The one thing I like about conservatives is that evidence does not faze them, they are not bothered by the facts or the obvious contradictions of their convictions. In Connecticut, conservatives are fond of bashing unions, taxes and Democratic spending. Even though, if labor unions, taxes and spending were actually the problem then Connecticut and the rest of the country should be drowning in jobs and surplus budgets by now – and ninety percent of the poorest counties in America would not be in republican-led states.
In the face of their relentless moaning concerning state spending, conservatives rarely take the time to specify what state spending should be cut, by how much or what the overall effect those cuts would even have on the budget. Instead, they cling to over-simplified distortions that Connecticut residents are fleeing the state because of higher taxes, labor unions and cost of living. Objectivist notions rooted in the mythical Libertarian philosophy that traffics in socialist plots, tyrannical governments and marauding immigrants. In truth, the biggest reason residents give when planning to move out of the state is 21% for work or business reasons. Cost of living accounted for only 12% and taxes equated to a whopping 6% of relocations. Therefore, 82% of residents are leaving, for reasons other than taxes, cost of living or labor unions. Despite the fact Connecticut wages, unemployment, poverty and education rates all fall within the median range of economic indicators and property values, middleclass wealth, savings, corporate residency and gross state product also fair somewhat better or worse than other states, conservatives can’t resist convincing themselves and anyone who will listen, that Connecticut is an economic Titanic. The reality is nearly 80% of state spending falls into four categories; personnel costs, which amounts to 38% of spending. Municipal aid, which largely funds education and alleviates local property taxes is 17.5%. Medicaid for 700,000 poor and disabled residents equates to 13%. Debt service is 10% and the remaining 21.5% of the budget funds everything else from higher education, social service programs, economic development, job training, environmental protection, transportation, social services, arts, tourism, etc.
What this indicates, as evidenced by the data, is that conservatives have it all wrong. The underlying causes impacting the state economy are not spending, taxes or unions. It’s the precipitous decline in corporate tax revenues that pit states against one another in a race to the bottom-thus creating unnecessary economic hardships for federal and state budgets. Nevertheless, conflating complex state budgets with bumper-sticker politics is emblematic of a party who has weaponized spiritual values to protect a radical agenda. By supporting policies designed to dismantle healthcare, eviscerate organized labor and tilt the tax system against the middleclass in favor global corporations, this is a party devoid of compassion for those suffering the consequences of poverty, illness and age. A people living in contradiction to their own professed Christian values.
Although, perhaps it’s just easier, psychologically, for conservatives to swallow the belief that states are struggling economically because of the left-wing school teachers, the socialist nurses and greedy child-welfare workers who are bankrupting our economy. Instead, perhaps we should put our faith in the Libertarian policies designed to systematically dismantle healthcare, collective bargaining and the middleclass. Maybe we should place our future in the hands of those corporations whose business plans depend on the status quo. We can have balanced budgets, a world-class infrastructure, first-rate public education and affordable healthcare for all our citizens or we can subscribe to the notion that we can have the world’s largest military, costliest healthcare and some of the lowest corporate taxation rates in history. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is, we simply cannot have both.