Sunday, September 08, 2019

West Hartford RTC Keynote

Image may contain: 1 personI’d like to thank Dennis Swanton for inviting me here.  I want to touch on two areas of interest tonight, national and state government --they impinge on each other -- and end with a prayer to God to save us from ourselves. Otto von Bismarck used to say “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” Let us hope it’s true. We’ll need a little divine intervention if Connecticut is to survive as a prosperous and welcoming state.  If you feel inclined to chuckle along the way, don’t restrain yourselves. Laughter is therapeutic. I’m hoping we might be able to bat around some questions in the Q&A that will follow.

“All politics is local,” said Speaker of the US House Tip O’Neill. The phrase is pretty common, though it is most often associated with O’Neill, President Ronald Reagan’s Democrat counterpart in the glorious -- for conservative Republicans -- 1980’s. In many other ways, the 80s were a painful regurgitation of the 60s.  I’m sure I’m not the only one in this room who wakes each morning asking himself mournfully -- Are the 60s over yet?

During the last few elections in Connecticut, Republicans appeared to be making headway against some daunting odds. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by a two-to-one ratio. Unaffiliateds slightly outnumber Democrats.  That is a high hill to climb.

In the past, Republicans have labored up the steep incline somewhat disguised in Democrat clothing. To be a “moderate” Republican in a state in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by a two-to-one margin, one simply had to declare that one was a fiscal conservative but a social moderate. This worked for a while – until it didn’t work.

There are no longer any Republicans who are fiscal conservatives and social moderates in Connecticut’s all-Democrat U.S. Congressional Delegation. Chris Shays was the last hybrid Republican of this kind in the U.S. Congress. Presently, the governor’s office, the General Assembly and all the constitutional officers in Connecticut are progressives on social and economic issues. Appellate courts in the state are left leaning and not averse to legislating from the bench. The Scalia revolution in constitutional interpretation, originalism, has left no mark on Connecticut Supreme or appellate courts, possibly because current chancellor of Maine’s college system Dannel Malloy, appointed 5 out of 6 justices to Connecticut’s Supreme Court.  There are, of course, pockets of resistance in some Connecticut municipalities.

Both nationally and in Connecticut – which seems to be, at least in New England, the progressive canary in the New England minefield --   Democrats have moved further left on both social and economic fronts. The loudest and most clamorous voice among Democrats nationally is an ex-barkeep, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is little more than an economic arsonist and a social anarchist. Socialist Bernie Sanders is still hawking his wares as a serious Democrat presidential contender though, refreshingly, his magnetic draw, except among political illiterates, appears to have lost some of its attraction. As a young man, Sanders should have been studying Churchill – “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy.” But he had his ideological antennae tuned to the Soviet Union, where he spent his honeymoon. He later romanced the Ortega brothers in Nicaragua, Castro and Castro’s Dr. Josef Mengele, Che Guevara. The lone moderate Democrat in the presidential lineup, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been denounced from the Democrat primary pulpit as a possible racist and a doddering, old moderate Democrat who should be dumped in the ash-bin of history. Radical progressives, their eyes focused on destruction, are an ungrateful bunch. Biden’s day is over, say the progressives, unfurling their totalist plans for a Brave New World. Biden is now gravitating toward the progressive vortex. None of these people are lambs disguised in wolves’ clothing. They are wolves in wolves clothing.

De-Spooking Trump

In the recent elections, Connecticut Democrats successfully used Republican President Donald Trump more or less as a spook-stick with which to frighten easily alarmed Democrats, unaffiliateds and mute Republicans. Having been lashed by the largest tax increases in the nation, with tolls on the back burner, no one in the state appeared to be interested in Tip O’Neill’s adage, and Trump did not appear on voting ballots. He was literally the man who was not there.  Republicans took O’Neill more seriously. They were convinced they could win an election on fiscal issues alone and failed to answer convincingly some of the more outrageous attacks on Trump. In politics, as in law, silence signifies assent. If you are accused of beating your wife and you remain silent in the face of the accusation, you should not be surprised when others conclude you have beaten your wife.

Let me attempt a partial despookification, which may be important -- because in the next election Trump will be on the ballot.

A superb counterpuncher, Trump has managed to alienate much of the left of center national media by doing, brashly, energetically and sometimes impulsively, what he does best – counterpunching. On occasion, as all of us may bear witness, he pre-punches. This may not be the easiest way to win friends and influence people in Washington D.C – AKA “the swamp” -- but much of the country is not enamored of the permanent government – national, state or municipal -- and its abettors in the media. Collectively, state and federal government has given us ever rising taxes, noxious, business-killing regulations that easily could fill several libraries, a permanent ruling class indifferent to the social, political and cultural aspirations of much of the country, and a side order of progressive anarchists who really do feel that the easiest way of settling a moral dilemma is by getting rid of morals.

I include in this camp of progressives U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, another anarchist on social matters whom I’ve tagged in several blogs and columns ”the senator from Planned Parenthood.” Blumenthal, Connecticut’s business regulator-in-chief for 20 years as attorney general, thinks that anyone who favors modest regulations of Big Abortion – measures, for instance, that would prevent third trimester abortions or the selling of aborted baby parts by Planned Parenthood – is immoral. I cannot imagine from what Decalogue Blumenthal derives his morality – perhaps Abbe Hoffman’s version of the ten commandments -- but we Judeo-Christians and Muslims all await a convincing media release from Saint Dick explaining precisely how a denial of a third trimester abortion is a denial of an abortion available to any pregnant woman before the third trimester or, as he irrationally fears, an abolition of Roe v Wade, his social torah.

In foreign policy, Trump seems to be a follower of Pat Buchanan and, dare I say it, John Adams, who summed up his own foreign policy this way: “The United States,” said Adams, “is a friend of liberty everywhere – but the custodian only of its own.” Some Republicans quite rightly break with Trump on the utility of tariffs, though it is very difficult, they believe, to remove the tariff arrow from the quiver while communist China has its iron fingers around the throat of Hong Kong.

Domestically, Trump has had the audacity to “turn back the clock” to the pre-Obama era, not a giant step backwards. Unlike Obama, Trump is a friend of Israel. He is not anti-Semitic. He likes women, as his three wives would testify under oath, and he is not – as were two presidents who preceded him, Bill Clinton and Jack Kennedy -- suffering from satyriasis.

Despite Blumenthal’s insistence, Trump did not conspire with Russian Communist autocrat Vladimir Putin to effectively deny Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. That is what special counsel Robert Muller concluded in his much thumbed report. Victor-Davis Hanson, who has written the most readable book on Trump, “In Defense of Trump,” answered the question foremost in people’s minds after Trump had dished Hillary – why did Trump defeat her? “When she told the truth,” Hanson said,” she was less believable than when Trump told a lie.” And we all should know by now that the two year Mueller investigation and the swamp media has done far more than Putin to discredit an American president.

The dead horse of Russian collusion, always wheezing, will still be dead through the 2020 elections. This will not prevent Democrats from beating the dead horse on the campaign trail. In the wings are pending investigations on Russian interference in American elections: one by the Inspector General and another led by John Durham, appointed by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, that will serve as a prequel to the Muller report. Some of us  are still interested in knowing how a fake “dossier” – really an opposition research fantasy financed in part by the Democrat National Committee – was used to jump start a more than two-year-long investigation that, Democrats had hoped, might lead to an impeachment of Trump.

It’s going to be nearly impossible for Connecticut’s two US Senators, Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, to besmirch the reputation of Durham before he turns up some inconvenient truths about the Trump collusion prequel. Durham comes to the post highly recommended by Blumenthal and his congressional understudy, Murphy. It was Blumenthal and Murphy who recommended Durham to Trump as Connecticut’s US Attorney. Blumenthal's commendation swelled with unstinted praise: “I know John Durham well, having known and worked with him over many years. He is a no-nonsense, fierce, fair, career prosecutor. He knows what it means to try some of the toughest cases against career criminals. He knows what it means to try to stop the opioid crisis in this country. He knows what organized crime does to the fabric of our society. He is exactly the kind of person we should have in this position.”

And – cherry on the cake -- Durham bagged crooked FBI agents and cops in Boston, as well as the notorious former Governor of Connecticut John Rowland.

My advice to Republicans is – don’t be silent during the next election – when Trump will be on the ballot. Lift up your voices. You needn’t defend Trump’s rude behavior, but you should not withhold praise of his good policies. Bill Buckley of blessed memory identified Trump as a vulgarian; it’s difficult to imagine Bill seated on one of Trump’s golden toilets. But Trump’s major policies – cutting taxes and business-distorting regulations, appointing to the Supreme Court literate justices who will read and incorporate into their decisions the timeless republican principles in the county’s founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence… all this and more is not an exercise in vulgarianism. It is an attempt at the restoration of guiding principles held in low esteem by progressives such as AOC, now sending tingles up the legs of progressive media propagandists.

Connecticut, A Hill Worth Dying On

Turning now to state politics, Connecticut, as everyone knows -- even our left of center media that continually bites its tongue when it should be shouting from the rooftops -- is in a three decades old downward spiral. Since each recession in Connecticut has lasted about ten years, the state may be one recession away from assuming room temperature. We have had three governors – anti-conservative maverick Lowell Weicker, Dannel Malloy and Ned Lamont, both Democrats – who have contributed to the state’s demise by increasing both taxes and also what George Orwell once called “newspeak” and “doublespeak.” But the chief culprit in an unremitting assault on our beloved state, once the diamond in New England’s crown, is the General Assembly, for thirty years and more a progressive jack-hammer.

We may be able to attain some idea of the pitch of decline by focusing on a few obvious red flags.

When Connecticut instituted its income tax, it permanently changed the posture of the state with respect to other contiguous states, and it sent an unambiguous signal outside the state. The signal was this: Connecticut need no longer concern itself with long-term spending cuts, and the era of Connecticut as a safe harbor for tax whipped business is over. The income tax leveled the playing field between, say, Connecticut and New York. But Connecticut will never be able to compete with New York on a level playing field -- ditto Boston. That is why we are now seeing what I like to call an accelerated “business drift” away from Connecticut towards Boston and New York. Malloy’s crippling tax increases – there were two, collectively the largest tax increase of any single administration in state history – accelerated the business drift. When Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski brashly proposed to rid the state of its income tax incubus within a ten year period, he was generously lampooned. Stefanowski later said the ten years was aspirational.

Lamont likes to boast that his present budget does not include a measurable increase in tax rates. But this simply means he’s skinned the cat by other means – mostly by broadening the tax base. Lamont’s revenue boost compares favorably with Malloy’s, and the effect is frighteningly the same: revenue increases relieve the progressive Democrat majority in the General Assembly – the real architects of the state’s decline – from initiating long-term spending reductions. Lamont’s tolling measure has been shelved temporarily thanks to a populist upheaval – No Tolls CT – but, once forced though the legislature by a progressive majority, the additional revenue generated from tolls, plundered from a fake transportation “lockbox” and transferred into the General Fund, will further relieve big progressive spenders in the General Assembly from paring back spending. Given two choices – to increase revenue and offend unorganized taxpayers, or to decrease spending and offend highly organized union operatives – Democrats long ago decided to take the road most traveled in the past and increase taxes. The skinned cat, however, is beginning to howl.

After all the above mentioned revenue increases, Connecticut now qualifies as a “sinkhole state”, meaning it does not have enough assets to cover its debts. The state has only $12.1 billion in assets available to pay bills totaling $81.9 billion, which represents $69.8 billion financial hole. And there is reason to believe – precisely because progressive Democrats in the General Assembly are averse to spending cuts – that the state has arrived at a point of diminishing returns in which further revenue increases will produce further and larger deficits. Indeed, that has been the history of the state in the post Weicker era. Connecticut has become a political reproach, a real-life lesson in what not to do when facing successive deficits. Aspirationally, Stefanowski notion of ridding the state of an income tax was right, since revenue increases, in the absence of spending cuts, lead ineluctably to increases in spending and thus greater future debt. Permanent, long-term cuts must be made in spending, however loud the protests, to move legislators to actions that increase the public good.

Last February, Lamont promised labor savings, and almost immediately union bosses said – no deal. Former Governor Malloy had previously extended his own union-favorable negotiated contracts out well beyond his terms in office. Those contracts include automatic increases in salaries after three years and a no-layoff provision. So why should union workers, who cannot be laid off by Lamont and whose salary increases are locked in well beyond Lamont’s term in office, agree to long-term permanent, labor cost reductions?

Indeed, Lamont and progressives in the Democrat Party, locked in a fatal embrace with unions, desperately need tolls to continue their failing, time-worn operative strategy, which is this: do not risk alienating the special interests you need for re-election by cutting labor costs; always discharge deficits by increasing revenue, which relieves the General Assembly, dominated by progressive Democrats, of the necessity of cutting spending.

That’s how the imposture works. This is the wool pulled over the public’s eyes. And Connecticut’s media cannot be depended upon to expose the fraud or lift the wool – even for a second. The light of truth might just awaken slumberous taxpayers, who are unwilling and unwitting union financiers, and then we might have a real revolution from below on our hands.

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