Con­necti­cut’s dis­as­ter is man-made, harder to fix

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - OPINION - Chris Pow­ell Chris Pow­ell is man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the Jour­nal In­quirer

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.

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