Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Trouble With Lameduckery

The president’s office is time sensitive because of term limits. No president since Franklin Roosevelt has served more than two terms or eight years in office.

Mr. Roosevelt was the only president elected to a third term; his supporters pointed to the war in Europe as a reason for breaking with precedent. Mr. Roosevelt won a fourth term in 1944 during World War II but suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in office the following year and died. After more than a dozen years in office, the bloom had fled the rose.

The 22ndamendment owed its inspiration to a precedent established by President George Washington’s farewell address and Thomas Jefferson’s aversion to monarchy. In 1807, Jefferson wrote in reply to a query from Vermont’s legislature, “if some termination to the services of the chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally four years, will in fact become for life."

New York Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano reintroduced a bill in Congress early in January of this year repealing the 22nd Amendment, but the bill is not likely to pass, however infatuated more than 50 percent of the American public and 90 percent of the news media have become with wunderkind President Barack Obama.

The presence of a presidential term limit presents both opportunities and problems for the chief executive.

Mr. Obama was looking on the bright side of his lameduckery when he whispered to then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" to deal with contentious issues like missile defense after the U.S. presidential election.

During talks in Seoul, Mr. Obama “urged Moscow to give him‘space’ until after the November ballot, and Medvedev said he would relay the message to incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin,” according to a March 2012 Reuters report.

Two months after Mr. Obama begged Mr. Medvedev for more space, Vladimir Putin was elected, for a second time, President of Russia. The present Russian government, apparently unconcerned with Mr. Jefferson’s quibbles, is a product of centuries of monarchical government, followed by a promising but betrayed revolution, followed by 30 years of Stalinism, monarchy’s modern counterpart. Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev have managed to satisfy an apparent hunger in Russia for democratic forms by swapping jobs every so often, a modern tyrant’s answer to the 22nd amendment.

Had Mr. Putin been running for president of the United States, he would not have been eligible to serve, because the 22ndamendment is a bulwark against proto-Stalinist chief executives; it nips in the bud the megalomania of the larval tyrant by giving the president of the United States only two terms of “space” in which he may ruin the country and bring republican government to its knees.

Here is the hitch with lameduckery: At some point during a second term in office, it becomes obvious to presidential supporters that the duck is lame. At that point, politics pivots. During the second term of virtually every president who labors under the austere restrictions of the 22ndamendment, the president is found gathered together with his ardent supporters during his first term -- including party leaders in the Congress -- and everyone in the room realizes that there is but one lame duck in the room; the rest of them will be running for re-election long after the president has strut his hour upon the stage. They begin to think, dangerously, of surviving in a political universe that does not include the nominal leader of their party. This is a prelude to funeral rights, the beginning of the end of what the French call “la trahison des clercs,” the betrayal of the intellectuals, in many authoritarian regimes the footstools of megalomaniacal tin pot political saviors.

Modern monarchical and authoritarian regimes, both fascist and communist, solve the problem by having non-subservient intellectuals -- usually violently or artfully repressed in authoritarian regimes -- shot or imprisoned or socially castrated.

Authoritarian regimes fail for a good reason: The larger and more omnicompetent a central authority strives to be, the more incompetent it becomes; a government that strives to do everything will do nothing well. There are no small errors in fascist or quasi-fascist regimes. Even in Cuba, the balled fist is loosening: One half of the Castro tyranny, Raul, a boilerplate communist, recently announced that he was considering term limits.

In governments operating under republican constitutions, the pivot, that point during which a party understands that the captain of the ideological ship will soon be departing, occurs usually midway into a second presidential term.

Assuming Mr. Serrano is unsuccessful in scuttling the 22ndamendment, political commentators will begin mapping the ideological cracks in the Obama administration around the second year of the Mr. Obama's second term. A collapse in the economy will of course push the date closer to the beginning of his second term.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fatherless Families And Urban Crime

The doctrine of subsidiarity is easily understood. When you were a little boy or girl and left your room a bit messy, your mother would sometime invade your personal space and, noticing the socks on the floor, say something along these lines: “Hey, do you think I’m your personal maid?”

This was a rhetorical question. Even at that young age, before you were muscled into picking up your own socks, you knew better than to answer rhetorical questions coming from either your mother or father, the uber-enforcer in the family whose brawny word you had long since come to respect. You respected your father’s word because his word to you was his bond with you.

By so instructing you to pick up your own (insert proper adjective here) socks, your mother was paying tribute to the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that in any multiform political unit – such as a federated union of states – the principal actor should be the smallest possible unit affected by laws and regulations: If you could pick up your own socks, you should pick up your own socks. The smallest political unit in a society of competing political units, Aristotle says, is the family: The philosopher’s“Politics” opens with a discussion of the family as a POLITICAL unit. To better understand this politically subordinate structure and the principal of subsidiarity, one might ask the question: Why should Governor Dannel Malloy pick up your socks, even if he wants to be your maid??

What was true in Aristotle’s day is true in our own: The family, such as it is in 21st century America, remains a political unit. That unit among some segments of the population – for instance, black Americans in urban areas – has been decimated. More than decimated, in many instances, what used to be called the “nuclear family” has been aborted in what might be called its formative stage. For reasons most politicians prefer not to discuss, fathers in urban areas have fled fatherhood, leaving behind in their wake fatherless children and mothers many of whom are ill equipped to rein in anarchic boys who join gangs and engage in criminal pursuits.

Virtually every serious study of social pathologies and fatherless families demonstrates a positive correlation between the absence of fathers in homes and children’s cognitive development in school as measured by standardized IQ tests, achievement tests and school performance. The same studies show there are serious differential effects associated with fatherlessness. According to one comprehensive American Psychological Association (APA) study, “financial hardship, high levels of anxiety, and, in particular, low levels of parent–child interaction are causes of poor performance [in school] among children in single-parent families.”

The "Survey of Youth in Custody" conducted in 1987 found that 70% did not grow up with both parents, and figures often cited from a 1994 study of Wisconsin juveniles were “even more stark,” according to a piece in The Atlantic: “Only 13% grew up with their married parents. Here's the conclusion of Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan, the doyenne of researchers about single parenthood: ‘[C]ontrolling for income and all other factors, youths in father-absent families (mother only, mother-stepfather, and relatives/other) still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those from mother-father families."

Other reports indicate that children who live without a biological father in the home compared with their peers living with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents are on average at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse and to engage in criminal behavior.

How then does this growing political unit, the fatherless family, fit in with the federated system operative in the United States? In a federated system – a political organization that includes, families, neighborhoods, helping organizations such as churches and schools, municipal governments, state governments and the federal government – who gets to play the role of the absent father? And more importantly, will any substitute suffice?

In Chicago, the political nursery bed of President Barrack Obama and now the murder capital of the United States, the answer to the question, after fatherlessness has ripened into crime, appears to be lethal gangs, police and the courts. Gangs are criminal enterprises, and even compassionate police, judges and educators, remote and further removed in the architecture of subsidiarity than fathers, are poor substitutes. In the absence of a father in the family, gangs become a support system and the gateway to criminal activity; the police and the courts then are expected to mop up the resulting social dislocations.

There is no indication that “the lords spirituals” in the United States” -- which certainly includes, in descending subsidiary order, actors such as the president, the U.S. Congress, governors, state legislatures, municipal bodies and neighborhood helping organizations – have proposed serious and effective remedies that would reverse a process of social disintegration directly related to fatherless families. Like the police and the courts, politicians seem to be content with bills and measures designed to sponge up the blood on the streets caused in some part by the hapless legislation they have proposed that is, to put it in the most civil of terms, heedless of the real-world consequences of legislative palliatives.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Psychotropic Drugs, Violent Movies And Videos, The Senator From Tinseltown And Sandy Hook

Following the slaughter of the innocents at Sandy Hook, there was some muttering very early on concerning a possible connection between mass murderer Adam Lanza, his penchant for playing violent video games and the killing of 20 students and 6 faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Very quickly, public attention became focused, almost fetishistically, on the kinds of weapons Mr. Lanza brought to the school – two semi-automatic pistols, a semi-automatic Bushmaster long rifle and a shotgun that Mr. Lanza left in the trunk of the car he apparently stole from his mother, whom he murdered before leaving for the school.

One supposes Mr. Lanza did not receive permission from his mother to use her weapons to slaughter 26 people, and it seems reasonable to suppose in the absence of a definitive criminal report -- which inconveniently will not be available until after Connecticut’s General Assembly has enacted bills purporting to thwart possible future Sandy Hooks – that Mr. Lanza came by his cache of weapons through illegal means.  State's attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III, who is overseeing the investigation, expects the investigation “will go on for a number of months, but I hope that it can be [finished] within the time frame that I testified to before the Legislature, which is the summer."

In this respect, Mr. Lanza is no different from any criminal who gains unauthorized access to weapons used in any criminal activity. It is the unauthorized use of weapons that is chiefly responsible for the bulk of murders committed with guns in the United States. There is a possible technological solution to the problem of unauthorized gun use. Governor Dannel Malloy, who has been generous in distributing tax dollars to some multi-million dollar firms in Connecticut, so far has not “invested’” any tax dollars to encourage among Connecticut gun manufacturers the production of smart gun technology, which enables the use of a gun only for those designated by the purchaser as authorized users. There are several gun manufacturers in what is still called “the provision state,” so named because revolutionary Connecticut has provided arms to the U.S. government since its founding.

Before leaving for Sandy Hook Elementary, Mr. Lanza took the precaution of destroying the hard drive on his computer. Recent stories indicate that forensic investigators have recovered partial information on two computer drives.  It has been said that Mr. Lanza had spent an inordinate amount of time viewing and playing violent video games. A large cache of such games were found in the home early in the investigation.  

Other notorious mass murderers in recent years also have been frequent viewers of violence. After his arrest for having shot up a movie theatre in Colorado during a showing of a batman film, 24-year-old James Holmes, reportedly “remained in his murderous Jokerpersona” in jail while awaiting arraignment before a judge.

“He thinks he’s acting in a movie,” a prison employee told the Daily News.

Along with other mass murderers, Mr. Homes may – or may not -- have been taking psychotropic drugs.

The scientific research establishing a connection between violence, suicide and the use of psychotropic drugs is so well established that Sen. Owen H. Johnson in March 2000 was induced to submit to the New York legislature Senate Bill 703 which, according to a summary, “… adds a new section to the New York executive law requiring police agencies to report to the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) on certain crimes and suicides committed by a person who is using psychotropic drugs. These crimes include assault, homicide, sex offenses, robbery offenses, firearms and other dangerous weapons offenses, kidnapping and arson.” Unfortunately, the bill was smothered in the crib after it had been referred to the finance committee. It is not known whether Connecticut’s General Assembly is considering such a bill.

The American Psychological Association reports that “The use of psychotropic drugs by adult Americans increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2010, with one in five adults now taking at least one psychotropic medication, according to industry data.”

Often prescribed in the absence proper evaluations by mental health professionals, psychotropic drugs, along with frequent viewing of violent scenes on videos and movies, some observers believe, very well may be a trip wire in mass murder sprees.

Not surprisingly, former Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, now chief lobbyist for the multi-billion dollar motion picture industry, disagrees. Having represented Newtown in the Congress for more than 30 years, Mr. Dodd said in a recent interview that the Sandy Hook slaughter is much more than an abstraction to me.'' The former senator even now, two months after the event, loses his composure whenever the mass murder is brought to his attention. Even so, business is business: “Movies stimulate, provoke, challenge and educate. The best movies elevate and enrich. They dare us to think differently, to walk uncomfortably in another person's shoes.''
There are lots of empty shoes in Sandy Hook.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Media, Malloy And The Consolidation Of State Agencies

The very title of the story in CTMirror was ominous: “Howls as Malloy tries to shorten leash on watchdogs.”

And in the lede paragraph, a dark joweled Richard Nixon is resurrected from his bed of infamy: “Governor Dannel Malloy is attempting the most dramatic makeover of the state's watchdog agencies since their creation as post-Watergate reforms in the 1970s.”

Watergate redivivus!

The media knows how to raise the roof when its much vaunted independence is threatened. And somewhere in the background a corrupt ex-felon is rolling around in the muck: “But critics wonder why Malloy, a Democrat, is inviting a political backlash with his second move on the watchdogs, whose independence the General Assembly defended when a Republican governor, John G. Rowland, tried to weaken them a decade ago.”

Rowland too? This is serious.

The three putatively “independent” agencies Mr. Malloy is attempting to consolidate under a brand new agency, the Office of Government Accountability or OGA, are the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), the Office of State Ethics (OSE), and the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC)

In his new budget, Mr. Malloy has called for the elimination of a Corrupticut era provision that shielded the three watchdog agencies from budget cuts by compelling the governor to transmit his unrevised budget requests to the watchdog solicitous General Assembly.

Once the provision is eliminated, critics suppose the governor’s office will be able to control the three agencies' purse strings, thus bringing them to heel whenever the FOIC orders an administrative agency to release to the media public data that might bring a blush to the cheek of some Malloy factotum, or the SEEC uncovers political thuggery in one or another of the state’s urban one-party corruption pots, or the OSE finds that this or that agency is in violation of some inscrutable ethical rule as ambiguous as the Oracle at Delphi.

The OSE recently destroyed a quarter-century's worth of public records detailing the finances of present and former public officials because, said executive director Carol Carson, the agency prior to her arrival had “suffered through well-publicized internal problems” and its records were in disarray. In fact, the operations of the agency were also in disarray. On at least one occasion, the OSE disposed of a case when it lacked a proper quorum to adjudicate, an oversight compliant courts are almost certain to wink at.

Under the old dispensation, the investigative and legal staffs of the oversight agencies are superintended by agency heads answerable to independent citizen commissions that adjudicate elections, ethics and Freedom of Information complaints. Under the Malloy regime, the executive director of the new Office of Government Accountability, appointed by the governor, would be vested with the authority to assign and/or discipline lawyers whose duties might include the investigation of the governor. That reorganization would pretty much turn supposed independent agencies into the governor’s liege lords, subject always to executive whimsy.

Soon after Victims Advocate Michelle Cruz pointed to failings in an Earned Risk Reduction Credits program fashioned by undersecretary for criminal justice policy Michael Lawlor – one of the violent criminals given credits under Mr. Lawlor’s program celebrated his early release by murdering a store clerk in Meriden – her job was posted and she was quickly replaced by a Cook County, Illinois political operative.

This is not a governor who lies down quietly under the lash of media criticism. And critics of his “independent” agency consolidations abound. President of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information James Smith quickly jumped into the flames.

"These proposals, said Mr. Smith, “can only be explained as an effort to gain control over the guarantors of transparency and integrity in government. We ask why the Malloy administration is determined to emasculate the independent watchdogs?"

Vice President of Common Cause Karen Flynn was flummoxed. “It's perplexing," said she. "His recommendations save no money, but they take away the independence of the watchdogs," a chord strummed also by House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero: “There's (sic) only two reasons in my opinion. One is you are trying to save money. That's clearly not the case. The other is control and power. It has to be the latter."

Since Mr. Cafero has recently expressed interest in running for governor, it will be easy for Malloyalist operatives to dismiss his ruminations as political posturing, even when they are reasonable.

As the independence of the three watchdog agencies are drawn within the orbit of powerful politicians, the real losers will be the crowd of petitioners, not always news agencies, gathered near the foot of the throne begging a more powerful and compromised government for simple justice.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Sandy Hook Legislative Template

It is abundantly clear from remarks made by the members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation, both before and after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, that the litmus test of effective gun legislation is that such legislation should prevent future Sandy Hooks.

U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal said following Mr. Obama’s speech, in the course of which the president devoted several minutes to the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “…we should be joining together to enact real change. Change that will help our law enforcement officials keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm. Change that will ensure that laws on the books are enforced. Change that will strengthen our mental health system. And change that will keep our children safe from tragic acts of violence…” (emphasis mine) Mr. Blumenthal characterized that portion of the president’s State of the Union address in which he mentioned the slaughter of school children in Newtown as a “stirring call to action against gun violence in America, to prevent another tragedy like the one that befell Newtown (emphasis mine)”.

It should be noted that at this point the criminal investigation report on Sandy Hook is still in a process stage; a definitive report likely will be issued AFTER Connecticut’s General Assembly has produced its legislative remedies.

Thus far, investigators have not affirmed that the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, was suffering from a mental disorder. When a parent of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook slaughter asked Lieutenant Paul Vance, one of the lead investigators, to share with the parents of the victims Mr. Lanza’s medical records, she was told that such data must await a final report on “a pending criminal investigation.” The notion that Mr. Lanza was suffering from a mental disorder presently is little more than inference drawn from the horrific nature of the crime; no hard data thus far has been publically presented to show that Mr. Lanza was mentally incapacitated. Neither does the public record indicate that Mr. Lanza had taken psychotropic drugs; a few commentators have pointed to causal links between some psychotropic medications and mass murders.

Mr. Blumenthal is not the only member of Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation to link prophylactic gun control legislation with the Sandy Hook mass murders.

Newly elected U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said, “For those of us in Connecticut, we are still living with the horror of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, but the healing process is helped knowing we have a president who is going to do everything in his power to make sure no community ever has to go through this again. There are no excuses anymore(emphasis mine).''

Newly elected U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty was moved “by President Obama's call for real and meaningful change to save lives in the wake of the Newtown tragedy (emphasis mine)."

And longtime U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro thought it important to point out that “Victims of gun violence all had names. We should remember to honor them by putting an end to this (emphasis mine)."

The question arises: Are members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation overpromising?

Consider: As yet there is no data publically confirmed by criminal investigators or members of Governor Dannel Malloy’s investigatory committee that the Sandy Hook shooter was suffering from a mental defect instrumental in provoking his crime. None of the data released so far suggests that Mr. Lanza had been taking psychotropic drugs, which some claim to have triggered other mass murders in the United States and elsewhere.

No public data suggests that Mr. Lanza had lawful access to the weapons he brought with him to Sandy Hook Elementary School, an arsenal that included two semi-automatic pistols and a shotgun apparently left in the trunk of his mother’s car, in addition to the semi-automatic long rifle Mr. Lanza used to mow down 20 students and six faculty members of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The mass murderer’s weapon of choice was a very lethal semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle, but any of the weapons he carried with him, most especially the shotgun, might have been as lethal.

Connecticut’s gun laws are comprehensive but not quite as austere as those in Chicago, Illinois, Mr. Obama’s old political stomping grounds, which is pretty much the murder capital of the United States. Today in Chicago, there is more fatal gun violence than in the heyday of prohibition gangsters such as Al Capone, and none of the gun laws on Chicago’s books have effectively kept Chicago’s population “safe from tragic acts of violence,” to use the phrase often in the mouths of Connecticut politicians.

If preventing future Sandy Hooks is the intended purpose of national and state politicians who hope to “keep children safe” from determined mass killers such as Mr. Lanza, what efficacious laws more severe than those of Chicago -- short of repealing the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so that both CRIMINALS and law abiding gun owners may be effectively disarmed – do the members of Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation suggest might accomplish their noble purpose?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Real State of the State

Governor Dannel Malloy’s State of the State message gave little indication of his plans for the future. From a budgetary or strategic planning point of view, there wasn’t much “there” there, but the speech evidently was framed for a national audience.

During his first term, Mr. Malloy raised taxes massively. The progressive wing of his party, those in Connecticut who have a stake in ever increasing spending, cheered him on from the sidelines. When deficits repeatedly appeared following his first union friendly budget, Mr. Malloy quite publically took the pledge: No new taxes. He said several times on the post-election stump he would not raise taxes to liquidate a deficit of about half a billion dollars during a special legislative session. He didn’t.

Mr. Malloy’s second budget is, so far, inscrutable. Money is moved around from pot to pot. Taxes that were to elapse have been resurrected. A promised tax due to elapse on bad energy – i.e. nuclear energy – has been reinstated. The governor has proposed, much to the dismay of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), that a large chunk of the property tax on cars should be abolished. It is significant that the putative tax “cut” proposed by the governor comes from the municipal rather than the state’s budget pie. The cataract of money awarded to UConn continues to flow like a mighty river, presumably on the assumption that money “invested” in the state’s premier educational institution will pay dividends in job production. It is more likely that graduating students will carry their expensive diplomas to other states where energy is cheaper, state legislatures are less in thrall to the pressure of union demands, and jobs are more plentiful.

Progressive Democrats are so easily stampeded that we sometimes forget the Democratic Party here in Connecticut does have a middle, which some political commentators used to call the “vital center.” Politics, national and state, is now driven by the epicenters of both parties. The previously vital center is easily forgotten – most especially in Connecticut’s one party state when, for the first time in more than 20 years, both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s office have been captured by Democrats. Contrary to media opinion, the Republican Party in the state is all middle. Here and there, a conservative or two – there cannot be more than a fistful in the General Assembly – opposes a post-Keynesian piece of arrant foolishness, and immediately the entire party is denounced by the state’s left of center media as dangerously ideological.

The reality is nearly the opposite. The capture by Democrats of both houses of Connecticut tripartite government has given us the most progressive administration Connecticut has seen since former governor Wilber Cross hung up his spurs. It should be noted that the third branch of Connecticut’s government, the courts, always sensitive to political power, may be politically moved both through appointments and by means of a quite understandable disposition to defer to momentarily popular majorities. Only in comparison with the Malloy administration, acting in concert with dominant Democrats in the General Assembly, do middle of the road Republicans appear to be arch-conservatives.

The real state of the state is most accurately portrayed in a “list of lasts” supplied by the Yankee Institute, a glowing candle in Connecticut’s dark night. Following the governor’s state of the state address, the institute took out full page advertisements in four major Connecticut newspapers.

“We aren’t just doing worse than average, Executive Director of the Institute Fergus Cullen said, “We are doing the worst."

Here is the institute’s “list of lasts.”

  • Barron's rated Connecticut's debt situation as the worst in the country in 2012
  • TopRetirements.com ranked Connecticut as the 2012 worst state for retirement
  • The Institute for Truth in Accounting ranked Connecticut's financial status as the worst in the nation with a debt burden of $49,000 per taxpayer
  • Connecticut's credit quality was ranked 50th in the nation by Conning Inc.'s State of the States Municipal Credit Research Report in 2012
  • Connecticut's Tax Freedom Day of May 5, 2012 was the latest in the nation according to the Tax Foundation
  • Connecticut's Achievement Gap is the worst in the nation according to the Connecticut Council for Education Reform
  • The Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors by the Cato Institute gave Malloy an "F"

It really is becoming very difficult to keep the bad news under your hat.

Former Senator Len Suzio appointed to the Office of Victim Advocate Advisory Committee

Former State Senator Len Suzio announced today that he has been appointed to the Advisory Committee for the Office of Victim Advocate. "I am extremely happy to be appointed to the Committee. The OVA plays an important role advocating for the victims of crime in Connecticut. Last year I had the opportunity to meet and work with the State Victim Advocate, Michelle Cruz as we sought to reform the "Early Release" law that allows violent criminals out of prison long before their sentences are completely served. All too often violent criminals are out of jail before their innocent victims are out of the hospital." said the former state senator.

"My experience working with the OVA last year helped me to appreciate the critical role the OVA plays providing support to the victims of crime in Connecticut. I want to do whatever I can to assure a vigorous and active Victim Advocate in our state. I want to make certain that the rights of crime victims are not run over roughshod by criminal rights lawyers and their political sympathizers", said former Senator Suzio.

"I am looking forward to working with the Office of Victim Advocate and supporting the Office as it advocates for the rights of those who have suffered so much at the hands of hardened criminals. I also am looking forward to a continuation of the exchange I had last year with Undersecretary Michael Lawlor regarding the fatally flawed Early Release Law. I believe my membership on the Committee will give me the opportunity to continue my advocacy to change this controversial and flawed law", Senator Suzio concluded.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Malloy’s Second Budget

Governor Dannel Malloy likes to tinker with the language: He prefers “budget shortfalls” to “deficits” and quibbles over “tax increases.”

If you extend a tax due to expire, have you “increased taxes?”

As a general rule, most taxpayers would agree that if the net amount of taxes due the government is larger in year 2 than it was in year 1, they have experienced a tax increase. Governors who plan to run for re-election naturally would prefer softer, more ambiguous language; so, deficits become“shortfalls” and a jump in tax payments from year 1 to 2 becomes a reinstitution of a tax due to expire, certainly not a tax increase.

Companies and tax payers fleeing the state in search of other low tax, low regulatory environments are not likely to pause over these nice distinctions – if they can escape ever increasing taxes and regulations. Their goal is to decrease the amount of money they shell out in taxes from year 1 to 2.

People and businesses in Connecticut have not been able to accomplish that goal since 1991, the year former Governor Lowell Weicker saved state government the necessity of cutting spending and trimming back Connecticut’s regulatory brambles by forcing an income tax through the General Assembly’s compliant, Democrat dominated legislature.

Since 1991 Connecticut has increased spending and taxes threefold; as a consequence of rampant spending, the state has not, to put it charitably, robustly increased jobs. It is only a slight overstatement to say that Connecticut has produced no net jobs since Mr. Weicker’s income tax. Mr. Malloy’s first budget, heavily reliant on the largest tax increase in state history, repeated the mistakes the General Assembly never learned from its recent history.

There is dawning awareness among some liberal Democrats not yet pickled in the doctrines of progressivism that taxes are harmful for a whole host of reasons. All taxes move dollars from an entrepreneurial theatre in which wealth is created to distributive government organs that then uses the dollars for political purposes – to reward supporters and punish enemies, which is the very essence of a crony capitalism flirting with fascism.

During Mr. Malloy’s first budget, the governor attempted to hold municipalities harmless through broad based tax increases that did not penetrate the protective membrane that surrounded municipalities and “held towns harmless” from the sometimes pernicious effects of aggressive taxation.

It is so common these days in the national legislature to use tax proceeds to encourage some favored businesses – those that rely on green energy rather than fossil fuels, to cite but one instance -- that the process of deciding who shall win and lose in what remains of a free enterprise system, extremely destructive in its effects, hardly registers on the public consciousness.

Here in Connecticut, Mr. Malloy, who has for all practical purposes become a tax broker, has it in mind to re-create Connecticut as a hub for medical research. To this end, Mr. Malloy is pulling tax dollars from the entrepreneurial pool and “investing them” in the utopian future he has in mind for the state. And, of course, the governor has also used tax dollars as polite bribes to prevent mega-rich companies from pulling up stakes in regulation and tax rich Connecticut and moving to states that have carefully prepared the economic soil to receive them. This ruinous mode of operation is more than a slippery slope: These “good intentions” are the stones that pave the road to economic hell.

In Mr. Malloy’s second budget, municipalities in the state have not been held harmless. The Malloy budget proposes a reduction in car property taxes, a meddlesome threat that now rests like a crown of thorns on the brows of mayors and municipal officers in the state’s federated system of government. The proposal is an egregious violation of the bedrock principle of subsidiarity, which holds that political matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized authority capable of addressing the matter effectively. The entire governmental structure of the United States rests, now uneasily, on the “mind your own business” principle of subsidiarity. The federal government should not do what states may do better; the states should not do what county government may do better; county governments should not do what municipal governments may do better; municipal governments should not do what private helping organizations may do better; and private helping organizations should not do what a healthy and vibrant family may do better.

Why should Mr. Malloy or the General Assembly deprive towns in Connecticut of the resources they need to accomplish their economic and political ends? No possible good can come from a state government blind to a principle best celebrated by Alexis de Tocqueville, who peeked into the American soul more than 75 years ago and, paying tribute both to the genius of the American founding and the character of the American people, noted in words that ring like a tolling bell down the centuries:
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money … Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jepsen Sues Standard & Poor’s

Michael Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy’s Undersecretary of Criminal Justice for Connecticut and the architect of the state’s troubled early release Earned Risk Reduction Credits program, has given us a peek into Mr. Malloy’s views on pending legislation affecting gun control.

According to Mr. Lawlor, a number of areas need to be addressed by the legislature. They include:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

General Assembly Declines To Deliberate on Gun Issues

It was the intention of certain members of the General Assembly from the very moment the Bipartisan Task Force On Gun Violence Prevention And Children's Safety was formed to “e-cert”the normal legislative process, State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams said in a recent interview.

The emergency certification of a bill bypasses usual legislative hearings and requires, as the name itself implies, an emergency to justify it. Generally, e-certs are reserved for times of crisis such as natural disasters or when action cannot be delayed because of an approaching timeline.

In this case, the “emergency”was triggered by a timeline set by legislative leaders who had tasked the bipartisan task force to complete its recommendations to the legislature before February 28, so that a bill could be produced on that date. Apparently, it is the assigned date that has created the emergency, which begs a question: If the task force completes its work on the 29th rather than the 28thwill the legislature emergency certify its gun control measures without benefit of the committee’s work simply to meet a deadline?

The answer to that question, one supposes, would be no. And the answer exposes what may be a subtle legislative fraud.

The multiple murders at Sandy Hook, however horrific, were exceptional; when was the last time, other than at Sandy Hook, that a slaughter of 20 children and 6 faculty members occurred in Connecticut? For purposes of legislation, exceptions of this kind should not be discounted, but the ordinary legislative process is designed to produce as its end product a bill that has been properly vetted the provisions of which have been sufficiently debated by legislators whose votes sanction the committee work on the bill.

It should not be the business of the General Assembly to decline to do its business or to assign its constitutional responsibilities to ad hoc committees created either by the legislature or the governor. Legislative short cuts of this kind that leave fewer fingerprints on a final bill allow cowardly politicians to assign responsibility for defective legislation to non-elected entities.

Speaking at the last of four public hearings on gun control in an empty Newtown High School auditorium, Mr. Williams explained why a bill on gun control must be produced without benefit of the usual committee hearings. The haste to produce a bill in the absence of data certified by the principal crime investigators – a final criminal report will not be due until March, if then – is a result of constituent demand: “When our constituents say 'We don't necessarily have all the answers, but we want you to do the right thing,' we need to rise to that challenge – and that's why we have this bipartisan task force," said Mr. Williams.

At the beginning of January, Governor Dannel Malloy announced “the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, an expert panel that will review current policy and make specific recommendations in the areas of public safety, with particular attention paid to school safety, mental health, and gun violence prevention.” That panel’s initial report willnot be due until March 15, two weeks beyond the date the legislature has set to produce a bill that presumably will accomplish the same purpose without committee hearings.

This is legislating with a purpose. Unfortunately, it would appear that the purpose is not to write a bill that would satisfy the deepest longings of the parents in Sandy Hook whose children were so violently taken from them. Those parents want a bill that will quench the fire in their blood, so that after its passage everyone in Connecticut may say of Sandy Hook -- “never again.”

Bills based on surmises and vagrant hopes rather than hard data – which will not be vetted by the relevant oversight committees before a final bill is produced – suit other purposes.

Courant Demotes Former Columnist Susan Campbell to “Snarky Tweeter”

State Senator Beth Bye, an anti-gun-toting advocate, was soundly drubbed by critics for “responding to her constituents” on Facebook and Tweeter while a hearing on gun control was in process.

The Courant quickly came to her defense, demoting to tweeterdom  former Courant columnist Susan Campbell :

“And though nearly all of her posts concerned the testimony, she [Beth Bye] offered a brief, cryptic comment to a snarky tweeter who suggested a jokey drinking game — everybody was to drink when they heard the term ‘law-abiding.’"

Friday, February 1, 2013

Property Tax Regressive?

“Regressive,” as any practicing progressive knows, is the opposite of “progressive.” Theoretically, a progressive income tax is levied on those who, in the words most often used to defend the tax, can well afford to“pay their fair share,” the fairness of their share to be determined, naturally, by progressives. The sole purpose of the progressive income tax is to shift the burden of tax payments from the poor to the rich.

During the war years, Franklin Roosevelt, spurred on by progressives, signed into law the “Revenue Act of 1935,” a “wealth tax” that raised the federal income tax to 75 percent on incomes over 5 million. The 5 million, as it turned out, was but a foot in the door. Under the administrations of President Barrack Obama and Governor Dannel Malloy, millionaires have come down in the world, and anyone who makes a quarter of a million per year is considered, for progressive tax purposes, a millionaire.

By today’s standards, Mr. Roosevelt’s “fair share” would be considered unfair by anyone but socialist President of France François Hollandeand perhaps American economist Paul Krugman, one of Mr. Obama’s economic cheerleaders. Author and talk show host Chris Mathews, the guy with tingly leg, also is eupeptic on all things Obama, but he is not an economist.

In the Obama economy, some things have changed, partly because of inflation; the dollar just ain’t what it used to be. And though it takes far fewer bucks to make a millionaire, Mr. Obama’s income tax rate increase is far less than that of Mr. Hollande and Mr. Roosevelt.

When Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal proposed replacing his state’s income tax with an augmented sales tax, he was whipped by Mr. Krugman as an anti-progressive. “Such a move,” Mr. Krugman wrote in his blog at the NewYork Times, “would shift taxes from the rich to the poor, who are disproportionately hit by the sales tax.”

A progressive tax theoretically is a deprivation on the rich, while a regressive tax – a sales tax, say – is a deprivation on the poor. In reality, the very rich escape many taxes. When Republicans several years ago proposed a flat income tax that would fall equally on the stupendously rich Warren Buffet, the prince of Berkshire Hathaway, and his tax beleaguered secretary, while eliminating at the same time special exemptions enjoyed by crony capitalists, they were hooted out of the halls of Congress by progressive san culottes.

A property tax is progressive rather than regressive because it cannot be levied upon those whose economic circumstances to do not permit the ownership of property. The poor, as a general rule, don’t own property. Therefore, the property tax, the primary revenue generator for towns, is not unusually regressive. The sales tax, falling like the gentle rain on both the poor and the rich, is a regressive – i.e. non-progressive -- tax. It is also a broader based more dependable tax, which is probably why Mr. Jindal prefers it to the less dependable more narrow based progressive income tax.

In the halls of Connecticut’s General Assembly, it is being whispered that yet another tax increase may be necessary to balance the state’s chronically out of balance budget. The new Speaker of the House, Brendan Sharkey, has stepped forward to explain that a sluggish national economy and higher governmental costs have punched yet another billion dollar hole in the state’s revenue bucket.

And therefore the state may be forced to reduce municipal aid, Mr. Sharkey told more than a 100 state and municipal leaders and social service advocates at a state budget forum at the Capitol, which will prompt municipal leaders to raise property taxes or cut services. During his first tax bump, Mr. Malloy and dominant Democrats in the General Assembly held the towns in the state harmless. But “the days of being able to hold cities and towns completely harmless while dealing with the state's fiscal woes likely,” according to one report, “are over.”

“The property tax,” Mr. Sharkey told the property tax reliant mayors and town administrators, “will be the crisis once again.” According to the report, which summarizes the Speaker’s chat with the frozen faced municipal leaders, the Speaker went on to say, that“Besides harming low-income households the most, the regressive levy also places a heavy burden on small businesses and discourages economic development here.”

While it certainly is refreshing to hear any Democratic leader in the General Assembly frankly admit that taxes may be harmful – which is why Mr. Malloy in his first budget arranged his tax increases in such a way as to hold the towns “harmless” – the property tax certainly is not more regressive than the cornucopia of new taxes Mr. Malloy instituted, according to Mr. Krugman, the economic guru to progressives.

It is the state and federal government that has put the towns in crisis by imposing upon them costly state mandates. Town leaders do not have the political power to force the state to remove these yokes from their necks. And expensive state and federal mandates, along with poorly funded pensions and equally expensive benefit and salary increases enjoyed by teachers and municipal workers, have driven up so called “regressive” property taxes.

The chief reason why Mr. Malloy and dominant Democrats in the General Assembly are now considering voiding their often repeated pledge during campaigns to “hold towns harmless” from punishing tax increases is that the state needs the money to cover budget deficits caused by decades of improvident spending, and Democrats are loathed to punish those who consistently vote them into office by cutting increases in salaries and benefits.

Property taxes are not especially regressive. If Republicans were to propose a dollar for dollar reduction in costly state mandates for every dollar in revenue “saved”by the state in reduced municipal assistance, they just might have a useful campaign issue on their hands, for Democrats in the General Assembly fear a loss in municipal votes almost as much as they fear a temporary loss in state revenue from general and effective cuts in marginal tax rates and business taxes. Mr. Sharkey has proposed that “some of the big ticket items we impose" on communities -- funding for special education, for instance -- should be shifted to the state, but such a transfer of payments would not result in significant relief to taxpayers because municipal tax payers are also state tax payers.