According to state officials, Connecticut’s economy is strong. But much of the news tells a different story.
An extra $25 million in food subsidies is to be distributed this week to the families of 210,000 children in the state, on top of the recent expansion of the state’s free breakfasts and lunches to schoolchildren from poor families.
Home heating subsidies from the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program appear likely to be reduced by $1,000 per household because less money is being appropriated even as the number of qualifying households has risen to 116,000, an increase of 43% in five years.
Drug overdoses are exploding, with fatalities every day.
Mental illness is soaring among children, and student proficiency is not recovering from its collapse during the virus epidemic.
Homelessness is rising again.
While state officials insist that crime is going down, it seems to have gotten more brazen. The other day there was a gun battle among gangsters on a street in Bridgeport, recorded on video and broadcast by a New York television station. Crime by repeat offenders is pervasive, and a scary new phenomenon has developed: riotous “street takeovers” committed by young people. Their premise seems to be that if enough people make trouble, the police will be almost powerless. So far they have been proven right.
These developments do not suggest prosperity and hope. They suggest a society sinking in poverty, despair, indifference, nihilism, and a government unable to consider the causes of the problems and do more than throw money at them without solving them.
Of course inflation has been devastating living standards for the poor and middle class while delivering unearned capital gains to wealthy property owners. But no one in authority in Connecticut has asked where inflation comes from, even as state and federal elected officials tout the goodies they are distributing, goodies being financed by inflationary money creation that causes consumption to outrun production and prices to rise.
What is causing this disintegration?
The usual suspects — Donald Trump and George W. Bush — have been out of office for some time, and they were not misers but bigger spenders than their predecessors. Now that the federal debt limit has been suspended and the federal government has bestowed so much “emergency” money on the states, there is hardly any financial restraint in government.
Despite all this spending polls suggest that most people think the country is not progressing and the likely presidential candidates of the major political parties are awful.
So could the disintegration result from something other than a lack of government spending? Could it involve worsening social alienation, declining individual morale, and eroding standards throughout society and public life?
Whatever the causes, they won’t be addressed if those in authority lack the courage to look for them.
Schools especially are struggling against the doleful trends, but last week the CBS Evening News rebroadcast an encouraging 2½-minute report aired last December about how Meriden’s elementary schools have substantially improved student performance in math, even in schools serving mainly children from poor households.
The Meriden plan is hardly ingenious. Indeed, people outside education might find it obvious.
The schools have greatly increased instructional time in math by as much as a half hour a day and have divided classes into small groups in which students work with each other to solve math problems and get tutoring as their teacher circulates among groups. There is less boring lecturing from the blackboard and more student engagement with the work. The higher grades in the elementary schools now may spend 90 minutes a day on math.
That may be the formula for success: Cut the less essential stuff and spend more time on the basics.
Unfortunately Connecticut policy is moving in the opposite direction, with the General Assembly and Governor Lamont having just prescribed, by law, more time in school not on the basics but on politically correct stuff like ethnic studies — another pernicious trend.
Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. (CPowell@cox.net)