Friday, December 29, 2017

Ring Out The Old, Bring In The New: Is Shanghai Burning?


"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” -- Voltaire

Chris Powell would blush to hear someone say it, but his retirement from the Journal Inquirer in January will leave a gaping hole in Connecticut journalism. Fortunately, Powell’s voice will still ring out in columns. The press notice announcing his retirement was placed amusingly on the right side of the paper’s obituary page.


Powell’s columns, many of them analytical jewels, always have had in them just enough bite to awaken slumberous readers. Unlike some commentators, he has managed to keep himself out of his writings, which in the age of twitter may be a sign of saintliness. But of course a writer is always present in his work as, say, Cervantes is present in Don Quixote.  In the same way, a managing editor of a paper is present in his product. There are a number of fine journalists in Connecticut who have fallen out of Powell’s pockets.

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President Donald Trump may survive moves to eject him from his presidency, a consummation devoutly wished by two of Connecticut’s fiercest anti-Trumpers, U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. The state’s Junior Senator, Murphy, will be up for re-election in the New Year. Connecticut likely will suffer from that provision in the new tax reform bill that will prevent high tax states – we have the distinction of being the third highest taxed state in the nation, lagging behind New Jersey and New York -- from offering write-off provisions for state taxes. There may, however, be ancillary benefits to Trump’s tax reforms. Many economists familiar with President John Kennedy’s tax reforms, nearly identical to those of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Trump, anticipate increases in job production and GDP growth, a rising tide that will, as Kennedy once put it, lift all the boats – including Connecticut’s seriously damaged dinghy. The one thing nutmeggers may not see in the New Year is an attempt to recover from the expected consequences of the new tax reforms through a reduction of state taxes.

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The “Me Too” movement may ebb somewhat in the New Year, because nothing is so temporary as a temporary tax increase or a movement that has become fashionable in Hollywood. Proponents of chivalry will agree the movement has been cleansing in its effects and too long in coming. But Hollywood will survive this temporary setback to libertinism, because Hollywood always survives its breeches of good manners. It is uncertain at this point whether the “Me Too” movement will or will not signal a truce on the unending war between the sexes. Distantly related to the “Me Too’ movement, some liberal Democrats who were not sufficiently enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign are now offering guarded apologies. Married to former President Bill "The Groper" Clinton, she too was a Me Too’er.

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Governor Dannel Malloy, whose approval rating in Connecticut is a few points higher than Hell’s minor devils, will not be with us after the 2018 elections, but he will have left behind, as a memorial of his passing, a load of wreckage. Bets are on whether a gubernatorial library will be erected to preserve Malloy’s destructive tendencies during his two terms in office, including both the largest and the second largest tax increases in state history. In certain quarters, the leave-taking of the most progressive governor in Connecticut since Wilbur Cross – discounting former Maverick Governor Lowell Weicker -- will be celebrated with a moment of telling silence. Progressivism, which is state-socialism without the gulag, will survive Malloy’s passing, because progressivism always survives.

Most recently Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget guru, wrote a letter to his boss doubting whether legislators could restore cuts to a program that helps seniors and the disabled pay for Medicare insurance without seriously damaging a balanced budget that has mysteriously become unbalanced weeks after it had been written into law. Malloy wrote in reply that he was grateful for Barnes’ analysis, which “illustrates the difficulty of realizing significant savings on top of what we’ve already achieved with respect to overtime and ‘other expenses’ accounts. We must avoid a ‘fix’ to the MSP that relies on overly optimistic savings or unrealistic lapses, which would only exacerbate the larger, looming budgetary challenge we face.” The Malloy administration had during its run continually relied upon fanciful budget projections, thefts from this or that “lockbox” to be deposited in the general fund, and temporary “fixes” such as layoffs that Malloy’s SEBAC agreement would deny to future governors until 2027, the year when his union favorable agreement with SEBAC is due to expire.

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No one in Connecticut’s media laughs at such preposterous posturing. Karl Kraus -- Austrian writer and journalist, essayist, aphorist, playwright, poet, perhaps the most significant European satirist since Jonathan Swift, author of  “The Last Days of Mankind-- seriously thought the fate of civilization “may depend upon the placement of a comma.” Asked why he wrote, Kraus said “I have to do this as long as it is at all possible; for if those who are obliged to look after commas had always made sure they were in the right place, then Shanghai would not be burning.”


It is a thought serious journalists might want to bear in mind during the New Year.



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