Chris Powell: At least until spring, let the 'nattering nabobs' do their thing

Springtime on Connecticut's Wilbur Cross Parkway.

Springtime on Connecticut's Wilbur Cross Parkway.

During the congressional election campaign in 1970, a campaign  to me almost as nasty as this year's presidential campaign, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew famouslyvderided the Nixon administration's critics in the news media.

"In the United States today," Agnew said, "we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism."  

Elected officials everywhere sometimes share that feeling, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy seems to be the latest one. Speaking last week to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Cromwell, the governor complained about the dismal view of Connecticut that is sometimes reflected by news organizations.

 "There is more good news than bad news," the governor insisted, "but we dwell on the bad news."    Having suffered a lot of bad news during his six years in the state's top office, news that included his two mammoth tax increases, the governor has developed a thicker skin, and his tone in Cromwell was more plaintive than demagogic like Agnew's.

Further, given the financial disaster bequeathed to him by his predecessors, Malloy is always deserving of some sympathy, while Agnew never was, since he was a mere political hatchet man,   and sometimes equated disagreement with disloyalty and even communism. {And he was forced by office by a corruption charge.}


But most people in Connecticut really don't need to be told that times are good or bad. While they are paying less attention to the news and more to "social media," less attention to public policy and more to cat videos and other comic relief, they still can tell if their incomes are rising and their tax burdens falling or not, just as they can tell if the people around them are happier or more harried and depressed.

Even as national surveys still rank Connecticut high for quality of life, opinion polls of state residents find most of them in a mood so sour that they claim to be inclined to leave.    That is, while living conditions here still may be better than elsewhere, people sense that conditions are getting worse.   

As the governor spoke in Cromwell, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that it wouldclose its research and development office in Wallingford, eliminating 500 jobs or moving them out of state.   

Just after the governor spoke three men were shot, one of them being critically wounded, in separate incidents in the poverty factory known as New Haven.   

Meanwhile, police in the poverty factory known as Hartford announced that they soon will start carrying the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone to combat the heroin plague that has broken out of the cities and is sweeping the rest of the state, even prosperous suburbs. (People tend not to inject themselves with heroin when their lives are going well.)   

A few hours earlier Hartford's mayor had told a suburban audience that the city is insolvent and needs more of their money, but a suburban state senator replied that none would be forthcoming.   


And just after he spoke the governor himself warned that a potentially deadly cold wave was sweeping down on the state from the northwest, prompting state government to begin emergency protocols to prevent the demoralized and destitute from freezing to death.  

So even those who are not nattering nabobs of negativism might have been prompted by all this to start seeing virtue in those supposedly uneducated,  uncultured, redneck-infested, and generally benighted but at least warm Southern states such as South Carolina and Florida, especially the latter, since it has no state income tax and half its residents already seem to be exiles fromConnecticut.   

By May the young bloom of Connecticut's rolling countryside once again may make the state the most beautiful place in the world. But that's a long time to wait.  Until then, offsetting the state's many disadvantages must begin with identifying them rather than minimizing them, which in turn will require some negativism and the nattering nabobs to provide it.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester,  Conn., and an essayist on political and cultural matters.