Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three editorials, by Red Jahncke and UWA Region 9 President Michael Holmes, debating the state budget and the issue of state employee compensation.
The series follows the classic format of point, counterpoint and brief rebuttal. Jahncke provides initial remarks. Holmes is given 3 days to respond. Jahncke is then was given 1 day for a brief rebuttal.
When I first saw Governor Lamont’s proposed “comeback” budget, I was deeply concerned. While there aren’t obvious cuts splattered across his proposal, deep inside you can still see the overwhelming slant towards the path of austerity. A path that has, historically, only hampered our economic recovery efforts, which was abundantly evident throughout the Great Recession.
Economic experts and former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder and Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi released a report in 2015 that dove into the federal response to the Great Recession and the impact those stimulus policies had on our “comeback.” Overwhelmingly, the evidence points to an even gloomier outcome if the full set of these policies were not enacted. “In a nutshell, Blinder and Zandi estimate that without the full set of federal responses, the recession would have been more than three times deeper and lasted twice as long; we would have lost twice as many jobs and unemployment would have peaked at 16 percent rather than 10 percent; the budget deficit would have grown to 20 percent of GDP, reaching $2.8 trillion in fiscal 2011; and unemployment today would be 7.6 percent, not 5.1 percent.”
This evidence was the basis for their recommendations to policymakers as they respond to future crises, “Policymakers should not respond to every financial event, but they should respond aggressively to potential crises — and the greater the uncertainty, the more policymakers should err on the side of a bigger response.” Given the unprecedented nature of COVID-19, I would argue this “comeback” requires the biggest response we have had in decades.
If we don’t learn from our history, we are simply doomed to repeat it.
Governor Ned Lamont’s budget fails to take this lesson to heart, it fails to address the unprecedented need for State-funded services that our most vulnerable populations have relied on throughout the pandemic.
The Childcare Providers through the Care for Kids program that offers program participants, predominantly women of color, an opportunity to not only grow and own their own small businesses, but then allow for clients of these providers the opportunity to go out, work and contribute to the economy while not worrying for their children’s safety. These providers have remained open throughout the pandemic.
The State Police Officer who has continued to answer the calls to keep our communities safe. The Department of Public Health nurse who has begun vaccinating our cities and towns. The Department of Labor Reemployment Service employee who has worked tirelessly to guide productive members of our society into new fields. The Department of Transportation Service Patrol Driver who helps when you’ve got a flat tire or dead car battery on the side of the highway. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protections who works day in and day out to ensure the water you drink and the air you breathe is safe. The list goes on and on and on.
State employees offer critical services, protect our critical infrastructure and deliver to critically-needed communities on a daily basis, but especially in times of crisis.
But those that fail to focus on these impacts are most often those that have been privileged enough to never have to live paycheck-to-paycheck, they’ve never had to make the decision between rent being paid and food being put on the table, they’ve never experienced a real struggle.
Those focused on the ways to negatively impact our state employees as an “effort” to strengthen the working class are glaringly mistaken – we will not fall into the trap of fighting against our working class sisters and brothers. Connecticut’s ultra-wealthy and the mouthpieces they pay to do their bidding intentionally attempt to pit the working class against one another, public against private, white against black and brown, because they understand that if we stand together, we rise together, but if we fail to stand together we fall together.
They rely on this dichotomy to maintain their power despite the mental gymnastics they must go through to maintain a “logical” argument – to say that any working class or middle class family is “privileged” in this economy or throughout this pandemic is an outright lie. It is Connecticut’s billionaires who have profited more than $3 billion throughout this pandemic that are “privileged”, not the hardworking men and women public or private many of whom continue to risk their and their families health to provide a safety net to our struggling communities.
Connecticut’s working class will not fall for the lies concocted by the ultra-wealthy. We will instead continue to focus on the real problem our state has – a regressive tax structure and a history of corporate tax cuts.
A recovery for all, truly for all, and not just the ultra-wealthy, is the only way our State can truly have a “comeback”.
UAW Region 9A