Chris Powell: Some penny pincher! Kill those old-fashioned pensions; End the war



  The fiscal disaster known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in Hartford, opened in 2017 and home of the Hartford Yard Goats.

The fiscal disaster known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in Hartford, opened in 2017 and home of the Hartford Yard Goats.


The fiscal disaster known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in Hartford, opened in 2017 and home of the Hartford Yard Goats.


Advertising, according to the industry's supposed maxim, is most successful when it touts a product's weakest aspect. If the maxim is accurate, Shawn Wooden's new television commercial makes him a cinch to become Connecticut's next state treasurer.

The commercial depicts Wooden, former president of the Hartford City Council, as the exemplar of financial propriety and efficiency but in a family setting. "I'm a bit of a penny pincher," Wooden says as he turns off a light left on and shuts a faucet left running by his sons. Then he squeezes the dregs from a toothpaste tube.

It's cute but it doesn't match the most notable part of Wooden's record in office -- his advocacy four years ago of Hartford's construction of a minor-league baseball stadium with which the city would steal the team of another struggling city, New Britain, even as Hartford itself was nearly bankrupt.

Of course this being Hartford, the construction of the stadium was botched, its completion was delayed a year, lawsuits resulted, and the expense, originally calculated at $50 million, got close to $80 million and was added to the city's huge bonded debt of $550 million. This year that debt was assumed by state government, so now Hartford isn't paying for the stadium at all, nor for anything else for which it borrowed money. The rest of Connecticut is paying.

That is Wooden's idea of being a "penny pincher" -- making the city so insolvent that state government would be compelled to rescue it from its chronic corruption and incompetence.

Wooden will be rescued with a cushy state job. But who will rescue the state?

xxx

OUTLAW THOSE PENSIONS: The candidates for governor agree that underfunding of the state employee and teacher pension plans is a big part of state government's financial disaster, but the candidates have not proposed any solution. They seem to think that the state employee and teacher unions will negotiate the benefits down.

That's not likely. So Connecticut needs proposals on the record in the campaign.

Indeed, state employees and teachers should be required to contribute much more to their pensions, and defined-benefit pensions should be outlawed for future government employees and replaced with 401(k) plans like those most taxpayers make do with.

This is not because the state's defined-benefit pensions are too generous, though some are. Nor is it because state and municipal employees are less productive than private-sector employees. (They are just like everybody else.)

Instead it is because Connecticut's elected officials always will lack the integrity to ensure that pension accounts are properly funded over the long term. That is, eventually elected officials will always yield to the temptation to divert pension fund contributions to undertakings that offer more immediate political rewards, and because the public itself lacks the civic virtue to hold elected officials accountable for pension underfunding.

xxx

WHAT ABOUT THE WAR?: Republican candidates for the U.S. House and Senate from Connecticut have little to say and less money to say it with and so are being ignored as sure losers.

They don't seem to have noticed that the stupid and futile imperial war in Afghanistan has entered its 18th year and that all members of the state's delegation, all Democrats, support it.

A Republican who pledged to vote against appropriations for the war might get noticed without having to spend a lot of money.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


dunkin2.png