and Rhode Island didn’t engage in this type of tax increases. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. We are at this moment of history because of our failure to act properly within the last couple of years – and because of the unwillingness of this majority to make the tough decisions that have to be made.”
Every fiscal year since former Governor Lowell Weicker first poured income tax gas on the fires of spending, the legislature had piled surplus on surplus, tucking the over appropriated expenditures into the budget, increasing spending from $7.5 billion to $20 billion within the time frame of three governors. And now, when unemployment in Connecticut is nine percent, when their constituents cannot pay their bills, the Democrats in the General Assembly raise taxes and unaccountably feel the need for yet another billion dollar surplus, another slush fund that in the future may be dumped into the general fund to save them the trouble of making necessary cost reductions.

Are you serious?

The Malloy-Williams contraption had been fashioned entirely by Democratic hands, one of rare times in the history of the General Assembly that the chamber had produced a wholly partisan budget. And just look here: The appropriations side of the ledger was, in fact, short two billion dollars, the amount of savings Mr. Malloy and Mr. Williams hoped to wrangle from state unions. The negotiations were by no means settled when the budget, forced through the senate by Mr. Williams at warp speed, had been signed. Couldn’t the Democrats have been more prudent? Why did they not wait, Mr. McKinney asked, until they had the savings in hand – at most a couple of weeks? Why had they not consulted with the Republicans they will be forced to face in the brotherly circle of the senate as the biennium unwinds?

Why? Because power recognizes only power as its master.
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