“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself” – Mark Twain
Connecticut’s Excellence in Political Idiocy Commission (EPIC), located in Vernon, Connecticut – rents in Hartford, the state’s failing Capital city, the Commission found, were much too prohibitive -- this year has bestowed its uncoveted Dumbbell Award to Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly.
There were, as always, runners-up.
While Republicans in Connecticut have made gains in the General Assembly during the past few sessions, it is clear they have miles to go before they sleep. Following the most recent elections, Connecticut’s state Senate is now tied, 18-18, and Republicans have steadily made gains in the House.
The Republican gains have been credited, variously, to the state’s progressive Democrats who gleefully have raised taxes over the years, a chronic inability to balance budgets, and a flagging economy. These last two go together, as one political commentator noted, like a horse and carriage, like love and marriage.
There are no debtor’s prisons any longer in the shrinking free world, but if there were, half of the state’s legislators would be supping on bread and water behind bars. “The cost of paying down $50 billion in unfunded retirement benefits, plus other state debt,” CTMirror noted recently, “is eating a growing portion of the budget, squeezing funding for transportation, education, social services and, perhaps next, state aid for municipalities.” In Connecticut’s wayward government, more is less.
Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration was preceded by two Republicans, Governors John Rowland and Jodi Rell. Governor Lowell Weicker, political affiliation unknown, preceded Rowland. Facing a deficit considerably less than the deficits that followed the Weicker administration, the maverick Weicker was successful in imposing an income tax on the state. Rowland vowed during his campaign to abolish the tax but, successfully ensconced as governor, he did not keep his pledge, delighting Democrats and alienating Republicans, who wept no tears over the poor fellow when later he was hauled off to prison, having been convicted on a charge of theft of honest services.
Weicker’s solution to debt – when in doubt, raise taxes – was later adopted by Malloy, who raised taxes twice during his administration and is credited with having imposed on the state both the largest and second largest tax increases in its history. Malloy has several times vowed not to raise taxes further, but at this point, only third graders attending one of Hartford’s failing public schools believe him. Long-suffering Connecticut taxpayers have become Bismarkian in their understanding of the fragility of election year politicians. “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election,” said the Iron Chancellor, the same fellow who said, “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.”
It was only recently that anyone in the Malloy administration began to cast doubt on the time honored political formulation in Connecticut, iterated numerous times by the state’s principal newspapers, that “Connecticut is not suffering from a spending problem; the state has a revenue problem.” The answer to “revenue problems,” as we all know from past practice, is quite simple – raise taxes. This has been tried and found wanting. The revenue streams in Connecticut have diminished and – big surprise! – increasing deficits continue to plague the state.
Some sausage makers, however, have eyes but they see not, ears but they hear not. If you are standing at the edge of a cliff and you find it is politically indecorous to more forward or back, they ask, why not jump? The jumpers are, all of them, progressives tied with bungee cords to Connecticut state employee unions, Connecticut’s fourth branch of government.
Like the search for the mystical unicorn, the quest for new taxes in Connecticut that will not adversely impact idiot politicians – can we call them greedy as well? – is ongoing. The latest gambit is to attach a 19% state surcharge on investment management service fees, i.e. hedge funds. Connecticut is rich in hedge funders, who contribute a man-sized share of revenue to tax hungry politicians – and who are exceedingly mobile, more fleet-footed even than General Electric, which recently shook Connecticut’s dust from its feet and moved to Massachusetts, formerly Taxachussetts. This bright idea has been proposed by the state’s Working Families Party, a shadow party that cross-endorses and provides campaign cash for progressives within the state’s Democratic Party. The theory is that additional taxes imposed on hedge funds will not result in revenue flight to other low tax states.
Ha! and Ha!
The bill as written contains a codicil: If passed, the legislation cannot go into effect unless neighboring states – Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, all energetically pirating jobs from Connecticut – pass similar legislation. So then, it is not a serious bill, but rather a cheap political stunt that allows Democrats to pin their own criminal shortcomings on a convenient scapegoat – this time hedge funds flushed with money that super rich hedge fund managers are reluctant to share with tax vultures. Fleece them and they will flee. Our own Mark Twain got it right: Stock market scalpers we shall always have with us , but -- “There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress.”