Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Business to Malloy: Not Again?

Soon after Governor Dannel Malloy announced that he was to begin yet another “listening Tour,” this time among Connecticut businesses, accompanied by his new director of community and economic development, Catherine Smith, The Hartford Business Journal queried the governor:

“Smith gets a pass here. She’s just arriving on the scene. But Malloy should know he can’t play that card again so soon. He is just a matter of weeks removed from a 17-stop listening tour. He’s also been active in making plant tours. He’s heard all he needs to hear. He just chose not to process what he heard.

“Did he not hear that business thought the paid sick leave bill was a horrible signal of a climate that was unfriendly to business?
“Did he not hear that small business is concerned about the double whammy of increasing business taxes and increasing personal taxes for their business profits that run through individual tax filings?
“Did he not hear the frustration with the levels of state employee benefits and the stubborn refusal to roll back state spending?

“Word from the work floors is that Malloy lost his glib, engaging manner the more he didn’t like what he was hearing and turned downright rude at a couple of stops.

“Now we’re going to do it again?”
Listening is one thing; processing information you have gathered from listening and importing it into a future business plan – or, in the governor’s case, a plan for business in the state – is something altogether different.

If the business scheme has been settled before the listening tour, the listener will tend to discount any and all unsettling data that cannot be imported into the prearranged plan.

Unfortunately, this is the course Mr. Malloy followed – one might say religiously – during his last listening tour.” Mr. Malloy, during his tour, was determined that nothing he heard would interfere with Plan A.

During his previous 17 town listening tour, Mr. Malloy got an earful from citizens and groups who hoped to convince the governor that a massive tax increase during a recession would not spur business growth. But, on that occasion, Mr. Malloy had already settled on Plan A, from which was willing to deviate under only one condition: If state worker unions could not be bullied to submit to Plan A, Mr. Malloy then would have recourse to Plan B, a scheme far less favorable to unions and municipalities.

When an investigative reporter from the Yankee Institute volubly objected to to certain features of Plan A, a union negotiator promptly reported the reporter to Attorney General George Jepsen, much in the way some no account sub-thug among Joseph Stalin’s crowd of accolades puffed up with spite would report ideological deviants to the NKVD.

Mr. Malloy’s plummet in recent polling data marks his distance from those he did not hear during his last listening tour. It is a measure of the governor’s drift from the ideas of others he might more profitably have adopted.

In celebrating Mr. Malloy’s steadfastness in pursuit of Plan A, political commentators in Connecticut were remarking on the governor’s political acuity rather than his sharp business sense. The Hartford Business Journal, unfortunately for Mr. Malloy, is less interested in Democratic Party politics than business. And Mr. Malloy’s dip in the polls is a telling commentary on what he calls Plan A, little more than a scheme to sustain the advantages unions have over taxpayers.

The governor’s communication people are advertising the new “listening tour” as “less structured” than his last spin around the political block, which may mean one of two things: either the governor’s “plan” to boost business activity in Connecticut is not fully formed, in which case their may be room in his new scheme for genuinely creative suggestions – such as the repeal of burdensome business taxes and regulations, the equivalent in the business world of the unfunded mandates so dreaded by municipalities – or the tour is yet another propaganda move to convince naive business people that a government can spur business activity by impositions that create market uncertainty and business flight to states that think less like politicians and more like the editors of the Hartford Business Journal.’

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