Thursday, February 26, 2009

Too Much Reverence for Wealth

One of the problems hobbling our current efforts to make a budget on the state and federal levels is our reverence for wealth and fear of the people who are wealthy. It is useful to keep in mind that most of the very wealthy people in this country (over $500,000 in annual earnings from all sources) were born into their money, or have been overpaid for the services they render, or have made one or a handful of clever investments or friendships. Do some of them work hard, build businesses and provide useful products and services? Sure, but why should we be afraid to tax them? Why do we grant them special status? Why shouldn't a higher percentage of their money go back into the society that gave them the opportunity to be rich? In Connecticut, our Republican legislators (mostly) act terrified of the prospect of raising taxes on the wealthy. It's time to grow up and stop being afraid of rich people. At this point, I don't know which is worse, the Democrats afraid of state employees or the Republicans afraid of their wealthy constituents. Both tendencies are very harmful to the budget-making process.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dodd's Curious Course

The longer that Chris Dodd continues to be less than fully forthcoming about his sweetheart mortgage loans from Countrywide, the more likely this sordid affair will become his legacy. One would think that he would have learned a lesson from the experience of his own father, whose hotly denied misdeeds tarnished a distinguished career as well as the Dodd family name. Dodd's release of some information regarding the loans, to some reporters, for a limited period of time (and with no copying allowed) is hardly a satisfying outcome. We are left with the feeling of Emily Dickinson's doctor, who was supposed to examine her as she walked, fully clothed, past an open doorway. By assuring that this episode will now be prolonged--despite his promise that he will be refinancing with another bank--Dodd assures that this stain will grow larger, more visible and harder to remove. John Rowland did, finally, stand up in public and say, "I am ashamed to be here today and I accept full responsibility for my actions." Why can't Dodd come even part way to the same admission, or at least to a full explanation of what happened? Until he does, many people (including many supporters) will think the worst of him and history's view of his quite remarkable public career will continue to darken.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hypocricy at the Top

As Gov. Rell delivers her budget address today, stressing how hard times are right now and advocating budget and program cuts across the board, it will be very hard for me to ignore the fact that she's rewarded her own staff with pay raises this year--as reported in this morning's Waterbury Republican-American. The governor will try to establish a relationship in her speech with her struggling constituency, especially those who have been laid off or whose income has been frozen. But she clearly believes her own people are above such realities and that they deserve special consideration in these difficult days. Speaking on behalf of only one business entity out here in the state, I can say that we will have no raises this year and our company contributions to our 401(k) plans have been discontinued. Don't try to express solidarity with us, governor. Your true nature--and your disregard for the people who elected you--was revealed the day you quietly put these raises into effect.