Don Pesci: Connecticut a national laughingstock

As  Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sets off into the sunset, The Wall Street Journal reviews, in as economical a manner as possible, the real state of the state of Connecticut, once the diamond in the crown of New England.

“The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis recently rolled out its annual report on personal income growth in the 50 states, and for 2017 the Nutmeg State came in a miserable 44th.” That’s the good news.

The paper refers to Governor Malloy as the “progressive paragon” and notes his “performance is even worse when you look at the details. The nearby chart shows that the state’s personal income grew at the slowest pace among all New England states, and not by a little. Governor Dannel Malloy’s eight-year experiment in public-union governance saw income grow by a meager 1.5% for the year, well below Vermont (2.1%). The state even trailed Maine (2.7%) and Rhode Island (2.4%), which are usually the New England laggards.”

In personal-income growth, Connecticut is the poor-boy of states. “Connecticut was 49th out of 50 states in 2012, 37th in 2013, 39th in 2014 and 2015, and 33rd in 2016. The consistently poor performance, especially relative to its regional neighbors, suggests that the causes are bad economic policies, not the business cycle or a downturn in a specific industry.”

And finally, the most progressive state in the Northeast has now become the most regressive state in the Northeast. “The fact that Connecticut, which is next to America’s financial capital, has grown so poorly amid an expansion that was especially good for financial assets is a damning indictment of its political leadership. It is a particular tragedy for the state’s poorest citizens who may not be able to flee to other states that aren’t run by and for government employees. Maybe we should call it the Regressive State.”

Among the 446 comments the editorial provoked, is one that suggests the more progressives learn, the less they know. “Dan, Dannel, Daniel just announced a bill from the still Democrat controlled legislature is making its way to the governor’s desk and he plans to sign it.  That bill will grant tuition help to undocumented persons at Connecticut's state universities.”

These are not the kind of recommendations politicians generally want on their political resumes; though, of course, there will always be a feather bed somewhere – perhaps in progressive academia – for failed heroic progressive politicians. Malloy eventually may land on a soft surface, but it will take heroic efforts to effect changes in Connecticut that will return the state to its former glory.

More than a quarter century has passed since the father of Connecticut’s income tax, former Gov. Lowell Weicker, warned in his gubernatorial campaign that instituting and income tax in the midst of a recession would be like “pouring gas on a fire,” after which, once ensconced as governor, Weicker proceeded to pour gas on the fire. We have been living in the flames of an almost seamless unending recession ever since. As everyone who has not fled Connecticut for less punishing states elsewhere knows, Malloy called Weicker and raised him two tax increases, the first the largest and the second the second largest in state history. With the right policies in place, it would not have taken the state more than three decades to recover from its progressive governors and its progressive Democrat majority leaders in Connecticut’s General Assembly.

Since the Weicker bonfire, Republican gains in both the state House and Senate seem to suggest that a slim majority of Connecticut voters has come to appreciate Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. In the coming election, Republicans, now even in the Senate and seven seats away from Democrats in the House,  will be running against Malloy’s ruinous policies. State Democrats will be running against President Donald Trump, or rather a highly exaggerated cartoon of Trump.

The progressive policies of Malloy and his co-conspirators in the General Assembly cannot rationally be defended, because any defense is answered by the realities mentioned in the editorial  staring murderously at all Connecticut citizens.

Malloy’s response to Connecticut’s rapid downfall, directly related to the state’s hegemonic Democrat leadership and its lofty, feeling infused but reckless progressive policies, can best be illustrated by Mike Lawlor’s latest proposal. Connecticut’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning -- who as co-chairman, along with Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, agitated effectively for the abolition of the death penalty and who set loose Frankie“The Razor” Resto on Meriden – has proposed the state should increase spending on prisoners’ meals, while the state slips sleepily into yet another multi-million dollar budget deficit. 

A Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Melissa Ziobro,  said of the latest Malloy-Lawlor venture into populist progressive politics, "Not only did he [Malloy] prioritize this money for criminals, he also eliminated money for seniors who are having meals for wheels deliveries.”

Lawlor has a ravenous appetite for wrong reforms. Connecticut’s new governor, Democrat or Republican, should eliminate his position, which is menacingly unnecessary. In fact, any prospective governor who promises -- "first thing I do when elected is to make Lawlor redundant" -- may pile up quite a few votes.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.