Chris Powell: Conn. could use less SALT; McCain a hero but with a very mixed record

  Part of the Greenwich Yacht Club at low tide. Greeenwich is famous as the home of many very rich people, many with connections to Wall Street. 

Part of the Greenwich Yacht Club at low tide. Greeenwich is famous as the home of many very rich people, many with connections to Wall Street. 



While the Trump administration's new federal tax law is largely irresponsible, running up enormous debt to give breaks to the wealthy, in one respect it is exactly what the country needs. That is, the new law limits to $10,000 the personal income tax deduction for state and local taxes, the SALT deduction. 

The deductibility limit is outraging elected officials in high-tax states in the Northeast and California, and in Connecticut the Malloy administration has joined them in a federal lawsuit claiming implausibly that the limit is unconstitutional. 

The plaintiffs complain that the limit will depress home prices and economic growth and make it harder for state government to pay for essential services. 

This is nonsense because the high spending and taxes of the plaintiff states have already impeded their growth and cost them population. States with lower spending and taxes are growing faster economically and in population. 

The real issue here is whether federal policy should make it easier for state governments to overtax their people and be inefficient. Of course the Trump administration is hardly efficient itself, but a state that, like Connecticut, keeps imposing record tax increases while producing huge budget deficits deserves no help from federal policy. 

The elected officials running Connecticut and the other high-spending, high-taxing, and population-losing states are desperate to avoid confronting the special interests they have been coddling, particularly government employees. No state that, like Connecticut, maintains collective bargaining for government employees and binding arbitration for their union contracts while its government is effectively insolvent is even trying to put its affairs in order. 

Connecticut residents are only starting to understand the burdens and ineffectiveness of their state government. Limiting the federal tax deductibility of state and local taxes will improve their understanding and encourage their overdue resentment. 

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President Trump has a talent for contaminating everything he touches, as demonstrated by his disgraceful response to the death of Arizona Sen. John S. McCain. Ironically, Trump's disrespect turned McCain into more of a national hero, particularly for Democrats who want to bring the president down. 

Anyone who performed military service and as a result was held for more than five years as a prisoner of war, was tortured by a vicious enemy, and as a result suffered permanent physical injuries is a hero no matter what the president thinks of him. Indeed, it was contemptible for Trump to disparage McCain when Trump obtained a military draft deferment with a case of “bone spurs” that cleared up as soon as the draft ended. 

But McCain's political record was mixed at best. 

Early in his Senate career he pressured banking regulators to go easy on a crooked financial magnate from whom he had accepted extravagant gifts and campaign contributions. This was corrupt and McCain was criticized for it by the Senate Ethics Committee. At least he came to regret what he had done. 

Further, in Congress McCain always supported stupid U.S. military interventions and imperial wars around the world. Thousands died because of these interventions and wars. 

But McCain mellowed and in his later years often pursued national and bipartisan interests. While he had a temper, he was also a regular guy without senatorial arrogance. He got along with people despite political disagreement. That's what most should be remembered about him. 


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