Politics & Policy

In Connecticut, the Limits of Governing by Spleen

Dan Malloy’s truculence helped him get elected but now makes him unbearable in office.

Aggression has its advantages. Ulysses Grant, for example, proved how well relentless attack works when the odds are with you. I could cite scientists, entrepreneurs, running backs — politicians, too — who demonstrate the effectiveness of sheer determined push.

That trait can get a man into office, but it won’t much help him govern. Aggression elevated Dan Malloy, a strutting mayor of little achievement and less charm, to the governorship of Connecticut, but his truculence now works against him.

Those in his own party who felt his wrath (often over minutiae) will not bail him out now without payback. In fact, Connecticut Democrats are likely to distance themselves from Malloy as quickly as they can, for they will face the voters next year, while he (I’d guess) never will again.

Meanwhile, driven wrong-headedly by Malloy, our state nears a terminal phase. We have the nation’s heaviest total tax burden, the highest per capita state debt, and the slowest economic growth.

How do you escape such a hole? Not by imposing the biggest tax increase in state history — as Malloy did four years ago — and not by raising taxes again, as I expect legislative Democrats will do this year.

Instead of direction, Malloy offers misdirection, picking quarrels to distract us from his disastrous stewardship. Craving attention and adrenaline, he taunts Chris Christie and insults Bobby Jindal.

The most recent target was Indiana, which he declared off limits for a couple of days. Malloy knew that by pouncing on Governor Mike Pence loudly and immediately, he could make news for himself that didn’t involve the state he actually governs. Attack dog Malloy strikes in all directions, at any target, to get attention on himself and off his lousy record and the dismal mess he’s made of the Constitution State.

“We have to expose Republicans for the frauds that they are,” he said recently, incessant in his disdain for those who disagree with him.

I read that pleasantry while awaiting a legislative hearing on the human-services budget. Deep into the evening, the very people Democrats claim to defend – the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the workers who serve them — came before the Appropriations Committee to describe the impact of Malloy’s cuts to hospitals, nursing homes, private social-service providers, non-profit agencies.

Having shifted much responsibility for assistance from government agencies to private providers, to improve service and save money, Malloy now refuses to fund the providers adequately. That’s one alarming corner of an ugly state budget, which depends on unrealistic projections, unwise borrowing, unpalatable cuts, and faulty figures — a budget that on delivery was over the spending cap and out of balance.

Preparing the budget is our governor’s principal duty, and he botched it. He has left that problem behind him for the legislature to fix. Malloy’s Democratic allies will, I believe, do what he did not have the nerve to propose: fill with higher taxes the holes in his half-baked budget.

Setting that snare for his friends seems cowardly and counterproductive. Submitting a budget at once unworkable, unacceptable, and unmathematical, Malloy has left legislative Democrats to raise taxes again themselves. It is they who must face the voters next year, and the governor will let them take the blame.

To him and his fawning (and shrinking) inner circle, Malloy’s failures are old news; they’d rather move on. A still unraveling fiasco — involving Back9, a “golf lifestyle” network that had to pay to be carried on cable – might prove to be his gaudiest flop: a venture outrageous on its face, cooked up by questionable characters in cahoots with chummy insiders. Our state bonded over 5 million taxpayer dollars to fund this frat-boy scheme. The level of maturity and realism that marks this undertaking might be judged from the video featuring Malloy (and other Democrats unwise enough to join him) celebrating the fiasco. In light of that human-services hearing and the legitimate needs left unmet, such waste is outrageous.

The drive to gain office without the personality to exercise it is dangerous. Like President Obama, Governor Malloy thought the job itself was all about taking bows. Both figured the breaks would come their way, since they’re special.

An amiable narcissist, Obama has been made morose by failure; as for Malloy, a hostile narcissist, resistance from people or facts enrages him. He can no more back up than a bull: He will charge, come what may.

Malloy inflicts on our moribund economy ever-stronger doses of the treatment that laid us low, compulsively seizing on each new radical cause so he might seem a leader. At his insistence, we became the first state to mandate paid sick leave, have passed the highest minimum wage in the nation, and now contemplate a special tax on corporations that pay any employee less than $15 an hour.

For more than 20 years, since we passed the cursed state income tax, Connecticut has ranked dead last in economic growth in our nation. Progressive policies have destroyed the oldest and finest manufacturing base in America.

If there’s a cliff ahead, we’re the closest to it and running the fastest. Sometimes I think we’re off that cliff already, like the cartoon coyote who hangs in mid-air till he looks down and drops.

Facts will soon bring Dan Malloy down to earth with a thud. He is governed by spleen, and the limitations of that organ have made him both the worst governor in America and the most unpleasant.

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