Monday, February 28, 2011

Malloy’s Reality

The salient points of an interview with Governor Dannel Malloy in Politico, “Malloy talks of new reality of labor," are here quoted as fully as possible:

“Malloy assumed $1 billion in concessions from public employees for each of the next two years in his budget, but he also proposes a broad-based tax increase and $800 million in line-item cuts.”
The operative word in that sentence is “assumed.” It should be noted in passing that the tax increases in Malloy’s budget are a reality, while his spending cuts are an “assumption.” Malloy’s whole budget package, it should also be noted, is subject to revision by the Democratic controlled legislature.

The members of public employee unions and the union’s support staff in the Democratic controlled legislature, Mr. Malloy supposed in his interview with Politico, are “not happy at all since I’m a Democrat and I’m not supposed to be doing those kinds of things.”

Republican Governor Jodi Rell is becoming a stock character in Mr. Malloy’s justification narrative: “He faulted the previous governor, Republican Jodi Rell, for using up the rainy day money, borrowing a lot of money to cover operating expenses and not using generally accepted accounting practices.”

All true. But Mr. Malloy seldom mentions that Mrs. Rell was negotiating with a Democratic legislature so numerous that it could easily override her veto, which sapped her negotiating posture. Mrs. Rell continually caved in to Democratic caucus demands, when she was not making fatal strategic errors. Strategically, she was simply outmaneuvered at important points in her mock battle with Democrats.

At the end of protracted taffy pull with the legislature on her last budget, Mrs. Rell finally decided to veto the whole budget and then line item out the more objectionable progressive demands of the Democratic legislature. The legislature had reconfigured the budget so as to satisfy clamorous union demands that the income tax should be made more progressive. Alas, the governor was unaware that she could not use her line item veto on a budget she had not first signed. The sad news was brought to her by then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has since become the first "stolen valor" U.S. Senator in Connecticut to be appointed to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Game – Democrats!

“I’m not going to play any games,” Mr. Malloy told Politico.

“The Constitution State has long been blue, but Malloy is the first Democratic governor in 20 years. Republicans, and an independent, have traditionally been elected as checks on the liberal state legislature.

“’Our version of GOP governors…were moderate, not intending to do anything,” he [Mr. Malloy] said. “And now they have a check against the Democratic legislature that actually has a plan.”
Actually, most of the ideas put forth in Republican proposed budgets were loftily spurned by the Democratic controlled state legislature. In the numbers game, Republicans simply did not have the feet on the ground in the legislature to push through their measures.

“’There is a reality that a Democratic Party in opposition is different than a Democratic Party who is pulling the levers,’ he added. ‘Unfortunately people who aren’t in opposition sometimes don’t account for how their words are sounding to the people who are receiving them. So, I think Democrats sounded a lot more radical in Connecticut than perhaps, at least in Senate, they actually are. So now we have a different set of realities that play out.’”
Mr. Malloy’s grip on reality is infirm. He is seriously underestimating the liberal potency of the Democratic caucus in his own state. Liberal Democrats in Connecticut have been driving the state left ever since they conspired with Lowell Weicker – a virulently anti-Republican, liberal, Independent governor -- to impose an income tax on the state.

Would Mr. Malloy characterize as “moderate” a Democratic controlled legislature that, towards the end of Gov. Jodi Rell’s administration, was successful – finally! – in making the relatively “flat” Weicker income tax more progressive by adding to it more progressive rates?

Would Mr. Malloy describe the demands of unions in Connecticut, cringingly acceded to by union stalwarts in the Democratic legislature, as “moderate?”

Unfortunately, the political habits in Connecticut, the land of steady bad habits, have for more than twenty tears been tending in a liberal-progressive direction, partly because the resistance – so called Republican gubernatorial “firewalls” – has been so feeble, and it is passing strange that a man who had been Democratic Mayor of Stamford for fourteen years should have failed to notice the drift.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Haven Register Sets The Record Straight

The recent political fisticuffs between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has produced some light at the New Haven Register:

“Malloy may have been baited by Christie’s bravado. But, more candor and less salesmanship about the state’s business climate would have been appreciated.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Malloy Fondles The Third Rail

Governor Dannel Malloy touched the third rail of Connecticut politics when, edging toward transparency in government, he proposed in his budget that members of the General Assembly should vote up or down on state contracts.

While the state legislature presently has the authority to accept or reject public employee contracts, the legislature tends as a matter of course to wink contracts through the sausage machine without much thought and, perhaps more importantly, without leaving any tell-tale fingerprints on such approvals or rejections. Presently the contracts become operative when the legislature allows them to take effect after 30 days has elapsed without public debate.

Mr. Malloy’s proposal would force individual members of the General Assembly to vote on important contracts that draw upon appropriations, a function of the legislature rather than the executive department, many years out.

Democracy does not flee from its responsibilities. As a general rule, more oversight of contracts is always better. Legislative votes on contracts prevent important members of the legislature -- leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses and members of the Appropriations Committee -- from later washing their hands of them. The objection that contracts are an executive department function is easily answered: They involve appropriations, the special province of the legislature. Indeed, since 1991, when the income tax was voted into law, the state legislature has had the authority to reject state contracts if two thirds of either chamber rejected arbitrated awards, the notorious “binding arbitration” that some states are attempting, with varying degrees of success, to chuck overboard.

Binding arbitration, Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell has argued for years, removes budget busting contracts from the democratic process and has insured over the years a steady acceleration of costs, which have been driven upward by special interests inimical to the general good.

The majority of union salary contracts expire in July 2012; seriously under funded benefit and pension agreements will remain in place until 2017. Mr. Malloy’s proposal would REQUIRE legislators to leave their fingerprints on new state contracts, a prospect that already has generated squeals of opposition from the usual suspects.

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition representative, Larry Dorman, winced as Mr. Malloy showed him the instruments of torture: “On the face of it, it does seem to be punitive and it does seem to be a distraction to what we want to work together with the administration to accomplish -- to get Connecticut moving forward."

Translation: Requiring legislators publicly to accept responsibility for contracts that represent the bulk of their appropriations will make it more possible for the general public to hold such legislators accountable at the polls, an eventuality that may unnecessarily disturb the present arrangement, acceptable to both unions and Democratic legislators whose sufferance is purchased with aggressive union campaign contributions and activity in exchange for which expensive and unaffordable contracts favorable to unions are ushered thorough the back door of the General Assembly without rousing the discontent of taxpayers who pay the bills. It is very important for interests that benefit from the present arrangement to “get Connecticut moving forward” in the same ancient rut that, so far, has benefited tax consumers at the expense of tax payers.

So infrequently has the state legislature upset the current apple cart that state director of labor relations Linda Yelmini “can't even remember the last time the Legislature has voted on any collective agreement or arbitration award.” Union officials have said it has been at least 30 years, and Mr. Dorman likely intends to do everything in his power to advance the unbroken record to 60 years – or more.

In a gesture reminiscent of Pilate, Speaker of the state House Chris Donovan, one a union steward, implausibly washed his hands of the whole business. Arguing that the General Assembly’s Democratic caucus “has no seat at the negotiating table” between state union representatives and the Malloy administration, Mr. Donovan said he’d prefer to defer to whatever agreements made through collective bargaining or arbitration.

Translation: We prefer to work in the background to assure that union demands are met and legislators who facilitate those demands should not be embarrassed by a measure that forces them to declare publicly in the halls of government what they profess privately in back room caucuses.

In truth, Mr. Malloy’s initiative is a half way measure proposed by a half way governor that lies between what could be a successful move to rein in the unsustainable escalating costs associated with excessive union demands – say, an end to binding arbitration – and the do nothing, status quo solutions favored by Mr. Donovan and the people in Connecticut he really represents, union leaders who are unwilling to surrender to Mr. Malloy, or anyone else, on any matter involving long term and permanent cost reduction solutions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gaddafi Gone

The UK’s Daily Mail reports that “Libyan leader…” – actually, he’s a dictator – Muammar Gaddafi left Libya with his pants on fire and now is on his way to Venezuela, where Venezuelan leader – actually, he’s a dictator – Hugo Chavez rules the roost. The country is now left in the hands of this young lady…





…a considerable improvement.

UPDATE

Mr. Gaddafi is still hanging on. The Michael Jackson of Middle East autocrats was shown in a recent photograph sporting a Minnesota flap eared hat and carrying a spiffy white umbrella. He appeared in Tripoli, where dead bodies litter the streets, to speak to the nation on a government run station for a brief 20 minutes, which is unusual for him; like most autocrats, Mr. Gaddafi is loquacious. In his speech, he vowed to take the streets back from “the terrorists,” one of whom is pictured above celebrating the country’s liberation from… well, the country’s chief terrorist.

Donovan And The Progressives

The preferences of progressive Democrats in the legislature – most especially the leaders of the Democratic caucus, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and President of the Senate Don Williams – are well known. Neither of them was constrained during the administration of Governor Jodi Rell to hide their light under a bushel basket.

Ever since the state income tax was presented to the General Assembly as a fait accompli by former Governor Lowell Weicker, a renegade Republican turned Independent, Democrats in the legislature, led by Mr. Donovan and Mr. Williams, have been agitating for a more progressive income tax. Their agitation hit pay dirt during the sleepy Rell administration when the tax was made progressive over the hearty objections of a much diminished Republican legislative contingent. Republicans argued at the time that revenues already were progressive on the receipt end, since those considered “rich” by Democrats were paying 66 percent of the income tax.

As soon as he touched down as governor, Dannel Malloy, in his present budget, added additional rate steps to the progressive tax ladder. Mr. Donovan thinks that if the bottom rungs of the latter were eliminated and more rungs were added to the top, the state would climb to Heaven more quickly. Those who know him think he will not be satisfied with less than everything and expect a tousle between the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly and Mr. Malloy on the question of getting and spending.

Is there some important difference between Connecticut’s self proclaimed progressive governor and the progressive Democratic caucus in the General Assembly that would lead a disinterested observer to conclude that the present government would be more capable than previous governments of repositioning Connecticut as a viable state?

The usual farce enacted between a progressive leadership in the Democratic dominated General Assembly and a fidgety Republican governor has run so often in Connecticut that even progressive minded academics now have the plot down pat. The replacement of a so called moderate Republican governor with a progressive Democratic governor has introduced a new note of suspenseful uncertainty into the predictable proceedings.

Mr. Malloy’s budget calls for massive tax increases. But, progressives moan, the increases are too broad based. Nearly everyone gets to bite a bullet in Mr. Malloy’s budget. This is, those in the state not infected with the progressive virus might argue, an economically efficient arrangement. Why? Because Connecticut’s treasury, heavily reliant on those making more than $200,000 a year, took a spectacular hit during the present unresolved recession -- precisely because the tax base had become too narrow. It simply is not true, at least in recessions, that “them that got shall get, them that’s not shall lose,” as the old Billie Holiday -- Arthur Herzog Jr. song would have it.

The truth is that the government that gets more from so called “millionaires” during good times gets proportionally less from them when the economy crashes. If rich Paul has been paying the bulk of assessed taxes based on his income, then poor Peter will suffer the loss when Paul’s income is reduced. Indeed, this is why Republicans who have bothered to study Milton Friedman prefer a flat income tax with a negative income tax feature in which taxes reach those that ain’t got their own minus the rake-off taken by the welfare bureaucracy. This year, when Democrats proposed to install the equivalent of Mr. Friedman’s negative income tax – re-dubbed an “earned income tax credit” -- as an add-on feature that would not reduce the welfare middleman, some Republicans winced in pain. Another attempt, they thought, to give the child someone else’s earnings, without giving him the opportunity, as the “God Bless the Child” song recommends, of “getting his own.” Not permitted the chance to get his own, the child will grow to maturity reliant on progressives who only know how to redistribute Paul’s ever diminishing wealth.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937, reported in 2008, much before Mr. Malloy’s proposal to make the state’s tax structure even more progressive, that “Connecticut by far has the most progressive distribution of federal income taxes [in the nation]. Taxpayers making under $50,000 a year earned 13 percent of adjusted gross income in the state, but paid only 5 percent of the state’s federal income taxes. On the other end of the spectrum, taxpayers making over $200,000 earned 44 percent of the state’s AGI, but paid 66 percent of the state’ federal income taxes.”

When New York enacted its “millionaire tax” – on non-millionaires making more than $200,000 -- the state’s revenue DECLINED by 9 percent. Then Governor David Paterson, not a conservative by any estimation, explained why: “We increased the income tax for millionaires last year. We projected that we would get $4 billion and we actually got well short of it. Tax the rich, tax the rich. We've done that. We've probably lost jobs and driven people out of the state.”

Mr. Cuomo is not likely to repeat the mistake. But here in Connecticut, progressives, still absurdly claiming the state has a revenue rather than a spending problem, are unwilling to learn from recent history. These lessons, staring every voter in once prosperous Connecticut in the face like the grim reaper, are lost on progressive ideologues who really do think that in an era of diminishing returns wisdom counsels redistribution rather than wealth creation.

This is the way states reap the whirlwind.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Union Contracts Will Determine Connecticut’s Fate

Whither Connecticut?

All the statistics point downward.

Connecticut is first in the nation in per capita debt. Our pension liabilities would make a Croesus blush. Very little has been done to address the problem of long term spending. Negotiations with powerful unions are pending.

Compared with hard edged races in New Jersey and New York, both Connecticut gubernatorial candidates in the last election ran soft campaigns. Neither Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey nor Andrew Cuomo of New York were shy in telling people during their campaigns precisely what they hoped to do to address their state’s chronic problems -- cut spending, no tax increases.

For this reason, it may be said that Mr. Christie and Mr. Cuomo have clear mandates. Governor Dannel Malloy, on the other hand, let it be known that he would both raise taxes and cut spending if elected, but his campaign fell far short on particulars, and most attempts to draw specifics out of him were artfully deflected.

Mr. Malloy’s was a classic Connecticut campaign: Don’t make promises that time and chance may veto; don’t bind yourself to specific solutions. Mr. Malloy drew votes heavily from the cities, which secured him the election; but most of the towns went for his Republican opponent, Tom Foley. The question therefore arises: Does Mr. Malloy have a mandate from the people to govern? And the answer is a qualified “Yes.”

Mr. Malloy’s mandate comes from his status as governor, but it does not arise from affirmations made during his amorphous campaign and affirmed by voters. Apart from his pledge to both raise taxes and cut spending, Mr. Malloy could not have received from most towns in the state an affirmation to specific taxing and spending proposals he never made in his campaign.

In the months following the gubernatorial campaign, an anxious state awaited Mr. Malloy’s budget. The destiny of states is written plainly in budgets; here there can be no ambiguity, because a budget is a revenue and allocation plan that shapes the future.

Governors in states contiguous to Connecticut turned in hard budgets. Mr. Malloy’s budget plan is a near fifty, fifty proposition of “shared sacrifice” that calls for massive tax increases, relative to other states, and relies upon presumed spending cuts that will arrive, in this the best of all possible worlds, when Mr. Malloy, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, once a union steward, President of the Senate Don Williams, always a reliable union supporter, conspire in closed meetings to determine whether unions give-backs will be substantial or cosmetic, permanent or temporary. Mr. Malloy’s proposed tax increases are substantial and permanent.

In this regard, Connecticut has a lamentably deficient history replete with governors abjectly conceding to long term union demands while accepting from unions short term savings. The present Democratic triumvirate – Malloy-Donovan-Williams – will be negotiating union contracts for years in the future, and the destiny of Connecticut will be shaped by these contracts.

Why? Because it is union contracts, both on the state and municipal level, that shape Connecticut’s budgets.

A contract is a promissory note. Increasingly, politicians across the state – Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven is the latest progressive mugged by reality – are beginning to embrace the shattering perception that Connecticut cannot satisfy promises ALREADY MADE in union contracts. The state has long since arrived at a point in which its “poor box,” money putatively dedicated to help the needy, is being drawn down by state workers whose benefit and salary packages far outstrip those who are paying taxes.

Despite Mr. Malloy’s valiant pledge to make government transparent, the state budget, clearly the most important single piece of legislation affecting Connecticut’s future, will be pre-shaped in negotiations the governor will conduct with the dominant Democratic Party in the legislature, and none of the contract negotiations conducted with unions by the governor’s office will be presented to the general public until they are completed, after which will taxpayers be served with -- the bill.

DeStefano’s Choice

It would be a considerable understatement to say that Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven is everyman’s liberal; he is every liberal’s liberal.

A piece written by Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent, “A Mayor’s Moment Of Truth,” very likely came as a shock to confirmed liberals in Connecticut, a state bluer even than Massachusetts. Progressives, liberals with attitudes, one supposes were even more distraught.

Listening attentively, the thud, thud, thud of bodies falling from third story windows in New Haven might have been heard by those without wax in their ears in the corridors of power in Hartford.

What? DeStefano? Even he?

A few days before a fireball of union revulsion, supported by a group of White House affiliated brown shirts, burst over Wisconsin, Mr. DeStefano faced his own moment of truth in New Haven and decided to say no to a police union. The results were predictable. The police marched on Town Hall. Busy agitating in Wisconsin and other hot spots of union resistance in the country, the union fireball has yet to singe the pants of cowering politicians in Connecticut, but busses probably have been chartered.

DeStefano, facing the usual dilemma -- do I concede to union demands for increasingly unsustainable salaries and pensions or do I run my city into the red? – decided, in his moment of truth, to come down on the side of a) taxpayers who no longer can support city workers extravagant claims on their purses, and b) those who are dependent on city tax resources considerably diminished by union demands. At a point when taxes cannot be raised – because taxpayers are themselves now living off their own fat in this the winter of their discontent – the distribution of tax money becomes a zero-sum game.

DeStefano had been in negotiations with unions for weeks. The mayor wanted real cuts in spending, so he proposed that pensions in the future should be calculated on salaries alone and  not, as at present, on salaries plus overtime. The union said no. The mayor wanted reductions in cost of living increases. The union said no. The mayor wanted cost saving devices such as co-pays inserted into health plans. The union said no. The mayor wanted to extend the retirement age of police officers five years from 20 to 25. The union said no.

“It is not for lack of talking,” DeStefano said. “I don’t know how to reach them. The choices don’t exist anymore. We’ve been around and around on this. They just don’t get it. I don’t know how to make them get it.”

And then the thought slithered into his mind: What about “my responsibilities to the 82 [city workers getting laid off, as well as] my responsibility to the 125,000 people that live here? I could have kicked the can down the road this [fiscal] year, but I would have left a bigger problem for everybody next year. It would have been that much harder to fix this thing. It’s got to be reset. It’s the moment. It’s the time. We can do it with less pain than they think.”

For unions, there are untapped genies in the bottle: greedy businesses, millionaires jealously guarding their swag, companies that have escaped a tax thrashing through exemptions, tolls. After state Senator Edith Prague called for the re-imposition of tolls because, as she said, “We need the money,” a Prague critic suggested the toll booth should be placed at the end of her driveway.

Progressives, for more than 20 years operating on the premises that Connecticut had a revenue not a spending problem, have been extraordinarily inventive in emptying pockets and chasing jobs out of the state. It got so bad a couple of years ago that former Gov. Lowell Weicker, father of the state income tax, was heard lamenting, “Where did it all go?” When Mr. Weicker said during his own gubernatorial campaign that instituting an income tax would add gasoline to a smoldering fire, he could not have imagined the conflagration his tax would inspire twenty years later. The income tax was supposed to have solved the revenue problem.

Mr. DeStefano will not be the last progressive in the state to realize we’ve grabbed a spending problem by the tail. In the meantime, the battle for hearts and minds in New Haven has been joined. Union reinforcements, one may be sure, are on the way.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gov. Malloy’s First Budget Plan

Gov. Danell Malloy, as everyone knows, was mayor of Stamford for many years. Those who were paying attention to his gubernatorial campaign will recall the claim, often made by Mr. Malloy during some rough and tumble debates with his Republican challenger, former ambassador Tom Foley, that Mr. Malloy’s governing approach as mayor of Stamford brought jobs to his city, some from contiguous states in which the business climate may have been less friendly than Connecticut’s.

On Feb 15, one day before the governor’s budget address to the state legislature, the Stamford Advocate carried a column written by Angela Carella titled “Higher The Taxes, Deeper The Hole” that compared Mr. Malloy’s budget strategy with those of two governors facing the same debt problems, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey:

“Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie say they won't raise taxes, but Malloy this week proposed one of the biggest hikes in Connecticut history.

“Malloy made it clear that tax rates still will be lower in Connecticut , which competes with New York and New Jersey for jobs and residents.

“But it's little consolation to taxpayers in Connecticut , which ranks near the top of nearly every list that measures tax rates in the United States .”
Ms. Carella included in her report some depressing statistics taken from the non-partisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C.

Every year the foundation rates states according to the burden of state and local taxes. Connecticut now ranks third in the nation, its residents paying 11.1 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes; New Jersey has the distinction of being first at 11.8 percent, followed by New York at 11.7 percent. The national average is 9.7 percent. Connecticut ranks 7th in the nation in the amount of property taxes the state draws from its residents measured as a percentage of median home value.

Massachusetts, derisively called Taxachussetts in Connecticut ’s halcyon pre-income tax days, has improved its tax ranking. After the Massachusetts legislature set statutory limits on property and personal income taxes, the state’s tax burden ranking dropped from 10 to 26, while Connecticut ’s ranking rose at the same time from 24 to 3.

Connecticut ’s rocket ride upwards in these depressing rankings is what one would expect of a state that had increased spending more than 200 percent at a time when the state legislature in Massachusetts had decided to put a statutory bridle on taxes. In Connecticut, the spending steed, unsaddled and unbridled, continues to run wild in a pasture in which there are no state statutory or constitutional fences, and it will not be long before businesses, in and out of state, begin to notice that, in respect of its contiguous states, Connecticut has fallen far behind in a competition to both attract businesses and fend off poachers from other states that rank higher than Connecticut in the statistics provided by the Tax Foundation. Indeed, the poaching, which began after the Lowell P. Weicker Jr. income tax was written into law, will continue more earnestly after the legislature has written its present budget in stone.

Mr. Malloy’s plan increases spending about 2.4 percent a year, and while it consolidates 81 state agencies down to 57, the reduction in the state workforce of 46,585 next fiscal year is minimal, a slender 159 workers, less than one half of one percent.

“The biggest cut in the Malloy budget [about $2 billion] technically involves a ‘lapse’ or relatively undefined savings still to be achieved,” according to a report in CTMirror. “The governor announced this week that it would come from state employee wage and benefit concessions as well as other savings tied to rank-and-file labor and management.”

The business writer for the Hartford Courant thinks the imagined state worker concessions are a pipe dream, and at least one former governor, John Rowland, is convinced that the proposed budget is what he calls “a set up.” Mr. Rowland has said the Malloy-Donovan-William team will be back, after the first budget crashes on the rocks of reality following the governor’s scheduled Town Meetings, with a revised budget sharply boosting the state’s progressive income tax

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Malloy Takes Left Turn Into Cul De Sac: The Die Is Cast

The ghost of progressivism past has now formerly entered the body of Gov. Dannel Malloy, and to memorialize the occasion Eyewitness News Channel 3 titled a story following news of the governor’s “historic” tax increases -- “Malloy Proposes Largest Tax Hike In History: Every Tax To Be Raised.”

The governor’s budget proposal represents the best of all possible worlds for Chris Donovan, the most faithful Speaker of the House state employee union workers ever had.

In presenting his budget to Connecticut’s left of center legislature, Mr. Malloy, dangerously inattentive to budget politics for the last decade, has now repeated the mistakes of former Gov. Jodi Rell. Forewarned that if she presented to the legislature a budget that satisfied half the spending ambitions of the legislature, she would end up with one that satisfied nearly all the ambitions of the Democratic dominated General Assembly, Mrs. Rell proceeded to do just that. All Republicans governors – AKA “spending firewalls” -- who began negotiations with ardent progressives in the legislature by giving the General Assembly half a loaf inevitably ended up with crumbs from the table. So it was said, so it happened – time after time.

Prior to his formal presentation of the budget, Mr. Malloy here and there gave hints that sacrifice would have to be shared among all the passengers aboard the Pequod. Now that the budget has taken shape, lashed taxpayers may well grouse, “Shared sacrifice me’arse!” No matter; these few quibblers now have no effective representation in a legislature crowded with special interests, spending addicted progressive Democrats and overpaid lobbyists, some of them former politicians waiting their chance to carve out for their clients special exemptions that will leave them half flayed.

The Malloy tax increases will be permanent, assuring surpluses -- IF Connecticut ever survives its rapid descent into unreality – for years to come. Spending cuts, however, will be but a temporary inconvenience to Connecticut’s only growing sector – public employees. The spending cuts in Malloy’s budget can always be restored; indeed, anxious consumers of tax dollars need only wait for new increased revenue streams to fill temporarily reduced reservoirs. There are plenty of new feeder streams in Mr. Malloy’s progressive budget. The tax increases proposed by Malloy, on the other hand, will never be cut. When, in Connecticut’s recent history, have tax increases been reduced? The prospect of permanent tax increases and temporary spending reductions has brought a bloom, very much like a blush, to Mr. Donovan’s pale cheek. Additionally, it has put a spring in the step of Republicans who hope to fill the seats left empty by previous Malloy appointments.

We are told by progressives – Mr. Malloy counts himself among their number – that Connecticut’s budget ecology has been made more progressive by the addition of an earned income tax credit. There is not one political commentator in the state who is aware that the income tax credit, previously called a negative income tax, was first propounded by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman as a policy instrument designed to REPLACE the welfare bureaucracy. As an add-on to Connecticut’s burgeoning public sector incubus, the income tax credit is little more than the final straw laid on a camel’s breaking back.

In The Malloy dispensation, the income tax credit has become simply another drain on a rational free market system, now near collapse. The same is true of charter schools: Initially, they were sold to the public as a free market alternative to public schools that were failing inner city children. In the absence of a voucher system that would allow parents to vote against failing schools by using vouchers as tickets of entry to functioning schools, the charter system was designed to REPLACE failing public schools. The charter system of schools in Connecticut, some of which have been extraordinarily successful, will soon be de-financed in an era of scarcity so that dollars once again may flow to failing public school systems.

It does not take progressives long to kill success. In his budget, Mr. Malloy has cast the die. The question yet to be answered is: Where is the resistance, and will it succeed?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jim Buckley Luncheon: “Freedom At Risk—Reflections on Politics, Liberty, and the State.”

First, a necessary admission: Bill Buckley, Jim Buckley’s brother, was a good friend of long standing. Bill had a genius for friendship, as anyone who knows him – including his political enemies -- will readily attest.

For about ten years, letters passed between us. I sent him columns occasionally, and he returned this insufficient gesture by sending me books: collections of his columns, longer pieces he had written for one or another of his semi-autobiographical books such as “Miles Gone By” and “Nearer My God To Thee,” novels and reminiscences he had written, an unending stream of literary delicacies. It seems an odd arrangement, I wrote him once: I send you a letter; you send me a book. I was sure he was being shortchanged in the transaction.

I don’t think I ever met Bill’s brother Jim, the sainted senator from New York, as Bill playfully called him, but Chris Powell, the Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer, has a lively recollection of Jim in a campaign mode.

“I got to know him a little during his 1980 Senate campaign and really liked him a lot. (Apart from that, the campaign was so well- catered!) He wouldn't remember me but if you go, [to watch Jim launch his new book, “Freedom At Risk—Reflections on Politics, Liberty, and the State”] -- please convey my regards.

“I remember teasing him at his announcement of candidacy at the Buckley home in Sharon. He remarked that even though he had served in the Senate from New York, he always had considered himself as being from Connecticut. I asked him if that was what he had said when he was running in New York.

“Back then Channel 3 had a news helicopter and Don Noel was the station's political reporter, having moved there from the Hartford Times soon after the paper closed. The copter, "Sky 3," was on the Buckley homestead's lawn when I arrived for the announcement party. Buckley began reading his announcement speech at 11 a.m. or noon but just as he started, Noel had to leave in Sky 3 for another candidate's announcement over in Groton or thereabouts and as the copter revved up, it was so loud that it drowned out Buckley and he had to stop reading until the copter flew far enough off. I have always considered this the perfect metaphor for television news -- the TV news reporter couldn't stay to actually cover the story but still managed to disrupt it.”
In the matter of catered campaigns, I once told Mr. Powell -- after he had reproached me for attending a brunch at the prestigious Hartford Club (only once), a bit too la-ti-da for Mr. Powell’s tastes – that everyone knew well enough I would travel half way around the state for a good lunch.

Mr. Powell’s immediate response was, “Only half way?”

Mr. Powell admired the Buckleys, apart from the splendid catered service, probably for the same reason I did. Bill, who approved of good manners, used to say that the difficulty with bad manners was that they sometime led to murder. Spirited quarrels and debates there were, and often, in the Buckley clan, but no recorded murders among its mannered members. Politics in the U.S. lost half it sense and most of its manners after Bill checked out.

Jim Buckley’s career in policies touches all three branches of government: He was a U.S. Senator from New York, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and President of the State Department’s Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

On one of his exit interview after having left the U.S. Senate, Chris Dodd was asked whether he regretted any of his votes during his three decades of service in the congress. Unhesitatingly, Mr. Dodd responded that he wished he could take back his vote against Mr. Buckley’s judicial nomination, a regret in which Bill, were he alive and still disturbing the liberal universe, certainly would have descried a lament – better late than never – concerning Mr. Dodd’s unremitting anti-federalist career in the Beltway.

Jim Buckley’s book concerns itself with the attenuation of liberty and its consequences:

“There are no doubt many causes of the paralysis I see creeping over Washington, but I feel by far the most significant of these has been the virtual abandonment of the principle of federalism. Accordingly, I believe the surest road to true reform is to rediscover and reapply that principle, and, in that way, to reduce the scope of federal responsibilities to manageable size.”
Federalism is that uniquely American arrangement in which liberty is compartmentalized first in the states and then in an increasingly audacious federal government. From its constitutional beginnings a jealously guarded liberty was said to be, here in the young United States, a part of the nature of man, a gift of God to men. Because liberty was of God and not of men, some inborn rights and immunities were thought to be imprescriptable: What God has impressed in the very nature of man, neither king nor legislature could by art of law proscribe. That is the basic message of America’s federalist epoch. The best way to guard such God given liberties, the federalists of 1776 thought, was to restrain a federal government with adamantine constitutional prohibitions and to leave undisturbed, as much as possible, the principle of subsidiarity, according to which the federal government should neither do nor undo what could better be done by the states. The federalist principle is plainly stated in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution in the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

No defense of ordered liberty could fail to mention the gradual erosion of the 10th Amendment, and in this respect Mr. Buckley’s book does not disappoint. The Supreme Court, Mr. Buckley writes, “has proven an unreliable guardian of constitutional virtue. Over the years, the Court’s decisions expanding the reach of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause have effectively repealed the Tenth Amendment.” The constitutional proscription having been effectively overthrown, the rise of a “fourth, extra-constitutional branch of government in which unelected officials write rules that reach into every corner of American life,” was inevitable.

James Burnham, in the first struggling days of National Review, the magazine founded by Bill, used to write persuasively about the managerial revolution, but the overthrow of the 10th Amendment has produced what Julien Benda called a treason of the intellectuals, la trahison des clercs. The intellectuals are nothing if not zealous: ““Some agencies have fallen into the hands of zealots who pursue ideological goals that bear little relationship to the clear intent of the legislation they are supposed to be implementing.” And the bureaucrats prefer to wage their assaults through indirection: “Rather than fight an issue on its merits, an agency will wage a war of procedural attrition that will force an opponent to reach deeper and deeper into his pockets, until his resources are exhausted.”

There are remedies that may stem the assault on liberties. Mr. Buckley feels that parties subjected to such abusive and anti-constitutional tactics should be allowed to sue the federal government, and any party successful in an administrative action should be reimbursed for costs.

On February 23rd, Mr. Buckley will appear at a luncheon sponsored by the indispensable Yankee Institute to be held at the Stamford Plaza Hotel at 11:00. Friends of liberty who wish to attend may do so by making a reservation at -- http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2011/01/lunch-with-james-l-buckley/

To China With Love


2011年2月9日,作家佩奇(Don Pesci)观看了神韵纽约艺术团在康州首府哈特福德著名的布什耐尔(The Bushnell)剧院的首场演出。(摄影: 王建明 / 大纪元)
作家:神韵通过文化感动中国人
【正体版】 【打印机版】 【字号】大 中 小 【大纪元2011年02月10日讯】(大纪元记者王建明美国康州报导)2011年2月9日,康州作家佩奇(Don Pesci)观看了神韵纽约艺术团在康州首府哈特福德(Hartford)著名的布什耐尔(The Bushnell)剧院的首场演出。佩奇(Don Pesci)在观看后表示,神韵令他非常地感动:“我非常欣赏所有的舞蹈,尤其是其中有关神和信仰的内涵,我觉得这是非常重要的。”

佩奇表示,虽然神韵演出是由很多不同节目组成,但是他能够看见整个表演的主轴:“神韵讲述了整个中国的历史,经过各个朝代,我觉得用艺术表达这些东西是很不简单的,所以我觉得非常好。”

他强调:“神韵是一个非常美好、非常勇敢的表演。她在利用中华文化去感动中国大陆的人。这个文化非常久远,且具有很多内涵,同是也保留在人们的心中。我觉得这个表演对中国以至全世界都传递了一个信息,我也希望更多人能够知道这个信息。”

他指出,如果能让中国人看到神韵,那将是一件非常好的事情:“我觉得整个表演体现了一个很深的内涵。如果能让更多的中国人看到,那将是一件非常好的事情。”




悉尼时间: 2011-02-10 16:39:45 PM 【万年历】
本文网址: http://au.epochtimes.com/gb/11/2/10/n3166188.htm

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Connecticut Taxes Too High Says Business Leader

Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini, gave a shout through the ear trumpet of heedless legislators at a Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, according to a report in the Business section of a Hartford paper:

"We've done the analysis, and, quite frankly, Connecticut falls very, very low on the list as an environment to locate employees . . . in large part because of the tax structure, the cost of living, which is now approaching, all in, the cost of locating an employee in New York City.”

Aetna -- a company that insures people in 160 countries around the world and maintains offices in Indonesia, Beijing, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi -- is well positioned to move jobs around on the international chessboard.

The business reporter noted darkly in his story, “In short, the Hartford-based health insurer could add workers anywhere around the globe as it grows its health-technology business. Forty percent of Aetna employees today work from home full-time.”

Aetna was engaged in opening offices in Egypt shortly before the country shook off its authoritarian ruler. It has always been easy for the United States to show the door to friendly despots. The difficult trick is establishing solidarity with popular democratic uprisings in regimes such as Iran, where radical Islam has gotten a toehold. Egypt’s future now lies in the hands of fumbling U.S. Foggy Bottom employees and the Muslim Brotherhood. Part of the reaction against its now departed dictator was the result of large scale unemployment of a highly educated workforce. The Egyptian street was full of college graduates holding masters degrees who were underutilized, a fertile ground for Aetna, provided the Muslim Brotherhood can be kept at bay.

The Obama administration is working on it.

Mr. Bertolini is the second major business leader in Connecticut who warned the legislature to get its house in order. Another major employer, United Technologies, earlier closed a plant over the objections of then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and moved jobs out of state, where labor costs and taxes were less punishing. United Technologies rejected a tax abatement deal that did not cut its future costs significantly, and more recently New London based Pfizer found it more cost effective to move some of its operations out of state.

In a meeting with Wall Street financiers last March, United Technologies Corp.'s chief financial officer, Gregory Hayes told the group, “Anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost.” Mr. Hayes’ remark echoed a previous statement made by President of Sikorsky Aircraft Jeff Pino: “Even if work has to stay in the U.S., there are opportunities to reduce cost by moving out of those high-cost locations.”

Of UTC’s 205,000 global employees, 26,000 work in Connecticut, the majority of them at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Hamilton Sundstrand. Employees at Pratt & Whitney have diminished over the past two decades from 15,000 to 3,700.

Connecticut is well on its way to becoming a business museum. And the out migration of jobs ought to send a strong signal to legislators that what has been called “targeted tax cuts” – in reality, attempts by legislators to shape the business mix in their states – has not worked. Tax credits elapse; and when they do, companies that used tax credits to build up their businesses pull up stakes and move jobs in the direction of the next low bidder. The flow of business, like the flow of water, will always seek the path of least resistance.

Oddly enough, legislators who offer tax credits to a preferred business – say, fuel cell or pharmaceutical companies -- acknowledge that high business taxes, as a general rule, are an impediment to both jobs and the revenue that flows into state treasuries when a new business plants roots in Connecticut. Were this not the case, it would be futile to offer tax credits to the targeted company. But since tax credits, most often given to allow new development, are self elapsing once the business has established itself in a state, they offer no inducement to a company to remain in the state after the temporary reduction in business costs has elapsed.

There is another perhaps worse problem associated with tax credits, as opposed to general reductions in business taxes. Suppose the product made by the favored industry does not sell in the market place. Suppose the market, or that portion of it not shaped by a command economy, decides that the product encouraged by legislatures offering tax credits is not desirable. What happens then to the “investment” made by legislators who have decided to place their bets on, say, fuel cell development companies? Tax credits, rather than business tax reduction and real deregulation, exacerbated uncertainly in the marketplace.

The insurance business in Connecticut, once known as the insurance capital of the world, was not fashioned by legislators who fancied they knew more about the creation and distribution of insurance and financial products than those people employed by Mr. Bertolini. The insurance business developed, over a long period of time, as a direct response to perceive market needs, and it was shaped by people who wanted to make money in a capital environment not overburdened with high labor costs, punishing taxes and excessive regulation.

Some Connecticut legislators, apparently interested in creating their own mini-insurance operation, may think Aetna belongs in a museum, along with fire arm production companies, aircraft manufacturers and tobacco companies. Mr. Bertolini, who thinks otherwise, is betting that SustiNet isn’t going to work – because taxpayers won’t be able to afford it in the long run. In the short run, he and others are reminding the legislature, some mistakes can be fatal.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dodd Ready For His Close Up

Depending upon which report one credits, former U.S. Sen, Chris Dodd may be on his way to Hollywood to accept a position as a lobbyist for Tinseltown.

Citing a person close to the Motion Picture Association of America, the Los Angeles Times reported that “Dodd had emerged as the top contender and was now the only candidate in negotiations for the job, which pays $1.2 million a year.”

The transition from the U.S. Senate to Hollywood should be effortless for Dodd, who in the past has rubbed shoulders with some notable denizens of Fantasyland.

No doubt some critics of the former senator will get in their licks.

When Mr. Dodd threw his hat in the presidential ring sometime past, a Washington based British journalist writing for the Tribune Review noted sourly in a column that Mr. Dodd had been friendly with Bianca Jagger, Mick’s ex-wife.

The columnist noted bitterly in a January 2007 report that Mr. Dodd was known as the Senator from Accounting” owing to the legislation he had initiated for the finance industry.

So, what is Wall Street buying, the columnist asked:

“A politician who believes that our embargo of Cuba is wrong and who loves Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's dictator. Claiming to be an expert on Latin America, Chris Dodd has never worked for democracy or freedom for the countries south of the Rio Grande.

“Instead, in the days before his marriage to Jackie Marie Clegg, a friend of Bill Clinton's, Dodd was a close friend of Bianca Jagger -- who some say also was a Cuban agent while living and working for the Marxists in Nicaragua as the public-relations lady for the international press. There, Bianca reported to Tomas Borges, the Cuban who ran Nicaragua's security regime.

“Now in her 60s, Bianca embraces the causes of Fidel and the other Latino communists back in power. And Dodd would like to be the first American president receiving orders from Havana.

“Since the 1980s, Dodd has sought and received much of his information on Latin America from Washington's Institute for Policy Studies.

“Will it -- and Bianca -- be staffing Dodd's White House in 2008?”
Well sir, Dodd’s presidential ambitions crashed, as we all know, on the rocks of reality; and he quickly moved on to produce regulatory legislation that real accountants might consider inappropriate for a country entering a new dark age, not to mention a depression of FDR like proportions.

Hollywood beckons. Mrs. Clegg-Dodd approving, there may even be a place in Mr. Dodd’s Hollywood for Ms. Jagger. Castro though is bound for another kind of glory. Even now, pro and anti-Dodd commentators the world over are preparing their obits for the Latin American dictator.

And Mr. Dodd?

He’s ready for his close up now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blumenthal, Abortion And Vietnam

U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal, recently appointed to the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, may have had yet another Zelig moment when, resisting efforts to regulate abortion, he declared, “I'm new to the Senate but I'm not new to this battle. Since the days of Roe v. Wade, when I clerked for Justice Blackmun, as a state legislator, as attorney general, I have fought this battle.”

Following Mr. Blumenthal’s remark, a CTMirror reporter commented, “the problem is, Blumenthal clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun in 1974, the year after Blackmun wrote the Roe v. Wade decision,” causing Mr. Blumenthal’s chief of staff, Laurie Rubiner, to erupt indignantly, “This is a very unfair route you are going down. We'll remember this."

In a previous incarnation, Ms. Rubiner was the Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood, described in Ms. Rubiner’s Planned Parenthood biography as the “nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider.” Abortions are among the services provided nationwide by Planned Parenthood. It is very clear that in controversies concerning abortion Ms. Rubiner has a dog in the fight; hence her intimidating bark at the CTMirror reporter.

The CTMirror story, “Once again, Blumenthal appears to misstate his history,” hit a sore spot because in it the reporter mentioned that Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign for the U.S. Senate “was staggered by reports that he had incorrectly claimed to have served in Vietnam.”

Perhaps the best report on Mr. Blumenthal’s serial misstatements concerning his service in Vietnam came from Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Company featured Mr. Blumenthal as one of two notable imposters in a documentary on stolen valor called “Heroes, Frauds and Imposters” (hit “play video” on the link provided),” a documentary that puts Mr. Blumenthal’s misrepresentations in a proper context.

One can only guess what Ms. Rubiner’s reaction to the ABC production might have been had she seen it. Very likely she was not at the time attending closely to the controversy surrounding Mr. Blumenthal’s several false assertions that he had served in Vietnam; Ms. Rubiner had been appointed to her position as chief of staff only after Mr. Blumenthal had been elected to the senate. Mr. Blumenthal has not been vindicated by his insufficient “apology” for having lied on numerous occasions concerning his pretended service in Vietnam, and there are some who think the senator’s appointment to the Veteran’s Affairs Committee is, under the circumstances, awkward.

Mr. Blumenthal’s recent puffery concerning the role he played in the Roe V. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion follows close upon the heels of a horrific report concerning a renegade abortion facility in which an abortion doctor and nine of his former employees stand accused of killing infants delivered alive  following late-term abortion procedures. Arrested in January, Dr. Kermit Gosnell and workers from his West Philadelphia clinic were charged with a variety of felonies, including homicide, by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

During his long 20 year tenure as Attorney General, Mr. Blumenthal, Connecticut’s regulator in chief, has both sued or threatened to sue companies such as cereal makers and internet companies that have accepted ads Mr. Blumenthal disapproves of; in addition, Mr. Blumenthal has during his tenure countless times recommended legislation on a variety of issues to Connecticut’s state legislature.

The incidents at the West Philadelphia abortion facility illustrates that abortion consumers might benefit from laws that, to take but one example, prevent money hungry “doctors” from transporting patients across state lines to escape laws regulating abortions. Among other offenses, Mr. Gosnell is being prosecuted for transporting a teenage girl from Wilmington, Delaware to the West Philadelphia site because she was too far along in her pregnancy to obtain an abortion under Delaware law. The Grand Jury that returned an indictment against Mr. Gosnell and others for killing several live babies reported that the West Philadelphia clinic had not been inspected since about 1995.

Closer to home in Connecticut, Planned Parenthood in West Hartford performed an abortion on a 15 year old girl held hostage for a year by 41 year old Adam Gault. The sexual predation of the child was not reported by Planned Parenthood staff to authorities. Most recently, videographer and investigative reporter Lila Rose, now making the rounds of conservative news shows has uncovered multiple incidences in which Planned Parenthood staff has advised sting operatives posing as underage girls how to avoid prosecution by lying to judges.



Parental notification laws, adamantly resisted by Mr. Blumenthal, would help to stem such abuse, as would frequent compliance inspections and the accumulation and dissemination of data not presently collected for statistical purposes.

During his campaign for the senate, Mr. Blumenthal strongly opposed parental notification laws, as reported by CTMirror:

“Richard Blumenthal, whose been known to hedge on other questions, was unequivocal about this one. ‘I have a record over three decades of standing strong for choice,’ Blumenthal said in an interview.

"’It's one of the reasons my wife has been so supportive of my work in politics,’ he added, ‘because she thinks I've been able to make a difference on this.’

“Among other efforts, Blumenthal, a one-time law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, successfully sued to prevent protesters from blocking access to abortion clinics. And he worked to ensure that emergency contraception, such as the Plan B pill, is available at pharmacies in Connecticut.

“Blumenthal said he generally opposes parental notification laws because ‘there are too many cases of abuse and incest that leads to those issues.’"
As a former attorney general who has often advised the state legislature on the construction of laws, Mr. Blumenthal knows very well that the notion that a rational parental notification law cannot be written that does not at the same time facilitate incest is the reddest of red herrings. Exceptions are frequently written into laws.

The reporting requirements for abortion providers in Connecticut are minimally invasive. As a U.S. senator, Mr. Blumenthal would not be able to discover though publicly available reporting data how many clients of abortion facilities were impregnated through incestuous relationships in his state. Abortion facilities in Connecticut are not required by law to keep such figures in their public data files. Reporters for Connecticut newspapers who wish to test Mr. Blumenthal’s theory that incest leading to abortion is a serious problem that would prevent the state legislature from writing a rational parental notification law very likely could not obtain from abortion providers in Connecticut the necessary data to confirm Mr. Blumenthal’s highly improbable thesis.

No doubt Mr. Blumenthal and Ms. Rubiner prefer it that way.

Now Hear This

Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini, gave a shout through the ear trumpet of heedless legislators at a Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, according to a report in the Business section of the Hartford Courant:

"We've done the analysis, and, quite frankly, Connecticut falls very, very low on the list as an environment to locate employees . . . in large part because of the tax structure, the cost of living, which is now approaching, all in, the cost of locating an employee in New York City.”
The Courant business reporter noted that Aetna was well positioned to move jobs around on the international chessboard:

“Aetna insures people in 160 countries around the world, Bertolini said, and has offices in Indonesia, Beijing, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi -- and was even working to open offices in Egypt until massive political upheaval there.

"In short, the Hartford-based health insurer could add workers anywhere around the globe as it grows its health-technology business. Forty percent of Aetna employees today work from home full-time.”
Egypt recently exploded in wrath and booted out its authoritarian, pro-Western dictator. It’s future now lies in the hands of fumbling U.S. foggy bottom employee and the Muslim Brotherhood. Part of the reaction against its now departed dictator was the result of large scale unemployment of a highly educated workforce; the Egyptian street was full of college graduates holding masters degrees who were underutilized, a fertile ground for Aetna, provided the Muslim Brotherhood is kept at bay. The Obama administration is working on it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Citizen Advisory Ethics Board, Plategate And Dickman

Kevin Rennie, a blogger and Hartford Courant columnists, has been ruled out of order by Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy after Mr. Rennie published the names of Friends Of Jodi Rell who received low number license plates. Among the beneficiaries of Mrs. Rell’s largess was “Charles F. Chiusano, a member of the state’s Citizen Advisory Ethic’s Board, registered ‘872’ on December 21st,” according to Mr. Rennie.

Mr. Rennie requested the information from Roy Occhiogrosso, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s communications chief, who passed along the request to Malloy Chief of Staff Tim Bannon, who then queried the Department of Motor Vehicles, which routed the names back to Mr. Bannon, who then passed along the information to Mr. Occhiogrosso, who passed along the information to Mr. Rennie, apparently without scrutinizing the list or asking the gate keeper lawyer for the Malloy administration, Andrew McDonald, whether the release of such information was legal. Mr. Rennie, Mr. Bannon and Mr. McDonald, previously one of the co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, are all lawyers, as is the governor. There are some indications in the media that the illegal release of such information may develop into the usual mucky fuss, now provisionally being called "Plategate.”

The whole episode is summed up concisely in Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” including vanity plate numbers.

It has been said by Mr. Rennie that members of the state’s new ethics board should not have been on the receiving end of favors conferred upon them by the executive department because status gifts of this sort represent a conflict of interests, which is true enough.

But barely a week ago, the ethics board sought to violate the interests of virtually every reporter in the state, and yet only Alex Wood of the Journal Inquirer set himself at odds with a board that had attempted to carve out for itself an exception to Freedom of Information laws wide enough to allow passage for all the enemies of transparency and good government in the state.

In the course of an unheard of nine day trial involving Pricilla Dickman, the new ethics board – its older version self destructed -- retreated to a smokeless filled back room before deciding Ms. Dickman’s fate, made no record of its secret proceedings, and later responded to a Freedom of Information request from Mr. Wood and the Journal Inquirer by arguing that the board need not comply with the Freedom of Information law because a superintending judge had allowed the secret meeting.

In other words, the ethics board had subverted the Freedom of Information Law by arguing that the presence of a judge as an advisor to the proceedings rendered it above the law. The Freedom of Information Commission, unwilling to preside over the utter destruction of the statue that called it into being, naturally disagreed and found in favor of Ms. Dickman and the Journal Inquirer – without deciding that the violation of the law rendered the ethics board judgment in the Dickman case invalid.

As a matter of fact, the decision undisturbed by the finding of the Freedom of Information commission is invalid, according to Ms. Dickman’s lawyers, because the board did not have a quorum when it decided her issue in favor of her employer, the UConn Medical Center (UCMC).

Ms. Dickman’s case is one of the oldest of its kind in Connecticut’s history, and the UCMC, short of funds as always, had better hope that journalists in Connecticut continue in their indifference to it. Ironically, the Dickman case may well survive the UConn Medical Center.

The case revolves around imperfect and questionable evidence provided by a medical center “investigator” to the attorney general’s office, which passed along the information to the ethics board for disposition and the chief state’s attorney for prosecution.

Ms. Dickman so far has endured 95 hearings of one sort or another, at considerable expense to the state. The ethics hearing is but the tip of an iceberg a careful examination of which by journalists would lead to condemnations of the whole alphabet soup of agencies that have been persecuting Ms. Dickman for six harrowing years. So far, she has held out against everyone very nearly alone, much in the manner of a Connecticut Dreyfus awaiting an Emile Zola to lay her cause before the public.

A more detailed account of the Dickman case may be found at the Connecticut Commentary blog: “Blumenthal, The UConn Heath Center: Defending The Indefensible."

Reform Arrives in Connecticut

Sunday’s editorial in the Hartford Courant was titled “Reform In The Air For Public Pensions” and, as if to press the point, the paper provided a further caption: “States and municipalities must face up to excessive costs and retrench.”

Really, they MUST.

Of course the necessity for reform has been in the air, even here in inattentive Connecticut, for a good long time, while the itch for reform in Connecticut’s only state-wide newspaper has been relatively recent. The state’s failure to keep up its pension obligations probably turned the trick. Investors are now fleeing municipal pension funds, and the state’s own fund, the paper advises, is “sickly.”

An actuarial report last year “showed the fund to be in the worst shape ever — due to a decline in investment earnings common to all states and to bad decisions by politicians trying to balance the budget. Those included deferred contributions to the fund and early-retirement programs.

“The report showed $9.35 billion in assets in the pension fund as of June 30, compared with $21.1 billion in obligations — making a funded ratio of 44.4 percent. Actuaries typically cite a ratio of 80 percent as fiscally healthy.”
And even Connecticut’s prototype of the perfect progressive, New Haven Major John DeStefano, has joined the chorus.

Suddenly realizing the city’s pension fund is due to run out of money in 15 years, the scales have fallen from Mr. DeStefano’s eyes. This bolt from the blue struck Mr. DeStefano just weeks after he was re-elected to office. He now plans to ask unions to adopt such necessary reforms such as an elimination of cost-of-living adjustments, an increase in employee contribution rates, an increase in the number of years of service necessary for retirement, a rise in age qualification for retirement and a reduction in maximum benefits.

Even Hartford has yielded to the tug of reform. Taking half measures and baby steps towards the inevitable, Hartford’s city council “reined in,” the Courant tells us, “the city's overly generous pension plan, but only for nonunion employees, who represent a small minority of city workers.” Under the old dispensation, “nonunion employees could retire after 20 years of service — or in some cases 25 years — regardless of age and could immediately begin to draw benefits.”

And here is the editorial shriek: “Imagine: a 38-year-old drawing pension benefits and in many cases health benefits for life. That's still the deal for some union employees.”

Well now, how long has this been going on? For how many years has the patient lain unattended on the sick bed? A week? Two weeks? Twenty years?

This winter householders will have noticed the unmelting ice packs lying atop their roofs. Reminders of the failure to attend to the problem are everywhere. Nature has a way of tapping the indifferent on the shoulder: Leaks pour through the window mountings on living room walls; the usual political spendthrifts go a’begging to Washington, tin cup in hand, for assistance funds; flat roofs come crashing to the ground. Connecticut’s spending pack has been accumulating weight on our own little Democratic house undivided ever since Gov. Lowell Weicker favored the state with an income tax and quickly left town. The state’s budget, swollen every fiscal year with unreturned surpluses, is now in the red. Who could have guessed that in the post income tax era unabashed spending would have resulted in knee deep red ink?

Really, something must be done. RIGHT AWAY.

Gov. Dannel Malloy lately has been making sounds to state workers, business folk and tax payers that something most certainly will be done. Sacrifices will be shared. Here and there, hints have been thrown out that the governor will both cut spending and raise taxes. The spending cuts will exceed the tax increases by a few percentage points, according to some reports, but the worry is that the tax increases will be permanent, while the spending cuts may be temporary.

A rumor now being pushed through the rumor mill is that the governor, on the quiet, has been mollifying those in the state averse to permanent spending cuts by pointing out that such cuts may always be uncut over time. In Connecticut, the escalator on spending runs always in an upward direction, one of the reasons the state budget has trebled within the administrations of the last three governors. Spending increases, temporarily cut, will over time be restored; any tax increase implemented to liquidate a deficit will be permanent. And while permanent tax increases are indeed a permanent sacrifice for those who pay them, temporary spending cuts are nevermore than temporary sacrifices, a necessary political inconvenience.

An authentic solution to Connecticut’s structural deficit would de-escalate spending increases permanently through the adoption of real reforms rather than temporary measures.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cuomo For President?

Charlie Gasparino, a senior correspondent for Fox Business Network and a columnist for The Daily Beast, thinks Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his eyes fixed on the presidential prize.

Mr. Cuomo’s budget this year, some people in New York suppose, is a presidential campaign announcement:

“The son of Mario Cuomo—‘the liberal's liberal,’ to borrow a phrase from The Wall Street Journal—declared the state "functionally bankrupt" thanks in part to its big-government policies. He then declared war on both the welfare state and his father's old liberal voting base (and the base of the New York State Democratic Party): The public employee unions, the special-interest groups, the lobbyists representing health care and education, all of whom have for years forced the state to live beyond its means because of automatic funding increases regardless of "outcome measures" and with "no performance measures," he said.

“When he gets done with them, Cuomo vowed, they would all be running around the state capitol in Albany ‘like their hair is on fire.’

“According to people close to the governor, it wasn't just talk. They say that Andrew Cuomo has changed politically. He's left his old lefty friends in the dust and recognizes that the old formula of keeping government big by taxing rich people and businesses is a fool's game; they will just leave the state, as they've done in droves, taking their tax revenues with them. He also recognizes the Ponzi scheme that is big government ("Enron," he called it) where budgets are balanced with accounting gimmicks and borrowing that can't be sustained because the day of reckoning—where investors won't lend the state money because they're afraid they won't be paid back—is coming near.”



Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Kennedys Are Coming

A mini-series based on the Kennedy family was originally commissioned by The History Channel. Pressure was exerted by surviving members of the family, and History passed on the project, which was then picked up by Reelz Channel. The eight part series will run beginning April 3rd.

The trailer for the series may be found here.