Monday, October 24, 2011

Connecticut’s Social Gospel

What might be called Connecticut’s social gospel is prospering under the hand of progressive Governor Dannel Malloy. Should anyone doubt that Mr. Malloy is a born again progressive, he has only to pay heed to remarks the governor made at a progressive panel discussion in Washington D.C., the epicenter of modern Democratic progressivism.

When president CEO of the Center for American Progress John Podesta, former White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, asked Mr. Malloy to display his progressive credentials, the governor unscrolled a partial list that included:

• The passage of Connecticut’s new earned income tax credit program

• The decriminalization of marijuana use in small portions, “the third most robust of its kind in the country,” according to CTNewsJunkie

• The passage of a law providing in-state public college tuition rates to undocumented Connecticut students

• A new law outlawing discrimination against transgendered individuals

• The implementation within the Department of Correction of a new risk reduction credit program that some think will reduce prisoner recidivism

• An executive order that provides a path for state child care workers and personal care attendants to unionize

• And, not mentioned by Mr. Malloy at the progressive conference, a pledge to sign a bill abolishing Connecticut’s death penalty

A bill abolishing the death penalty was presented during the administration of Mr. Malloy’s predecessor, Jodi Rell, who vetoed the bill. That attempt arrived on the heels of Michael Ross’ murder spree. The bill Mr. Malloy has pledged to sign will be presented following a particularly horrific crime in Cheshire.

Mr. Malloy’s crowning achievement was the passage of Connecticut’s paid sick day law.

“This year,” CTNewsJunkie reported, “Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass a law mandating some employers provide paid time off for workers when they are ill.”

A pleased Mr. Malloy told the gathering of progressives, “So it was, I think, a pretty progressive agenda,” the passage of which was made easier by a General Assembly dominated by like-minded progressive Democrats.

The progressive social gospel in Connecticut is eclectic and politically pragmatic, its doxology wedded to no firm principles. This makes the gospel infinitely elastic. The same governor who on Monday raises taxes both on businesses and individuals can on Tuesday appear before a union group and assure them that at heart he is Samuel Gompers, which is reasonable enough. But then to reappear on Wednesday before yet another business group to sooth and stroke them with his plan to create jobs is a bit of a stretch for most chamber of commerce types who may have graduated from Capitalist University.

The disjunctions do not seem to trouble Mr. Malloy, and indeed, once economic prosperity is coupled with crony capitalism the disjunctions disappear altogether. If job production is dependent on governors who pick and choose economic winners and losers, capitalists are reduced to beggars at the throne, and those who cozy up to power win the spoils. The invisible hand of commerce rewards entrepreneurs according to merit, which is determined by consumers who vote for products with their dollars. The visible hand of crony capitalism rewards political benefactors, the prizes being given out by politicians most of whom have never met a payroll or employed a worker who was not on the public dole.

When political parties did this sort of thing during the real progressive era, progressives and muckrakers in the media made it a point to inveigh against both the crony capitalists and governors and presidents who fed them from the public trough. The whole point of progressivism Teddy Roosevelt style was to bust up monopolies created by an alliance between powerful businessmen and politicians. Even Mr. Roosevelt, the scourge of monopolists, agreed to waive the Sherman Antitrust Act during the panic of 1907 so that U.S. Steel, owned by acquisition maestro J. Pierpont Morgan, could acquire Tennessee Coal & Iron (TC&I) to avert a Wall Street collapse of companies too big to fail.

That was then. Modern day Pierpont Morgans are made in Washington – and in the states by progressive governors who lavish upon them tax money in amounts that would bring a blush to the cheek of Mr. Morgan.
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