There are those of us old enough to remember Connecticut’s balmy pre-income tax days, when the state budget was a modest $7.5 billion and income tax proponents were muttering darkly about the many “niggling little taxes” in the state’s tax grab-bag that were supposed to have been replaced by the shiny new revenue vehicle trotted out by then Gov. Lowell Weicker. After all, the income tax was passed not very long ago in the early 90’s, well within the living memory of most voters in the state, during the contentious administration of the maverick governor.
Behold! Facing a budget deficit of some $6 billion, nearly the amount of the last Gov. William O’Neill pre-Maverick budget, the state legislature, according to a headline in the magisterial Hartford Courant, has now voted “To Seize Deposits” from unclaimed beer and soda pop cans. This is what bums do when they’re down on their luck, though it would be an insult to industrious bums to compare them with the robber barons in the state legislature and Governor Jodi Rell, appropriated as yet another string in the Democrat Party fiddle.
“Seize Deposits” is just about right, and it is a pleasure to announce that the Courant editor who assigns titles to stories has finally seen the light. Now, if he would only share his perceptions with the rest of the paper's dwindling staff.The appropriation from bottlers acts as a hidden tax they will recover by boosting their prices.
His compatriots at the Courant are late coming to the Mad-Hatter’s tea party. The Courant heartily approved Weicker’s income tax; in fact, the paper was one of the principle proponents of the tax without which the income tax might not have been passed. It was the chief ideological engine of the tax, and Charlie Morse, the paper’s chief political columnist who later left the Courant and went to work in the Weicker administration, was valuable in pumping up the silly notion that the more state government took from people, the better off the state would be. That didn’t work out – for very good reasons.
The government is a wealth consumer; working people in the state are wealth producers. The more that is consumed by government, the less is left to people who a) produce wealth and goods, and b) decide what enterprises in the state will succeed or fail by their consumption choices. To put it plainly: The richer the government, the poorer the people. This perception is as old as the revolt against the tyranny of kings, dictators, czars and grasping legislatures, and it is at the heart of every cleansing revolution in world history. It is the blade of the guillotine that literally separated the heads of state from the interests of the people.
So, the niggling taxes are back – with a vengeance.
The Ricarian spendthrift legislature has always been with us. Nearly two hundred years ago, classical economist David Ricardo argued against the creation of a slush fund to pay of Britain’s national debt by objecting that the purpose of the fund was irrelevant; politicians would spend it on whatever they wanted. This is what has happened to Connecticut’s collective slush funds, the many surpluses the state has garnered since passage of the income tax. Those many surpluses -- the money that the state had overtaxed its citizens, which should have been returned to them -- were simply plowed into the general fund and spent. This rampant spending ramped up the bottom line of Connecticut budgets, and now we have discovered the truth of Ricardo’s perception. We are wailing over a projected $6 billion dollar deficit.
This year Democrats proposed the transfer of millions of dollars from dedicated funds to the general fund. They will be spent.
The moment does not need clever heads proposing new ways to plunder the people of their wealth. That has been tried and failed. What the moment needs is a sharp guillotine – the political equivalent of a French Revolution.