Friday, April 26, 2019

Lamont’s 100 Days Report Card

Well, that didn’t take long. Morning Consult  tracks the favorable and unfavorable ratings of governors across the United States. According to the rating service, Governor Ned Lamont’s favorability rating is hovering around 33 percent 100 days into the new administration. The bulk of the discontent can only be attributed to disappointed expectations.

Former Governor Dannel Malloy, who high-tailed it to his old alma mater, Boston Law, following his not unexpected decision to abandon thoughts of a third term in office, absconded with an approval rating of about 29 percent. Shortly before he threw in the towel, Malloy was the most unpopular governor in the United States.

Ironists – if there are any such creatures among Connecticut political watchers – will dwell on the  as yet unexamined ironies. How did it happen that an electorate that had registered such profound disappointment with Malloy never-the-less elected as his successor another Democrat who managed to acquire, after only 100 days, an approval rating that puts him in 5th place among the lowest rated governors in the country?

There are various theories bouncing around that may square this apparent circle.

1) Pogo was right. The enemy is us.

Some days ago, an intemperate Speaker of the State House, Joe Aresimowicz, characterized town governments that had passed resolutions against prospective toll taxes as “moronic.” Aresimowitz beat a quick retreat, but not, some of his critics supposed, because the Speaker had suddenly perceived the vital connection between municipalities and state governance. Not at all. Reelected to office with a very slender margin, Aresimowicz likely felt the hot breath of discontent at the back of his neck. No fool, he grudgingly apologized for calling moronic municipal politicians who disagreed with a new tolling measure that they regard as moronic.

2) Trump sunk Republicans. In the off-year presidential election, sticks and stone really did break bones., according to this theory. True, there were very few Connecticut Republicans hurling Trump accolades from Connecticut rooftops; and true, Trump’s name did not appear on any Connecticut ballot; and true, the worm in the Trump apple – that the president colluded with the Ruskies to deny St. Hillary Clinton her ordination to the presidency – had yet to be exploded by the much anticipated Special Council Mueller Report; and true, the tribunes of the people could hardly be expected to approve of a president who had condemned all too frequently as fake newsmakers from his Twitter soapbox … but still …

3) The Republicans ran a lousy campaign, top-heavy with economic jeremiads, while Democrats campaigned as usual on “social issues.” Then too, the Republican’s white-hatted gubernatorial prospect stumbled badly when he announced that he had planned to rid the state of its income tax incubus within ten years. The vow, it was said later, was aspirational -- somewhat like The Green New Deal, which envisions cars disappearing in 20 years, just in time to save the planet from ecological destruction.

4) Mathematics is determinative. Republicans are simply outnumbered by Democrats in Connecticut, and it is numerology that is driving Democrats ever further from the centrist politics of, say, Democratic Governors Abraham Ribicoff and Ella Grasso.

5) Dominant Democrats have now reverted to an older, more politically convenient, outworn formulation: Connecticut is suffering from a revenue not a spending problem. As long as it remains possible to discharge state debt by raising revenue, Connecticut politicians who owe their seats to politically muscular organized labor and superior voting numbers need never pluck up the courage to cut spending. Among Democrats, permanent, long-term cuts in spending are political planks leading over shark infested waters. Broadening the tax base or, better still, imposing a progressive tax on the state’s redundant millionaires; enlarging the margins of so called “fixed costs,” i.e. costs that timid legislators lack the courage to cut; and pushing onto future generations costs Democrats find it inconvenient to reduce, all are measures that save incumbent politicians the trouble of honestly confronting problems that are pushing Connecticut closer to insolvency. After all, the purpose of government, some politicians hastily suppose, is to smooth the path for those who govern, not to enlarge the liberties of the governed.

Caught up in the political moment, it’s all too possible for so-called “reformist,” more-of-the-same governors to forget even recent political lessons and simply assume—see Einstein’s definition of insanity – that doing the same thing over and over will yield different results

Lamont is a protégé of the tax and spend policies of former Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax, and tolls are to Lamont what the income tax was to Weicker – a new stream of revenue that will swell the reputations of non-moronic, leftist politicians such as Aresimowicz, at the expense of long suffering, liberty-loving taxpayers who, placed on the tax and regulation griddle, will move their dwindling assets to politically cooler states.

Lamont’s  far from rousing election to office and his dipping favorability rating in the Morning Consult poll are indications that Connecticut voters were perfectly willing to give a leg up politically to a politician who appeared during his campaign to be open to reversing the  course of the state’s nose-dive into economic and political chaos. But the polling results suggest that Pogo may have been right. Voters in Connecticut may be their own worst enemies.

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