God Bless America (and also Connecticut)

July 18, 2012

The most wonderful of American holidays has come and gone, and for those of you who attended the Flag Raising Ceremony at Town Hall on the Fourth of July or any other event like it, you shared emotions of optimism and pride with those who have lived through perhaps ninety such celebrations as well as those who were experiencing their very first. What a magnificent country we live in to be able to freely share our feelings of patriotism knowing that America has set the world standard for selflessness, strength and economic opportunity. Bravo for this country for what it has achieved collectively in its 236 years and for those who have sacrificed greatly for the good of the nation and humanity throughout the world. Bravo for Chuck Standard, WWII Navy Cross recipient who simply does not miss a flag raising ceremony, and for every other veteran, serviceperson, first responder, doctor, relief worker, mom and dad attending that event in person or in spirit.

America has just as bright a future as we have had in the past if we get it right going forward, but I do worry that the culture of sacrifice and ethic of leaving a better country for the next generation has been on the wane. While watching many young people proudly saluting the flag during the Star Spangled Banner last week, I wondered to myself if they were remotely aware that a month ago, we as a nation passed the grim threshold that no one would have ever thought could happen after WWII: our outstanding debt became greater than the size of our economy and is projected to grow much more rapidly than our economy through 2025 and beyond. We have a worse debt per capita ratio than even Greece today. Given the lowest interest rates in the history of our country helping us finance this growing debt, when normalcy returns to the fixed income markets, the burden of servicing our debt could explode to unmanageable levels. This is very worrisome, and morally, we need to fix this now for those youngsters saluting the flag on the Fourth of July with all the optimism and trust that you would expect from 12 year old children.

I personally do not want any future generation looking at an American flag that represents a broken country in any sense. There are far too many flags in the world today, especially in Western Europe, that represent insolvency, youth unemployment rates exceeding 50 percent and continued rioting in the streets. How many more countries will go down this path, and is it possible for the United States of America to do the same?

Democracy is the very best form of government known to the civilized world, but its shortcoming is that it permits legislative bodies and executive branches to ultimately spend beyond their means. Not kept in check, overspending becomes very dangerous and possibly irreversible thus threatening everything from education to healthcare to defense to social stability. All we have to do is look to the east and see tragedy after tragedy unfolding before our eyes to know that we absolutely must avoid the path of fiscal irresponsibility.

The same is also true at the state level. In Connecticut, our state government is essentially the mirror image of Federal Government when it comes to spending beyond its means. After the largest tax increase in the history of the state, we closed the book on Fiscal Year 2012 a few days ago with a deficit covered by borrowed funds. Income tax revenues fell short of projections because of anemic economic growth and the fact that many taxpayers have either left the state or delayed taxable transactions. We have had a larger budget every fiscal year since the Great Recession started when most states took a very different road and have since nursed themselves back to fiscal health, some of whom are now benefitting economically from tax cuts. Over the last two years, the state has committed billions of borrowed dollars to projects and enterprises that have no guarantee of a positive return including the New Britain to Hartford Busway and Jackson Laboratories. Our state employee pension fund is amongst the worst funded in the country at 48 percent, and the state employee health care fund is being raided to pay for operating expenses through the common cash pool. Jobs and companies, such as UTC’s Aerospace Division, ESL Investments and Pfizer, continue to leave at an unacceptable rate. Nothing good will result from these circumstances.

We owe it to the children of all future generations to do a better job at managing our fiscal house and restoring greatness to the State of Connecticut as well as to the country. It is our moral imperative to do so, and I am confident that the people of this wonderful state as well as those all across the United States of America will rise to the occasion in November and afterwards to assure we avoid insolvency at all levels and guarantee opportunity for everyone to succeed. Numerous times in the past, we as a people have done this on a massive scale; we can do it again, and we can give those 12 year olds and ultimately their children something about which to be genuinely optimistic.