Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Lamont Honeymoon

We cannot know yet what a Ned Lamont administration will be like. Fate is always a work in progress. But it seems a reasonable assumption that there will be Democrat Party continuity between the Malloy and Lamont administrations; both Lamont and Malloy are progressive Democrats.

Lamont did stress during his campaign that he had run for governor against Malloy, but this was largely a feint for show. Nothing in the Lamont campaign suggests a policy break with Malloy. Moreover, the election results have returned Connecticut to the status quo ante as it existed during Malloy’s first campaign. Republicans had made some inroads to power during the Malloy administration. Prior to the November elections – a stunning victory for the majority party in Connecticut -- Republicans were at parity with Democrats in the Senate and trailing them by a few seats in the House. The election washed out these gains.

On first coming into office and during most of his administration, Malloy used his superior numbers in the General Assembly to isolate Republicans politically. Lamont certainly can do the same, with minimal objection from Connecticut’s left of center media.

 What do Democrats want?  They want what they have always wanted -- more taxes and more power.

Lamont is warm to tolls because Democrats need a new tax revenue stream. Towards the end of his eight years in office, even Malloy was wary about raising current taxes, because he had already saddled the state with two massive tax increases. He strongly indicated during his second campaign that he would not, for example, raise the income tax yet again. But many are the ways to skin a cat. And many are the ways to reduce the real wealth of a state by overtaxing and over regulating its diminishing most valuable resources, taxable businesses and taxable taxpayers.

Former State Senator Joe Markley, a conservative realpolitiker who ran for Lieutenant Governor this year and lost to the Lamont-Bysiewicz juggernaut, said after the election, “Every issue on the progressive wish list will pass this session,” including tolls. Markley was responding to a Hartford Courant story titled, “Democratic legislators will push liberal agenda of paid leave, minimum wage hike and pot.” The Courant this year copped out of its journalistic responsibilities by endorsing for governor the Oz Griebel ticket. 

It is the distribution of power that determines policy the world over. Democrats in Connecticut will do what they have done for the last quarter century.  A boost in the minimum wage beyond what small merchants can afford to pay their help will in the long run result in a loss of market-determined minimum wage jobs. Paid leave will produce similar economic dislocations, most severely among small to moderate companies that do not already provide their employees with paid leave. However, the availability of pot is likely to dull the anxieties of edgy state residents. All tax increases beyond Malloy’s two massive tax impositions, shots to the economy heard round the investment world, should be regarded by an enlightened non-pot-smoking media as cowardly attempts to avoid addressing the state’s most pressing problem – its massive increase in spending dating from the imposition of the Weicker income tax, and its legislative subservience to powerful, politically influential state worker unions.

The Governor-elect has met with former Governor Lowell Weicker, among other progressives. He wanted to ask the father of the state’s income tax how he had forced his tax diktat through a resistant General Assembly, information useful to a governor intending to introduce a new revenue stream – tolls – into the state’s tax corrupted arteries. The two have been on speaking terms ever since Weicker tapped Lamont to primary against his nemesis, former Senator Joe Lieberman, who unhorsed Weicker in the U.S. Senate.

Connecticut’s left of center media appears prepared to give the new governor and majority Democrats in the General Assembly a fair opportunity to turn the state around, which cannot be done without departing sharply from Malloy’s failed policies. But in Connecticut’s world of hurt there are no alternatives. The state is now stuck with Weicker’s political protégé, possibly for two terms.  A divorce before the honeymoon would be unseemly. But Lamont will not have a lot of time to convince major companies in Connecticut -- a large portion of which have now formally associated with out-of-state companies, a business strategy that assures mobility – that a new day is coming.

Aetna and Sikorsky are now allied with out of state companies. United Technologies, which recently bought Rockwell, headquartered in Milwaukee, has decided to dis-unite two of its major holdings, Otis elevator and Carrier, the better to concentrate on more profitable products such as jet engines.

President Donald Trump’s military buildup has been a boon for many of the state's major businesses, Pratt&Whitney and Electric Boat among them, along with all the feeder-manufacturers that profit from the Trump buildup, but Connecticut’s punishing taxes, regulations and crony-capitalist mindset, in which political bribery serves as a replacement for a fruitful economic architecture, will continue to uproot the state’s major businesses, many of them homegrown at a time when the cost of government was not metastasizing and town government served as a check on the excesses of omni-incompetent state government.

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