Connecticut has no ‘budget crisis,’ just bad spending priorities

By Chris Powell

Liberal Democrats in the General Assembly are warning that a “budget crisis” will descend on Connecticut in the next year or two because state government has gotten too economical, hamstrung by the state “spending cap” and “fiscal guardrails” imposed in recent years in response to chronic budget deficits.

In the liberal Democratic perspective, all sorts of things — higher education, financial aid to municipal education, transportation, medical care, and so forth — are being neglected even as state government maintains a huge “rainy day fund” and is running a big budget surplus.

But the complaint isn’t true, because state government’s actual financial position remains tens of billions of dollars in deficit. That is, the $3.3 billion in the “rainy day fund” and the budget surplus, lately projected at $3 billion, are just small fractions of state government’s unfunded pension liabilities. With state tax revenue estimates declining as the economy goes into recession, and with the financial markets falling and worsening the unfunded pension liabilities, the prosperity imagined by the liberals may not last the year.

Those who see the “rainy day fund” and the surplus as spare cash are really proposing to run the unfunded pension liabilities back up and extend them over many more years, during which taxpayers not yet born will pay them — pay for services actually delivered to their ancestors. This is state government’s equivalent of the federal government’s ever-growing deficit spending, which repeatedly requires raising the debt ceiling and causes interest payments to consume ever more of government’s revenue.


This doesn’t mean that all compelling responsibilities of state government are adequately funded. Instead it means that Connecticut faces, and long has faced, not a “budget crisis” but a lack of the political courage necessary to set better priorities in spending. There is money for the compelling responsibilities, but it’s not in the “rainy day fund” or the budget surplus. It is elsewhere in the budget itself.

The Connecticut Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explained it succinctly deep down in his recent report about complaints of a “budget crisis” ahead.

The spending cap, Phaneuf wrote, “tried to keep spending growth in line with the growth in personal income or inflation. But what has happened, historically, is that a few cost drivers — employee wages and benefits, required contributions to public-sector pensions — grow faster than personal income and inflation. Everything else, like social services, health care, and aid to towns, is lucky if it stays flat.”

That is, in Connecticut the compensation of government’s own employees always comes first. State government is primarily a pension and benefit society.

Connecticut’s state government employees have been well paid but last year state government approved a new master union contract promising $700 million in raises over two years. A few weeks ago it approved $50 million in bonuses for state employees.

Meanwhile the poorly paid employees of the nonprofit organizations to which state government delegates much of the care of the frail and disabled have gone on strike because they haven’t gotten raises in 10 years, despite the recent ruinous inflation.

Higher education lately has been pleading poverty while the president of the top-heavy Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system is paid more than $350,000 a year and other administrator salaries exceed $200,000.

Last week the Connecticut Port Authority announced another cost-overrun for the redevelopment of the New London State Pier for offshore wind turbines. This overrun is $47 million, bringing the new estimated total price of the project to more than $300 million, more than three times the original estimate of $93 million.


A true liberal in the legislature might question these and other anomalies before complaining of a “budget crisis.” But the General Assembly fails to investigate anything of substance. Most recently it has even delegated to others a study of how to prevent the recent street takeovers, as if ordinary arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonments wouldn’t work, and a study of whether “non-binary” should be added to the gender section of state government forms.

As the maxim goes, to govern is to choose. Governing better requires choosing better.


Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. (


When is gender ID needed? And Democrats betray workers

By Chris Powell

Having thought itself virtuous for exonerating the residents of the Connecticut colony who were mistaken for witches and hanged 400 years ago, and being confident that a state budget will be devised any day now, the General Assembly turned to another urgent issue: Whether state government forms that require people to identify themselves should provide a gender option apart from male or female: “non-binary.”

State agencies may be directed to study the implications of this and report back.

But at least one legislator, state Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry, saw beyond the political correctness of the proposal, which aims to establish that biology is just an attitude and that mere wishing makes things so. The bigger issue, Ackert recognized, is the relevance, if any, of gender as a point of identification in the first place.

After all, when has any government official demanded to inspect people’s private parts as a condition of their application to get something?

Indeed, thousands of gender impersonators already may have fooled state government on one application form or another.

Gender may be relevant only in adjudicating participation in separate-sex sports competitions, access to single-sex washrooms, and placement in prison.

Indeed, is any study needed here at all? Why not just remove gender from government forms or make gender reporting optional? Apart from sports, toilets, and prison, the best response to the gender dysphoria and sexual neurosis sweeping the country may be good old libertarian indifference.


Now that the “sanctuary city” of New York has been overwhelmed with tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and nominal refugees who have crashed into the country under the Biden administration’s policy of open borders, the Democratic Party’s betrayal of the working class is becoming more obvious.

To house migrants, New York City government is reported to be renovating the former Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan, steps from Grand Central Station, where rooms used to go for $300 per day. The migrants will reside there for free and soon may get work permits from the federal government.

Democrats and open-borders advocates may not see what this will do to the wage base in the city and especially in Manhattan, but the local working class will see it.

With housing in such a prime location gifted to the migrants by the government — housing worth $300 a day, $2,100 a week, and $9,000 per month — the migrants will be able to afford working for wages far below what the local working class requires as it drags itself back and forth on the bus or subway from the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, or New Jersey. With a lower wage base, the local working class will have to work even harder to pay its own rent. No free housing for them.

Even before the Biden administration opened the borders, the United States had nearly the most liberal immigration policy in the world. Immigration is great when it can be assimilated economically and culturally, but the Biden policy of uncontrolled immigration is essentially treason.


WORK MIGHT EDUCATE BEST: To address labor shortages, several states are moving to let children work in more dangerous jobs, to work longer hours on school nights, and even to work in bars. While at first this seems appallingly retrograde, it might not be.

For as American education has sunk under the weight of social promotion, most students — even most in Connecticut — now fail in school, performing far below grade level. They know that to advance from grade to grade and get a high school diploma, they needn’t learn anything or even come to school at all.

When formal education becomes mere pretense like this, children might learn more by going directly to the workplace. Some might end up apprenticing in jobs that can lead to decent careers. Even those who didn’t and got stuck in menial work for the long term might learn the value of the formal education they and their parents (if they had parents) didn’t take seriously, education meant to lead beyond menial work.

If they were lucky, when menial work wore them out and impoverished them, adult education would still be available.


Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. (


Gun control and voting rights bills are just empty poses

By Chris Powell

As street riots recently exploded around the state, shockingly beyond the ability or willingness of police to suppress them, the General Assembly began enacting Governor Lamont’s new gun control legislation, which is more likely to impede the law-abiding from protecting themselves than to impede rioters and other criminals.

Among its oblivious provisions, the legislation would prohibit the open carrying of guns, as if criminals don’t already conceal their weapons when they set out to do harm. The legislation also would require owners of “ghost guns” — homemade guns without identification numbers — to register them with the state police, as if the point of a “ghost gun” isn’t to avoid tracing. (The state police won’t have to add clerical staff to handle “ghost gun” registrations. It will be surprising if they get even one.)

The legislation will establish special gun crime dockets in courts in the violence-wracked cities, which sounds like a good idea but won’t necessarily mean any more actual resources for prosecuting gun crime charges, 80% of which, House Republican minority leader Vincent Candelora noted in debate, are routinely plea-bargained away, indicating state government’s lack of seriousness about gun crime. But at least the gun crime dockets may help journalists keep track of the plea bargaining.

People would be forbidden from buying more than three guns per month, as if three can’t do plenty of damage.

People convicted of domestic violence would be denied gun permits, as if lack of a permit will deter anyone determined to murder his former love. Domestic abusers can be deterred only by prompt prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment, but state government isn’t prepared to appropriate for that. Instead state government offers victims of domestic abuse only court protective orders. Many murdered women have discovered that such orders are no protection at all.

As for the street riots, the legislature seems about to create a committee to study the problem, as if the social disintegration manifesting itself everywhere doesn’t imply government’s rather comprehensive failure and society’s unwillingness to defend itself and enforce standards of behavior, and as if the offenders themselves haven’t noticed this, as elected officials boast about reducing the prison population while repeat offenders run rampant.

The unwillingness to enforce behavioral standards, especially with young people, may have something to do with Connecticut’s difficulty in recruiting and keeping police officers and teachers. Teachers and police get the closest look at social disintegration. Connecticut’s elected officials don’t dare to examine it, much less confront it.

* * *

While state legislators were evading the sensational failure of law enforcement amid the street riots, just as they long have been evading the collapse of public education, they did produce a solution in search of a problem — a grand new voting rights law, pompously named for the late Georgia civil rights leader and U.S. representative, John R. Lewis.

The legislation would require municipalities with a record of discrimination against voters on racial or other grounds to get permission from the secretary of the state or a court before changing their election policies.

But no such discrimination in Connecticut’s elections was identified, and if any ever was, anyone aggrieved would be able, quite without the legislation, to demand and obtain redress from the secretary or a court anyway. The legislation will accomplish nothing except make its supporters feel righteous.

Connecticut does have occasional election problems, but mainly in its cities, whose populations are largely from racial minorities that are amply represented in city government, and these problems — incompetent administration — abuse everyone, regardless of race, as by making voters wait too long in line.

The practical discrimination faced by racial minorities in Connecticut has nothing to do with elections and little to do with race itself. It is indirect, mainly a matter of housing accessibility and poverty. The money of members of racial minorities is as green as anyone else’s and if they have enough they can live wherever they want, since money talks. But amid the failure of welfare policy and the success of exclusive zoning, poverty still walks.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (


Government worker pensions should be ended gradually

By Chris Powell

Maybe the state should applaud the plan announced the other day by state Comptroller Sean Scanlon and leaders in the General Assembly to restore the solvency of the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System. The system is run by state government and 107 of the state’s 169 towns participate in it to some extent.

Just like the state government employee pension fund, the municipal pension fund system now is carrying large unfunded liabilities, which have risen from $332 million in 2016 to $1.3 billion today, an increase of 313% in just six years. While to be considered healthy a pension system should be at least 80% funded, in the last five years the municipal system’s funding has fallen from 92% to only 69%.

The reform plan is supposed to reverse the trend toward underfunding as well as to save money for the participating towns. But since the plan involves extending by eight years the time for properly covering the fund’s liabilities, during which inflation may persist and entitle pensioners to higher cost-of-living increases, the plan’s savings may not be as great as projected.


In any case refinancing the municipal pension system is not the pension reform Connecticut most needs. That reform is the gradual extinction of the state and municipal government employee pension systems, since they are no longer necessary to draw people to government work and since they will always be vulnerable to unfunded liabilities that can worsen for many years before they are much noticed and elected officials find the courage to address them.

Government employee pension systems were premised largely on the belief that employee compensation was low and great fringe benefits were needed keep people in government work. But for many years state and municipal government employee compensation in Connecticut has exceeded compensation in many comparable positions in the private sector.

Additionally, as their unfunded liabilities show, the state and municipal pension systems have permitted governors, state legislators, and municipal elected officials to promise benefits without fully appropriating for them.

So these elected officials have reaped the political support of the government employee unions while transferring the expense of that support far into the future.

That could happen again, and since the public pays little attention to the long-term financial details of government, it almost surely will.

Of course this doesn’t mean that government employees should go without retirement savings plans. It means that they should be paid well enough that they can finance their own retirement, as most private-sector workers do to supplement their Social Security.

As things are structured now, most government employees couldn’t care less about fairness or unfairness in Social Security or about the system’s solvency. Incorporating government employees into Social Security would bring the system enormous political support, which it badly needs.


A lesser but still shocking cause of state government’s huge unfunded pension liabilities was disclosed two weeks ago by a report from the Yale School of Management.

According to the report, Connecticut state government’s pension fund performance from 2017 to 2022 was the second worst among the states, exceeding only North Carolina’s.

The median rate of return on state pension funds in that period, according to the report, was 7.79%, while the return on Connecticut’s state pension fund was only 5.4%. The report concluded that if Connecticut’s fund had performed at the median rate, it would have gained another $5 billion.

The report attributed this underperformance in large part to the state treasurer’s practice of delegating fund management to investment firms of no special talent. Indeed, ever since the state pension fund scandal of the late 1990s, when state Treasurer Paul J. Silvester was convicted of corruption involving his assignment of fund management to investment firms that paid him kickbacks, the treasurer’s office should have been putting pension fund money into basic stock index funds, avoiding high management fees.

Instead state treasurers continued to preserve their ability to assign pension fund management contracts as political patronage.

The Yale study should put an end to that, but probably won’t.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (


Lamont revives hockey myth; and is more cash being overlooked?

By Chris Powell

While residents of Hartford’s North End kept complaining about the longstanding sewage overflows in their neighborhood and four women were struck by a hit-and-run driver nearby, Governor Lamont discovered what the city really needs: the return of a big-league hockey team like the long-lost Whalers.

So the governor said he planned to get in touch with the commissioner of the National Hockey League about relocating the Arizona Coyotes to Hartford, since voters in the team’s hometown, Tempe, had just defeated a proposal to create an entertainment district in which an arena might have been built for the team.

“This is a great hockey state,” the governor said, and Hartford is “a great hockey town. It’s evidenced by the passion we have for the Whalers going back years, still one of the best-selling jerseys. I think we can guarantee them a very strong market right here, and a government that’s ready to be their partner.”

Oh, please, Governor. That’s not how it was at all.

The Whalers left Hartford for North Carolina in 1997 precisely because Connecticut is not “a great hockey state” and Hartford is not “a great hockey town.” The Whalers couldn’t make money here but state government still managed to lose a lot on them.

Indeed, in 1996, as the Whalers demanded that state government build a new arena for them even as they couldn’t fill the arena at the Hartford Civic Center, the Journal Inquirer calculated that between financial bailouts, discounted and unpaid state loans, and free use of the arena, state government was subsidizing the team by $32 per ticket sold, or $1,400 per spectator per season.

Despite these subsidies, Whalers attendance was nearly the lowest in the league, and a Whalers game was always a little like the joke about Grateful Dead concerts: the same few thousand people all the time.

Most of Connecticut was indifferent, saving its local sports enthusiasm for University of Connecticut basketball.

Since there long has been talk of having state government spend hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate the civic center, the governor and others may figure that state government should buy a hockey team to go with the project and try to fill downtown Hartford with suburbanites more often, though they’ll all just leave the city when the game is over. Hockey won’t get them and their families to live in the city. Better schools, lower taxes, and less crime might, but that’s not going to happen.

Hockey? Been there, done that, and all we have left is the lousy jersey.

* * *

When, the other day, state Treasurer Erick Russell found $381 million that could be used by state government to break the stalemate between Governor Lamont and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly over financing the “baby bonds” program, it was presented as a triumph. But was it?

It might be considered a triumph insofar as the found money will allow the program to get started without having state government borrow $600 million as originally planned, to which the governor objected. Using cash will cut $200 million off the program’s cost.

But it should be an embarrassment insofar as so much money was discovered so late in the state budget process and then supposedly committed without ever having gone through the regular legislative review.

Where was the money hiding all this time? Russell says he came upon it in an insurance account established four years ago to guarantee the solvency of state government’s teacher pension fund. Now that the fund is sound, the treasurer says, the insurance account can be liquidated.

Whether all money “found” like this by the treasurer should be allocated to his favorite program, as he presumes, is really a decision for the legislature and should come after public discussion of competing uses for the cash.

After all, the nonprofit organizations whose poorly paid employees perform most of state government’s social work might like to be heard on the issue. So might nursing home workers, who are not so well paid either even as most of their patients are state wards.

Can the treasurer pull any rabbits out of the hat for them? Does he know whether more millions are lying around aimlessly in other obscure accounts?

Or does he look only on behalf of programs he likes?


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (


Lacking courage to talk back, Supreme Court nominee defeated herself

By Chris Powell

Because she once said something nice about a judge long before that judge made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and ruled that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion, Sandra Slack Glover is not going to be appointed to Connecticut’s Supreme Court. Indeed, as long as Democratic abortion fanatics control the General Assembly, Glover may be lucky if she is allowed to continue to live in Connecticut.

What happened to Glover may constitute the dumbest case of guilt by association since the Red Scare of the 1950s.

Democratic legislators defeated Glover’s nomination by Governor Lamont not because she is opposed to abortion — to the contrary, as she made clear at her confirmation hearing, she is as enthusiastic about abortion as any of the legislators who opposed her. They defeated her because, along with many other former law clerks for the U.S. Supreme Court, she had attested to the legal intellect and good character of her former colleague in clerkship, Amy Coney Barrett, when Barrett was nominated to a federal appellate court.

Of course upon being promoted to the Supreme Court years later, Barrett joined the majority that overturned the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which had proclaimed a constitutional right to abortion.

Had Glover and the other clerks lied about their colleague’s legal intellect and good character?

Is it impossible for anyone with legal intellect and good character to conclude that the Constitution leaves abortion policy to the states?

By attesting to Barrett’s intellect and character, years before Barrett reached the Supreme Court, had Glover become especially responsible for Barrett’s appointment and the reversal of Roe?

Should Glover have known, five years earlier, how Barrett would vote in the case in which Roe was reversed?

Or were the Democratic legislators who opposed Glover just taking out on her, as their nearest available target, the rage they feel about the reversal of Roe, though there is no threat to abortion rights in Connecticut?

Only those possibilities can explain the opposition to Glover.

But Glover only hurt herself when confronted about her character reference for Barrett. She said that in hindsight it was wrong and apologized for it.

She didn’t say exactly why was it wrong but implied that, upon her nomination to the state Supreme Court, it turned out to be wrong politically for her. This was cowardice.

Glover could have noted the obvious — that the endorsement letter from her fellow clerks did not predict how Barrett would rule as a judge, that many legal scholars of good character disagreed with the Roe decision, and that people may disagree about constitutional law while respecting each other and being cordial, even friends.

After all, the late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a hero of the political left, and Antonin Scalia, a hero of the political right, were far apart on constitutional law but nevertheless close friends who often socialized with their spouses. Somehow Ginsberg remains a hero of the left despite not just her friendship with Scalia but also her assertion that the Roe decision was poorly reasoned.

But as is suggested by the transfer to Glover of the rage against Barrett, today’s angry political environment is quick to demonize disagreement.

At her hearing Glover could have challenged her questioners.

Did they think she and all the other clerks who affirmed Barrett’s legal intellect and good character had been lying?

Did they think that Barrett’s disagreement with Roe’s reasoning — reasoning also faulted by liberal hero Ginsberg — made Barrett a bad person?

Did they think that anyone who is unenthusiastic about abortion is a bad person?

Instead Glover whined that she had thought that, even with Barrett as a member, the Supreme Court would have upheld Roe, as if precedent is sacred and as if the court has not often, and fortunately so, reversed major precedents, and to the left’s delight — precedents like Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Lochner v. New York.

But rather than talk back to the fanatics, Glover groveled. Thus in the end she may have disqualified herself.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (


Remediate Connecticut’s present before repudiating its past

By Chris Powell

While the new state budget wasn’t yet complete, with several big issues waiting to be settled, the other day the state House of Representatives found time to pass a resolution that more or less repudiated and apologized for the conviction and execution of people alleged to have been witches in the Connecticut colony 400 years ago.

Advocates of the resolution said it was needed to assuage the feelings of the distant descendants of the wrongly prosecuted, though if there really are any people with feelings so tender, they need a legislative resolution less than round-the-clock sedation.

For does anyone in Connecticut consider witchcraft convictions from centuries ago to be a mark of shame against anyone alive today?

While the witchcraft resolution was being considered, Connecticut’s news was full of reports about matters whose shame is contemporaneous — like the miserable educational performance of children from racial minorities, the growing violence in the cities, the mental illness and drug addiction of most of the offenders being released from prison, the rise in poverty and homelessness, and worsening social disintegration that suggests the state has become the set of a zombie movie.

The General Assembly has yet to repudiate or apologize for any of those things. For doing something about them would require profound changes in government policy and probably substantial appropriations, even as posturing self-righteously with a resolution of no practical help to anyone is free.


But more discouraging than the legislature’s propensity for stupid posturingis the growing presumption that inspired and advanced the witchcraft resolution and inspires other claims for apologies or reparations — the presumption that the past is so bad that it should shame everyone in the present.

Of course some shameful things from long ago have present consequences that may be remediable. The disproportionate failure of students from minority groups may be considered the consequence of slavery, though slavery ended 160 years ago. It may be considered the consequence of prejudicial policies that ended 50 years ago, though far more recent policies may be at fault, policies no one in authority cares to question.

In any case the natural order has been for mankind to advance over long periods — to gain knowledge, wisdom, and decency so that, for example, prosecutions for “familiarity with the Devil” are understood as unjust and based on the superstition and irrational fear inherent in ignorance.

That society improves gradually used to be understood as what was called the ascent of man. Painful as that ascent sometimes has been, ascent it was, and no shame attaches to those who did not participate in old injustices, a point that the opponents of the House resolution on witchcraft tried to make.

Besides, once society begins apologizing for the mistakes of the distant past, there may be no end to it even as its only practical effect will be to provide distraction from the mistakes of the present, just as the witchcraft resolution has done.


BIDEN IS TRUMP’S APPEAL: In a desperate attempt to regain ratings two weeks ago, CNN partnered with former President Donald Trump in televising a public forum in New Hampshire that was packed with Trump supporters while hostile questions were posed to Trump by reporter Kaitlan Collins.

Running for president for a third time, Trump got exactly what he wanted — another chance to behave outlandishly, call names, and demonstrate the demeanor that has troubled even people who favored some of his administration’s policies.

The audience in New Hampshire loved it, providing more evidence that nothing disgraceful, from mere lies to graft to sexual assault, can hurt Trump with his base. As he discovered with happy surprise when he began his first campaign for president in 2016, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Trump is the embodiment of the contempt our government increasingly deserves.

Responding to the CNN broadcast, President Biden asked the country: “Do you want four more years of that?” But seeking re-election, Biden — the doddering, corrupt, and gaffe-producing tool of wokeism and open borders — is himself why many people might choose four more years of Trump.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (


Tax cuts are a shell game that won’t transform cities

By Chris Powell

Governor Lamont and Democratic and Republican state legislators are all proposing a half-percent reduction in the state income tax for most people, as if this should be considered a special boon.

But since it has tens of billions of dollars in unfunded pension obligations, state government really isn’t solvent enough to afford tax cuts without spending cuts, and a half-percent cut in the state income tax will merely reimburse people for the half-percent increase in the income tax that was enacted two years ago to finance the state’s paid leave program for private-sector workers, a program from which most people will never benefit.

Of course essentially offsetting the income tax increase from the paid leave program is better than nothing, but it is hardly something for elected officials to thump their chests about as they are doing.

It is just a shell game: Look at the tax reduction over here and forget the tax increase over there.

Connecticut’s net tax burden, close to the highest in the country, a burden that has nearly halted the state’s economic and population growth, isn’t really being reduced and can’t be reduced until state and municipal government spending is reduced.

Something so radical — basic efficiency — is not on state government’s agenda.

Proposing another sort of tax cut the other day, state Sen. John Fonfara, a Hartford Democrat campaigning for the city’s mayoralty, made an acknowledgment unusual for a member of his party: that the pathologies of poverty are driving people out of his city and Connecticut’s other cities.

Fonfara didn’t admit that his party long has operated the cities as poverty factories to keep their residents dependent on government. But he made a start at raising the issue as he proposed giving residents of the state’s poorest census tracts an exemption from the state income tax.

This, Fonfara thinks, might induce middle-class city residents to stay put rather than move out, as middle-class people have moved out of Connecticut’s cities for many decades. This migration has repeatedly demonstrated the failure of the state’s urban policies to improve the cities, without ever prompting state government to fix the failure — perhaps because urban policy’s real purpose has been to create and sustain the dependent underclass.

So Fonfara’s tax-exemption idea more or less calls attention to the failure of urban policy to do what government pretends the policy is meant to do. But the idea seems unlikely to accomplish its goal.

While of course the income tax savings would be welcome to middle-class city residents, they still might save even more on their property taxes by moving out.

Suburban schools still would hold their superior appeal, being less burdened by the neglected and fatherless children of the urban underclass.

Suburban amenities, like markets with a greater variety of goods and lower prices than markets in the cities, would remain a powerful draw.

So would the safer environment outside the cities.

Fonfara’s idea means to affect all those considerations, but the subsidy to people staying in the city would hardly be large enough to make a noticeable difference in city demographics.

A residential income tax exemption also would invite fraud, with people establishing superficial addresses with friends and relatives in the cities while actually residing elsewhere.

Already former Hartford state Sen. William DiBella, longtime chairman of the patronage-laden Metropolitan District Commission, has been accused of remaining a city resident only technically and spending more time at his home in Old Saybrook.

Of course partly to escape Connecticut’s income tax, in their retirement many longtime Connecticut residents have established legal residency in Florida while retaining their homes in Connecticut and living here less than half the year.

So the solution to urban pathologies is not adjusting income tax policy but rather making a comprehensive attack on the pathologies themselves: government-subsidized fatherlessness in the welfare system, social promotion in the schools, failure to imprison the chronic criminal offenders who find most of their victims in the cities, and high property taxes driven up by the excessive cost of city government personnel.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (


Has abortion really become Connecticut’s highest social good?

By Chris Powell

Maybe nothing less could have been expected from Wesleyan University in Middletown, a citadel of leftist groupthink, but according to the university chapter of the Democratic Socialists, the university has agreed to pay for abortions for its students. Not for treatment of cancer or multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease or AIDS or other serious ailments, just abortions.

The university’s implication is that while those ailments are often fatal, abortion is the highest social good.

Wesleyan’s decision rhymes with the clamor at the state Capitol, where proclamations of fidelity to abortion rights trump the daily shootings in the cities, the repeat offenders running rampant, the collapse of public education, the worsening poverty, and the government’s shift away from public service to a mere pension and benefit society.

The people who extol abortion well may believe that it is the highest social good. Yet their clamor seems a bit out of place in Connecticut, where a Roe v. Wade policy on abortion was enacted years ago and will remain in force whatever other states do with their new freedom to legislate on the issue. In Connecticut, abortion anywhere, any time is challenged only by occasional calls for requiring parental notification for abortion for minors. While parental notification has broad support with the public, nothing can sway the abortion fanatics in control of the General Assembly’s Democratic caucus.

So abortion fanaticism may be meant mainly as a distraction from the defects of both the national and state Democratic administrations. It presumes that clamor about abortion can induce most people to forget about inflation, forever wars, open borders, and the soaring national debt as long as there is a chance that the law somewhere might impede abortion of viable fetuses.

The political judgment of Connecticut’s abortion fanatics may be correct. After all, so much nuttiness in the state now goes without serious challenge — from transgenderism to unemployment benefits for strikers to reimbursing the abortion expenses of women in abortion-restricting states who come to this state for abortions.

Still, the fanatics might not represent majority opinion or even anything close to it. If their power is mainly their ability to intimidate those who disagree, their position could actually be weak.

Connecticut won’t find out what the public really thinks until some people in public life try talking back — calmly and rationally but firmly — daring to attempt argument.

* * *

DEBT ISN’T A CRISIS: Hysteria has overtaken the controversy over the limit on the federal government’s debt.

The other day Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the refusal by Republicans in Congress to raise the debt ceiling would cause a “constitutional crisis” that might cripple the economy and financial system as the government ran out of money and defaulted on some of its bonds.

Nonsense. Because it retains the power of money creation, the federal government can never run out of money. It can create money to infinity. The government prefers not to create money so frankly, since it might be inflationary, but the government has the power.

And of course the government can raise revenue in a way that won’t aggravate concerns about inflation. It can raise money the old-fashioned way: through taxes.

So why the insistence on more borrowing?

It’s because Congress and President Biden, like his predecessors, enjoy distributing infinite goodies without having to make current taxpayers pay for them. The burden is to be transferred to future generations — and to other countries, which the U.S. government pressures to finance this country’s debt, and thus its parasitic lifestyle. The president and Congress believe that Americans have the right to live at the expense of the rest of the world.

Calling again for raising the debt ceiling, Biden says: “America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills.” But we don’t pay our bills, since borrowing to pay debt doesn’t repay debt at all. It just creates more debt.

Taxes repay debt, but apparently a “constitutional crisis” is preferable to more taxes.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (

They want ‘financial literacy’ when kids lack any literacy

By Chris Powell

Connecticut state legislators are never more oblivious than when they propose requirements for schools to teach certain subjects. A few months ago the subject to be required was the history of the Indian tribes that inhabited the state centuries ago. Now the subject to be required is “financial literacy.”

The Indian history requirement was stupid pandering to the operators of Connecticut’s two casinos. For as the latest report from the National Assessment of Education Progress showed, knowledge of U.S. history among the country’s eighth-graders has sunk to the lowest point since NAEP tests began in 1994. The history of the country’s Indian tribes is a mere subset of U.S. history generally, worth knowing only when the basics are mastered.

The Indian history requirement was also stupid pandering for the reason the financial literacy requirement is simply stupid: because most students in Connecticut are not literate at all, never mastering basic English and math. Two weeks ago it was reported that only about a third of Bridgeport’s students perform at grade level in English and only about a fifth in math. Proficiency is better in more prosperous areas but still mediocre on the whole for the state.

So why should schools pretend to teach advanced subjects when they fail with the basics?

It’s because legislators and governors long have wanted to distract from the catastrophe of public education, for which they are responsible, as with state government’s policy of social promotion. Legislators and governors have acted as if noisily expanding school curriculums automatically conveys learning when it conveys nothing but publicity for politicians.

Students and parents increasingly recognize the fraud, as signified by the high rates of chronic student absenteeism in schools, not just in poor cities but lately in middle-class suburbs as well. Attending school hardly seems necessary when everyone knows that, far from being penalized for not showing up, students will be promoted from grade to grade and given high school diplomas without regard to learning.


One state legislator, Sen. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, began to pick up on this issue last month at a meeting of the legislature’s Education Committee. In debate on a budget amendment that would have authorized a charter school in Danbury, McCrory said the much-anticipated growth of the workforce at submarine manufacturer Electric Boat in Groton will mean nothing to the children who are being graduated ignorant of basic skills. They won’t qualify for serious jobs.

The failure with so many students in Connecticut schools is an old scandal. In his decision in the last of the futile school financing lawsuits seven years ago, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher detailed the horrifying gaps in student proficiency across the state, especially in the cities, citing the graduation of the functionally illiterate.

The judge added that Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system is practically useless. (He could have noted that it is useless in part because, unlike the evaluation system for other government employees in the state, the teacher evaluation system is, at the insistence of teacher unions, entirely secret.)


But the remedy Senator McCrory supported in debate on the state budget — more charter schools — is not so promising. For while charter schools allow better-motivated students to escape “failing” schools, schools fail mainly because the parents of their students do, and by removing better students, charter schools make neighborhood schools worse, depriving them of their good examples.

Judge Moukawsher’s remedy in the school financing case — the old one of spending more on “failing” schools — similarly fails, since Connecticut has been spending steadily more in the name of education for 45 years without improving student performance, just school employee compensation.

That is, public education in Connecticut is collapsing not because of a lack of financing but because of a lack of parenting. Indeed, the more Connecticut has spent in the name of education, the worse educational results have been. More has been spent only to gain political results, and elected officials remain OK with that.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (