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Weicker’s Clanking Balls

Polls consistently show the media is in disfavor with most Americans. In fact, if the tribunes of the people were to appear in a modern revised Roman Coliseum replete with lions, tigers and bears, most of them would not survive the thumbs down of the attending crowd. The same may be said for the representatives of the people, viewed by many as accomplished smooth talking liars and sycophants.The approval poll of the average congressman is a little bit above that of Satan, and the media is little more than a rung higher.

Last week, an aging Lowell Weicker appeared before the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a lobbying group of town officials gently referred to by their prickly natural enemies as the Conference of Crying Mayors, there to deliver his verdict on state government.

Weicker did not disappoint. He said what the group expected him to say and was rewarded by several standing ovations: Politicians were cowards and spendthrifts; the state budget was a mess; Jodi Rell, Connecticut’s much beloved governor, failed to put up a stiff resistance to a veto-proof Democratic majority in the legislature; spending was out of control.

No, said the father of Connecticut’s income tax, he would not support tax increases. Given the state’s parlous condition, a tax boost at this point – Weicker was careful not to say – would be like pouring gasoline on a fire. And yes, he would shift school payments from municipalities to the state, a proposal that garnered sustained applause among cash poor municipal leaders.

It is instructive to ask why the fervent approval?

Whenever Weicker presents a platform for reform, one always wants to look for the trap door. As a matter of fact and record, the municipal referendum has been the single most effective restraint on spending since Weicker poured gas on Connecticut’s economy in the early 90’s through the institution of an income tax.

The so called “cap” on spending -- included in Weicker’s income tax proposal to make the idea palatable to wavering, pragmatic Republicans and Democrats – never capped spending. The same folk who voted for the income tax purposely neglected to pass enabling legislation for the now pointless cap. A state budget referendum permitting voters to reject budgets that were in the opinion of tax suppliers excessive would, on the other hand, be effective in tamping down spending. But such a proposal would never have aroused applause among the Conference Of Crying Mayors, a lobbying group that, like others rooting in the public trough, dearly would like the guy behind the tree to pay for increased taxes.

Since there is no state budget referendum, shifting payments for education from municipalities to the state – which, under Weicker’s proposal, would assume 100% of the spiraling cost of education – is simply an effective means of evading municipal referendums, the most effective restraint on spending,

Big trap door.

Weicker’s appearance was preceded by encomiums in the media. One commentator said the former governor’s “balls clanked when he walked” – presumably a good thing -- and it was generally agreed by the Connecticut’s overwhelmingly liberal media that someone like Weicker would be necessary to right the ship of state.

Ned Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire running this year for governor as a Democrat, immediately applied for the position. Lamont’s prior association with Weicker is a matter of record: The two conspired to make a primary grab for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s seat, knocking the reliably Democratic Lieberman into a successful independent run for senator. Lieberman, it will be recalled, was the guy who deprived Weicker of a lifetime sinecure in the senate, and Weicker, predictably does not consider Lieberman a “real” independent like his truly. Oz Griebel, running in a Republican primary for governor, quickly characterized himself as a cross between Weicker and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a union crown of thorns who almost certainly would have earned Weicker’s contempt back in the day when Weicker was senator and dependant, as are all the members of Connecticut’s present Democratic U.S. delegation, upon union support for re-election to office.

Democrats over in Manchester meanwhile, having seen the future, are valiantly attempting to make it work. Manchester’s wide awake Board of Directors, operating under the Damoclean sword of a town referendum and certain they cannot rely on a indigent state government for succor, have managed to extract a series of concession from unions, which include unpaid furlough days and delayed raises.

Foreshadowing a potential paralysis of will, the Connecticut Education Association, 40,000 strong, has announced its political support for Lamont, who recently boasted on the hustings that he, like Weicker, is “no man but yours” – a sentiment likely to be interpreted by the CEA as “no man but ours.”

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