6:29 PM EST, January 11, 2013
In a classic "Seinfeld" episode, the ever-hapless George Costanza decides it's time to change his strategy. "Every decision that I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I've wanted to be."
His buddy Jerry Seinfeld suggests, "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right." George decides to become Opposite George, committed to doing the opposite of everything he would have done.
He introduces himself to a beautiful stranger with an unconventional pick-up line: "My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents." She's immediately interested and they go on a successful date. Instead of being a sycophant during a job interview with the New York Yankees, Costanza blasts owner George Steinbrenner for mismanaging the team. Steinbrenner's response? "Hire this man!"
Two years into Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration, nothing the governor has done in terms of fiscal policy, job creation or economic growth has worked.
After passing the biggest tax increase in state history — raising income and sales taxes on middle class taxpayers, among 77 separate tax and fee increases — the state once again fell into a budget deficit of hundreds of millions just a year later. Connecticut's unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, more than a point above the national average.
Connecticut doesn't just trail other states. By many measures, Connecticut is rated as the worst state in the nation.
Barron's calculates Connecticut's indebtedness as the worst in the country. The Tax Foundation concluded that Connecticut taxpayers work to pay federal, state and local taxes longer than residents of any other state. TopRetirements.com ranks Connecticut as the worst state in which to retire, for reasons of taxation. The Cato Institute's Fiscal Policy Report Card gave Gov. Malloy an F, tied for worst governor in the country.
Gov. Malloy should abandon his failed approach of the past two years and reverse course. It's time for Opposite Dannel.
Instead of allowing state spending to increase by a billion dollars a year and raising taxes yet again, Opposite Dannel should cut spending to turn a deficit into a surplus — and then return that surplus to taxpayers through tax cuts.
Opposite Dannel should end the "Next Five" program, which is corporate welfare masquerading as economic development. This is the program that will give $115 million to Bridgewater Associates, the world's biggest hedge fund, to move from Westport to the governor's hometown of Stamford.
Other First or Next Five recipients include the hardly struggling start-ups Charter Communications, Deloitte, Cigna, ESPN, and NBC Sports. Subsidizing large, successful corporations by taking tax dollars from middle-class families and small businesses is not only bad public policy. It crushes morale and demotivates all those who are working their butts off. "Where's my subsidy?" hard-working taxpayers might reasonably ask.
Opposite Dannel should repeal the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, through which $110 million is redistributed from middle- and upper-income taxpayers to the working poor, refundable even to beneficiaries who pay no state income taxes of their own. Let's call the Earned Income Tax Credit what it is: A major expansion of Connecticut's welfare programs that, however well-intended, the state simply can't afford.
Symbolism matters, too. Opposite Dannel should admit he made a mistake in authorizing the New Britain busway, a $567 million boondoggle-in-waiting destined to become an example of public works gone awry.
Opposite George Costanza got the girl and his dream job. Gov. Malloy may already have his dream job, but if he'd like to keep it next year, he should reverse course before it's too late.
Fergus Cullen is executive director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a free market think tank based in East Hartford. His email is Fergus@yankeeinstitute.org.
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