Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Malloy To Voters: The Joke’s On You


There is no danger anyone will read into the remarks made by Governor Dannel Malloy to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce (MCC) a gubernatorial resolve to reduce Connecticut’s burdensome taxes or regulations.

Just the opposite; even reporters “got” the joke made by Mr. Malloy towards the end of his MCC speech when the Governor was asked, following his remark that he had “righted the ship” of state, whether he feared he was raising expectations that could not be met, in view of Connecticut’s still doubtful economic rebound.

According to the official arbiter of U.S. recessions, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the “Great Recession,” which started with the subprime mortgage crisis in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, lasted a little over 18 months. Although the national recession had ended fifteen years ago, Connecticut has yet to fully recover the jobs it lost during the protracted recession. In addition, the state is now facing yet another deficit, which followed claims made by Mr. Malloy during his gubernatorial campaign that the state’s books were in balance. In fact, they were out of kilter by about $100 million, a datum that, had it been certified during the election, might have cost Mr. Malloy enough votes to push him into the loser category.

“’Not now that the election is over, no,’ Malloy said, his face deadpan. Then he laughed.”

It was a bit of an inside joke. Inside jokes among chief executives and the media usually fly over the heads of duped voters.

Here is the joke: The election is now over, and Mr. Malloy won it by a slender majority over a Republican competitor who had argued that Mr. Malloy’s bookkeeping was, to put it gently, as ingenious as it was disingenuous.  The books were not in balance, Republicans had cautioned. While it is now obvious in the post-election period that Republicans had won the disputed point, they had lost the election. Harry Truman once said he would rather be right than President. Mr. Malloy was now turning the Truman apothegm on its head and hinting, with a knowing wink at the media, that if you are president – or, in his case, governor – the winning of an election makes moot election disputes. If you win the game, fouls committed during the campaign don’t matter.

Get it?

One may be sure reporters attending Mr. Malloy’s lecture on political amorality got it. “It was a joke,” one reporter noted in his story, “colored by the reality that one political challenge has been met, even if plenty remain. With a 28,000-vote win, Malloy has four more years.”

And what does Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly plan to do during those four years? Cut spending?” Nope. Shout “cut spending” in the General Assembly and you will be greeted with an embarrassed silence. Does Mr. Malloy intend to raise taxes? No, said he during his campaign. However, some reporters and commentators will remember Mr. Malloy insisted during the same campaign that the state’s books were in balance. For clever politicians addicted to tax increases, there surely is more than one way to skin a taxpayer. Removing tax line items from the budget and transferring them to the state’s credit card, its borrowing slush fund, is one way to reduce a deficit without raising taxes. During his first campaign for governor, Mr. Malloy heartily condemned such practices as a disreputable accounting sleight of hand often indulged in by sinister Republican gubernatorial reprobates.

After the election, if you are Mr. Malloy, you just begin the future with a wiped slate. You have four more years to spin the roulette wheel. You may safely put behind you all the red ink -- such as possible future deficits brought about by shrinking revenue streams; thanks to fracking, gas prices are down, and with them state revenues from the highest gas taxes in the nation. Connecticut’s economy is still running on half its cylinders, and the sluggish economy reduces cash reserves. His next biennial budget will be in the red by about $2.8 billion. And then, though nearly everyone in state government is loathe to mention debt obligations, at $65 billion near tops per capita in the nation, Mr. Malloy did promise to hack away at that debt.  Where will the money to pay state bills come from? The middle class in Connecticut, which solicitous progressives claim to represent, has no juice left in it.

Never you mind: Mr. Malloy is on to the next BIG THING; he has turned the page on adversity.

I’m working on a big vision,” Mr. Malloy told the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce “I’m working on what it will take for us to be competitive with other states and I’m going to lead that discussion. Then people can tell me what needs to come off the list.”

Another day, another spending list, another bully pulpit speech, another BIG VISION. Even Teddy Roosevelt took a breath from time to time. Not Mr. Malloy. He rushes past the sign overhanging the gates of Hell: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” – straight into the fiery furnace, his green tie flapping gaily in the flames.
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