The chief executive proposes, but the legislature disposes; this old chestnut, possibly as ancient as the Republic, has never been truer. Just now, progressive Democrats in the General Assembly are setting about disposing of Governor Dannel Malloy’s no tax increase pledge, iterated numerous times during Mr. Malloy’s late gubernatorial campaign. Of course, the governor himself already has disposed of his George H. W. Bush-like vow – “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Mr. Malloy’s submitted budget boosts tax receipts by about $840 million -- still not enough, apparently, to keep up with chronic budget deficits.
One news report put it this way: “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's two-year budget plan raises more than $360 million in net new tax receipts over the biennium, while canceling or delaying more than $480 million in net tax cuts that he signed last term and promised to start after the election.” The cancellation or delay of a tax cut amounts to a revenue increase.
Mr. Malloy’s budget guru, Ben Barnes, reminded us last December that people in Connecticut who voted for Mr. Malloy might have to get used to chronic deficits caused, Mr. Barnes intimated, by conditions over which Mr. Malloy has no control. In the modern progressive period, chief executives are both executioners and victims; but then the chief object of modern politics is to have your cake and eat it too.
The rising tide that President John Kennedy told us would “lift all the boats” has been perversely refusing to rise in Connecticut since around 1991, the year that then Governor Lowell Weicker graced the state with an income tax. In a famous speech to the New York Economic Club in 1962, Mr. Kennedy suggested a plan that did in fact induce the tide to rise. The Kennedy plan included marginal tax reductions for businesses; high tax rates, he said, were smothering business activity; reducing tax rates would spur economic activity and generate more revenue. Mr. Kennedy’s tax reductions DID cause a rising tide, which DID lift all the boats – including the U.S. Treasury. Following Mr. Kennedy’s tax reforms, his successor, Lyndon Johnson, was able to use the increased revenues as a down payment on his Great Society programs. If Mr. Kennedy were running for office in Connecticut today, he would be hooted down by two thirds of the state’s progressive General Assembly, and much of the state’s media would be preparing a bed of nails for him to repose upon.
Among the un-Kennedy-like measures now being bandied about in Connecticut's progressive Democratic dominated General Assembly are: a more progressive income tax rate on the wealthy, a reimposition of the capital gains levy, more expansive and expensive sales taxes on business, and that old standby – a boost in sin taxes; the legislature unsurprisingly is considering an additional imposition of $1.50 per pack on cigarettes. As mortal sins have been degraded – abortion and euthanasia have been reduced to innocent offenses by our secular popes – the remaining sins, among them smoking, have been upgraded to mortal offenses. Out with capital punishment, in with euthanasia. Now decked out in acceptable verbal finery, “euthanasia” has become “death with dignity.” In the modern period, an age in which sin and sometimes criminal behavior has been abolished, it becomes impossible to distinguish between victim and victimizer.
Ben Franklin used to say, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The Connecticut General Assembly celebrates both every time it convenes, but it is especially fond of tax increases – which is why its spending has tripled in Connecticut since the last pre-income tax budget of Governor Bill O’Neill. First you spend your way into a hole; then you cut necessary vital services, exciting the raw emotions and interests of the compassion lobby; then you propose additional taxes on the wealthy, who can afford it and who have not been “paying their fair share.” The history of taxation in the United States shows it does not take long for a “wealth tax” to trickle down to the middle class. Such is the way of the world in once prosperous Connecticut. But for a significant dip in prosperity, little has changed since Mr. Weicker said that increasing taxes during a recession would be tantamount to pouring gas on a fire, after which he unscrewed the gas cap and incinerated the state’s once modest spending proclivities. We are now taxing prosperity and posterity to death.
When posterity has left Connecticut -- as our young people are now doing in order to escape the highway-robbers in the General Assembly -- and prosperity has been clubbed to death by greedy spendthrift politicians, the executioners will escape blame by adorning themselves in the ragged robes of victims. In politics, necessity is always the mother of implausible inventions, and the notion that the irresponsible behavior of preceding governors forces present governors to raise taxes and increase regulations is the last refuge of scoundrels pretending to be victims.