Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Back To Kumbaya?

Connecticut’s State Senate is split 18-18 between Democrats and Republicans, and this election season – even with “loser” Donald Trump heading the Republican Presidential ticket – Connecticut Republicans made gains in the State House and Senate.

Among those crying in their beers the day after the nation sent Mr. Trump to the White House was Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, who remarked to his media columnist, James Rutenberg, “We’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world.”


Shortly after the mea culpa, an ex-Times reporter now writing for Deadline Hollywood let the cat out of the bag: “It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called ‘the narrative.’ We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.” That is a perfect description of media bias overcoming sound journalistic practice. We often have been told that there is an iron curtain erected at newspapers between the editorial board and report staff, but if the report staff is put on a short narrative leash by editors, sound journalism is collared.

Collared journalists at the Times likely were shocked by Trump’s victory. Mr. Trump did better than former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney among black voters, 8-6 percent, and Hispanics, 29-27 percent, according to Pew research. Trump almost tied Romney among all women, 42-44 percent, and he trounced among white women, 53-43 percent. 

Here in Connecticut, Mr. Trump was not swamped by Mrs. Clinton. Following the capture of the White House by Mr. Trump and the seizure of both houses of Congress by Republicans, Democrats have lost their OZ. Governor Dannel Malloy – approval rating 24 percent – will not be able to reinvent his political career by  seeking sanctuary in a Hillary Clinton administration. Any hope that Connecticut’s two progressive U.S. Senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, will be able to command a chairmanship of important Senate committees have been dashed. And at some point during the Trump presidency, the lack of a single Republican within Connecticut’s all Democratic US Congressional Delegation may be sorely felt. The national progressive contraption will not survive the artificial prop of a progressive-minded President who was willing to create legislation by executive decree. Mr. Trump will not need the consent of Congress to sweep away with his pen all the constitutionally dubious executive dictates of his now lame-duck predecessor. 
 
During the upcoming elections in two years, it appears that state Republicans will have Mr. Malloy – or, at the very least, the Malloy administration – to kick around again. There is a slight chance that the crony capitalist Democrat and leaders in his Party may begin, following their repeated losses in the General Assembly, to equitably share government with Republicans, if only as a self-protective measure. The state Republican Party, however, may be more demanding than Democrat leaders have been used to; years in the wilderness strengthen the powers of resistance, and kumbaya has been off the table for the entire Malloy Administration.

The upcoming struggle over the state constitutional cap may provide an instance of state GOP assertiveness. Initially, the cap on spending was attached to former Governor Lowell Weicker’s income tax measure as a ploy to garner votes in favor of the income tax within the General Assembly. However, definitions necessary to implement the tax were never provided, and last year Attorney General George Jepsen correctly declared the spending cap inoperative.

A real spending cap worthy of the name cap should really control spending. The 24 member committee providing definitions to members of the General Assembly so that the cap may be constitutionally applied is split on an important point.  Democrats doubtless would prefer a cap that excludes state employee pensions because pensions represent a large portion of Connecticut’s debt. Co-Chairman of the committee Bill Cibes, the past head of Mr. Weicker’s Office of Policy Management, considered by many the architect of the Weicker income tax, has in the recent past urged the abolition of the constitutional cap. Mr. Cibes claims to be offended when those now charged with determining the borders of the spending cap mention the state’s “death spiral.” He is doubly offended when they note that state spending is, partly owing to Mr. Cibes’s heroic efforts in implementing the Weicker-Cibes income tax, “out of control.”

It would be a hopeful sign if Republicans should resist further attempts to enfeeble their necessary opposition; state spending is indeed out of control, and Connecticut will enter a death spiral unless state government seriously controls spending. An authentic attempt to control spending would oppose putting arsonists such as Mr. Cibes in charge of the fire brigade and insist that any effective definition of a spending cap that does not include every dollar appropriated for spending is a recipe for more out of control spending.

  
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