In his annual State of the State address, Gov. Ned Lamont sounded like he’d had enough. “No more badmouthing” the state of Connecticut, he insisted. I do agree that the constant drumbeat of negativity (some of it deserved, of course) has done little to effect positive change in a state that is sandwiched between Boston and New York and already suffers from an inferiority complex.
Some of the invective against our beloved state comes from the outside. On the eve of National Pizza Day, Lamont engaged in a Twitter skirmish with New Jersey over which state deserves the title of “Pizza Capital of the World.”
Relax, New Jersey. I will proudly proclaim Crimped Hair Day, Wearing Socks With Sandals Day, and Don’t Pump Your Own Gas Day in your honor. But Connecticut is clearly the Pizza Capital of the World. https://t.co/ccvhWopjuD https://t.co/xNCqq9ba81
— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) February 7, 2020
Lamont invoked the city of New Haven, which features dozens of pizzerias that offer slices of heaven (I visited one over the weekend). One snarky Garden Stater replied, “Pffft – What’s your motto, come for the pizza, stay for the traffic?” Ouch …
Most of the naysayers, however, are right here in plain sight. They’re fed up with rising taxes, deteriorating roads and bridges, an often dysfunctional state government, and budget deficits as far as the eye can see.
But I’m guessing there will be more incoming revilement, mostly from places with lots of supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Thanks to a story last week in the Courant, it’s now an open secret that many Democratic insiders in Connecticut are nervous at the prospect of Sanders at the top of the ticket in November.
Some Fairfield County voters and activists interviewed by the Courant were apprehensive about Sander’s proposed single-payer healthcare system, which he calls “Medicare For All,” but which would effectively throw more than 100 million Americans off their private health insurance and onto something that would, in some cases, be inferior.
This action, we are told, is necessary in order to extend coverage to the 30 million who remain uninsured. It’s not surprising that the plan would be unpopular in most of Connecticut. After all, we have a combination of wealthy private-sector employees and unionized government workers who have outstanding health insurance which, in most cases, they bargained for in good faith.
It’s a well-known fact that Connecticut is heavily reliant on the insurance industry as an economic driver. According to a recent study by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, “the private sector health insurance industry supported 48,560 jobs and generated $15.5 billion in direct and indirect economic activity in 2018.” Whether you believe those exact numbers or not, one can only imagine the economic devastation that might be visited upon our state following the abolition or phasing out of private health insurance.
Sanders also proposes a so-called tax on “extreme wealth” that would hit Fairfield County especially hard, with its highly compensated financial industry executives, some of whom work at the world’s largest hedge fund. Wealth taxes on the net worth of individuals, which would threaten the state’s large private equity industry, have been tried in Europe and they don’t work very well because money is too fungible. But that won’t stop Sanders from trying.
So the concern of Fairfield residents is essentially threefold: 1) Sanders cannot win; and 2) If he somehow managed to prevail over President Trump, Sanders would not be able to get his programs through Congress; and 3) If he did manage to get both houses of Congress to pass them, they would devastate the state of Connecticut.
To that I might add that even in the likely event that Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, were to lose this fall in a head-to-head match-up against Trump, his presence on the ballot could drag other Democrats down to the point that the party loses control of the House of Representatives.
Imagine Congressman Jim Himes, a moderate Democrat who represents Fairfield County’s Gold Coast, running for re-election and being forced to defend Sanders’ wealth tax and healthcare policies before an audience of constituents who work for companies like Bridgewater and Silver Point Capital. Himes’ GOP opponent will hit him over the head with the socialist label.
Or there is the possibility that Gold Coasters could be so repelled by Sanders and Trump that apathy becomes the order of the day.
“I hope that would not discourage people from voting, but it’s hard to say,” Ellen Lautenberg, chair of the Westport Democratic Town Committee, told the Courant. “I am concerned that people could be alienated by that and would most likely stay home rather than vote for Trump.”
Himes, as far as I can tell, hasn’t yet endorsed a presidential candidate. For his part, Lamont has endorsed Joe Biden, who would make a better fit for Connecticut voters but whose cozy relationship with the banking industry has angered supporters of Sanders and fellow wealth-tax devotee Elizabeth Warren.
Now, if word gets out nationally about Connecticut Dems who think Sanders would be a disaster, watch out for more “badmouthing.” Those who “feel the Bern” are known for delivering harsh rhetoric against those who have doubts about their dear leader – so much so that the Sanders campaign has had to ask some of them to “tone it down.”
Indeed, some of the Sanders revolutionaries, known as “the swarm” for their relentless attacks on nonbelievers, actually have more in common with the MAGA crowd than with supporters of other Democratic presidential candidates.
“Nobody likes him,” Hillary Clinton, his victorious rival for the nomination four years ago, said recently.
I’ve never met the man, but if Sanders’ most fanatical supporters are any indication, there might be something to what Hillary said. I can say with certainty that the Fairfield County Dems are right to be concerned. If Sanders is at the top of the ticket, he could drag others down with him. If hell freezes over and Sanders takes command of the Oval Office, his policies would cause an economic depression in Connecticut. In that case, not a single person in the state would like him.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at CTDevilsAdvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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