The dire picture of Connecticut’s finances painted by the majority of candidates for state office is a GOOD thing. Finally, candidates are at least talking about the right things: spending within our means, bonding within reason, and ending the undue riches the state showers on employees who are in some cases undeserving.
Now, let’s see if those who win can follow through beyond election season.
There is one candidate for governor who can prod effectively for the next four years. That is me, Mark Stewart Greenstein.
I am the liberty-oriented Democrat, running for governor as an independent, under the Americans for Minimal Government (“AMiGo”) party. The purpose of minimal government, socially liberal (because state government is lousy at most things) and fiscally conservative (because it’s YOUR money) is to let individuals flourish.
The smaller and weaker the state is, the larger and better we individuals are. The less the state controls the funding of charity, the more we individuals aid the recipients of charity.
Thus, NONE of the five dire choices cited by some candidates need be our lot. Instead, we can have a “right-sized” budget within three years. “Right” is based on what taxpayers want to fund.
Taxpayers are at least as wise and as moral as legislators. Taxpayers are not typically as knowledgeable, but now that we’ve awoken, now that there is a continuing campaign to fund properly, now that there will be a state mechanism to show deserving and non-deserving charities, we taxpayers will be vigilant, more vigilant than our legislators.
“Right” is best determined not by the few in power, using Other People’s Money, but by the many, with their own money. Our legislators play with $20 billion of OPM annually. In the process they approve spending based on favoritism. Worse, when there is
malfeasance they rarely choose to alter their largesse.
We can return the state’s annual spending to no more than $9 billion. Needy people get more and better funding, privately, as we citizens and our agents assess need. Good, well-run services will be funded MORE than under state reins. Simultaneously, moderately-good services will get BETTER; they need to in order to attract funding. Poorly run services and unnecessary services will not be funded well.
That’s how capitalism works, and we should apply it to the state-usurped services that need not remain in state control. To stay in business, our grocers, technicians, chiropractors, retailers, and engineers do better and better services for us. Our cars, computers, clothing, and phones all get better because we shop among competitors for the products we want. We should do the same with state services. We can have a smorgasbord of activities, displayed on state web sites, for taxpayers to fund and non-taxpayers to enhance.
The best people to make state services better are state employees themselves. I would free them to develop departments that service their missions BETTER. Current managers will choose the staffers they want, using the talent they already know. They’ll select outsiders who now want to become part of a vibrant service group. They’ll enlist the technology they want, the office space they want, and not be bound by state regulations that shackle adroit expansion. The entrepreneurial employees will relish this. The state will be their first client, and they will sell their good work to other states. They’ll have more control over their work. They’ll be paid handsomely, as successful innovators, managers, and workers are in private business.
With the state doing only the necessary services while this smorgasbord of non-necessary “nice” services springs forth, a return to a no-income-tax Connecticut is EASY. My proposal ends the personal income tax in three years, using 30, 34, and 36 percent income tax cuts for most people, paying off the $2.6 billion debt in those same proportions, and slimming our definition of “necessary” services each year.
For 2019 the departments I suggest freeing from state control cost us 20 percent of the budget. By year-end 2021, the big “necessary” divisions should be limited to corrections, education, environmental protection, mental health, judicial (including homeless youth services), and pension/health obligations that cannot be bought out voluntarily.
The above are the functions of state government. The remaining functions that the state has usurped are slowly “freed” to be better funded, and better served, with better results. Recipients of “nice” former state services will not have to suffer through budget cuts due to compromise, to omission (legislators rarely scrutinize full funding bills) and to stalemates which suddenly cut off services.
This return to necessary vs. nice is not novel. It’s the form of government we had until the 1920s. That’s when excesses first gave the impulse that government should do the nice. “Sophisticated” bureaucrats marinated in government would direct the nice, instead of us. That’s when mutual aid societies started to wane, because government began usurping their function.
Connecticut’s ONLY problems have stemmed from government. That’s why I’m so optimistic: government is the easiest thing to change. It just takes will. Our excesses have finally engendered that will. We can return to rock-steady ways.
We have to. The budgetary out-years are WORSE. The pension liabilities, particularly the teacher pension liabilities, grow rapidly after 2023. The $4.6 billion biennial shortage will exceed $10 billion after 2025. And if wealthy people and businesses continue to leave, the budget will be doubly difficult to fund.
We are spinning in the upper part of a vortex that will get thinner and more rapid as we descend (some term it a “death spiral” as those with means move out of state, leaving us with less ability to fund the needier people who remain).
The mechanism for funding modern charitable activities involves the state’s “thumb” for the first two years, but otherwise entails the same old-fashioned way by which we fund the Special Olympics, the Friends of the Sound, DARE, MADD, policemen’s benefits, children’s activities, homeless shelters, and thousands of other service groups.
The will is an old-fashioned one too: the humanity we all have to help the less fortunate.
We should thank “siren-sounders” candidates and we can look forward to a resolution that results from being so pressed.
- A freer, Connecticut, less reliant of government and more on individuals and private groups.
- Protect good immigrants from deportation, even if they arrived illegally.
- Legalize victimless activities (including adult use of marijuana).
- Build another six lanes adjacent to the Merritt Parkway using investor money and no state funds.
- A fairer, better education system, with families controlling their schools and their destinies.
Mark Stewart Greenstein is a candidate for Connecticut Governor and co-founder of the Americans for Minimal Government Party (AMiGo).