State Capitol (CTNewsJunkie file photo) Credit: File / CTNewsJunkie

There are many competing ideas about what the size and scope of government should be. We have the discussion every election, and the people decide how active or inactive government is. It at least seemed clear to me that most people agreed that government should step in to handle projects and emergencies that individuals can’t handle alone.

The coronavirus pandemic is one of those emergencies. Hand-washing, face-masks, and social distancing are the critical individual steps we must keep taking, but the power of government is the only force that had the resources and mandate to save lives on a large scale.

In this regard, our government failed. More than 8,000 Connecticut residents have lost their lives so far. Compare that to South Korea, an entire nation, which lost less than 2,000 people.

Many people don’t like this comparison. They’ll point to differences in culture, region, outlook, anything except for the most obvious explanation: the efficacy of the government’s response to a crisis.

What the pandemic has revealed is the extent to which local and state governments are totally dependent upon the federal government. Money for robust testing never arrived. School PPE resources were held up for almost a year. Even stimulus payments took months to reach people.

Without those federal resources, our state was essentially left to fend for itself. It did so poorly. Some may laud the state government for coming through 2020 with a modest state surplus, but this was hardly the time for state frugality. Not when thousands were dying, and thousands more were out of work, trying to make ends meet.

Connecticut has been happy to spend federal dollars now that a new administration has offered them up, but not nearly as eager to give its residents their money back in a time of need. There are legislators who wanted to use the surplus to bolster services, but in reality, the money will probably go to pension payments.

So our state government did not do as well as other governments in keeping residents safe and alive. It declines to spend its tax revenue on citizens directly, instead essentially paying itself and its employees.

What is the point of this government then? I don’t mean specifically the Lamont administration. I mean the entirety of state government. What do our taxes do if they’re not saving lives or being redirected to those who truly need them, instead of sitting in a rainy day fund? Was not 2020 the rainy day?

The pandemic has made stark what has been true all along. Connecticut cannot actually run itself without federal help even in the best of times. When the worst of times came, the state shut down but did little more to ease the suffering of the people who justifies its existence.

Thanks to the rollout of the vaccine (another federal initiative), it looks like we may be moving beyond the pandemic sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, 8,000 people died, and who knows how many more are in precarious financial or health situations. The response of the state to the catastrophe looks woefully inept. We need to ask our government what it is exactly that it does for us.

Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of