A few Days ago, Greece collapsed under a load of debt regularly passed forward by spendthrift and cowardly politicians to future bill-payers. Now at the mercy of international loan sharks, the final comeuppance will not be pretty. Among all the states in the United States, Connecticut most closely resembles Greece at the tipping point.
Consider: The state is groaning under a load of pension debt, about $44 billion, that hangs by a slender thread over its head like a Damoclean sword. Fearful – but not too fearful – of hiking taxes to absorb repeated spending shocks, Connecticut’s progressive government has resorted to other tricks of the budget trade to discharge its debt.
The Malloy administration has twice raised taxes by substantial amounts. In his first term, Governor Dannel Malloy, eschewing discreditable means of concealing debt – kicking deficit cans down the road, shifting debt from current to future budgets and borrowing large sums of money to pay for current expenses – first imposed on Connecticut the largest tax increase in its history; then Mr. Malloy increased taxes a second time, after having promised in his re-election campaign that future deficits would be discharged through spending cuts.
When progressive leaders in the Democrat dominated General Assembly cut the spending cuts and progressively increased revenue, Mr. Malloy, besieged by reporters who wanted to know why he had shamelessly reneged on his campaign pledges – I will NOT increase taxes -- announced that he had kept his pledge: The budget he had presented to his cohorts in the General Assembly was balanced -- it was not – and contained no tax increases – it did. The Malloy budget contained almost a billion dollars in revenue increases.
A kabuki stage-show followed in which Mr. Malloy pretended he did not have a veto pen at his disposal nor, apparently, a phone he might have used to communicate with his comrades in the House and Senate. Reporters were expected to swallow this load of tripe and cease and desist from putting questions to Mr. Malloy or the two Democratic leaders of the General Assembly, President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney and Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey.
On the sly and, so we are to believe, without a nod of approval from the nominal head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, Mr. Sharkey and Mr. Looney, progressivised the budget, restored some draconian budget cuts, removed pensions from under the state’s largely fictional Constitutional cap, drove a tax tap into municipal budgets, and flayed those CEOs of Connecticut businesses who, their eyes focused on the exit signs, threatened to remove themselves and their companies from the flaying. Stay here and be whipped said the two progressive leaders of Connecticut’s governing Democratic triumvirate. No thanks, said a number of premier businesses in Connecticut – we’re outta here.
Well now, if it walks like Greece and talks like Greece and swims in oceans of debt caused by reckless and cowardly politicians led about on leashes by powerful union leaders, it must be Greece -- or Detroit.
The Malloy administration to date has been the Gilded Age of gimmickry in Connecticut. It began auspiciously with ardent promises that the usual gimmicks would be thrown out the door in the new Democratic Governor’s open, transparent and honest administration. Alas, the gimmicks have been enlarged and improved since Republican “firewall” governors John Rowland and Jodi Rell left office many years ago. And the most glittering gimmick on Connecticut’s stage just now, if one discounts a number of pathetic, union dependent, Democratic members of Connecticut closed-shop General Assembly, is the budget itself, which carries forward for 30 years a massive, $100 billion infrastructure repair program, the financing for which was supposed to have been immured in an easily picked “lockbox.” This year, progressive thieves in the General Assembly have decided to dispense with the lockbox Mr. Malloy insisted upon as a conditio sine qua non of his multi-billion dollar spending program, plundering to commence immediately.
The kabuki budget retains most of the punishing taxes and regulations and big ticket spending items placed in it by hard-of-hearing, merciless Democratic progressives in the General Assembly, but some few of the whips and handcuff are deferred to a later date in the hope that a temporary reprieve will change minds and hearts in the boardrooms of Connecticut’s largest employers. Now that the Connecticut Malloy-Sharkey-Looney triumvirate have inserted into the tax swollen budget a measure that will assign to a study committee ways of improving the business climate in Greece on the Connecticut River, perhaps the flow of moving vans transporting whipped companies and taxpayers out of the state might be reversed.
This is just the kind of hopeful but perverse refusal to recognize reality that preceded the collapse of Greece. In Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” the lords and ladies in Prince Prospero’s impregnable castle hardly notice that the Red Death, first having ravaged the countryside, has slipped in among them while they amuse themselves with games and other pleasantries, a perfect metaphor of Connecticut’s economic and social condition.