Connecticut’s disaster is man-made, harder to fix
Because of their growth and increasing prosperity, Texas and Florida are often presented as states Connecticut should emulate in public policy, especially because neither state imposes an income tax and both claim to be more supportive of business.
Perhaps more important, Texas and Florida have natural advantages that are reflected in their economies and state government finances — in Texas, oil and gas; in Florida, warm weather, which attracts tourists and wealthy retirees.
But now both states have been laid low by their natural disadvantage, their location in the tropics and vulnerability to the most violent and damaging storms.
In Texas, regulation-free Houston, center of the oil and gas industry, is flooded out by Hurricane Harvey and thousands of homes will not be restored without massive government assistance. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who recently visited Connecticut to try to lure its businesses away, probably won’t be making similar trips any time soon, since for months it may be all he can do just to repair his state’s infrastructure and homes from the damage done by Hurricane Irma.
Of course hurricanes have made their way to Connecticut as well, but never as often and seldom have they been as damaging, since the state’s hillier topography facilitates drainage, unlike the lowland plains of south Texas and Florida. While Connecticut has the occasional winter snowstorm, on the whole its climate is temperate. Indeed, a study in 2005 concluded that the state is at less risk of natural disaster than any other state.
The state’s water supplies are generous but controlled. Its history is rich. And being located between two great metropolitan areas and having its own cities, suburbs, and rural areas so close together, Connecticut offers great convenience, variety, and quality of life.
No, the disaster in which Connecticut finds itself is manmade, caused by political malfeasance and the loss of civic virtue, the electorate’s assumption that the state’s prosperity is the natural order of things and not the result of generations of effort and wiser choices.
For years now that prosperity has been squandered, and it’s not so hard to see why.
Even the current state ad- ministration, whose policies are little different from those of the predecessors it reviles, has acknowledged that more than half the state budget is now a matter of “fixed costs” — costs that by statute or contract are put beyond ordinary democratic control and given priority above the delivery of public services.
The state’s schools have abandoned academic standards and instead operate by social promotion. Welfare and poverty policy perpetuate and increase dependence rather than cure it. Politically correct posturing is depicted as progress as Connecticut falls behind other states.
Fixing man-made disasters can be harder than fixing natural ones.
Putting Connecticut’s government and welfare classes in their place, subservient to the public rather than its master, will take more sustained effort than draining and repairing south Texas and Florida. It will require persuading people of things that are not as apparent as a toppled utility pole or a washed-out road. It will require resisting people who show up in force every day to defend their expensive privileges, while hurricanes may show up months or years apart.
Can it be done? Is Connecticut’s decline clear enough to enough people to be reflected in leaders who have the courage to change government policy, defy special interests, and unfix the “fixed costs”? That’s what the state’s next election should be about.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the American Airline counter.