Monday, March 14, 2016

Connecticut’s Time And Information Management Politicians

The blithe fairy – whoever he or she is -- that projects job figures in Connecticut is an incorrigible eupeptic.

The state Department of Labor has retrospectively downgraded projected job growth figures for both 2014 and 2015, and many are the politicians in Connecticut who are pretending to be shocked, SHOCKED, at the new and more accurate figures. In 2015, jobs in Connecticut increased by a slender 11,600, not the 22,600 projected by the figure’s fairy at a time when Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrat dominated General Assembly were putting together their budget. The Department of Labor also has retrospectively downgraded the projected job figures for 2014.

Accurate job figures are important because the projected revenue from such data is used in balancing budgets. The new figures confirm what others have long suspected: that Connecticut is still mired in a business slowdown, years after the overwhelming majority of states have recovered jobs lost during “The Great Recession.”

Budgets, as everyone knows, are rooted in just such data – and so, as it happens, are election campaigns. Putting forth rosy economic projections  when your state is in fact tanking is what is known as “information management,” and it is why Benjamin Disraeli said, in a moment of rare candor, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, dammed lies, and statistics.”

The reader will note the lapse of time between the promulgation of false statistics, worse than damned lies, and the tardy correction – one and two years. This gap between damned lies and accurate statistics we may call “time management.”

If you are a head of state or the leader of a legislative body that sticks its head in the sand, ostridge-like, at the approach of reality – you rule. The master of information management and time management sits atop the world, a self-satisfied smile brightening his face, bending reality to his own purposes – until that moment when reality boots him in the rear and he awakens from dreams of glory.

All roads lead downward from there, for reality is a stern taskmaster. The tortuous road to the bottom, however, is usually laced with bracing momentary victories, and politicians, unfortunately, are creatures who live in the moment; truly, in the long term, we are all dead. The idea is to squeeze juice from the moment and  get re-elected.

This is where information management and time management can boost political prospects. The implementer bill, which has become a catch basin for legislation sneaky politicians want no one to see or read, is a time management device used to evade public hearings and media scrutiny. Initially, the implementer was supposed to facilitate bills already proposed, debated at hearings and affirmed in the General Assembly, which is constitutionally – except for chief executives indisposed to honor the separation of powers enforced by both national and state constitutions – the only law-making body in our political system. The purpose of the implementer bill obviously has been perverted, but it can be restored by attaching to it an amendment that would permit the introduction of measures ONLY for legislation that has passed through the usual legislative process. This will not be done because, while a restoration of the initial purpose of the implementer bill will advance the general good, the present process advances the re-election possibilities of sitting legislators.    

Examples of information management abound in modern society. You cannot manage information unless you can control the distribution of data. This sort of thing used to be difficult to do at a time when prosperous newspapers – remember them? – had enough resources to adequately cover politics; i.e. to prevent politicians from dragging the truth into smoke-filled rooms, editing it and then dispersing it to favored journalists.

Attorney General George Jepsen, once a Democratic Party Chairman, announced some time ago that the Constitutional Spending Cap adopted at the same time as Governor Lowell Weicker’s income tax in 1991 was inoperative because the legislature had failed to pass implementing legislation to trigger the cap. Information has it that the legislature will pass a new operational cap to make a bitter pill go down the thorax of voters in the upcoming election. Mr. Malloy wants the legislature to develop a lockbox – try not to laugh – into which transportations funds, regularly raided by spendthrift legislators to patch holes in budgets, will be placed to fund his proposed 30 year $300 billion infrastructure repair project. Most of this is informational sand thrown into the eyes of voters.

Here is what should happen instead: The legislature must recover its constitutional prerogatives by stipulating as a matter of law and policy that every time a dollar is unassigned to a designated program or shifted from one program to another – or,worse, transported from dedicated funds to the general fund – the exchange cannot become effective without a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly, the vote to take effect one week after the attempted theft. And an amendment should be attached to the very next budget adjustment bill stipulating that no measure to which dollars are attached that had not previously been processed in the usual manner by the General Assembly may be included in any implementer bill.

Reforms such as these die on the shelf because they are most energetically opposed by time and information managers whose business it is to make politics risk free for politicians.
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