Saturday, October 29, 2011

Malloy’s Business Model

The road taken by Governor Dannel Malloy in providing specific businesses with disappearing tax breaks and other temporary business incentives is not the road less taken. Most recently, President Barack Obama provided Solyndra with millions in tax dollars because Mr. Obama wished to encourage the production of green energy. The problem was that the product made by Solyndra was underpriced – the sale price of Solyndra’s solar panels was less than the cost of production -- and it is only a slight exaggeration to say that company bigwigs, after successfully pressing the administration hard multiple times for tax subsidies, took the money and ran.

The Solyndra drama is still unfolding. Called to testify before a congressional committee, the top dogs at the bankrupt company took the fifth, and not because they feared they might in their testimony betray their company’s trade secrets. The captains of this industry were trying to avoid jail time.

The practice of enticing a company to produce a product by showering it with temporary tax reductions does not always lead ineluctably to jail house doors. Not all executives who accept tax dollars from presidents and governors are crooks and flimflam artists. Some are businessmen loathed to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Targeted tax credits, low interest loans and the like cannot be a magnet for all companies. If Mr. Malloy were to give a tax credit to every company in Connecticut, as well as companies considering moving into the state, his tax credits would be tax reductions; and tax reductions, most especially permanent tax reductions, would both attract businesses to the state and serve as a retaining wall for those businesses in Connecticut seeking a kinder and gentler entrepreneurial environment elsewhere.

Permanent tax reductions, however, are the bane of heroic politicians. Tax reductions produce red ink in the short run, the only run most politicians on the make are interested in. And, worst of all, the way to black, after a politician has cut taxes, requires painful spending cuts. Once cut, a tax is difficult to resurrect. Tax credits and other devises purporting to encourage business growth are more easily revoked. When the state of Connecticut decided during the administration of former Governor Lowell Weicker to institute an income tax two decades ago, it set its foot irrevocably on a spending path it has trodden ever since. Off in the hinterland, other companies, observing the drift of the state over many years, maintained a discreet distance. Within the state, companies that could move to greener pastures elsewhere did so, and prosperity has been frozen to the spot for twenty years.

Like Mr. Weicker, Mr. Malloy’s first act on becoming governor was to institute the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history, more wounding than Mr. Weicker’s income tax because Mr. Malloy’s tax increases were added to Mr. Weicker’s, at the time the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history. Mr. Malloy’s multiple tax increases considerably broadened the tax base.

Signing his jobs program recently in the company of Republicans leaders who previously had been ejected from the room while Mr. Malloy negotiated with unions, the governor boasted, "How often to you see this happening in Washington? Putting people back to work and making Connecticut more business-friendly aren't goals owned by any one party and they aren't owned by any one branch of government."

Goals are all fine and good, but there are some Republicans who continue to insist that Mr. Malloy’s policies will not move Connecticut toward a desirable and effective goal line. Much of the cost savings Mr. Malloy threatened to apply to unions in his Plan B budget never made it out of the gate. Some applied cost reductions were rescinded after union members were bludgeoned by the leaders of SEBAC to accept a slightly revised Plan A, and the cost savings option most welcomed by Republican leaders in Mr. Malloy’s jobs creation package is the formation of a study group to examine ways in which the state may save money – another one of those.

Mr. Malloy’s tax increases are real, permanent and deep, while much of his cost savings measures are theoretical, temporary and highly attenuated.

A business writer for a state-wide paper who cannot be accused of conservative rhetorical thuggery described Mr. Malloy’s jobs creation program this way: “On Wednesday night the state legislature committed a walloping $626 million on basically the kitchen sink of jobs programs. If it might work, it's in there: farm restoration, outright corporate greenmail, loans for dry cleaners, cash for manufacturers to train workers, a massive boost for tech investment, bribes for companies to hire unemployed people, airport development zones, expanded film tax credits and much, much more.”

The chief problem with top down, government inspired stimulus programs aimed at creating jobs for businesses is “that we can't create demand for their goods and services. And that, more than money, more than trained workers, more than slashing red tape, is what they need.”

Got that right.

The Occupy Everything Front: Tea Party vs. OWS

From the Daily Cardinal, a University of Wisconsin paper:

“A neighboring hotel's staff alleged voiced concerns about having to recently escort hotel employees to and from bus stops late at night due to inappropriate behavior, such as public masturbation, from street protesters.

“In addition, officials agreed further occupation should not be allowed to continue without restrooms on site to avoid further public health violations.

"’You can't be affecting the safety and health of other people around you,’ Madison Fire Prevention Officer Jerry McMullen said. ‘With the public health violations and the complaints I've heard, I don't believe it meets the spirit of the ordinance to a street use permit.’"
In Manchester, New Hampshire, the Union Leader reports:

“A city woman is accused of pimping a 16-year-old girl she met in Victory Park during the Occupy NH demonstrations.”

Hardy protestors in Providence Rhode Island preparing to confront an early winter storm look to George Washington for inspiration, the Associated Press reports:

"’Everyone's been calling it our Valley Forge moment,’ said Michael McCarthy, a former Navy medic in Providence. ‘Everybody thought that George Washington couldn't possibly survive in the Northeast.’"
However, winters are neither kinder nor gentler than most police:

“But the dangers of staying outdoors in some of the country's harsher climes are already becoming apparent: In Denver, two protesters were hospitalized with hypothermia this week during a storm that brought several inches of snow.”

And in New York, the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, the Daily News reports:

“Fights are erupting among Occupy Wall Street protesters, so much so that one corner of Zuccotti Park has emerged where protesters say they won't go for fear of their safety.”

A millionaire siting had been reported by the San Francisco Chronicle at the Occupy Oakland site:

“As Mayor Jean Quan finished fielding reporters’ questions Friday afternoon at City Hall about the clash between police and protesters earlier this week, she was suddenly drowned out by cheering coming from Frank Ogawa Plaza for Occupy Oakland’s newest celebrity guest: documentarian and political activist Michael Moore.”

While anecdotal comparisons have been made between the Tea Party movement and the anti-capitalist OWS, no reports on the Tea party movement have featured frequent fights, pimping opportunities, masturbation or millionaire anti-capitalist Palm D’Or recipient documentarians. Tea Party folk do not erect tents or stroke erections in public. It is always well to note points of difference when one makes comparisons.

The Occupy Everything Front: Tea Party vs. OWS

From the Daily Cardinal, a University of Wisconsin paper:

“A neighboring hotel's staff alleged voiced concerns about having to recently escort hotel employees to and from bus stops late at night due to inappropriate behavior, such as public masturbation, from street protesters.

“In addition, officials agreed further occupation should not be allowed to continue without restrooms on site to avoid further public health violations.

"’You can't be affecting the safety and health of other people around you,’ Madison Fire Prevention Officer Jerry McMullen said. ‘With the public health violations and the complaints I've heard, I don't believe it meets the spirit of the ordinance to a street use permit.’"
In Manchester, New Hampshire, the Union Leader reports:

“A city woman is accused of pimping a 16-year-old girl she met in Victory Park during the Occupy NH demonstrations.”

Hardy protestors in Providence Rhode Island preparing to confront an early winter storm look to George Washington for inspiration, the Associated Press reports:

"’Everyone's been calling it our Valley Forge moment,’ said Michael McCarthy, a former Navy medic in Providence. ‘Everybody thought that George Washington couldn't possibly survive in the Northeast.’"
However, winters are neither kinder nor gentler than most police:

“But the dangers of staying outdoors in some of the country's harsher climes are already becoming apparent: In Denver, two protesters were hospitalized with hypothermia this week during a storm that brought several inches of snow.”

And in New York, the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, the Daily News reports:

“Fights are erupting among Occupy Wall Street protesters, so much so that one corner of Zuccotti Park has emerged where protesters say they won't go for fear of their safety.”

A millionaire siting had been reported by the San Francisco Chronicle at the Occupy Oakland site:

“As Mayor Jean Quan finished fielding reporters’ questions Friday afternoon at City Hall about the clash between police and protesters earlier this week, she was suddenly drowned out by cheering coming from Frank Ogawa Plaza for Occupy Oakland’s newest celebrity guest: documentarian and political activist Michael Moore.”

While anecdotal comparisons have been made between the Tea Party movement and the anti-capitalist OWS, no reports on the Tea party movement thus far have featured frequent fights, pimping opportunities, masturbation or millionaire anti-capitalist Palm D’Or recipient documentarians. Tea Party folk do not erect tents or stroke erections. It is always well to note points of difference when one makes comparisons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Pig, Another Poke

Duane Billington, a retired engineering technician and civic activist from Naples, “fought for 18 months against Jackson Laboratory's plan to expand in Florida,” according to a story in the Hartford Courant.”

Ultimately Mr. Billington was successful. Jackson Laboratory pulled up their negotiating stakes in Florida.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s chief of staff, Roy Occhiogrosso, read about the failed attempt to pitch the deal to Florida in a newspaper, evidentially shared the information with his boss, and a contingent from Connecticut was sent to Bar Harbor Maine to negotiate a deal with Jackson Laboratory administrators. The Courant story does not mention the names of members of the Connecticut contingent sent to negotiate with Jackson. The deal apparently was consummated and a letter of intent was signed between the parties.

When two members of the General Assembly, Senator Len Suzio and Senate Republican leader Leonard Fasano, asked to see the memorandum of understanding between the state and Jackson, they were sternly rebuffed. Malloy officials asserted the documents contained trade secrets that could not be disclosed to members of the General Assembly who would be asked to provide funding for the deal. The same claim was made in Florida, an overreach that some say soured the state on the deal.

Suzio has scoffed at the transparent dodge.

“I've got a business guy here who fell off his chair laughing,'' Suzio said of a colleague's reaction about trade secrets. “Why would there be any confidential information in a letter of intent? We're not asking for the disclosure of secret formulas. It's laughable.''

Many of Suzio’s questions were bridges too far; Mr. Malloy’s aggressive administration very early acquired the habit of pushing things through with minor participation on the part of the people’s representatives. Republicans in the General Assembly were simply pushed out of the way during budget negotiations.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Malloy administration has to some extent been trying to sell the Democratic dominated General Assembly a pig in a poke. The Malloy-Jackson deal, according to the Courant story, “is scheduled to come to a vote Wednesday in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Malloy is calling for the state to borrow $291 million to construct a new building on 17 acres of state-owned land at the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington and provide $99 million in research money for Jackson. The nonprofit institute is pledging to create 300 jobs within 10 years and 600 jobs within 20 years, making it slightly larger than the Florida plan in jobs and state subsidies.”

Mr. Billington certainly is not shy of reporters.

"They couldn't find a home here in Collier County or Sarasota because they don't have a product to deliver,'' Mr. Billington told a reporter. “Their business is to produce genetically altered mice for other scientists to study and use in experiments. This thing they're going into is a totally new deal for them. They have no expertise. It's an exercise in venture capitalism. It could work, and it might not.''

Jackson Laboratory has had success in genetically altering mice sold to prospective buyers in other research facilities. The Connecticut operation would break new and untested ground for Jackson, which now is seeking to move into an entirely different field, that of genomic medicine, the study of genes and genetic interactions that, according to a 26-page brochure that was distributed to Connecticut legislators, are "essential to creating new medicines and treatments for some of humankind's worst diseases and conditions.''

Mr. Billington told the Courant reporter, “We're glad to be rid of them. I feel bad for the state of Connecticut if you all have politicians who are swallowing the Jackson line hook, line and sinker.”

This is the second time the Malloy administration has asked the Democratic dominated General Assembly to swallow an unpalatable deal. Asked to vote on a budget the details of which had not been finalized in negotiations between Malloy administration officials and SEBAC, a union coalition authorized to negotiate contracts, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly persuaded their caucus to vote in favor of an unfinished budget. The leaders of the Democratic caucus, President of the Senate Don Williams and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, apparently like the taste of hooks and lines and sinkers.

Mr. Donovan, SEBAC’s best friend in the legislature, is running for the U .S. Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District.

Since the Malloy administration enjoys an insuperable majority in the General Assembly, it does not need Republican votes to pass measures the details of which have not been adequately ventilated in public. Calls on the part of Republicans to put off the vote Wednesday until the pig in the poke – minus the trade secrets, which always may be redacted in publically disclosed documents – has been put on public view and debated fully by the General Assembly will no doubt be ignored by the Malloy administration. And the deal will go down on Wednesday, possibly with the concurrence of some Republicans in the General Assembly who have acquired a taste for hooks, lines and sinkers.

All the “buts” will not arrive until much later.

Mike Hyde, Jackson’s Vice President and fund raiser, no longer concerns himself with Mr. Billington's criticisms. "I'm delighted to be in Connecticut,” he has said. “It's a great state. I really don't have any hard feelings about what happened in Florida. This is here. This is now.”

Florida rejected Jackson’s best offer because the state is flat on its back and broke, unlike Connecticut. For now, at least, the state is flush in quickly disappearing funds owing mostly to the largest tax increase in its history imposed upon it by its “shared sacrifice” governor. This is here. This is now.

And the future? Let the future eat cake.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Connecticut’s Social Gospel

What might be called Connecticut’s social gospel is prospering under the hand of progressive Governor Dannel Malloy. Should anyone doubt that Mr. Malloy is a born again progressive, he has only to pay heed to remarks the governor made at a progressive panel discussion in Washington D.C., the epicenter of modern Democratic progressivism.

When president CEO of the Center for American Progress John Podesta, former White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, asked Mr. Malloy to display his progressive credentials, the governor unscrolled a partial list that included:

• The passage of Connecticut’s new earned income tax credit program

• The decriminalization of marijuana use in small portions, “the third most robust of its kind in the country,” according to CTNewsJunkie

• The passage of a law providing in-state public college tuition rates to undocumented Connecticut students

• A new law outlawing discrimination against transgendered individuals

• The implementation within the Department of Correction of a new risk reduction credit program that some think will reduce prisoner recidivism

• An executive order that provides a path for state child care workers and personal care attendants to unionize

• And, not mentioned by Mr. Malloy at the progressive conference, a pledge to sign a bill abolishing Connecticut’s death penalty

A bill abolishing the death penalty was presented during the administration of Mr. Malloy’s predecessor, Jodi Rell, who vetoed the bill. That attempt arrived on the heels of Michael Ross’ murder spree. The bill Mr. Malloy has pledged to sign will be presented following a particularly horrific crime in Cheshire.

Mr. Malloy’s crowning achievement was the passage of Connecticut’s paid sick day law.

“This year,” CTNewsJunkie reported, “Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass a law mandating some employers provide paid time off for workers when they are ill.”

A pleased Mr. Malloy told the gathering of progressives, “So it was, I think, a pretty progressive agenda,” the passage of which was made easier by a General Assembly dominated by like-minded progressive Democrats.

The progressive social gospel in Connecticut is eclectic and politically pragmatic, its doxology wedded to no firm principles. This makes the gospel infinitely elastic. The same governor who on Monday raises taxes both on businesses and individuals can on Tuesday appear before a union group and assure them that at heart he is Samuel Gompers, which is reasonable enough. But then to reappear on Wednesday before yet another business group to sooth and stroke them with his plan to create jobs is a bit of a stretch for most chamber of commerce types who may have graduated from Capitalist University. The disjunctions do not seem to trouble Mr. Malloy, and indeed, once economic prosperity is coupled with crony capitalism the disjunctions disappear altogether. If job production is dependent on governors who pick and choose economic winners and losers, capitalists are reduced to beggars at the throne, and those who cozy up to power win the spoils. The invisible hand of commerce rewards entrepreneurs according to merit, which is determined by consumers who vote for products with their dollars. The visible hand of crony capitalism rewards political benefactors, the prizes being given out by politicians most of whom have never met a payroll or employed a worker who was not on the public dole.

When political parties did this sort of thing during the real progressive era, progressives and muckrakers in the media made it a point to inveigh against both the crony capitalists and governors and presidents who fed them from the public trough. The whole point of progressivism Teddy Roosevelt style was to bust up monopolies created by an alliance between powerful businessmen and politicians. Even Mr. Roosevelt, the scourge of monopolists, agreed to waive the Sherman Antitrust Act during the panic of 1907 so that U.S. Steel, owned by acquisition maestro J. Pierpont Morgan, could acquire Tennessee Coal & Iron (TC&I) to avert a Wall Street collapse of companies too big to fail.

That was then. Modern day Pierpont Morgans are made in Washington – and in the states by progressive governors who lavish upon them tax money in amounts that would bring a blush to the cheek of Mr. Morgan.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jackson Laboratory, The Done Deal

Jackson Laboratory has found some important friends in high places in Connecticut. Among them are Governor Dannel Malloy and, almost certainly, the Democratic caucus in the General Assembly, which has tended thus far to march to the music of Mr. Malloy’s drum on all issues of importance. Here and there, critics of the deal privately arranged between the governor and Jackson have surfaced.

“Republicans,” one commentator wrote, “are right to question the deal and get as much information as possible. But by the experts’ accounts, this is a good risk for Connecticut. And as in so many other ways, Connecticut should not be like Florida.”

Jackson was considering a move to Florida, but the deal in that state was never consummated. It has become part of the narrative of Connecticut Democrats supporting the deal that the governor of Florida failed to engage in the negotiations and so the state lost out on a promising deal that a wide awake Connecticut governor thereafter snatched from Florida’s jaws.

Connecticut 1, Florida 0.

Mr. Malloy, an activist governor, has vowed to remake Connecticut. Previous governors have been content in improving the general business climate in the state so that all businesses large and small, relying upon a set of governmental laws and regulations that did not favor one business over another, could plot their futures and compete together on what former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal use to call “a level playing field.” In bygone days of yore, if a regulation or a law did not apply equally to the local barber shop and a large employer such as Pratt & Whitney, that law or regulation would die in utero, because in the glory days of the republic laws and regulations were general and equitable. In the modern period, brimful with lobbyists and crony capitalists, governors see fit to determine the economic future of states by remaking business environments -- while in the process rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies.

Oh, happy day.

The “deal” to which the commentator above referred is, of course, the “private arrangement” worked out between Mr. Malloy and Jackson Laboratory to move the Jackson’s research operations to the UConn Health Center (UCHC) in Farmington.

Prior to the deal, Mr. Malloy had awarded the health center nearly a billion dollars, presumably to improve its failing operations. The installation of Jackson at the reconfigured UCHC will cost Connecticut taxpayers an additional $291 million -- initially. UCHC, a failing enterprise before Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly decided to douse it with money, has been a tax sponge for decades. Jackson Laboratories is a successful non-profit business, which means that, unlike other overtaxed businesses in Connecticut, the research laboratory will not be returning tax dollars to the state. As a general rule, non-profits are tax revenue losing operations because, among other reasons, they do not produce a taxable product. The tax revenue value of Jackson rests in its magnetic quality: It is supposed by eternally optimistic Democrats that a research complex involving Jackson and Connecticut’s educational institutions will in time attract to the state tax revenue producing businesses.

Unlike Jackson, Pfizer of New London, a large pharmaceutical company that also engages in research, is a tax revenue producer. Interestingly, Pfizer was given tax credits and loans by the state when it opened operations, but recently the company had moved jobs out of state after the deal between the company and the state had been fulfilled and tax reductions had disappeared.

As a former communications director for state Democrats, the commentator above may, at least emotionally and ideological, still have a dog in the fight, but he generously acknowledges that “Republicans are right to question the deal and get as much information as possible.”

And there is the rub.

Some Republicans, much to the annoyance of Mr. Malloy and Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s chief cook and bottle washer, are asking for information that has not been forthcoming. They want to see the agreement arranged between Mr. Malloy and Jackson before they vote to commit tax money to what may or may not be a promising project. Their request has sent the deal makers into a crouch position that revolves around trade secrets. The General Assembly, which will be asked to pony-up the tax money that will keep the UCHC afloat for the near future, appears to have swallowed this lame excuse; even top military secrets that the U.S. government is loath to share with Wikileaks are provided on demand to the relevant overview committees in the U.S. Congress, possibly because national congressmen still take seriously their constitutional obligation to represent the will of the people to both presidents and lobby infested businesses. On such occasions, damaging information, made available to the committees, is redacted before the committee reports to congress and the people.

In a recent hearing that will determine the fate of millions of tax dollars, state legislators were told they had less than two hours to question representatives from Jackson. The people’s representatives were limited to one question apiece, and when Senator Leonard Fasano, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said he wanted to see the written agreement signed between the governor and Jackson, he was told to go fish.

"Everybody understands the term 'trade secrets' - meaning they are pieces of information that you don't want your competitors to know about,” said gubernatorial mouthpiece Occhiogrosso. “The law says we can't release the document. What he asked for, he can't get by law.''

At least not before the shameless, representation averse, rubberstamping General Assembly votes in favor of the funding.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Resistance, A Self Interview

Q: Whither the Connecticut Republican Party?

A: It’s good question. I put up a blog recently that was a review of a Chris Shays interview with Dennis House on “Face the State.”

Mr. House asked Mr. Shays whether he thought Connecticut had drifted so far to the left as to make it impossible for Republicans to win a seat in the U.S. Congress. Mr. Shays is running as a Republican for Senator Joe Lieberman’s seat. Mr. Shays said “Absolutely,” he thought the state had moved very far to the left.

The blog produced a response from Jon Kantrowitz, a liberal commentator who is himself an articulate unabashed progressive. “By the way,” Mr. Kantrowitz wrote, “it's true - the state has gone too far to the left to elect a Republican - and thank goodness for that!”

There are some few Republicans about who are not as thankful as Mr. Kantrowitz, though it is difficult to disagree with the major premise of his proposition -- namely that the state has moved very far to the left. The entire U.S. congressional delegation is Democratic. The state’s safer districts are occupied by unapologetic progressives like Mr. Kantrowitz, now moving up within the national Democratic caucus food chain. U.S. Reps Rosa DeLauro and John Larson are both pull-no-punches progressives. In what used to be called swing districts, congressional Democrats are a bit more cautious. In the General Assembly, state Democrats had until just recently a veto proof margin in both houses. And during the last election cycle, the Democrats captured the gubernatorial office, previously held by moderate Republicans and one ex-maverick Republican, former senator and governor Lowell Weicker, the father of Connecticut’s income tax. In addition, all the state’s constitutional officers are Democratic. So, I think it is safe to agree, along with Mr. Kantrowitz, that Democrats pretty much own the whole political kit and caboodle, while disagreeing with him sharply that we ought to thank God for this turn of events. While God may not be a Republican, one likes to believe He is no political plutocrat.

Q: Where does that leave Republicans?

A: In a resistance posture. The point of a party surely is to offer resistance to the reigning power. History has not dealt kindly with parties that have cooperated with the prevailing regime. The one party state, like a rolling stone, gathers no moss, but the single party state is an invitation to corruption; which is why, come to think of it, God created the two party system.

Q: Why haven’t Republicans been able to offer effective resistance to what you have characterized repeatedly in your Connecticut Commentary as Connecticut’s one party state?

A: Because Republicans have too often cooperated with the prevailing regime. You cannot cooperate without being coopted. It is important to understand that Mr. Kantrowitz is partly right. The Republican resistance has been washed away in Connecticut. Here and there, one finds brave blades of grass shooting through the concrete. During the last elections, two Republican conservatives – state senators Len Suzio and Joe Markley -- won office, both of whom may be considered part of a resistance vanguard. When Bill Buckley, who used to live in Stamford, started National Review, he proclaimed that the mission of the magazine would be to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” Rolling stones don’t like that sort of thing.

I’ll give an example. Len Suzio, a conservative Republican who won his seat in a special election, has lately come out against deal made between Mr. Malloy and Jackson Laboratory. The Laboratory is to be attached to the UConn Health Center (UCHC), a business black hole that has absorbed millions of dollars in tax bailouts. Shortly after his budget passed muster with SEBAC, Mr. Malloy handsomely rewarded UCHC by giving it about a billion dollars.

The laboratory, apparently a successful non-profit enterprise that will itself generate no tax revenue, will absorb tax money from both federal and state grants. Mr. Suzio’s objection to the deal was forceful: “This is a lose-lose situation for Connecticut taxpayers. All the risk money is coming from the state of Connecticut. ... We don't get a nickel of interest in the technology that they develop. That is stupid."

Senior advisor and chief spokesman for the governor Roy Occhiogrosso responded that the project was a solid investment in personalized medicine and bioscience. This was a smart rather than a dumb risk: “There's a difference between taking a smart risk and a dumb risk. This is a smart risk. Taking a risk that 10 football games a year will turn the economy around is not that smart. The next thing you know, Senator Suzio will go on the radio to try and convince the people of Connecticut of his view on the flatness of the world. No matter how he tries to spin it, this is the best thing to happen to Connecticut in a long, long time.''

Mr. Suzio did not mention the “B” word on this occasion: Connecticut is broke, broke, broke. But the important political point is this: Even if Mr. Suzio is right, it will not matter – because Mr. Malloy has the votes in the General Assembly to do whatever he likes. If Mr. Malloy wanted to build a Ziggerat in Farmington – which, by the way, would produce a momentary spurt of jobs – he could do it, because the Republican resistance has no battalions. Napoleon’s quip to a pope who offered him a mild resistance was to ask: How many battalions has the pope? Answer: Not enough to resist the prevailing power of the day.

And THAT is the problem for Connecticut.

Mr. Malloy passed his budget through the General Assembly without being put to the inconvenience of discussing the matter with leading Republicans who, unlike union representatives, were wholly shut out of the process. The governor’s budget figures were such as to produce what I have called in the blog and in columns an artificial surplus of about a billion dollars. Real surpluses are produced when taxes are not increased but the state never-the-less realizes an increase in revenue owing mostly to increased business activity. Mr. Malloy’s artificial surplus is now flowing into a series of crony capitalist projects. Mr. Suzio is right about the UConn Health Center: It’s a budget busting black hole the state – which is broke, broke, broke -- can little afford to support. Attaching a non-profit, non-tax generating research center to the UCHC does not make the combination more profitable. This may be the first time in Connecticut’s history that a serviceable neck has been draped around an albatross.

Q: So, What’s wrong with crony capitalism?

A: Glad you asked. Anyone who is a proponent of the free market must be an anti-monopolist. I am here using the word “monopoly” to indicate existing monopolies, many of them stamped “Made in Washington D.C.” – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac come to mind -- as well as political systems that tend towards monopoly. This is why the free marketer must be an anti-monopolist: Monopolies, which are cornered markets, frustrate competition, and competition is the economic virtue par excellence of a truly liberal society.

In the modern period, monopolies have been facilitated by governments. In a truly free market that fosters competition, cornered markets are less possible. It is when companies are given an opportunity to use government as a tool to gain an advantage over their natural competitors that monopolies flourish.

The process that produces state sponsored monopolies is called “crony capitalism.” The crony capitalist and his facilitators tilt the playing field in favor of large monopolistic enterprises by using presidents, governors and legislators to gain an advantage denied them in a free and fair competition.

This unfair advantage has its analogue in the sports arena. Americans, who like to see the best man or team rise to the top in a fair competition, would react disapprovingly, I like to think, to any “fixed” competition in which the presumed impartial judgment of a referee has been purchased by one side or another; and yet this is precisely what happens when a single political party has captured control of a congress or an executive department or a city or a state or a town.

There are signs all about us that singe party states and governments are infested with corruption. Alert politicians and – as I like to think -- wide awake journalist will be able to read the signs of the times. There is no reason to suppose that reporters, editors and commentators in the legacy media are comfortable with monopolies of any kind, political or economic.

There is an old biblical saying: By their fruits shall ye know them. We are familiar with the bitter fruits of crony capitalism. What applies to business monopolies applies as well to political monopolies.

The government of China, for example, is as much a political monopoly as – just to reach for an example – the government of, say, Bridgeport Connecticut. Of course, the consequences of corruption in China are more severe because there are in that country no mediating democratic institutions, such as a critical press, to soften the iron fist of an unquestioned authoritative regime. The arc of monopolistic political regimes bends towards fascism; they corrupt absolutely because they needn’t worry that their political customers will be able effectively to demand a better service or a better product. Within the one party state, any hope of political competition has been effectively abolished. Political monopolies are nursery beds of corruption, because they permit governments to rent to favored groups instruments of government power that ought to be used for the benefit of all.

The legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic. And it may seem to some who are paying attention that the remarks made several times by Governor Dannel Malloy to unions to the effect that he will never forsake them – “Oh, my darling” -- indicate that unions need not tailor their interests to the general interest, so long as both the governor and the General Assembly have their back. Indeed, it seems that unions were not made for the state; the state, rather, was made for unions. The very last party to sign off on Connecticut’s budget was not the legislature, the preeminent organ of government in democracies and republics, but SEBAC, a coalition of state unions that one commentator has called Connecticut’s fourth branch of government.

So then, we have in Connecticut a Democratic governor, a General Assembly dominated by Democrats – one of whom, Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, himself unusually friendly to union interests, is running for the U.S. House in the 5th District – a media blithely undisturbed by the prospect of a one party state, and a U.S. congressional delegation composed entirely of Democrats.

That is a recipe for, among other things, crony capitalism and its attendant corruptions.

In connection with politicians – the crony capitalist makers – the age old question arises: Qui Bono? Or to put it in the modern idiom: What’s in it for them?

Lots. They are given an edge on their competitors, usually smaller fry, and they have arranged with the politicians to share sacrifices: Taxpayers will share in the paying of their debts when their companies fail; and they will take the lion’s share of profits. Given these arrangements, is it any wonder that the public has soured on businesses too big to fail and those politicians who have contributed their mites to the creation of monopolistic enterprises?

I’ve been amused by the notion that Republicans have a lock on millionaires. Within the Democratic Party, we are invited to think, there are no millionaires: no Dick Blumenthals or Rosa DeLauros, both of whom are millionaire Democrats coasting along in seemingly impregnable Democratic districts.

According to the myth peddled by Democrats, businesses in the United States prop up Republicans with generous campaign contributions – but rarely Democrats. Nothing could be further from the truth. The late Senator Ted Kennedy could depend on regular infusions of campaign cash from captains of industries in the United States: Ditto former Senator Chris Dodd, showered for years by financial groups that he was supposed to be regulating as chairman of the banking committee. Mr. Dodd has now cashed in on his many years of experience in the U.S. Senate by becoming a lobbyist for Tinsletown. Mr. Dodd’s Hollywood adventure began only a few weeks after he had shaken the dust of the U.S. Congress from his feet, about a month after he had told his supporters on the left that he would never, ever become a lobbyist.

Money continues to be the Mother’s Milk of politics, and mouths are everywhere. So long as crony capitalists feel that they can be assisted in cornering markets by politicians, they will continue to buy politicians. In the last Republican-Democratic campaign in the 1st District, the incumbent Democrat, John Larson raised $2.7 million, much of it from financial interests; his Republican competitor, Ann Brickley, managed to get along with a slender $250,000.

If one may be so bold as to measure the wealth of a politician by the contributions he receives, we should conclude that Mr. Larson was the millionaire, while poor Mrs. Brickley was in financial campaign rags. Mr. Larson was in this race – and indeed, in all his races – the Mr. Bumble of the Democratic workhouse, while Mrs. Brickley was Oliver Twist, begging for more workhouse gruel. It’s wonderful – to me anyway – how desperately people who have been writing about politics in the state most of their adult lives cling to these myths, the work, for the most part, of ideological ad-men and Orwellian spin-masters.

In late September, as FBI agents were carting boxes of information from Solyndra -- the environmentally friendly, technologically advanced, politically correct, and now bankrupt company into which the Obama administration had poured its heart, soul and taxpayer money – administration officials, including the president, were avoiding comment. We may wonder why. The media, so far, has focused its attention on the vast sum of money “invested” in the now bankrupted solar panel producer. That focus is not misplaced. But we ought not to forget several other important points.

The e-mails now pouring out of the scandal suggest that the whole business was an improperly vetted photo opportunity for the president and vice president. Any kid selling lemonade from a lemonade stand might have told any one of the financiers in the Obama administration now busing themselves with ending a seemingly intractable recession that when a product’s cost of production exceeds the amount of money one expects to receive through sales, the company is incurring a risk of bankruptcy. In an S-1 filing a year ago, Solyndra reported its average sales price was over $3.20 a watt, about 65% more than leading crystalline-silicon PV manufacturers. Its cost of manufacturing was an astounding $6 a watt. These figures are irreconcilable.

Solyndra was not one of those companies in the United States deemed too big to fail, and so it failed – which means, a bankruptcy judge will be assessing the company’s assets and selling them off, parceling out a portion of redeemed value to the company’s investors. In Solyndra’s case, about a half billion dollars of tax money was frontloaded into the collapse. The Solyndra loan was part of a $38.6 billion program to aid green energy that the Washington Post says has created exactly 3,545 jobs, about $10,888,575 in loans per job – all vanished. Perhaps, with the FBI on the case, someone will go to jail. In the case of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the tax money was both frontloaded and backloaded; the company is now bigger than ever, and no one went to jail.

The government financing of select companies it chooses as prospective winners in a competitive market place is wrong for multiple reasons. Government intervention in decisions generally made by consumers distorts demand signals and creates moral hazards for investors. Government is notoriously inept at choosing winners; increases in the price of stamps have not prevented the U.S. Post Office from painful consolidations. But the most objectionable feature of Crony capitalism is this: It funnels profits to private investors and shifts debts to taxpayers.

Somehow, something in my bones tells me that millionaire Democrats in safe districts like Mr. Larson, or private business- punishing former attorneys general like Senator Dick Blumenthal or tax the millionaire proponents, who continually deny that our country and state are beset with a spending rather than a revenue problem, do not pass their days worrying about such things. But the people of Connecticut should – because we are living in a time in which our problems will kick in our front doors if we ignore them. They are coming to sleep with us in our beds; they will be sitting in a chair next to us at our work sites. They will be sitting in the passenger seats of our cars.

We no longer have the comfort of ignoring them.

The chief difference between Republicans and Democrats in the coming campaign will be this: Republicans are interested in increasing prosperity through a series of painful but necessary reforms. They want small, efficient and responsive federal, state and municipal governments and an expanding economy. Democrats want to expand the range of influence the government has over our lives. One party would shrink the private sphere and expand the public sphere; the other would do the opposite. We must never forget that in democracies and republics the citizenry gets the kind of government it votes for. Having crossed the bar to the 21st century, we should wonder and worry whether the challenge thrown down by Ben Franklin at the founding of the republic will be properly answered. When asked by a woman what kind of government the founders at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had given to the country, Franklin said, “A republic madam – if you can keep it.”

We are under a moral obligation to those who came before us and to those who will succeed us – to keep it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chris Shays’ Face The State Appearance With Dennis House: Keeping It Real

In the course of his interview with former State Rep. Chris Shays, host of Face the State Dennis House pressed Mr. Shays on a series of issues. A transcript of portions of the interview follows below, accompanied by some Connecticut Commentary notes.

Dennis House (DH): So, you’re planning on a primary, regardless of the convention in May, right?

Chris Shays (CS): There will be a primary. If I win the convention, I assume others will want to primary; and if I don’t win the convention, I’m in a primary.

This is a pretty straightforward declaration of Shays’ intentions. It is not altogether certain that Linda McMahon would primary should Mr. Shays be declared the Republican convention nominee. In her last run for the U.S. Senate, Mrs. McMahon snatched the convention nomination from former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who went on to wage an on-again off again campaign against her.

DH: If you lose in a primary, would you run as an independent?

CS: Well, I don’t think about losing, but I’m running as a Republican. And that is what I’ve always done. I have always been a Republican; have never been on another line, always helping my fellow Republicans in their elections, working harder for those I believe in, being respectful for those I am maybe not as excited about…

Mr. House was not satisfied with the non-answer. Independent campaigns are not unusual in Connecticut. Former Republican U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, turned away by his party in a re-election campaign, later started his own party and ran for election as governor as an independent. Current Senator Joe Lieberman, who managed to defeat Mr. Weicker with some help from Weicker-whipped Republicans, later lost a primary campaign to Ned Lamont. Mr. Lieberman then went on to wage an independent campaign and retained his seat.

Mr. House tried again with a follow-up question.

DH: So, you’re ruling it out, a [potential] independent run?

CS: What I am saying to you is I can’t imagine doing that.
Mr. House pressed on.

DH: If Mrs. McMahon wins the primary, will you support her in the general election?

CS: Depends on how she wins it.

DH: What do you mean?

CS: Well, it depends if she runs an honest and fair race. If she attempts to do to me what she did to Rob Simmons, good luck. I mean, what she did to Rob Simmons was outrageous.

DH: You’re saying she was dishonest in that campaign?

CS: I’m saying what she did was outrageous – accusing him of being a big spender. This guy wasn’t a big spender – accusing him of a lot of things that he wasn’t, and not recognizing that he was a good and honorable man who served his country with incredible distinction. So, the answer to your question is: I don’t intend to lose. But the question will be: How do you conduct a race?

These charges require additional close questioning. Mr. Shays’ notion of outrageous campaign behavior is a little severe. There were no dramatic groin kicks in Mrs. McMahon's campaign against Mr. Simmons. Generally, one is not in the habit of bestowing compliments upon opponents in campaigns.

The Hartford Courant certainly was not in Mrs. McMahon’s corner before, during or after the Republican nominating convention. The paper’s report on the convention mentions no outrageous declarations damaging to Mr. Simmons on Mrs. McMahon’s part. The paper did note, however:

“The battle between Simmons and McMahon was notable for its acrimony. Simmons made character an issue, consistently questioning the sexually graphic and violent content promoted by the WWE, as well as the use of steroids within the industry.

“McMahon played up her outsider credentials. ‘Linda has not spent her life in politics,’ said Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham, who seconded McMahon's nomination. ‘If the people of Connecticut want a career politician, they'd just send Chris Dodd back for a sixth term.’”

The paper also mentioned an uncharacteristic reversal in Mr. Simmons’ pledge not to pursue a primary should Mrs. McMahon win the Republican nomination.

“Throughout most of the campaign, Simmons had repeated stated his intention of dropping out of the race if he did not win the backing of convention delegates. But on Friday night [when Mrs. McMahon secured the nomination], Simmons said he would wage a primary.”

In a story filed a month earlier, the Courant noted that Mr. Simmons took up a cudgel Democrats had effectively weilded against Mrs. McMahon:

“After months of relying on campaign surrogates to attack chief rival Linda McMahon, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Simmons publicly questioned the character of the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO, who is also seeking the GOP nomination.

“Simmons stood on the north steps of the state Capitol before a half-dozen reporters and cataloged what he called McMahon's lack of credibility and disrespect for the law. He blasted her for painting herself as a political outsider when her company has spent a million dollars on Washington lobbyists. He said her answer to a questionnaire in connection with her appointment to the State Board of Education constitutes a lie.

“And, most significantly, Simmons cited McMahon's role in a federal investigation into steroid use by professional wrestlers. According to a 1989 memo obtained by both The Day of New London and the Politico website, McMahon tipped off a Pennsylvania doctor about the impending investigation.

“Said Simmons, ‘These are the actions of someone who does not respect the law and it leaves one to ask the question: How can you write the laws if you don't feel bound by them?’

“McMahon was never charged with any crime in connection with the incident. McMahon spokesman Ed Patru accused Simmons of trading in ‘the politics of personal destruction’ and said his charges are a desperate move by a candidate whose public approval numbers had fallen sharply”
Mr. House was curious what a Shays campaign against his likely Democratic opponant, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, might be like.
DH: What do you think of Congressman Chris Murphy in the race?

CS: You know what, you’ll have to ask him.

This answer visibly stunned Mr. House. His appropriate follow-up question has a “Say what?” flavor to it.

DH: Well, what do you think? You’re going to have to run against him.

CS: But you know what, I’m not going to talk about him. I’m not going to talk about … I’d be happy to tell you this: the job that the president has done, and the Democratic congress, has been outrageous…. We have a congress that is not facing up to what we have to do, and I put Chris Murphy in there with others.

Three possibilities suggest themselves: Either Mr. Shays had not yet had a chance to review Mr. Murphy’s record in office as a prelude to his campaign, perfectly understandable since Mr. Shays had only recently filed campaign papers; or Mr. Shays felt that any attack on Mr. Murphy would be, at this early point in his contest, premature; or he felt it would be strategically inappropriate to show his hand to Mr. Murphy before he disposed of Ms. McMahon either in the Republican nominating convention or in a primary.

DH: You were the last republican congressman in New England when you left. Do you think the state has gone too far left to elect another Republican?

CS: Oh, absolutely. The problem with this state is that it doesn’t understand economics; the legislature just doesn’t get it. They don’t understand they’re chasing away wealth. They don’t understand that they’re chasing away employers. We have not had a net job increase in 20 years.

It should be pointed out that Mr. Shays is answering only one barrel of Mr. Houses’ double barreled question. Mr. Shays does not “absolutely” believe that a Republican cannot be elected in a state that has drifted so far to the left; otherwise, he would not be putting himself to the trouble of waging either a nominating convention contest or a primary campaign against a Republican candidate who may or may not be chosen by the leaders of his party to represent them in the U.S. Congress. Given Mr. Shays' answers above to Mr. Houses' probing questions, one may assume Mr. Shays would be loathed to initiate an independent run for the senate. As a faithful long term Republican, Mr. Shays has strongly implied he would be reluctant to wage a campaign against he congressional nominee of his party.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peeling Away The UConn Health Center Onion

In a potentially explosive Hartford Courant story, reporter Josh Kovner discloses that no fewer than seven – possibly more – lawsuits claiming sexual harassment and workplace retaliation by UConn Health Center administrators have been filed against that part of the UCHC branch that provides mental-health and medical services to the state prison system.

Two women involved in two of the cases, Mr. Kovner reports, “both seasoned clinical social workers at different high-security prisons, said that nothing an inmate ever did or said to them ever made them feel as uncomfortable and compromised as did the actions of a UConn correctional health care manager or a co-worker.”

The cluster of law suits filed between mid-May and September, Mr. Kovner reports, “is the largest cluster of employment cases to hit management at Correctional Managed Health Care since the UConn Health Center first assumed the no-bid contract with the Department of Correction in the mid-1990s. The contract, now hovering around $100 million a year, has regularly been renewed without competition from private correctional health care companies or public-private partnerships.”

Had the UConn Health Center, heavily reliant on successive bailouts involving taxpayer money, been a private enterprise, it may not have survived over the years. Tax payer commitments have created within the health center an atmosphere of inviolability that may well have contributed to the many suits filed against it. Enterprises that cannot fail, state-run or privately owned, create a moral hazard that contributes to business failure.

State and federal bailouts are not just bailouts: They are permission given by the state in the form of money grants clearly rewarding activity that, under ordinary circumstances in the private sphere, would plunge an unprotected business into bankruptcy and court receivership. The state’s continuing bailouts of the UCHC send to its business administrators the implicitly clear message: “Failure with you is not an option because, however dramatic your failure, the resources of the state will rescue you from the inevitable consequences of your failing administration.” Such bailouts facilitate and encourage irresponsible and possibly illegal practices.

The same sense of inviolability is created on the legal side by statutes that require the state’s attorney general to represent state agencies in prosecutorial matters. In cases of gross negligence within the private sphere, employees may sue administrators for money damages. But state statutes, quite reasonably, protect those defending state agencies from money damages by conferring partial or total immunity on the state’s prosecuting agencies, the attorney general’s office and the chief state’s attorney.

This immunity necessarily creates a moral hazard. Both offices are dependent upon information provided to them by the administrators of state agencies who in some cases may use a rented immunity from prosecution as a shelter from activity that may be either ethically or legally suspect.

Any innocent whistleblower in state service, caught between the grindstones of seeming perpetual litigation, which impoverishes the whistleblower, and the sheer power of state resources deployed against him, will be intimidated from calling to the attention of correcting agencies abuses that would not be tolerated outside of state service.

Some responsible legislators are on the verge of proposing that the work done at UCHC should be privatized. Government oversight agencies are passably competent in overseeing problems that occur in the private marketplace. But to suppose the fox might competently guard the hen house may be tempting the fox beyond his endurance to resist.

It is said that the Malloy administration may consider privatizing the UCHC branch that provides mental-health and medical services to the state prison system. Republican State Senator Rob Kane and Democratic Representative Bryan Hurlburt both have called for increased public oversight of the UConn Health Center’s suit battered division. Both the state – and Mr. Malloy politically – are heavily invested in that division of the UCHC that only a short while ago was awarded an exclusive contract by means of a questionable no-bid procedure to provide services for the state’s prisoners.

If the UConn Health Center is broken, those associated with the Malloy administration who nodded approval when prisoner services were awarded to UConn though a highly questionable “memorandum of agreement” now own the problem.

They should fix it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Process Nullification And The Death Penalty

Juries, occasionally rising above the deadening process of the law, will engage in what lawyers call jury nullification. Jury nullification involves putting aside process in favor of justice. Instead of ruling as a judge or the law might wish, a jury occasionally will throw process to the wind and bring in a surprising verdict.

Death penalty opponents in Connecticut, some of whom are leaders in the General Assembly and the judicial system, have for the past few decades been practicing what might be called capital felony process nullification.

The idea is effectively to vacate jury findings by absurdly extending the legal process in death penalty cases. Such jurists and legislators, reasoning that the death penalty is an abomination – even in cases in which it may be justly applied, such as in multiple murder cases or cases in which a capital felon already sentenced to life in prison takes a life in prison or in terrorist cases or in cases in which the crime is especially heinous – encourage and permit an endless process of litigation that fairly assures the capital felon will die of old age in his prison bed before justice is visited upon him. In so doing, a fetish is made of process and just sentences are nullified.

Additionally, the cost of capital felony executions are artificially increased so that those opposing capital punishment may argue with some degree of plausibility both that capital felony executions are prohibitively expensive and also that they needlessly prolong the suffering of the family members of the victims of capital punishment. This last objection is on a par with the absurd defense of one who murders his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. In Connecticut and across the nation, common sense still holds to the view that murderers are primarily responsible for murder and that in certain cases capital punishment is a condign and just punishment.

Apart from a direct reference to a specific case, most judgments concerning capital punishment are irresponsibly useless. In the case of Joshua Komisarjevsky, recently found guilty by a jury of his peers of capital felony in the murders of three women in Cheshire, opponents of capital punishment have marshaled a series of pointless generic arguments.

It may be true in some cases that capital punishment has been unjustly applied, but this is not true in any of the capital cases awaiting final disposition in Connecticut. And it is very difficult to argue plausibly that the two convicted criminals in the Cheshire murders are not guilty of the crimes of which they have been accused because a) both have admitted to the murders, and b) both were found guilty of the crimes after just trials that bear no relation at all to acts of vengeance.

In fact, nearly all the generic arguments marshaled against capital punishment – that capital punishment is inherently racist; that it is judicial murder; that it cannot be applied with a sufficient degree of certainty; that the penalty should be abolished because it is not applied in every instance in which it may be appropriate – fall to the ground when applied to the Cheshire murders.

As generic objections are brought before the court of public opinion in specific cases, the justice of the objections themselves may be measured and affirmed or rejected. And that is why, in the Komisarjevsky case, those opposing capital punishment resort to all-purpose objections: Capital punishment is offensive to soon to be normative views of morality; it creates emotional hardships for family members who must run the knout of seemingly endless appeals; it is expensive; it is a fraud.

In retreat from specificity, anti-capital punishment opponents fall back upon what one might call the argument from inevitability: History is marching against capital punishment, and soon it will be overthrown here in the benighted United States. Why not get rid of it in Connecticut, recently the scene of two separate mass murders, now?

The argument from inevitability, however, does not have quite the force of the murders committed by Mr. Komisarjevsky and Mr. Hayes, which is why when average, non-vengeful people in Connecticut are asked whether capital punishment should be retained in the Cheshire murder case they respond in numbers too large to ignore that it should.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Malloy on Taxes: So What?

Tom Dudchik’s popular site, Capitol Report, featured a picture of Democratic Connecticut Govern Dannel Malloy side by side with an accompanying picture of Republican Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman. Mr. Malloy looks a little stern and sour, lips pursed, jaw jutted forward, rather as if he had just told the leaders of SEBAC that they would have to wait on their Cost of Living Increases for a couple of years, while fighting off as he did so an army of benighted tax resistors still smarting from the largest tax increase in Connecticut’s history. Mr. Heineman, on the other hand, appears relaxed and expansive. The title below the pics reads, in an assertive font:


The lede on another report was not cheery:

“In Nebraska, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman enacted the biggest tax cut in state history, and the state's unemployment rate of 4.2 percent is now the second lowest in the nation.

“In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy enacted the largest tax increase in state history this year, and the state's unemployment rate of 9.1 percent ranks in the bottom half in the nation.”

Ditto in the case of a dozen other media reports.

Mr. Heinman chairs the National Governors Association. In that capacity he came to Hartford to boast about the advances his state has made in perilous economic times.

The tax cuts and the consequent economic growth in his state have propelled Nebraska into the top 10 “most business friendly” states:

"It made a real difference in our tax-competitive climate, our business-friendly climate. We know we need to do more. It's all of these things combined. It's not just one. It's taxes. It's regulation. It's workforce development. It's education.''

Mr. Malloy, it need hardly be said, is big on all three -- education, taxes and regulation – though Mr. Heinman was at pains not to point fingers, governors being a bit more collegial than, say, tempestuous congressmen. Republicans as a general rule tend to regulate government whenever possible, leaving Democrats to regulate everything else. Both nationally and stateside, Democrats have been much in the habit recently of transferring tax monies from have-not hard pressed taxpayers to large businesses too big to fail or flee.

The fear nationally is that large failed companies will increase unemployment if they are permitted to go belly-up; therefore they must be propped up by so called millionaires, defined by tax-hungry congressmen in Washington as anyone making more than $200,000 per year. The states fear that large companies, few of them in danger of bolting, may, if they are not supported by hairdresser taxes, scoot across the border into more tax friendly states, giving an advantage to tax cutting governors – almost everyone but Mr. Malloy. And so the large financially secure are bribed to stay, for the time being.

Mr. Malloy responded that Connecticut was also business friendly. The governor first had to kill the Hydra before he could begin to straighten out the state. He raised taxes on hairdressers he said “… so that I could look business in the face and say, 'Listen, I believe we've got the bulk of our problem behind us. We've balanced a budget. We've taken the steps necessary to wrestle a structural deficit to the ground and we move forward…I think we are a tax haven. Although our personal taxes may be high, primarily driven by our over-reliance on property taxes, if you look at our corporate tax structure, we have one of the lowest effective rates on the corporate level.''

Given the large opening in Mr. Malloy’s tent, a critical camel rushed in. Said Republican leader John McKinney:

"So Governor Malloy thinks this is a tax haven? I had no idea. I think the governor's comments that we’re a tax haven show that the governor doesn't get it. Maybe the multi-national large corporations are attracted by a lower corporate tax rate, but our economy is driven by small business owners. ... The way to tell business that you have your house in order is to get spending under control. He doesn't cut spending. He increases spending. I'm almost left speechless at the fact that here's the governor of Nebraska talking about cutting taxes and our governor is believing that increasing taxes improved our business climate. Every small business owner pays the personal taxes that Governor Malloy thinks are too high.''

The Governor’s conference will be a ten day affair. It’s flu season. Perhaps Mr. Malloy can arrange to catch something.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rangel Hearts Larson

U.S. Congressman Charlie Rangel, noted progressive and tax evader, compliments fellow congressman John Larson on his discernment in supporting the “Occupy Wall Street” movement :

“It is truly historic when we see union groups, leaders like Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson, and fellow Members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus all come out in favor of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This new wave of support gives me renewed hope that we can bring about change in America.”

Prowling around the periphery of the movement are a few Ron Paul supporters such as Chris

One supposes that neither Mr. Rangel nor Mr. Larson supports Chris’ fervently expressed attack on the Washington Industrial complex.

The beat goes on.

Shays On Representation

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays spoke at Yale early in October shortly after he filed papers to kick off his candidacy for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The following citation is taken from the October 7th issue of the Yale Daily News:

“Shays is known as a leader among centrist Republicans and an advocate of socially moderate views. He defended his moderate position by saying that ‘a party needs to be broad enough to allow a representative to represent his or her entire district.’ Because his district is moderate to conservative, Shays said that it is his duty to encompass the views of all the people.”

In the state of Connecticut, Democrats outnumber Republicans about two to one, and so called independents or unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats by a slight margin. Given these statistics, Mr. Shay’s notion of representation – namely, that it is “the duty a representative to encompass the views of all the people” – would necessarily impel him to vote the Democratic line on bills in proportion to their presence in Connecticut. In other words, he would be disposed to vote for Democratic measures by a ratio of two to one. That is what a purely numerical representation would involve, and on issues of great importance, it probably would be wise for him to vote the straight Democratic line, thus assuring that his austere demands of true representation should be met, while also assuring his re-election to office.

There is no way, other than votes on congressional measures, for Mr. Shays to push his party to the left so that the Republican Party would broadly represent the interests of the greatest number of his constituents, which in Connecticut would be Democrats. Since independents have few representatives in Congress, their interests and programs are beyond finding out.

Republicans devoted to changing political demographics in their state, rather than succumbing year after year to the ratio of Republicans to Democrats cited above, naturally would resist Mr. Shays’ view of representation.

Too many commentators speak of moderation as if it were an ideological position, rather than a safe harbor between positions. There is nothing especially redeeming about moderation, except as moderation applies to personal habits and inclinations. Which of us, living in the time of Samuel Adams, would wish to take a moderate view of punitive taxation? Martin Luther King was not known for supporting a moderate position on the question of Jim Crow.

Some fights are worth fighting, because in some cases the fate of nations rests on the outcome of battles fought in the field and in legislatures by men of sound principle who know that success depends on armies both legislative and military. No man is an army unto himself. And the fate of states is rarely secured by putative go it alone mavericks who drift to the left – very easy to do in a state dominated by Democrats – and present themselves to the members of their own party as so called centrists. If the center in Connecticut politics cannot hold against the persistent pressure that has pushed it leftward, it may be because no effective countervailing resistance had been offered by moderate, compromising Republicans.

The course recommended by Mr. Shays in his address at Yale is not one that has not been tried; it is one that has been tried and found wanting. Mr. Shays, it should be recalled, was the last so called “moderate” Republican U.S. Representative in New England before he was up-ended by Democrat Jim Himes, who successfully presented himself to members of the 4th District as a Democratic moderate, surely in the age of Obama a vanishing species. But the moderate Republican in Connecticut is also a species that has vanished, perhaps because independent voters, given an opportunity to choose between sunshine Republicans and authentic Democrats, will cast their votes for authenticity.

Deflated Republicans will not be anxious in a primary to vote for Democratic look-alikes. The independent vote will always be a question mark, but the drift of independents away from the national direction set by Mr. Obama suggests a spirit of resistance that may not be satisfied by congressmen sent to Washington to compromise with the prevailing regime. When the context of the political play has changed so radically, there is little room for repetitive second acts.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ripening Scandals: Solyndra And DEEP Do-Do

The Solyndra energy scandal is beginning to ripen.

ABC News is now reporting that a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama who was hired to help oversee the administration’s energy loan program “pushed and prodded career Department of Energy officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife's law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public late Friday.”

And here in Connecticut, Jon Lender of the Hartford Courant is reporting that the wife of state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner Daniel Esty, Mrs. Elizabeth Esty, a former state representative now running for the U.C. Congress, has received campaign contributions from Northeast Utilities, an energy company regulated by her husband:

“With controversy already enveloping the $205,000 in consulting work that Daniel C. Esty did for Northeast Utilities before he became commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, it turns out that NU executives also have contributed to the congressional campaign of Esty's wife, Democrat Elizabeth Esty, public records show.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Incoherent Poetry From U.S. Rep. John Larson

U.S Rep. John Larson, who likely will be at his post in Connecticut’s 1st District long after Hell freezes over, has given an exclusive interview to the Daily Caller  that is, to put it charitably, incoherent.

Larson addressed a group of activist and journalists from Egypt and Tunisia on October 4 and later gave an exclusive interview to reporter Vince Coglianese of the Daily Caller in the course of which he said that the United States had drawn inspiration from their countries. It is required on such occasions to throw rhetorical bouquets in the direction of the audience. Mr. Larson continued to advise the activists that as a result of their exertions the United States, considered by some to be a crucible of constitutional revolution, is experiencing its own “Arab Spring, if you will.”

The Arab Spring in the United States was occurring on Wall Street even as he spoke. The “Occupy Wall Street” protest is now in its second week, and plans are afoot to plant sprigs of the coming revolution in other state capitals, including Hartford.

At the point when Mr. Larson let loose his effusions, The American Arab Spring was yet a diffuse movement; protesting groups had not issued, as is usually the case with leftist anti-business groups, a set of demands, preferably non-negotiable. But the group’s website outlined a common frustration: “The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent.”

No one, even on the far fringes of the right, is for greed and corruption.

Following his speech, Mr. Larson told the Daily Caller that left wing activists with “’the right morals’ are pushing America’s democracy to ‘evolve.’”

Mr. Larson, his communication director nowhere to be seen, then lapsed into a sort of pre-campaign poetry:

“They see the inequities that exist in this country, and the point is that even an advanced democracy like ours — the Constitution says, ‘We the people, in order to create a more perfect union.’ We’re not there. It’s something that continues to evolve... They’re standing up and saying the things they feel deep inside that are working unjustly and unfairly against them, and everybody ought to take heed, that it’s not only an ‘Arab Spring,’ but there is an ‘American Fall’ as well.”

Presumably, Mr. Larson would be grievously disappointed should protests against greedily capitalists in the United States evolve into the kinds of mob scenes that have become common in Greece, a country flat on its economic back once considered the birthplace of both democracy and republican government.

Following Mr. Larson’s hearty approval of the group’s aims and perhaps reacting to claims that its program was rather amorphous, The American Arab Spring protesters released their non-negotiable demands on their web site. They are, according to a piece in Fox Nation, as follows:

Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" (sic) by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise (sic) the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr (sic).

Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. (sic) investors.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

Demand four: Free college education.

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same (sic) bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.

Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone (sic) can travel anywhere to work and live.

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah (sic) or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

Not all of the 13 demands (why 13?) are equally absurd. And who in the world is the “I” in "Demand one", and why is the word “books” capitalized and imprisoned in quotes? Is the author of the “demands” perhaps a student anarchist preparing to default on his student “loan”?

Following publication on their site of the demands, someone at the official site, while not disavowing the list, lately has claimed that the demands are not "formal" and were issued by a single commentator.

In any case, the 60’s radical political showman Abbie Hoffman would be proud of the Arab Spring authors. Mr. Larson, not having had the advantage of seeing the demands before he made his remarks, may be considering, some political watchers suppose, a re-think of his perhaps premature poetic ejaculations


An Iranian military commander, apparently agreeing with Mr. Larson’s views, said on Sunday, October 9 that “the protests spreading from New York's Wall Street to other U.S. cities are the beginning of an ‘American Spring,’ likening them to the uprisings that toppled Arab autocrats in the Middle East,” according to a recent Reuter’s story.

"'The failure of the U.S. president to resolve the Wall Street crisis will turn this economic movement into a political and social movement protesting the very structure of the U.S. government,' the official IRNA news agency quoted Gen. Masoud Jazayeri of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as saying Sunday."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shays The Spoiler?

A recent poll by Public Policy Polling indicates that Chris Shays may have a certain value, among Democrats mostly, as a spoiler candidate.

The poll shows Linda McMahon leading former U.S. Rep. Shays in a Republican Party primary by an unsurpassable margin of 60-27 percent. Since primaries were first introduced into party politics, more or less as a democratic instrument to pry decision making from party bosses, primaries have been the gateway to general elections.

The 60-27 spread is a hurdle that would inspire second thoughts among most supermen politicians who are used to leaping tall buildings in a single bound. The spread among those in the state identifying themselves as “very conservative”, 81-14, is even more daunting.

Is it possible that Mr. Shays has agreed to play Rob Simmons to Mrs. McMahon in her second bid for the U.S. Senate?

Very early in the campaign for U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s seat, Mr. Simmons was leading the senator in some polls. Mr. Dodd’s prospects had run aground on several sandbars, one of which involved a pricy cottage on an 11 acre spread in Ireland the senator bought for a song, only $160,000, along with William Kessinger, a business partner of Edward Downe. Mr. Dodd and Mr. Downe, who pleaded guilty to insider trading and securities fraud in 1993, once owned a Washington condominium in partnership. Before President Bill Clinton left the White House, Mr. Dodd successfully lobbied the president to secure friend Downe a pardon, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Mrs. McMahon entered the race and was chosen as the nominee of her party at the Republican Party convention in Hartford, at which point Mr. Simmons, following party protocol, might have gracefully withdrawn. This he did not do.

Sensing a vulnerability in then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic senatorial nominee, Mr. Simmons decided to primary Mrs. McMahon. Mr. Blumenthal had several times falsely claimed he served in the Vietnam War, an imposture exposed by Mrs. McMahon and the New York Times. Mr. Simmons had served honorably in Vietnam, and several political commentators thought at the time that Mr. Simmons would be able to exploit the issue much more effectively than Mrs. McMahon. Serving honorably in Vietnam for 19 months, Mr. Simmons had been awarded two Bronze Star Medals.

Conducting a poor man's campaign, Mr. Simmons put his active campaign on hold but left his name on the ballot, in effect imprisoning for the duration support that might have gone to Mrs. McMahon. And so Mr. Simmons hung in there and hung in there and hung in there, while Mr. Blumenthal hit the mattresses, hiding out from prying journalist and coasting into office on his reputation as the nation’s most fervent consumer protection ad-man. Mr. Simmons’ challenge was, shall we say, sporadic, but disabling enough to shuttle a few votes in the direction of the Democratic Party’s camp. Mr. Simmons’ malingering was no help to Republicans, who still wince whenever his name is mentioned in polite circles.

Recent elections have been career enders for once seemingly impregnable incumbent politicians: Mr. Dodd left the congressional premises more or less under an order to vacate issued by both Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Lieberman, still doubtful about who he may endorse for his soon to be vacated seat, has had his day. National Democrats in the U.S. House, palsied and unable to produce a budget during the years they enjoyed a veto proof margin in the U.S. Congress, were given the heave-ho in the last election and replaced by combative conservatives. Surely, the recent flow of politics suggests that voters have taken a dark view of professional politicians who have passed along to a generation of Americans a legacy of unsupportable debt and joblessness, not exactly what former President John Kennedy had in mind when he announced the passing of the torch to a new generation of nation builders.

One senses in the air the fragrant odor of Jeffersonian gunpowder: Said Tom Jefferson, very much in a revolutionary mood, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.” The Jeffersonian spirit – “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” -- does not run hot in the veins of politicians who have spent a good part of their public lives in the middle of the road dodging commitments and principles.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Is DeLauro Self-Dealing?

You’re a rich girl, and you’ve gone too far
Cause you know it don’t matter anyway
You can rely on the old man’s money
You can rely on the old man’s money -- Hall and Oats Song

Human Events is preparing a story that may involve self-dealing on the part of 3rd District congresswoman Rosa Delauro and her husband Stanley Greenberg, whose firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, has done business with powerful beltway politicians.

Mr. Greenberg, the CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, boasts that his firm “is one of the world's premier research and strategic consulting firms. Beyond data, we provide the strategic insight necessary to develop the right messages to achieve our clients' goals. Smarter, faster and committed to our clients' interests: we work harder and think deeper than the rest.”

The list of Mr. Greenberg’s political clients includes such political shakers and movers within the Democratic Party as President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Vice President Walter Mondale and a host of both national and international corporations and issue groups.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research specializes in "political polling and campaign strategy, helping political candidates, parties, and ballot initiatives succeed across the country and around the world."

The lede of the Human Events story should spur some controversy in Connecticut: “Federal documents reveal a self-dealing relationship between a Nutmeg State congresswoman and her political consultant husband.”

At first blush, figures involving campaign contributions transferred over the years by Mrs. DeLauro to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and business deals awarded to Mr. Greenberg's firm seem to suggest a connection that is at best questionable.

According to Human Events:

“Federal Election Commission data reveals that over the past four election cycles, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) donated more than $ 1.2 million dollars to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Over that same time period, the DCCC paid $1.9 million for polling services to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. GQRR’s founding partner is DeLauro’s husband of 33 years, Stanley B. Greenberg….

“DeLauro's campaign donated $275,000 to the DCCC in 2005-2006, nearly double her $140,000 donation during 2003-2004, and the DCCC paid GQRR $382,996—down from the $472,708 GQRR received in 2003-2004.

“In the 2007-2008 cycle, however, when DeLauro’s campaign presented $51,400 to the DCCC in October alone, totaling $376,406, DCCC payment to GQRR rose to $464,200.

“In 2009-2010 DeLauro’s campaign raised its special October donation to $107,500; this increase, added to $325,006 for the entire year, sums to $432,506. The DCCC paid GQRR in two installments of $298,967 and $289,834, summing to $588,801, while Friends of Rosa DeLauro ranked among the DCCC’s top contributors.”

One of the of the wealthiest members of Congress, Mrs. DeLauro has won her past four elections by unbeatable margins, usually cresting above 20 and even sometimes 50 percent.

Human Events reports that Mrs. DeLauro may not have communicated to her donors via e-mails or fundraising letters that a good portion of campaign funds she has contributed to the DCCC has circuitously made its way back to her husband, who no doubt is grateful for the business.

Of late, Mrs. DeLauro has not attended closely to events that might well sink the political prospects of incumbent politicians representing more politically competitive districts than the 3rd, which has been held firmly in the grip of the Democratic Party for more than 30 years.

Since the district was first organized in 1837, it has been anchored politically by one of the state’s largest cities, New Haven, and its suburbs. The district occupies about four fifths of New Haven County, a small chunk of Middlesex County and Stratford in Fairfield County. Parts of two other large cities, Middletown and Waterbury, are also included in the district.

Cities in Connecticut have not shaken off the remnants of political organizations first formed and employed by party bosses back in the day when political parties distributed money to its favored politicians and favors to its generous campaign contributors. For this reason, urban political hubs in Connecticut tend to wag the district dog. For all but six terms, The Democratic Party has held the district. Departing U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman suffered his only general election loss in the district in a 1980 U.S. House race. In 1980, the price of gas rose above $1.00 for the first time, and in Connecticut’s cities the fragrant cigars smoke that filled the infamous back rooms of state politics still scented the air.

Not a few of Connecticut’s cities are still impregnable Democratic castles. But the trouble with well-fortified fortresses is that the guards on the walls, trusting in the impregnability of the fortifications, sometime sleep.

When Mrs. DeLauro, usually attentive to her district, lingered among well to do vacationers at the Hotel Poseidon in Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy while tropical storm Irene ripped through her district last month, some in Connecticut thought the snoozing was highly uncharacteristic. East Haven was hit hard, 25 homes along Cosey Beach having been condemned or swept away and dozens more damaged.

A video clip in which a tongue tied DeLauro seeks to justify her absence was not the 11 term congresswoman’s finest hour.

Now this.

The Komisarjevsky Trial And The Significance Of Pins

There was a point during the Cheshire murder trial when one of the defense attorneys representing accused murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky became concerned that small pins worn by family members of the murder victims might unduly prejudice the jury against their client.

The judge in the case, Jon Blue, ruled that the pins were not so indiscrete as to trip the prejudices of jurors.

The pin challenge by the defense followed by some months the publication of an interview Mr. Komisarjevsky gave to a reporter while incarcerated that was, the First Amendment still being the law of the land, widely covered by several state newspapers. The Komisarjevsky prison interview was fashioned into a hastily written book that found its way into libraries across the state. An effort was made, unsuccessfully, to pry the book from the hands of aggressive librarians conversant with the First Amendment.

Mr. Komisarjevsky, a very talkative fellow, also made a statement to police shortly after he was apprehended that was, most lawyers would agree, high incriminating, though Mr. Komisarjevsky was prudent enough to suggest in his statement that his companion in crime, Steven Hayes, earlier convicted of capital murder, had spread gasoline throughout the house and lit the fire intended to destroy evidence of their crime. This “evidence” included three victims, the wife of Dr. Petit and his two daughters, 11 years old Michaela and 17 year old Hayley.

So then, were the pins more or less prejudicial than Mr. Komisarjevsky several statements?

Most non-defense lawyers might agree that Mr. Komisarjevsky’s frequent admissions of participation in the Cheshire murders would more powerfully sway a jury in the direction of a guilty verdict than the discrete pins worn by family members that so alarmed defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan.

Catching sight of the pins, Mr. Donovan referred to those wearing them as the “Petit posse” and sought to prevent the members of the hanging mob from displaying the prejudicial pins in sight of prospective jurors. The pins, worn in memory of Mr. Petit’s wife and daughters, were intended to support, according to one report, “the education of young people, especially women in the sciences, and those affected by chronic illness and violence.”

Possibly it was at this point, in the early jousting among prosecutors and defense attorneys that usually occurs before any trial’s main event, that some trial watchers may have concluded Mr. Donovan was, in his assault on discreet pins, tilling the ground for future appeals. In death penalty conviction cases, appeals are necessary to run out the clock. And the more appeals the better, because protracted capital offense cases run up a tab. And the more tabs the better, because one of the generic arguments urged by death penalty opponents is that capital punishment is prohibitively expensive.

Since the death penalty itself is both an offense against God and nature, one should use every means at one’s disposal to overthrow it. Extremism in defense of virtue, the virulently conservative Barry Goldwater once said, is no vice. And if one must use a justly convicted murderer as a mere prop to overthrow a moral evil such as capital punishment, well then …

This argument is akin to that used by brother-in-law Roper in the Robert Bolt play, “A man for all seasons. Mr. Roper was asked by Thomas More how far he would go to cage the devil, to which he responded that he would cut down ever law in England to do it, receiving from the soon to be martyred More the following rebuke:

“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.”

Roper responds that the law itself has become More’s “golden calf,” a mere fetish that must be overthrown in the defense of a greater moral good.

The real question involved in all death penalty cases – What winds would blow if the law were to be cut down? – is not one that should be decided by clever Ropers committed to subverting death penalty laws. Jurists should aim at justice, which is the giving to all what is due them under the law. If the law must be changed, it should not be changed by legal chicanery – but by sober, morally driven legislators, like More.