What if a conservative Republican state tried to put a $700 tax on abortions, purportedly to defray the costs of the state's licensing of medical personnel? Of course people would scream that the state was using tax policy less to raise money than to impair a constitutional right.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a liberal Democrat, is doing the same thing in regard to another constitutional right with his budget proposal to raise gun permit fees by more than 400 percent so that obtaining a permit might cost as much as $745. The governor's office says the increased fees are meant to offset the increased workload placed on the state police by increased demand for gun permits.
But this is as much nonsense as has been spouted lately by the governor's budget director, Ben Barnes, who insists that the governor's plan to cancel hundreds of millions of dollars in state financial aid to most municipal school systems and to require municipalities to start contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the state teacher pension fund every year won't risk property-tax increases. For the State Police already have computer access to state and national criminal records databases and can quickly determine whether a gun-permit applicant has a disqualifying record. The time and expense of reviewing these databases are minimal.
Since a constitutional right is involved, licensing fees should cover only actual costs and not be used to raise revenue. The governor is persecuting gun owners as much as President Trump is persecuting Muslims, the governor disrespecting the constitutional rights of the former, the president disrespecting the constitutional rights of the latter. While both the governor and the president have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution, they would prefer to pander to their hateful political bases.
THE MINIMUM-WAGE FALLACY: Woody Allen's best parody of political liberalism comes in one of his first movies, Bananas, in which the revolutionary leader who has just taken over a Latin American country and been driven mad by power declares that henceforth the national language will be Swedish, that underwear will be changed every hour and worn on the outside "so we can check," and that all children under 13 years old are 13 years old.
The same delusion can be seen in the campaign in Connecticut and throughout the nation to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. For mere declarations by government that wages must be higher do not guarantee that the value produced by labor will be higher too. Raising wages by government decree easily can raise prices, but raising the market's ability and willingness to pay higher prices is something else.
The main problem behind the campaign for $15 an hour is the large number of low-skilled adults, many of them single women with children, who in recent years have displaced the young people who traditionally dominated entry-level jobs, particularly in the fast-food industry. These adults note that they cannot support their families on their low-skill incomes, as if anyone ever could. Of course most of the kids in such jobs were and are living at home with their parents or working part-time while in college and living there.
This problem is not really one of wages for the low-skilled but rather the failure of adults to learn marketable skills, and in Connecticut it's not hard to see where that problem comes from, since the state's public education system has become mostly social promotion and as many as two-thirds of its high school graduates never master high school work.
But elected officials at both the state and municipal level lack the political courage to correct these gross deficiencies. They would prefer to blame McDonald's. Besides, since the primary consumers of fast food are the poor themselves, a higher minimum wage may not be such a gift to them if it just confronts them with higher prices.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.