Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rell, The Hot Potato

"This is the way the income tax should have been since day one" -- President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams

Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree” -- Huey Long.

Seeking to recover some lost political ground when she unveiled her budget and alarmed Republicans by behaving like a Democrat, Gov Jodi Rell quickly amended her spending plan by adding features that that caused the most powerful union in the state to drop her like the proverbial hot potato.

This is both good and bad: good because Rell’s amended budget may cause some moderate Republicans to rally round her drooping flag; bad because she has lost her Praetorian Guard, ardent Republicans who want dearly to save the state from the prehensile grasp of antique Huey Long Democrats.

Summoning their courage, some Republicans produced an alternative budget that held the line on tax increases. Their alternative budget still busted the constitutional cap on spending Connecticut voters affirmed when the legislature put the cap in the bill that several years ago gave us an income tax, which was followed by the worst recession – still malingering – in the state’s history. The legislature, even in pre-income tax days dominated by Democrats, never passed the necessary defining legislation that would have enabled the constitutional cap.

The governor dismissively congratulated the Republican Republicans for their efforts and quietly prepared to compromise with leading Democrats in the legislature.

The new feature in Rell’s amended proposal that alienated teacher’s unions -- which spend a good deal of advertising dollars pumping the up governor’s unamended budget -- was a cap on property taxes.

Rell’s proposed cap will pass only over the dead bodies of Speaker of the state House of Representative Jim Amann, President Pro Tem of the state Senate Don Williams, engorged state union leaders and the usual big spending culprits.

Progressives do not like caps for the same reason pigs do not like turn off valves on the trough, and now that the Republican Party has been diminished by years of compromising governors, the free spenders intend to have a good feed -- paid for by so called “millionaires,” wage earning couples making more than $190,000 per year who for some undisclosed reason will unflinchingly stand for the pickpocketing without bolting the scene.

Democrats, who enjoy a veto proof majority in the legislature, will simply cherry pick those features of the governor’s budget proposal they like, add them to their own budgetary wish list, and pass their budget with relative ease. And life will go on, a little more nasty, brutish and short than before – except in the legislature where, following passage of yet another “historic compromise budget,” Democrats and Republicans will embrace and congratulate each other at having produced a bloated marvel that will make life in the land of unsteady habits a little more nasty, brutish and short.

Already the Democrat spin machine is churning out demagogic pap. Appealing to the majority of tax consumers over the heads of minority (read “rich”) tax payers, Democrats have said that their budget proposal will reduce taxes for about 90 percent of nutmeggers who, they hope, will be grateful enough to vote for them in upcoming elections.

The Democrats will not be wrong: Demagoguery always works – for awhile, after which reality sets in, overthrowing the best laid plans of mice and men.

The golden rule in tax and spend policy is: Whatever you tax tends to disappear. Democrats themselves acknowledge the force of this rule whenever, hoping to encourage an approved behavior, they provide a “tax rebate” to spur the preferred behavior.

If Democrats succeed in their plan to transfer wealth from a minority earning more than $190,000 a year to a majority earning less, the majority will swell and the minority will disappear – because life in low tax states is less brutish, nasty and short, and even faux “millionaires” are mobile.

The federal income tax, it is not often recalled, began as a 1 percent tax on millionaires. The more broad based federal income tax, after which Democrats wish to model Connecticut’s relatively new and flatter state income tax, now has metastasized and trickled down to non-millionaires such as, dear reader, you and me, in addition to the guy, in Huey Long’s phrase, “hiding behind the tree.”

If there is a lesson in this for the victims of demagogues secretly rejoicing at the prospect of obtaining state services on the cheap, the state’s unprincipled Republican Party has not been able to press the lesson on beguiled taxpayers.

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