Views on the income tax have changed only slightly since it was pumped through the General Assembly by then Governor Lowell Weicker – a gasbag, Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell called him -- and his accomplices both in the legislature and in Connecticut’s media. Mr. Weicker vetoed three non-income tax budgets before the deed had been accomplished. One of the most prominent signs carried by income tax protesters following the long night of the knives was this one -- “CUT THE FAT.”
One supposes that the protester carrying the sign appreciated more fully than pro-income tax proponents the direct causal connection between getting and spending: The more you get, the more you spend. The income tax was then, and is now, the spear point of an assault on personal liberty: The less you have, the less you can do for yourself. If you are a state, the more you spend, the more private wealth you must confiscate; and the more private wealth you confiscate, the poorer the people, the richer the state.
On the pro-income tax side were those in the legislature who did not wish to be put to the trouble of cutting spending, businesses in Connecticut satisfied that the income tax, coupled with a slight business tax decrease, would spare them a future fleecing at the hands of a then nascent progressive movement, state employee unions, Connecticut’s fourth branch of government, legislators tied to the ideological and campaign financing apron strings of the fourth branch of state government, and media elites who always have known what is best for what Henry Mencken derisively called “the "Booboisie," the stupid middle class that pays the bills and is expected by political moral savants to take it on the chin.
Fairly recently, the Harford Courant, which vigorously promoted the income tax in 1991, has issued a series of mea culpas on a whole series on nettlesome policy questions. During the entire Weicker administration, and long after, the paper ardently supported the view that Connecticut had in respect of deficits a revenue problem, not a spending problem. Translation: deficits are to be discharged in the future by tax increases, not spending decreases. In the era of diminishing returns following Governor Dannel Malloy’s massive tax increases, the largest and second largest in state history, that intellectual redoubt is no longer sustainable – because while taxes have increased, prospective revenues have diminished. It has taken Connecticut 25 years, since the launch of the gasbag’s income tax, to reach a point at which spending cuts have become necessary. The Courant now tardily agrees that spending must be cut and taxes cannot be increased, without driving out of the state major revenue producers that so far have been holding the state’s head above a rising tax tide that has, as President John Kennedy knew it would, lowered all the boats.
Conservatives in the state, a growing and influential band of brothers and sisters, are now betting the ranch that spending cuts will be temporary and tax increases permanent. TheYankee Institute, the most thoughtful think tank in the state, has long warned of Connecticut’s steady and inexorable descent into last place on anyone’s list of most prosperous states. Yankee will be memorializing the income tax at a gathering in Stamford, former Mayor Dan Malloy’s old stomping grounds on August 12 at the Sheraton Stamford Hotel. One does not expect the destructors-elect of Connecticut to be present on the occasion.
In its own editorial memorializing the income tax, “25 Years After Reviled Income Tax Came In, CT Is Hooked On It,” the Courant has not yet left behind the income tax’s birth sac.
Here is the paper’s lede:
“Twenty-five years ago, Gov. Lowell P. Weicker signed Connecticut's income tax into law. He predicted the tax would solve the state's financial problems. It hasn't. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine what Connecticut would look like today without that extra infusion of cash, which now makes up half the state's income.”
Well now, one thing is certain: If in 1991 Mr. Weicker and his confederates had not been able to impose on Connecticut a wildly unpopular income tax, legislators who bought themselves a quarter century long breathing space by instituting an income tax would have been forced much earlier to confront inflationary spending, revenue engines in Connecticut would be revving up right now, and Governor Dannel Malloy’s two massive tax increases very likely would not have been necessary. The more you kick the can down the road, the longer the road becomes and the larger the can becomes.
Connecticut is now one of the highest taxed, most under-performing and most indebted states in the union – thanks to can-kicking. Perhaps during the upcoming elections Connecticut’s besieged citizens will take to kicking other cans and spare themselves further fleecing.