In a recent article by the Connecticut News Junkie Governor Jodi Rell attempts to provide an upbeat assessment of the economy in Connecticut. She has offered Connecticut citizens her comforting words: "It is not as bad as we thought it would be." I know that I am comforted. In addition, the governor has stated that jobs are being created every day in the film industry and that she does not want to implement any state layoffs. This is hypocrisy at its worst and flies in the face of her recent statements. Is this the best assessment she has to offer?
First, most jobs in the film industry are not the average full time jobs that most workers are after. These jobs are usually part-time work for staging and extra work. While this would be a good temporary job, it flies in the fact of the rising unemployment rate in Connecticut. That and the fact that not much filming is currently being staged at present adds to the wonderment and reliability of the governor's assessment.
The governor does not have much good economic advice to give. She has presided over an economy that has been dwindling for the last three years. The best advice she gives is, "It is not as bad we thought it would be." The implication here is that she knew it would be bad. The recent reports of the Connecticut Department of Labor confirm the rising unemployment rate. At last the governor's rhetoric matches the reality of the facts. However, the question remains, what did she try to do to forestall this problem? Why has she not offered any leadership in attempting to solve this economic problem? The answer is clear. She is a victim of her own beliefs that government should not be involved in the economy. Her solution has been to cut state jobs and add to the increase in unemployment. What about investing in some programs that could easily provide jobs and state revenue through taxing those new wages?
Secondly, Governor Rell is disingenuous about state layoffs. Proof of this is the budget plan she submitted in early February calling for the elimination of several commissions and the "voluntary" retirement of state employees. Now this is not the same as a layoff. Granted, many employees that would get retirement are usually offered fairly good packages. However, let us not be fooled by these retirements. There is no plan to replace these retirees, thus adding to the stress of us all for the lack of state police, DMV officers, social workers, and other state services. Some of these programs need a minimum level workforce to provide an adequate level of service. In addition, the commissions she has proposed to eliminate are necessary in providing the research and background for sound legislative programs. Their elimination could only add to the problem of assessing legislative programs prior to enactment. These commissions provide the research and bipartisan information legislators need for adequate assessment. There can be no advantage in the elimination or laying off of state workers, especially if the state will be paying for their unemployment compensation instead of their salary.
The best that Rell has offered in the last four years is to cut the deficit. I do think that if there was a time to run a deficit now would be that time. Studies have shown that deficits constructed in the correct manner can actually be paid off and provide fuel to the economy. I am not referring to the recent eight-year deficit at the national level. Spending on a war is not the best way to fuel an economy. Connecticut has performed many studies on how to build a high speed rail. Why not start building that system from New Haven to Springfield? Some of the money could come from the federal stimulus.
I am not opposed to balanced budgets in good economic times, but to quote an old song, "the times they are a-changing." We need leadership that is not afraid to occasionally abandon the dogma of old and venture out on a limb. What is leadership without taking a political risk every now and then? It's time to pull some old economic ideas out of moth balls and look at the problems the state faces in the cold light of day. Forced retirement and laying off people will only create more economic hardship.
This all pales in comparison to the revelation by the governor. If she knew there was a problem and it was getting worse, why not propose a solution sooner? The governor is no longer a caretaker governor. She has been elected in her own right and does not have to worry about being in the shadow of her predecessor. Her reactionary formula for the current economic situation, however, is only a temporary Band-Aid. When Band-Aids are not enough, then it is time to move in a different direction. Leadership entails recognizing the growing economic problems and working on a solution, not just putting new Band-Aids on top of old Band-Aids.