Thursday, August 16, 2018

It’s The Spending, Stupid



Political campaigns are narrow spaces; there is not a lot of elbow room in them to explain in fulsome detail proposed public programs and their consequences. But a good campaign must represent more than a string of feel-good bumper sticker sentiments.

Republicans vying for the gubernatorial race this year climbed out on a conservative limb and dedicated themselves to specific policy changes: no more tax increases; permanent reductions in spending; and, most alarming to progressive Democrats, the wresting of democratic government from powerful special interests -- i.e. union representatives.


During his primary acceptance speech, Republican gubernatorial contender Bob Stefanowski, publicly and unabashedly announced that he was more than pleased to run side by side with prospective Republican Lieutenant Governor State Senator Joe Markley, whose conservative bona fides few will question. Stefanowski is himself a fiscal conservative and favors the elimination of the income tax over a ten year period

That measure is a flag flown at full staff to convince conservatives and businesses in and outside the state that Governor Stefanowski, should he be elected, will seriously tackle spending and cut the Gorgon’s knot that other Connecticut politicians have winkingly passed by. During his first gubernatorial campaign, it will be remembered, John Rowland pledged to eliminate the Lowell Weicker income tax, but once in office, he succumbed to the usual siren’s song and shelved his pledge for the duration of his administration, in the course of which he bullied conservative General Assembly members to accede to the demands of Democrat progressives. Stefanowski may be made of sterner stuff. If Republicans can hold the line on taxes, they will be able to hold the line on spending, and it is ungovernable spending that is driving Connecticut to the poor house. Stefanowski promises to prune the administrative state.

In politics, authenticity and seriousness are sometimes miscast. It is not demeanor that is important in determining authenticity or political seriousness. A politician who prowls the political precincts with an irremovable scowl painted on his face is not necessarily authentic or serious; he or she may be a cynical fraud.

An authentic cynic would be perpetually amused by the delinquencies of the average prole or college professor. His face would be hourly wreathed in smiles. Seriousness is a quality that attaches to acts and the logically necessary correspondence between the word and the deed. President Donald Trump, whatever his failings -- Bill Buckley, who disposed of a sharp sense of humor, typed Trump as a  vulgarian – must laugh himself to sleep every night and wake in the morning ready, as Genghis Khan once said, to “dance on the chests of his enemies,” the greatest joy, said the Khan, a man may have. Trump is rumored to have a sense of humor gaudily tricked out as spite.

Not at all like Trump, Stefanowski is a gentle giant who wears his humility easily and without effort. His tribute to his father after Republican primary votes vaulted him to the winner’s circle was both sincere and suffused with gratitude, the hallmark of humility: “Finally, I want to thank my dad, Bob Sr.  He is 88 years old and still lives in the house [where] I grew up in North Haven.  He is an example of what CT used to offer.  After graduating from Hillhouse High School in New Haven in 1948 as a basketball star he married my mom and they were together for 70 years before she passed away a year ago.  They worked incredibly hard, created a safe and happy home for my 3 sisters and me and saved enough money to send us to college. My mom and dad are the perfect example of what CT used to offer its young people, and what we can absolutely bring back to our state with the right leadership, integrity and hard work."

Stefanowski has backed Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation. Malloy, along with Connecticut's two U.S. Senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, already are bruising their knuckles on Trump’s iron jaw.  That assault may backfire as jobs produced by Trump policies – i.e. Malloy’s policies in reverse – begin trickling down to Connecticut. According to a recent study by the Tax Foundation, the tax cuts passed by Trump and the Republican dominated congress in late 2017 will produce 13,821 jobs IN CONNECTICUT between 2018 and 2027.

The members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation, Democrats all, voted as a bloc against Trump’s regulatory and tax reforms. Murphy, up for re-election in November, offered the following sunburst on Twitter: “The bill that just passed the Senate and House isn't tax reform - it's a giant handout for the rich and powerful. There is no shame left in Washington when the biggest piece of legislation passed by this Republican Congress is literally a windfall for their wealthy donors.”

By the end of the year, according to Tax foundation figures, Connecticut’s economy, flat on its back during the Malloy administration, will have produced 2,444 jobs, a modest infusion of economic new blood in an anemic body politic. As we say in the news business – We’ll see.

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