Chris Powell: Malloy leaves feeling the ingratitude of the great unwashed

Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2016,

Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2016,

From the many valedictory interviews he gave to journalists last week, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy seems to be departing as bitter as Connecticut is about his eight years in office.

Malloy says he meant all along to be unpopular by always doing the right thing, apparently presuming that the public always perceives the right thing as the wrong thing. While civic engagement and literacy indeed have continued their collapse during Malloy's administration, people remain entitled to their opinion, and the governor isn't leaving them persuaded. But even as he retires as Connecticut's most disliked governor in modern times, he should be enjoying the last laugh, since he did persuade enough people when it counted, twice getting the most votes for governor.

Malloy can't acknowledge it, but there are reasons for being unhappy with him quite apart from his supposedly always doing the right thing for the ungrateful great unwashed.

During his re-election campaign he said he wouldn't raise taxes, but, returned to office, he raised them hugely. (Was lying doing the right thing?) While portraying himself as a hands-on administrator, he was brazenly indifferent to misconduct and incompetence in state government and sometimes sought to conceal it. He pandered to political correctness and proclaimed it as sound policy. A Democrat, he candidly told the government employee unions, his party's base, "I am your servant," and in this he kept his word, making his highest priority the preservation of government employee compensation.

In one interview last week the governor even attributed the defeat of some Republican state senators to their supposed bigotry against homosexuals. The senators, Malloy charged again, had voted against his nominee for chief justice of the state Supreme Court because he is gay, not for his having been part of the court's majority that presumed to erase capital punishment from the state constitution. Yet the nomination was hardly mentioned in the recent state legislative campaigns. Mostly the Democrats hung President Trump around the Republicans' necks. Malloy's charge is still hard to believe, but thank God if something in the election had nothing to do with Trump.

As with any administration, Malloy's did some good things, and his office last week issued a lovely report enumerating what he thinks they are. For example, he hastened Connecticut's move away from drug criminalization; increased medical insurance for the poor and resisted the Trump administration's malicious sabotaging of universal coverage; nearly eliminated homelessness among military veterans, and improved Bradley International Airport.

But state government remains grossly insolvent and overextended and all that good stuff was peanuts against the failures Malloy never confronted: the failure of social promotion to educate, the failure of unconditional welfare to lift people to self-sufficiency, the failure of the contentment of the government class to trickle down to taxpayers, and the failure of ever-increasing taxes and regulation to grow the private sector, which finances everything.

The better high school graduation rate Malloy often touted is deceitful when most graduates learn little and need remediation. No matter how much is spent in their name, Connecticut's cities grow poorer and more demoralized and depraved. And, perhaps the key measures, under Malloy the state's population declined relative to the rest of the country and its economy shrank.

Malloy was left a disgraceful mess and is bequeathing one to his successor. But then of course everything always could be worse.

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