It took a while, but Connecticut is now lying prostrate on its back, thrashing about and gasping for air.
Those who have not fled the state in search of more propitious business circumstances elsewhere remember a time when Connecticut was a magnet for companies that provided high paying jobs and, not incidentally, a rich source of revenue that kept the wolves – other ambitious states that seek to lure Connecticut companies to their own lairs – at bay.
It seems only yesterday that former Governor Lowell Weicker, attending a function at the Hartford Club, clutched his head in his hands, when shown a graph that depicted Connecticut’s disappearing surpluses, and moaned loudly, “Where did it all go?”
An elderly, elegant looking businesswoman seated beside me whispered, though not loud enough for the father of Connecticut’s income tax to hear, “They spent it, you ninny!”
Only recently has Governor Dannel Malloy, author of the two largest tax increases in Connecticut’s history, discovered the necessary causal connection between excessive government spending and deficits. They are Siamese twins. The state has not been well served by its ninnies.
A severe drop in the state’s revenue streams, business flight to other states – the embarrassment of being the only state in the union not yet to have recovered from a spending binge recession, the longest in post-World War II history, which officially ended, according to the authoritative New York Times seven years ago -- and the approach of an election that may, some suppose, erode Democratic hegemony in Connecticut’s spendthrift General Assembly have convinced Mr. Malloy, if only temporarily, that Connecticut must attack its spending problem.
At the end of August, the Yankee Institute, which regularly provides common sense elixir for what ails the state, will be marking, with a brunch at the Stamford Sheraton Hotel, the “25th Anniversary of the Connecticut Income Tax." It is doubtful that Mr. Weicker will be in attendance but altogether appropriate that the event will be held in Stamford, Mr. Malloy’s old stomping grounds when he was Mayor of the city from 1995 to 2009. “In addition to [guest speaker] Grover Norquist, founder and President of Americans for Tax Reform,” a brochure advises, “we will feature guests who fought to defeat the income tax in 1991,” the politically outnumbered, battle scared warriors for prosperity who were not able, 25 years ago, to turn back the forces of darkness and ruin.
All this is, as the progressives like to say, old hat. Certain that the future belongs to tradition-denying, bold, populist reformers, progressives have been in the habit of dismissing as outmoded anything and everything that precedes their own birth dates.
A partial listing of outmoded institutions would include: orthodox family structures, authoritative religious pronouncements from pulpits, educational institutions in which teachers teach students necessary subjects, previously honored Constitutional provisions, along with such liberty shielding amendments as may impede the forward progress of progressives, politicians who in happier times attempted to represent the general good rather than special interests, modesty in women, courage in men, restrooms that appropriately segregate women from men, livable cities in which children do not shoot-up children with weapons NOT bought at the local gun store, and much more, which for space reasons must here remain uncatalogued.
The future, as most progressives will acknowledge, is made in the smithy of the present. It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that nothing done by progressives for the past few years in Connecticut has worked -- because their campaigns have worked. Progressive campaigns invoke the creation of a super-state that in effect oversees every function once ably performed by what G. K. Chesterton used to call, approvingly, the little platoons of democracy: the family, the neighborhood, the church, voluntary civic organizations, effective teaching institutions and vibrant, self-directing municipal governments. All top-down authoritarian government sucks democracy from the marrow of every other competing institution. Historically, where authoritarian regimes have been most successful, the people over whom comfortable rulers maintain their intolerant sway have been deprived of basic human liberties.
In Venezuela, a failed socialist state, people are no longer free to use highly inflated currency to purchase the necessities of life. Grocery store shelves are empty, stomachs are empty, and toilet paper is as rare as the fulfilled extravagant promises of socialist saints and well-fed millionaires such as Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro, a “president” who has been ruling by decree for most of his term in office and whose sole support is the Venezuelan military. Mr. Maduro’s latest decree forces the citizens of the country to work on farms to counter the increasing poverty and food shortages caused by his socialist policies.
Connecticut is not yet Venezuela; that’s the good news. Citizens of Connecticut have yet to awaken and throw out of office their anti-democratic political rulers; that’s the bad news.