Saturday, January 03, 2015

Work, Work, Work -- Spend, Spend, Spend

Election nonsense behind him, Governor Dannel Malloy, the workaholic, is fully prepared to lead Connecticut’s ship of state over the shoals that lie ahead in his second term. He is quoted in one publication to this effect: “No one’s ever outworked me. So I can do more things and still get the job done because I love to work, always have.”

Mr. Malloy has a genius for saying things that are quoted but not quotable. That is because, unlike Abraham Lincoln, he tends to speak off the cuff. Mr. Malloy suffers from dyslexia, a developmental reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. He has valiantly overcome his disability.

Because Mr. Malloy has difficulty reading, one may not expect a Gettysburg Address from him anytime soon. Mr. Lincoln wrote and delivered the Gettysburg Address: Ditto with his second inaugural address, which some presidential scholars consider his finest prose poem.

Mr. Malloy’s dyslexia is not a bar to wit. Perhaps Mr. Malloy loves to work so much that he has no time for pretty or sensible formulations.

So, forget the packaging; let us examine the meat of this sentence: “No one’s ever outworked me. So I can do more things and still get the job done because I love to work, always have.”

It just is not true. There are possibly hundreds of people, some of them politicians, who have outworked Mr. Malloy, among them: Caligula (The Roman Republic was not disassembled in a day, and destroying it was exhausting work); Stalin (The construction of the  Gulag Archipelago took time and effort); Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic of China  (who was responsible, though not single-handedly, of course, for the deaths of some  45 million of his countrymen); and, perhaps more pertinent to Americans, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, who formed the Edison Portland Cement Co. in 1899, which held patents on, among other things, cement cabinets and pianos. Even genius sleeps from time to time, and personal energy is not always properly or profitably directed.

Which is the point – isn’t it? Time invested in destructive projects is time misspent. Who cares if Mr. Edison spent two or a hundred hours inventing a cement piano? Better to pour your energy into the invention of the light bulb, right?

Now then, Mr. Malloy has spent an inordinate amount of time during his first term removing dollars from the private marketplace in the form of increased taxes, collecting them, and then reallocating his swag as “investments” in projects he deems worthy. This is what Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” – billions of appropriations and allocations made by people who go about their daily business getting and spending – does much better than governors and presidents who think their own spending choices are more productive than, say, those of the assistant to the assistant of communications who works in Mr. Malloy’s office whenever he reallocates a dollar from his salary to purchase a package of Pistachio Biscotti from his local Whole Foods Market. No purchase is without its consequences. A dollar spent on biscotti is a dollar NOT wasted on a cement piano.

During his second term in office, the tax starved Malloy administration will have cement on its mind. Big allocations lay ahead. It seems that the state’s infrastructure has been allowed to go to rack and ruin, no doubt the fault, in Mr. Malloy's reckoning, of the governor’s two Republican predecessors, one a criminal twice over and the other, a much less flashy administrator than the present Big Thinker, a nice lady who was not quite as energetic a workaholic as Mr. Malloy.

Just when everyone, consulting their own wallets and budgets while eyeing the exit signs, thought the Malloy administration had reached a ceiling on spending, here comes a cry for MORE. Of course, dilapidated bridges must be fixed; so much is certain. And money must be raised and allocated in Connecticut’s perpetually red budget to do the job – which is necessary. However, Mr. Malloy promised on a stack of bibles during his successful re-election campaign that he would not raise taxes. He certainly has proposed no grand scheme to reduce spending.

So – what’s up with that? Well, you know; It depends upon what a tax is, and whether a fee is a tax, and what spending is, and what “is” is. Is a toll a tax? These are complex metaphysical-philosophical-political terms a proper understanding of which some high octane politicians believe are beyond the pay grade of most voters and taxpayers. And when Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly proposes to finance “necessary” capital expenditures, very likely by means of borrowing, whether the money generated for the purpose will be spent solely on capital expenditures – rather than being dumped in the General Fund to patch future budget holes – will depend upon the proper complex metaphysical-philosophical-political meanings attached to Mr. Malloy’s upcoming second inaugural address before the General Assembly, which likely will call for more spending and the dismemberment of municipal governments, the last effective bars to controlled spending in Connecticut.

Here’s a bit of advice for the state’s reporters and commentators: Put on your jeweler's loupe. So much to do, so little time -- better get busy.

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