I’d like to thank Bob Hurd for inviting me here so that we might have a chat together. I’d also like to congratulate Dan Champagne for wining a slot in the General Assembly. He will be stepping into state Senator Tony Guglielmo large shoes, but there is no doubt he will be able to fashion his own foot print.
Welcome to the viper pit, Dan. You may want to stomp on a rumor that’s been floating around. It’s being said in some quarters that you ran for the state Senate because you missed butting heads with Mike Winkler. Michael is at a safe remove from Dan over in the House, but legislators sometimes bump into each other in the elevators and corridors of the General Assembly, not to mention its intersectional bathrooms.
Dan’s district, the 35th, represents the following towns: Ashford, Chaplin, Coventry, Eastford, Ellington, Hampton, Pomfret, Stafford, Tolland, Union, Vernon, Willington, and Woodstock, a fairly large sized political pie. Vernon, it should surprise no one, has been a town considerably longer than President Pro Tem Martin Looney has been a senator. Looney, as we know, has represented for more than a quarter century – much too long – a district that includes the eastern half of New Haven, as well as part of Hamden, a vassal town of New Haven. US Rep Rosa DeLauro, in public office since 1991 – much too long – hails from the same area. These two are peas in the same progressive pod.
Looney and DeLauro might easily be tagged as radical, extremist, EXTREMIST! progressives – if the Republican propaganda machine were as fearless as the Democrat propaganda instrument. The Democrats, at least nationally have never been fearful of putting forward idiot propositions. US Senator Dick Blumenthal thinks that anyone who presumes to write into law reasonable restrictions on, say, late-term abortion is IMMORAL. That’s right, any attempt to dissuade those who avail themselves of the bloody activities of Planned Parenthood is IMMORAL. Blumenthal, who appears to be working from a different set of Ten Commandments than the rest of us, is not unfriendly to restrictions. As Attorney General for two decades, he restricted pretty much every business whose activities were reported to him by the Consumer Protection Department.
Virtually all Democrat office holders in Connecticut’s larger cities are progressives; of that there can be no doubt. In fact, I would say – and have said numerous times -- that the preponderance of Connecticut Democrat office holders is made up of progressives. Moderate Democrats have been washed overboard in the Democrat Party. Our new Lieutenant Governor, Susan Bysiewicz, wrote a book about a notable centrist Democrat, Governor Ella Grasso, before her lengthy political job search deposited her in her present position.
One trembles to think that Bysiewicz may not be comfortable in her current office, a discomfort she may share with our new Governor Ned Lamont, who, some have suggested, may become a vassal governor controlled by arch progressives in the General Assembly such as Looney and Speaker of the Democrat dominated state House Joe Aresimowitz, a union coordinator employed by AFSCME Council 4. In his real job, Aresimowitz represents union members who have filed grievances against the state; which is to say, his union responsibilities require him to represent formally union members with grievances against him.
The political tectonic plates in Connecticut have shifted – has anyone noticed? Grasso, a centrist politician – a bitter foe of the income tax – could not get elected dog-catcher in the current Democrat Party. Bysiewicz, by the way, disagrees with Grasso’s vigorous opposition to the income tax. Ella Grasso’s son, Jim Grasso, who apparently knew his mother a little better than Bysiewicz, became a Republicans because he disagrees with Bysiewicz and agrees with Mom. There no longer is a cool or hot center to the Democrat Party in Connecticut. Within that party, all are progressives now. George Orwell says in his novel “Animal Farm” that the pigs are equal to all the other animals. However, the pigs are more equal than the other animals. So with progressives in Connecticut’s Democrat Party: they are much more progressive than the centrist Democrat Party residue.
So then, let’s attack the question head on and ask – what do Connecticut progressives want?
The right answer is deceptively simple. They want MORE – more taxes, more spending, more favorable notices in the media, even though they are showered daily with editorial encomiums, and more government regulation, provided an impermeable wall can be constructed around the murder of late-term babies in the womb.
The only thing Connecticut progressives don’t want more of is less spending. They want to break down the barriers that stand between their revolutionary ambition to re-invent Connecticut as they consolidate power the way they have proposed to consolidate school districts, by eliminating the influences of what G., K. Chesterton once called “the little platoons of democracy,” mediating institutions such as town governments, churches, voluntary associations and the like. A famous caricaturist summed up the ethos of progressivism when he said, “What is the point of having absolute power, if you are not prepared to abuse it?”
This visionary lurch towards an omni-present and omni-incompetent state is not a description of the politics of Grasso. Bysiewicz is no Ella Grasso, a vanished species in the current Democrat Party. Grasso was a liberal Democrat at a time when the connection between liberty and liberalism was well understood and properly practiced. Progressives are not liberals. They are not the good government party. They are the MORE government party, bewitched by the illusion that since government is good, more of it must be better. And they don’t care two cents about small “d” democrat rule from below; they intend to rule from above, as have other infamous historical autocrats – some of them, like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, socialists.
For the most part, Republicans tend to win the age old quarrel with Democrats on vital economic issues. If you crush creative entrepreneurial activity, you end up as Venezuela. President John Kennedy was right when he told a gathering at the New York Economic Club that reducing marginal tax rates would boost revenue. He did so and magically the overtaxed, stagnant economy of his day revived, producing the additional revenue that his successor, President Lyndon Johnson, used to finance his Great Society Programs. Reality, however, does not figure greatly in the progressive view of things, and Democrats tend to win campaigns on what they call “social issues.” Indeed, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newest heartthrob among far left Democrats, won her seat in New York as a proto-socialist. Every time Senator Elizabeth Warren opens her mouth, she sounds like Lenin plotting the assassination of the Romanov family. Bernie Sanders, the Leon Trotsky of the Democrat Party, frustrated during the last presidential election by Hilary Clinton, now awaits his hour on the presidential stage.
Socialism is the logical and inevitable answer to the “social issues” fronting most Democrat campaigns, and socialist prescriptions sell well in the media and in the various intersectional camps that Obama brought together to win two of his elections. You cannot have a socialist state in the absence of a smothering, servile, unelected administrative apparatus. And socialism, as even amateur historians well know, does not do well by the electorate; unintended consequences can be fatal to both state and nation. That is the enduring lesson of Venezuela: First you restrict liberty and, somewhere down the line, you run out of toilet paper and are forced to eat your pets for lunch.
Coventry Republicans have produced a partial list of Connecticut Democrats’ political ambitions for 2019, not all of which will find its way into legislation, at least not immediately: They include the implementation of 82 tolling gantries across the state’s highway system; transforming Connecticut into a sanctuary state – that is a state than practices nullification of federal laws established by the US Congress; the implementation of a series of taxes on food, vehicles, plastic and paper, a new tax on the selling of property, a 50% tax on ammunition sales, an increase in the state sales tax rate, a tax on vaping products; the regionalization of municipal school districts; forcing employers to pay maternity and paternity leave; the elimination of carbon fuels; the teaching in elementary schools of a state mandated version of civics; eliminating tax deductions for more than 500 college savings programs; restoring voting rights to paroled felons; implementing alternative gender identities on all ubiquitous state forms; including jailed criminals when designing legislative districts; prohibiting landlords from making inquiries concerning a prospective tenant’s criminal history; establishing requirements for genderless bathrooms; eliminating the cash bail system; duplicating New York laws on abortion and late term birth infanticide – I’ll stop here because the prospects of progressive mischief in a regime that discounts secondary consequences are infinite, and I am running out of breath.
This is the face of modern progressivism in the Northeast. It smiles at the poor, bares its teeth at the rich and lumbers through a utopian field of dreams like one of those fearsome, obtuse giants we meet in fairy tales. Barry Goldwater – the author of “The Conscience of a Conservative,” co-written by L. Brent Bosell Jr., Bill Buckley’s conservative confederate and brother-in-law – used to say: If you lop off California and New England, you’ve got a pretty good country.
Early in February, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, who had just finished celebrating a bill that winks at infanticide, was in agony when he learned – big surprise! – that New York was facing a $2.3 billion revenue shortfall. We in Connecticut are used to shortfalls, which arrive on our progressive doorsteps after math geniuses in the Office of Policy and Management have overestimated receipts, and underestimated governmental costs -- conveniently, just before elections. State revenue, those of us who are not obtuse progressive giants well know, tends to diminish as punishing taxes drive wealth creation to less confiscatory states.
It did not take Cuomo long to produce a devil. Everyone in this room can guess who it was.
Cuomo,” Yahoo tells us, “blamed the loss of tax revenue, the scale of which was unpredicted by state officials, on a provision in the Republican-led tax reform package that capped state and local [SALT] tax deductions at $10,000, depriving the wealthiest New Yorkers of a significant tax break that defrayed the high state taxes imposed by Albany.”
So, Trump’s deduction cap does two things: It encourages states to lower punishing taxes, and it deprives rich people – the sort of redundant millionaires whom Democrat Party socialists-in-waiting would like to eat for breakfast – of deductions that allow them to escape taxation, unlike the poor in Connecticut, who live under bridges and cannot afford to buy special favors from politicians. One would suppose that progressives would vote in favor of the deduction reduction. We all recall how affronted progressives were when multi-billionaire Warren Buffet told us that he paid less in taxes than his secretary.
But Cuomo, who believes in sanctuary cities but not the sanctuary of the womb, improbably warned his socialist compatriots that the loss of revenue could not be recovered by continuing to tax the wealthiest New Yorkers — the top 1 percent of whom already contribute 46 percent of all government revenue — at increasingly higher rates. “God forbid,” he said, “if the rich leave.”
They won’t be coming to Connecticut. All the chatter in the Democrat dominated General Assembly is about creating new revenue streams and reinventing the state. So then, here is the ideologically twisted progressive view on progressive taxation: You cannot eliminate tax credits for the very wealthy among us because, if you do so, tax receipts will be markedly reduced and we progressive will have less expropriated money to distribute to our pampered special interests. That may make political sense; but it is a form of insane economic reasoning.
Let me now try to bring all this home and reach for some tentative conclusions. Some years ago, I was amused to discover that the editorial page writers at the Hartford Courant had discovered, much to their dismay, that Connecticut was not suffering a revenue problem; it was suffering a spending problem.
This was a stunning turn-about, a Damascus Road thunderbolt – because, the Courant had always argued that budget deficits should properly be discharged through tax increases. In the post-income tax period, within the space of four governors, spending in the state has increased threefold. And of course, taxation runs in the rut of spending. The more you get, the more you spend. During the Weicker, Rowland and Rell years, the state had not yet, in the often repeated formulation of British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, “run out of other people’s money.” But after two massive tax increases by Malloy, Connecticut found itself running out of other people’s money.
After years of being overwhelmed by massive majorities in the state legislature, Republicans had achieved parity with Democrats in the Senate, 18-18, and they were coming perilously close to parity in the House. Some conservative Republicans took courage and lightly touched Connecticut’s political third-rail.
Look, they said, the state does have a spending problem. After years of contractual arrangements made between state-employee-dependent governors and union representatives, the cost of state employee labor in Connecticut is now driving the whole state toward a cliff’s edge from which there can be no happy retreat. Since our constitution vests getting and spending powers in the General Assembly, why have we, over the course of many years, rented out our constitutional obligations to unelected union officials and governors who consistently have formulated union-favorable contracts mechanically approved by legislators in full retreat from their democratic obligation to set the price of salaries and pensions? If we were to remove salaries and pensions from negotiated union contracts, we would then be able to exert direct control over state spending. And because state officials are elected -- unlike union negotiators and judges and state arbiters – we will be affirming true democratic imperatives. People disappointed with the decisions of elected officials can vote them out of office. But unelected judges, the final arbiters of legal contracts, and state arbiters are not answerable to the people for the decisions they make. Their decisions, fraught with sometime disastrous unintended consequences, are not correctable through democratic means.
Here, Here, Here is the problem with our state government: The state legislature, which should be the primary republican organ of our government, is renting out its constitutional prerogatives to unelected, permanent organs of the administrative state. We are quickly moving away from a government of, by and for the people towards an unelected administrative apparat untouched by the remediation of traditional democratic government.
When the Constitutional Convention had finished its work, Ben Franklin was accosted by a woman, Mrs. Powel, and asked, “Well sir, what have you given us?” He replied – “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Every day we must ask ourselves – have we kept the promise of republican government? There are always two questions hovering menacingly over all governments. The first is a question put by Lenin in his first major publication: What is to be done? And the second question, from which the first hangs by a slender thread, is: Who decides what is to be done? These are not mere theoretical questions; they are intensely practical questions in their consequences. The second question upon which our republic depends is answered by Constitutional provisions, common and natural law, the grand traditions of the republic, the morality of its people and their most uncommon common sense.
I’d like to end here and invite questions.