Friday, October 03, 2014

Foley’s “Plagiarism,” Connecticut’s Plummet, Yankee’s Light

Republican Gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley has been accused of plagiarism in an attack ad endorsed by Governor Dannel Malloy. Should there be an FBI investigation?

Knowing the ways and means of powerful political incumbents, an investigation of some sort may be in the offing. Incumbents have a way of turning the great water cannons at their disposal against their, relatively speaking, inoffensive challengers. When Hartford Courant columnist Robert Thorson protested that innocent plagiaristic-like slip-ups were common in this the era of “copy and paste,” he risked being set upon by the righteous forces supporting Mr. Malloy, who has not yet been accused of plagiarism, though in this regard he is guilty as Foley.

Mr. Malloy’s recent Bibb ad, in which former workers at the Bibb factory step before the cameras to accuse Mr. Foley of snatching food from the mouths of their children, was plagiarized from an earlier assault on Mr. Foley produced by Jamestown Associates and endorsed by then Republican primary opponent Mike Fedele.

No doubt someone in the Malloy campaign scrubbed the old ad until it shone like a new penny, but the political thrust of both ads was the same, and “content-wise” the ads carried the same message. One wonders whether Jamestown Associates might legitimately sue the Malloy administration for uncredited use of its material. Surely, the point is that in politics, as in life in general, there are no new primary colors. All information comes from somewhere else, and sometimes the scrubbers sleep.

The most recent gubernatorial debate sponsored by the Hartford Courant and Fox CT seemed crude. But the players are big boys; they can handle themselves. While the confrontation was rough on the edges, it was not nearly as edgy as the John Adams-Thomas Jefferson bout in 1796. The accusations in that campaign came from supporters rather than the principal candidates. Jefferson’s flunkies accused Adams of being a hermaphrodite who had “neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." And Adam’s supporters returned fire in kind; they said Jefferson was the son of a half-breed Indian squaw and a mulatto father. Now, those are fighting words.

There is a sense among voters, especially undecided voters, that personal attacks are, or should be, scrubbed from campaigns – when the charges made do not pertain to governance. Most personal attacks are needlessly distracting. The problem is that the character of a governor or his opponent really is central to both campaigns and governance. We want to know who the governor is and what he will do once in office. In the case of incumbents, those questions are more easily answered, because the incumbent will be running either on or away from his record in office. In the present case, Mr. Foley has no record in office as a governor. Generally, Americans like a contest of ideas. The clash between Lincoln and Douglas, for instance, was centered on the more important questions of the day: Would the union hold; would slavery be extended into the new territories? 

Not all the gubernatorial debates have been testy. The most watchable recent debate was the one at Saint Joseph College hosted by Eyewitness News. Connecticut Commentary has often said that we may be approaching a time in Connecticut at which events rather than debates will determine elections.

The event that may determine this one is an economy stuck in low dive.

While the national recession ended five years ago, Connecticut and much of the Eastern Seaboard, where progressives hold sway, is still enmeshed in the coils of a stalled recovery. Connecticut has recovered only about half of the jobs it lost during the national recession. The sluggish recovery is not theoretical; it is a lived experience. We are watching jobs out-migrate to areas of the country in which taxes are modest and regulations are far less punishing than in once entrepreneurial Connecticut. Graduates of very expensive colleges in the state are taking their sheepskins to other states. Unable to absorb higher costs, businesses in Connecticut are looking ominously at the exit signs. State government has now taken to bribing mega-companies such as United Technologies to stay in Connecticut.

The most accurate and forward thinking think-tank in Connecticut, the Yankee Institute, some time ago published a list of Connecticut taxes and fees that should blast the studied indifference of every Connecticut legislator. Connecticut collected revenue from 371 unique sources in fiscal year 2012. However, the Yankee Institute found, the bottom 200 sources generated a revenue total of only $22 million, “raising a question about the cost effectiveness of collecting so many fees that bring in so little revenue.” This may, one can only hope, strike the few remaining rationalists in Connecticut’s General Assembly as insane: If it cost the state more money to collect tax A than the state realizes by imposing tax A, should we not eliminate tax A? The non-political answer is – YES!

Connecticut’s actual unfunded pension liability, according to the Yankee Institute, is approaching $100 billion, a figure that could be mitigated if the state were to chuck its defined benefit pension system and adopt the defined contribution system much used in the private sector.

If you are drowning in pension liability debt -- $27,668 for every man, woman and child in Connecticut -- and someone throws you a defined contribution lifeline, are you not suicidal if you reject the rescue? The non-political answer is – YES!

Put beside such momentous mountains, Mr. Foley’s car accident many moons ago (He was never prosecuted) and Mr. Malloy’s corruption investigation (He was cleared of all charges) are truly insignificant molehills.

And who cares if either of them smoked pot in their wild and reckless youth? President Barack Obama smoked pot regularly, consorted with at least two terrorists, Bill Ayres and his wife Bernardine Dohrn, both pedagogues, invented incidents and characters in a book regarded by many as an autobiographical rendering of his life – and Mr. Obama won two elections for the presidency. He even survived the anti-American chidings of black power preacher Jeremiah Wright.

If Mr. Obama can survive his discreditable friends and his dubious autobiography, we must assume that death by personal attack in the new progressive era now upon us hath lost its sting.
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