In Connecticut, one of the most solidly blue states in the country, liberalism has finally met its match: reality. Our tiny state, long known for being the wealthiest in the nation, is verging on bankruptcy and learning freshman-level economics the hard way.
Following two of the largest tax increases in state history, Gov. Dan Malloy and his Democrat legislature found themselves facing an economic death spiral. Oddly enough, raising taxes resulted in lower tax revenue for the state. Hefty salary and benefit packages for its unionized state workforce has left taxpayers facing pension payments they can no longer afford. And the attempt to pay off debt by incurring more debt through more bond sales has credit rating agencies looking to downgrade Connecticut. Gasp!
Of course, Connecticut is not the only state facing such serious dire financial problems. Illinois, Michigan, and California have been circling the drain for years. However, Connecticut’s small size and population means it has fewer resources to keep up the illusion of fiscal viability for much longer. This should be a warning bell to those other states (and the entire country) who confront the same grim reality.
Living Within Your Means Is Caring
The state faces a $220 million deficit this year, a $900 million deficit next year, and a $2 billion deficit the following bi-annum. Malloy has hit the panic button and is sounding more like Ted Cruz than Barack Obama, whose policies he has emulated. The cuts to state programs are coming hard and heavy, and it is brutally affecting the very programs and people Democrats claim to care about so much.
The state is the living illustration of what happens when liberal fiscal policies run up against economic reality. Malloy is withholding payments to hospitals, laying off state workers, cutting services for the disabled, mentally ill, and elderly, and raising tuition at the state colleges. Legislators are setting their sights on nonprofits, including that bastion of liberal insanity, Yale University. The University of Connecticut is shutting down some programs and satellite campuses. And that’s just with our current $220 million shortfall. That figure is quite modest in comparison to the future ahead.
While conservatives are often painted as anti-state worker and uncaring for the elderly or sick, really the opposite is true. Conservatism—particularly economic conservatism—is actually based on making sure we don’t end up in situations where those who claim to care the most must drop the fiscal axe on the very people they claimed they wanted to save.
By advocating for balanced budgets and limited spending, economic conservatism is just trying to avoid reaching the point of panic. Democrats famously portrayed Republicans as throwing Granny off a cliff during the 2012 presidential campaign. The difference in Connecticut is that it isn’t just Granny going off the cliff—it’s everybody.
Liberalism Doesn’t Fit Reality
Of course, everyone is losing their minds. The unions are calling for the heads of the wealthy while their own are spinning because their long-time Democratic friends suddenly aren’t so friendly. This what happens at both the state and national level when anyone tries to cut (or just not grow) some aspect of the government: people freak out. They protest, they hyperventilate, they scream in the streets like doomsday prophets. As if it is government’s job to grow indefinitely in spite of reality. Funny enough, all their solutions sound the same: tax the rich.
Malloy, it seems, has had enough of taxing the wealthy, because our wealthy are leaving. General Electric made national news when it announced it was moving to—of all places—Boston, Massachusetts. They’re not the only ones getting the hell outta Dodge. Connecticut has been steadily losing population and tax revenue for years. Companies are fleeing heavy taxation, retirees are hopping down to Florida where they enjoy no income tax, and millennials are finding job opportunity and cheaper living elsewhere.
A combination of high unemployment and ridiculously high property rates makes Connecticut tough for young people starting out. Florida Gov. Rick Scott named Malloy one of his favorite governors because companies and people keep jumping ship to relocate in Florida, God’s waiting room (take that, Florida).
But this should serve as a lesson. Politicians hurt people when they make decisions based on short-term political goals such as appeasing special interest groups rather than doing what actually works in the long run. Any simple perusal of a college economics textbook can tell you that raising taxes hurts revenue, minimum wage laws lower employment, and tariffs hurt consumers and economies. But it is exactly these simple lessons the political left ignores.
Imprudence Hurts the Weakest Most
To be sure, blame cannot be leveled at just one political party. Two previous Republican governors signed labor agreements with the state unions that are part of our current crisis. The same can be said of our national debt situation.
Amid all the chaos, the liberal march continues. Even as economic theory plays out before their eyes, Nutmeg State legislators continue to push for more spending and economic interference. They tried to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour but, as a backup plan, are attempting to tax businesses $1 per hour for every employee who doesn’t make $15 an hour. If you can’t see how this story ends, let me help you out: the boat hits an iceberg, sinks, and Jack dies.
But this is what happens. Battle with reality, and when you get cut it hurts, and it hurts the ones you love. Could cuts and savings be found in other ways? You bet! But once panic mode sets in, the weakest are lined up on the chopping block. This is why balanced budgeting, working with the other side of the table, and not making concessions to political pressure is so important in running a government.
Spreading the wealth around is fun in the moment. In the long run, it’s deadly. The nation should look at what is happening in Connecticut and imagine it happening on a much vaster scale.