The State Senate seems to want to bring us back to 2009, in the darkest days of the Great Recession. The proposals to raise taxes to redistribute income do nothing to drive the economic growth and vitality that the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth said we needed, nor will it create the first job or opportunity for the disadvantaged to improve their lives.
First, let’s acknowledge that the government social safety net showed its gaping holes during the COVID pandemic. A Democratic state, ostensibly controlled by unions, could not even pay unemployment to laid off workers who had never before looked for any government program. The people dependent on the system were stranded without money for months, with all the cascading problems associated with that. It is called an abject failure that proves our state government should start no other programs until it can do well and reliably what it already says it does. Saying it was a disaster misses the point: government is not here for good times, but to help with problems and disasters that go beyond the ability of individuals to cope.
President Ronald Reagan spoke of shrinking government, but I think he was speaking more about expensive government programs that cost a lot to administer and provided relatively little comparable benefit to the recipients. We should be talking about effective government, that provides excellent, customer service results with a low amount of friction or hassle to recipients or the taxpayer funding it.
I have spent my whole life in small business, starting by myself and now employing 16 people with health insurance and retirement programs offered. When I read about “rich business people” cheating their employees, it is me and my colleagues that support half the workforce of Connecticut that I am reading about. It is a false narrative to drive fear and jealousy into people. Most of us have poured liberal amounts of blood, sweat, and tears into our businesses and faced a number of obstacles over the years. Hundred hour weeks have been frequent realities for many of us, yet time and perseverance has yielded success that has given us a good living and financial security for ourselves and our staffs.
If we really want to help our disadvantaged population, we should stop picking cronies and political contributors for government aid and make a truly level playing field so that people with good ideas can succeed. More may want to be self-employed and pursue their own version of “pursuit of happiness.” Whether it is construction, landscaping, food production or preparation, manufacturing, or other service there are many opportunities to serve the public.
Having government get out of the way and letting people follow their dreams would do more to lower social service costs, and grow the economy to pay state employee and teacher pensions, than any other program the state senate can think of.
Chip Beckett lives in Glastonbury.