"The Future ain't what it used to be" -- Yogi Berra
Ben Barnes, Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget guru, is a late convert to reality. But having overcome the progressive stiffness in his joints, Mr. Barnes, now rising from his knees, has got economic religion. One hopes that Mr. Barnes’ conversion to common sense rubs off on his boss.
Last June, pointing to an under-performing economy battered by a quarter century of mounting tax increases and tortuous federal and state regulations, Mr. Barnes explained to an astonished gaggle of news reporters that Connecticut should get used to frequent deficits. Even this partial confession astounded some members of Connecticut’s media who perhaps had been wondering why nearly all of the “balanced budgets” submitted by Mr. Malloy to a Democratic dominated General Assembly so quickly unbalanced themselves once Election Day had passed.
At the end of September, Mr. Barnes fessed up. Facing yet another billion dollar deficit just before the 2016 elections, Mr. Barnes capitulated to reality.
“Everybody’s belief that we would return to a normal business cycle has faded,” he confessed. The eupeptics in the Malloy administration thought during the governor’s first two years in office that Connecticut would quickly recover from the crippling national recession. Floored by previous recessions, Connecticut in the past had recovered and life in the state of steady habits had returned to normalcy. Actually, it took Connecticut nearly a decade to recover from its previous recession, largely because the imposition of the Lowell Weicker income tax in the midst of the recession extended the usual recovery period. The income tax, and more especially the poisonous notion that increased taxes, invariably followed in short order by increased spending, would enhance recovery, was attended by predictable consequences: anemic growth, mounting state debt, business flight and arcane theories presented by slick politicians to justify even higher taxes and more state spending.
“We, sort of, have changed our view,” Mr. Barnes continued. “I certainly have, and a lot of mainstream economists have changed their view.”
This is what happens when false solutions crash into reality; eventually, the collision wakes up even the most slumberous politicians, most of whom have been lulled to sleep by political exigencies of the moment, usually re-election prospects.
It is NEVER a bright idea to raise taxes during a recession; it is ALWAYS a dumb idea, attended by quite predictable consequences.
So then, Mr. Malloy -- now out gallivanting from sea to shining sea and bestowing his blessings on out-of-state Democratic office holders, part of his duty as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, while Connecticut huffs along mired in a prolonged recession – and Mr. Barnes finally have come to the realization that further tax increases are both unlikely and unwise. Mr. Malloy, the author of the largest tax increase in state history, years ago pledged – no new taxes, after which he imposed on his state the second largest tax increase in its history. The tax well has now run dry, and despite gargantuan tax increases during Mr. Malloy’s administration, Mr. Barnes finds himself facing yet another billion dollar plus budget deficit. Thanks to the ruinous progressive domestic economic policies of President Barack Obama, hedge funds in Connecticut are underperforming – and blowing a hole in Mr. Malloy’s budget; everyone in Connecticut is gazing wistfully at the exit signs; in response to Obamacare, large home-grown insurance companies are combining with their out-of-state insurance cousins, raising the possibility that insurance jobs will be lost in what used to be called the insurance capital of the world; and even avant guard journalists are beginning to shake their heads sadly, wondering what the state might look like after the inevitable crack-up. Answer: It will be smaller, poorer and more dependent on fake political saviors. In both politics and religion, the worship of false gods leads downward.
As Yogi Berra used to say, the future ain’t what it used to be. Mr. Barnes who, along with Mr. Malloy, is now taxing hospitals because “that’s where the money is,” apparently now agrees with the late Mr. Berra’s apt description of life in Connecticut in the Malloy-Barnes era.
Here’s the downer: Mr. Malloy and all his political imps and impets cannot pull Connecticut out of its nosedive without a course change. And he will not change course by making common cause with Republicans and what is left of a rational, moderate, Democratic Party.
He won’t do it. Why not?
“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”