Chris Powell: Subsidize social disintegration and blame Walmart


Some Connecticut state legislators are just wringing their hands and shrugging about the latest court decision in the latest school-funding lawsuit. That may be enough, since state Atty. Gen. George Jepsen is appealing the decision, considering it judicial overreach, and may prevail at the state Supreme Court.

Other legislators express concern that, because of state government's deteriorating finances, any extra state money for failing school systems will have to be taken from successful school systems, terminating the longstanding political consensus that it's OK for state government to put zillions more into failing schools without accomplishing anything as long as appropriations are maintained at current levels for successful schools -- the "hold harmless" policy.

But ending the "hold harmless" policy might be the best thing that Connecticut could do. For change may come only when more people have to start paying more for educational failure.

If, for example, West Hartford, Fairfield, Woodbridge, and Middlebury were told that they must lose millions in state grants so the money can be given to Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury and New Haven, where education never improves no matter how much more is spent -- because most city students lack the prerequisite of education – PARENTS -- then Connecticut's focus might start changing.

People then might be less inclined to accept poverty and child neglect as a way of life and a business. People might be more inclined to demand results and accountability from the cities and their residents, and, upon realizing that good results are impossible when policy is only to subsidize social disintegration, they might clamor to change policy so it discouraged rather than fostered child neglect.

Indeed, while that school funding decision, issued by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, overreached as a matter of law, it should prompt Connecticut to reconsider far more than school funding. It should prompt Connecticut to reconsider its whole political economy. Apart from subservience to the government employee unions, that political economy consists mainly of three things:

1) State government taxes people who took education seriously, gained work experience, achieved self-sufficiency, lived responsibly and married before having children.

2) State government transfers that money to people who disregarded education, learned little but were advanced from grade to grade and given high school diplomas anyway, and, though uneducated, unskilled, unmarried and incapable of self-sufficiency, had children in the confidence that state government would give them EBT cards, food credits, housing vouchers and medical insurance.

3) And when the "illiterates" -- the judge's candid term -- grow up and can find only menial employment that won't support families, the state's intelligentsia blames Walmart and McDonald's for not paying their employees enough.

A century ago Theodore Roosevelt, while regarded as a flaming liberal, nevertheless argued that the first duty of a citizen is to pull his own weight. The collapse of schools, cities and the state itself is what happens when public policy disagrees.


MORE REGIONALISM, ANYONE? Last week Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin pitched his plan for more regionalism during an interview on a radio station in New Britain -- the city whose minor-league baseball team Hartford stole last year by promising to build it a $50 million stadium, only to make a mess of construction and prompt litigation that may cost the city a lot more money.

Also last week a court ruled that Hartford must pay $6.3 million in damages for failing to comply with state law on assisting people displaced from their homes, a ruling that came with a contempt finding against the city administration.

Mayor Bronin has yet to explain why anyone else should want to pay for the city's incompetence, nor how there can ever be any accountability if someone else does pay.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer,  in Manchester, Conn., and  a long time essayist on political and socio-economic matters.