Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Lamont And Stefanowski: Questions Unasked, Issues Unexamined


Hillary Clinton, who lost the presidential election to current U.S. President Donald Trump, has been effectively sidelined as a national leader of the Democrat Party. Clinton, whose emails the Chinese were reading in real time when as Secretary of State she typed them out on an unsecured private server, likely will not make an appearance in Connecticut as a supporter of Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Ned Lamont.

But all is not lost. Lamont, running against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, has received a fulsome endorsement from former President Barack Obama, whose political star still twinkles in the dark heavens.


“When Ned Lamont stood up to his own party and opposed the war in Iraq more than a decade ago,” Obama said, “he showed the courage to do what was right. As a businessman who started and ran a successful company in Connecticut, Ned demonstrated how to bring people together and create good-paying jobs – while still finding time to volunteer as a teacher and help students in Bridgeport. That’s why I’m so proud to endorse Ned Lamont for Governor. If elected, Ned will do what he’s done his whole life to turn the state around and ensure a more hopeful future: he’ll protect working families, improve Connecticut’s business climate, and refuse to back down from making the tough choices.”

It would seem that Obama has read Lamont’s campaign page and perhaps digests of news reports covering his primary victory over then U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman. Lamont lost to Lieberman in the general election. Lieberman was re-elected on an independent line, though he was not the first notable politician in recent Connecticut history to do so; that honor belongs to Lowell Weicker. Bumped from the U.S. Senate by Lieberman, Weicker went on to win a gubernatorial race as an independent.

Obama may have forgotten that he supported Lieberman in March of 2006. “But what I know,” Obama said then, “is that Joe Lieberman is a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America. I am absolutely certain Connecticut is going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the U.S. Senate.”

Lamont, it is generally assumed, defeated Lieberman in the primary due to his anti-Iraq war posture. The war in Iraq, won militarily under President George Bush, was a casualty of campaign posturing. Obama, a pro-diplomacy, anti-war president – hence his affection for Lamont – withdrew the U.S. military from what he had called during his campaign Bush’s “war of choice” in Iraq and committed some additional troops to what he called the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan, known by European diplomats for centuries as “the graveyard of empires.” The U.S.-Afghan war is now the longest war in U.S. history. Anti-war candidate for governor Lamont has yet to be asked whether he thinks the long war should be wound down, as was military engagement in Iraq during the Obama years.

Lamont might reasonably reply that such decisions are beyond the pay grade of governors – no comment, were it not that he had earned his political spurs, as Obama tells us, by positioning himself as an anti-war candidate.  Obama failed to mention in his endorsement that Lamont is, if only inferentially, an anti-Malloy candidate as well. Asked whether a Lamont administration might throw into reverse some of Malloy’s unsuccessful policies – including, if one combines the two hefty Malloy tax increases, the largest tax increase of any single administration in state history – Lamont reminds his questioners that he once ran against Malloy in a Democrat gubernatorial primary. He lost. Stefanowski predicts that Lamont will be Malloy without the porcupine bristles, and nothing so far said by Lamont policy-wise should give political watchers any hope that his administration would be substantially different than Malloy’s.

In Connecticut, the “courage to do what is right” is the courage to undo the mistakes of the past, so that Connecticut will not be forced to repeat history’s mistakes forever and anon.

So then, what are the mistakes of the Malloy administration?

Major mistake number one: You do not raise taxes in a recession, for reasons eloquently stated  by Weicker during his independent run for governor: “Raising taxes during a recession would be like throwing gas on a fire,” sound advice not taken by Weicker himself or his Office of Policy and Management chief Bill Cibes. When Weicker, after throwing gas on Connecticut’s flickering flames – a non-income tax manageable budget deficit of $2.5 billion -- high-tailed it out of Connecticut for Washington DC at the end of his first and last term as governor, he provided a featherbed for Cibes, who became the first chancellor of Connecticut’s state university system. Cibes also served for many years on CTMirror’s board of directors. His career generally has been more costly – to others of course – than distinguished. Cibes’ mark on Connecticut, Weicker’s income tax, and the absurd notion that Connecticut is suffering from a revenue rather than a spending problem, will be felt as a lash on the backs of Connecticut taxpayers for many years to come, unless Stefanowski is successful in 1) becoming governor, and 2) ending the income tax, a Sisyphean ordeal, as CTMirror and other budget watchers never tire of reminding us.

Malloy, when he leaves office, will have made it impossible for future governors to use the same methods he has used as governor, the threat of layoffs, to wrestle unions to the mat in contract negotiations. The General Assembly, within the terms of four governors, has surrendered its constitutional prerogatives to unelected unions and Connecticut’s unchanging and unelected administrative state, a problem perhaps more serious than settling budget deficits by throwing gas on the fire.


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