Friday, February 24, 2017

Malloy on The Tightrope

It is no secret that the members of Connecticut’s U.S. Delegation, nearly all progressive Democrats, are unalterably opposed to the Trump administration. Having lost the White House and both Houses of Congress, undeterred progressives never-the-less are progressing, and few are the Democrats willing to buck the “Never Trump” crowd.

Rep. Jim Himes, who fancies himself a Democratic moderate, called the first two weeks of Trump's presidency a “goat rodeo,” according to a Hartford Courant story.

Gary Rose, a political science professor at Sacred Heart University, is convinced Democrats in Connecticut are playing to their base: “I would say that for [the Connecticut delegation] to challenge the president, as they frequently are doing and will do, is probably bolstering their own standing within their base," Rose said. "And I think that they would probably, quite frankly, place themselves in a little ... political jeopardy if they were perceived as accommodating this president."

Connecticut, one of the most overtaxed states in the nation, has been spending itself into penury for decades, and the more impoverished state government becomes the more federal-reliant the state must become. Is it possible that President Donald Trump, who has been known to react intemperately to obstreperous political opponents, might, in a fit of foul temper, seek to punish Connecticut’s oppositional Democrats by, say, stripping federal funds from Connecticut’s sanctuary cities?

When the question was put to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, he responded that he did not think the Trump White House would punish Democratic saboteurs by routing federal funds elsewhere. However, he “wouldn't put anything past this administration." Well sure: Goats may be expected to behave goatishly and butt their executioners, particularly when they feel the blade being drawn across their throats. In Connecticut’s good old days, the state’s U.S. Delegation was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, allowing the state to appeal to presidents whatever their party affiliation. This year, national Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress, which could make it a bit easier to stiff the state’s all Democratic delegation.

Connecticut, according to the Courant story, “is counting on billions of dollars in federal funding for infrastructure projects including the replacement of the I-84 viaduct through Hartford, a new I-84 interchange at Route 8 in Waterbury, Metro-North Railroad improvements and perhaps I-95 upgrades in Fairfield County and commuter rail upgrades along I-91 from New Haven to Springfield.”

Prudent politicians do not count their chickens before they hatch. What if, gagging on a $20 trillion dollar deficit, a national debt passed on to Trump by the last two presidents, the goat-rodeo president should decide to pull a Malloy on Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation?

Unable to squeeze further tax payments from Connecticut tax payers, Malloy has severely reduced state payments to some Connecticut municipalities. Caught between a rock and a hard place, disfavored towns must either raise property taxes or cut spending -- just to tread water. Many of the municipalities drained of state funds were responsible Republican-run towns, and many of the urban centers rewarded by Malloy with state funds transferred from so called “rich’ towns were irresponsible cities that have been reliable Democratic voting blocks for the last three decades and more. In Malloy’s recalculated progressive budget, Hartford, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for many years, is slated to receive a much needed boost in state funding – which should please Mayor Luke Bronin, formerly chief counsel to the governor – while many towns in Fairfield county, a Republican redoubt, are  slated to lose state funding. To be sure, all’s fair in partisan politics, but why is political punishment of this kind fair for the Democratic gubernatorial goose and unfair for the Republican presidential gander?

Malloy and other U.S. Congressional members in Connecticut very well may be generals in the semi-anarchic “Never Trump” campaign we now see unfolding across the nation. The ties between Linda McMahon, now the head of Trump’s Small Business Administration (SBA), and Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, appear to be less frigid than they were when she challenged both in a congressional campaign: then she was the sweaty ex-CEO of a wresting empire; now she has her hands on the SBA tiller. And Connecticut -- whipped for the last eight years of the Malloy administration by economic illiterates such as Blumenthal, who could not in his winning campaign against McMahon convincingly answer her question “How is a job created?” -- certainly could use a federal handout.

Whether the state will get it from the “goat-rodeo” guy in the White House remains a mystery. During Malloy’s meeting with Never Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, whom Malloy once called a bully and a bigot, crow may or may not be served.
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