Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Time To Cry "Wolf!"

“The rich are very different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, to which Ernest Hemingway is said to have replied, “Yes, they have more money."

House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, the leader of the Democratic caucus, gets half of it.

Amann understands, as do most Democrats, that the rich have more money than you and I. For this reason, and because he and the Democrats have finely honed senses of justice, Amann and his cohorts plan to relieve the rich in Connecticut of some of their assets to help pay for an ever expanding budget. Once again the state has come up short in its budget.

Amazingly, there are Democrats in the state’s legislature who think they have been cutting taxes rather than spending money like the proverbial drunken sailor, though unimpeachable proof of their wild spending spree may be deduced by examining the steadily increasing bottom line of successive state budgets.

The last non-income tax budget was approximately half the bottom line total of the coming 2005 budget, and things got this way because majority Democrats, who control the production of budgets, cannot do simple math. Possibly they graduated from high schools that teach the new math, according to which a doubling of the state budget indicates a disposition to cut taxes.

In two decades – under the supposed “fiscally conservative” regime of two non-Democrat governors, both of whom styled themselves as “moderates” – the state has more than doubled its spending, news that has yet to reach the ears of Rep. Denise Merrill of Mansfield and Sen. Toni Harp of New Haven, the Democrat co-chairwomen of the budget and tax writing committees.

Said Merrill "After six years of cutting budgets, there's not a lot you can do. We've been cutting for years. Things are pretty lean."

But if “we,” presumably Democrats, have been cutting budgets for six years, the reductions surely would have registered in the bottom line figures; and yet, the record shows that they climb up, up and away. Is it not a case of language abuse to describe a budget that has doubled in two decades as “lean?”

The porcine budget making its way this year out of committee is a historic first. Never before in Connecticut’s history has a budget doubled within the space of two governors.

Democrats have for some time proposed to finance their rocketing spending by taxing millionaires, a suggestion taken up by Bill Curry in his campaign against Connecticut’s former felonious Governor John Rowland, and Republicans as often have warned that millionaires are different than you and me.

Not only do they have more money; they have more homes, some of which lie outside the prehensile grasp of the state’s tax collectors. Might the rich not declare their second out of state homes as their primary residence and thus avoid the plucking Democrats have in mind for them? Or might they not instruct their tax lawyers to make whatever accounting arrangements are necessary to avoid paying new taxes? Even now, with steep progressive tax rates in place, many millionaires pay less in taxes than the rest of us. Among the differences not noted by Fitzgerald is an ability to hire thoughtful tax attorneys to protect assets that make the rich so adorably different.

To all of this, Amann guffaws, “"I've been to many comedy shows in my life” – He has, after all, carved out a career for himself in state government – “but I get the biggest laugh when I hear it. Why would a millionaire leave this wonderful state? Most of them live here because it's a beautiful state, and they love the quality of life. There's no way the Democrats will walk away from a millionaires' tax."

Beauty, said the philosopher, is in the eye of the beholder, and the rich … well, they have different eyes than you and me, no?

Big spenders in the state are able effortlessly to pull the wool over the eyes of taxpayers because the Republican Party has been complicit in the spending spree. A serious resistance to spending might include such progressive proposals as the elimination of binding arbitration and tenure; or legislation that would require a higher percentage of education money to be spent on curriculum development and teacher salaries and less on administrative deadwood; or bills that would establish term limits and binding referenda, measures that in other states have succeeded in mitigating corruption and strengthening the representative structure of government; or the reconfiguration of state government.

Such measures give timeservers in the legislature chillblains, but they are wildly popular in the real world where the wolf is never far for the door -- and where householders suspect it will turn on them, once it has finished making a meal of the millionaires.

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