Saturday, March 26, 2016

Democratic Solutions In “The Constitution State”

Months ago, budget guru Ben Barnes, asked why he was taxing hospitals, replied “because that’s where the money is.” It has been left to others to plumb new tax resources. A tax on hospitals would invariably be passed along to the halt, the lame, the blind and the bleeding, and taxing these poor souls might well damage permanently the hard won reputation of the Democratic Party as the champion of the halt, the lame, the blind and the bleeding.

Connecticut is facing a deficit in its current budget of $220 million, and next year will ring in a deficit of $900 million; the road points downward from there as far as the eye can see.  In Connecticut the only certainties are death and taxes – and deficits. It’s been that way for a long time because, the Yankee Institute points out, “The cost of benefits for government employees is growing much faster than tax revenue.”

Yale is one of the few peanut jars left on the state’s depleted pantry shelves, and the university’s endowment cup runneth over -- to the tune of $25.6 billion.  It’s where the money is, says President Pro Tem of the State Senate Martin Looney: “It is our hope that these rich schools can use their wealth to create job opportunities, rather than simply to get richer.”

Job opportunities are created, Mr. Looney believes, when private corporations cough up dollars to the state, which then delivers them to the halt, the lame, the blind, the bleeding -- and state employee unions, which gobble up about forty percent of state dollars.

The proposed legislation tapping into Yale’s deep pockets was carefully written to apply only to educational institutions the endowments of which exceed $10 billion. Only Yale’s endowment meets the figure in the submitted legislation, a classic example of a bill of attainder, Yale’s law school might want to notice.  Writs of attainder – also called “bills of pains and penalties” – are designed to nullify the target’s civil rights, most especially the right to own property and pass it on to heirs. This may be the first bill of attainder that has passed the Connecticut’s General Assembly since King John bowed to the demands of the Lords of England at Runnymede in 1215. England’s Great Charter, the Magna Carta Libertatum, forbids such violations of imprescriptible natural rights.  Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution forbids Congress from passing bills of attainder: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed,” and one does not need an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia to parse that sentence.

Both Mr. Looney, Governor Dannel Malloy and, it sometimes seems, a majority of legislators in the General Assembly, are lawyers who must have heard, at some point in their studies, of the Magna Carta. The 800th anniversary of the Great Charter was celebrated with some pomp and circumstance last June. But perhaps the wounded cries of SEBAC, the union representatives who negotiate contracts with the Governor, have crowded out any consideration of ancient rights. Unions in Connecticut want the state to plunder Yale’s endowment – on behalf of the poor and them -- and leave union salaries and benefits alone.

As the curtain is rung down on Connecticut’s prosperity – We are now  living in the new age of “the new reality” -- hard pressed taxpayers may find, for reasons cited by Zachary Janowski of the Yankee Institute, that state unions, Connecticut’s fourth branch of government, may prevail over both the governor and the state’s law-making body.

Mr. Janowski points to a number of “conflicts of interest” that could give the fourth branch of state government a leg-up on the other three: Both legislators and union employees who negotiate with the governor on contracts draw from the same benefits well, as do state managers who negotiate contracts with unions; while lawmakers do have the power to vote union contracts up or down, if the legislature does not vote on the contract, it becomes operative after thirty days, and should  contractual terms violate state law, contract provisions take precedence; not only do unions have a well-compensated and  persuasive lobby to press their needs, they also hire lawmakers to work for them; and if legislators miss the opportunity of getting paid by unions while they are writing laws that benefit or adversely affect them, they may be hired by unions after they have left the General Assembly, which is a persuasive inducement to maintain a favorable status quo between unions and the General Assembly.

Individual taxpayers do not deploy such influence and power – except during election periods when they may vote out of office such members of the first and second branch of government who do not represent their interests, or the public good, or the imprescriptible rights enshrined in the Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution and the state Constitution in this our blessed “Constitution State.” 

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