"All this was indispensably necessary," replied the one-eyed doctor, "for private misfortunes are public benefits; so that the more private misfortunes there are, the greater is the general good" -- Candide, by Voltaire
Before progressive extremists in Connecticut’s General Assembly succeed in passing the second highest tax increase in state history, which followed by a few short years the highest tax increase in state history, warning flags were waving at them from every corner of the state. Three of the state’s largest companies – Aetna, Travelers and General Electric – offered demurrals on the budget that were airily dismissed by ardent progressives.
Democratic House Majority leader Joseph Aresimowicz observed, possibly suppressing a yawn as he did so, “Making upper-income wage-earners pay their fair share is great in my book. I guess [additional taxes on the rich mark] the difference between a weekend on the yacht and a regular trip to the grocery store — they can take a weekend off from the yacht.''
This is the progressives’ version of a remark attributed, incorrectly as it happens, to Marie Antoinette sometime before her execution at the hands of French revolutionists: “Let’em eat cake.”
Whenever a progressive wishes to torpedo any argument offered by job producers who rightly resist efforts on the left to reduce job possibilities for middle class workers, there is a yacht floating about in the progressive pot-boiler rhetoric. Mr. Aresimowicz might as easily have said, “Let Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, eat his yacht.”
Following passage of the business unfriendly progressive budget, Mr. Immelt wrote the following missive to his employees, few of whom, one supposes, own yachts:
“Last night, the Connecticut legislature passed a tax package which includes significant and retroactive tax increases for businesses in the state. The passing of this law, despite the concerns we raised, has serious implications for GE, other businesses and for the business climate in Connecticut. Please see attached fact sheet on the current environment. As a result of this law passing, I have assembled an exploratory team to look into the company’s options to relocate corporate HQ to another state with a more pro-business environment. This will be a thoughtful process which will take many factors, especially employee impact, into consideration. As the team makes progress, we will keep you updated.
“We only consider this after a lot of thought and in the context of our ability to compete. GE is a major employer in the state. We purchase $14 billion in goods and services from Connecticut companies. Despite this, we have had a tough past decade in Connecticut. Our taxes have been raised five times since 2011, while support for our strategies has been uneven. I believe we should pay our fair share and that all of us should give back to our communities. But, we can compare Connecticut with other states where small and large businesses have a better environment to thrive and compete.
“The new taxes will raise more than $1.9 billion. This will be the second highest tax increase in the state’s history behind only the more than $2 billion tax hike passed in 2011. Throughout the week we conveyed our concerns that these would not improve the competitiveness of small and large businesses in the state. We further reiterated those points in a public statement as the legislature began its budget deliberations.”
Mr. Immelt’s missive caused a momentary stir among Democratic leftists in the General Assembly and the Governor’s office. But never mind about that; the good thing about moments is that they pass, like painful gallstones.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, the Danton of progressive Democrats in the General Assembly, said that Mr. Immelt’s hollow threat was simply a blind to cover a decision made long ago by Mr. Immelt to pare down operations in Connecticut. Mr. Looney was not asked if his characterization of Mr. Immelt’s e-mail to his employees was a blind to cover Mr. Looney's support for a budget that other CEOs of other large businesses in Connecticut had insisted, shortly before the General Assembly passed the second largest tax increase in its history, would drive employers from the state.
When Republicans in the General Assembly -- barred by Governor Dannel Malloy, Mr. Looney and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey from participating in any pre-vote discussion on the Democrat’s progressive budget – sought to continue a five hour filibuster prior to the final vote, Mr. Looney effectively shut down further debate by “calling the question,” a parliamentary measure “last used at the State Capitol in 1978,” according to CTMirror. Mr. Looney’s fear was that further debate might have necessitated yet another round of budget white-noise in an extended special session in the course of which legislators might more carefully consider the budget bill before them. His willingness to deploy what CTMirror called the parliamentary equivalent of “a nuclear option” is a mark of Mr. Looney’s impatience with dissent.
Equally impatient, Mr. Sharkey expressed his displeasure with grumpy companies squirming in his progressive tax vise:
"If you look at the actual revenue numbers that are projected for the two things that seem to create the most angst in the corporate community — which is the unitary reporting and the loss carry forward — it's a total of $70 million dollars that we're projecting overall for both, OK. That's not a tremendous amount of money… Let's take GE as an example. A company that pays zero taxes to the state of Connecticut by the way. If they're making decisions about what to move and when to move, it's not based on our tax policy."
If only Mr. Sharkey and Mr. Looney were co-CEOs of General Electric, the company would not be considering moving operations outside progressive Connecticut where, as every Panglossian in the General Assembly knows, “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”