Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Hurrah!  It’s finally “infrastructure week” in Washington.  In his first 100 days as President, Joe Biden has delivered a plan that his predecessor just kept teasing us with for four years:  a complete rehabilitation and expansion of the nation’s infrastructure. Of course, Biden’s “American Jobs Act” goes way beyond just rebuilding roads, bridges and rails.  It also covers our water supply, electrical grid, internet, sea and airports, our housing stock and our very jobs. It’s too much and way too expensive ($2+ trillion) for conservatives but hardly enough for progressives.  That sounds great to me. With plenty for everyone to

More

Our Duty is to Recognize Gaps Between the Idealized and Reality…and to Close Them

It should not have taken AAPI rallies, spa shootings in Georgia, and sidewalk beatings of elderly Chinese to draw our attention to new and savage synergies of resentment and violence against Asian Americans. Coactive xenophobic elements were everywhere. For over a year, people of Asian descent and Pacific Islanders endured pandemic scapegoating and slander, suffering nearly 4,000 reported hate crimes nationwide. Most undoubtedly were instigated by Trump calling SARS-CoV-2 “the Chinese virus,” emboldened racists reiterating his “kung flu” slur, and continua of flagrant name calling and condescension online. When asked about motives for the March 16th murders in Atlanta, local

More

Eventually We’ll All be Paying and Young Car Thieves Laugh

Nearly everyone except government employees has suffered financial losses during the virus epidemic, and since those losses were caused more by government’s closure of much of the economy than by the epidemic itself, everyone wants reimbursement from the government. There’s some justice in this, especially in the requests from businesses in Connecticut for state government to use its federal epidemic relief money to cover the $700 million the state borrowed from the federal government to pay the huge and unexpected unemployment benefits claimed during the epidemic. Otherwise unemployment insurance taxes on businesses may have to be increased for years, weakening

More

A Threat By Any Name is the Same

Upon his inauguration, President Biden issued a flurry of executive orders related to climate change, including one designating climate change a national security threat, one rejoining the Paris Accord, another halting the Keystone XL pipeline and yet another freezing petroleum leases and permits on federal land for 60 days. The primary security threat by this new climate-change name looks the same as the leading national security threat in traditional terms: China. The totalitarian Communist dictatorship is responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the EDGAR database. China’s emissions are not only the world’s most, but they

More

Lamont Probably Won’t Mind Denunciation as a Moderate

Many liberal Democratic officials around the country and especially in the Northeast, including Governor Lamont, are looking hypocritical for urging President Biden to help repeal the federal government’s limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes — the “SALT” tax deduction cap. Liberal Democrats usually advocate more progressive taxation — that is, higher tax rates on higher incomes — and progressive taxation is exactly what the cap on SALT deductions is. It limits to $10,000 the deduction taken by federal income taxpayers for the state and local taxes they pay. Anyone who pays more than $10,000 altogether in state income and municipal property taxes is probably doing well financially. Liberal and conservative tax analysts agree

More

It’s About Time CEOs Assumed Such Progressive Mantles as Upholding Voters’ Rights

A spate of voting restrictions, disproportionately and negatively impacting people of color, has reemerged in the South. In Florida, Republicans are plotting to constrict mail-in voting, even eliminating drop boxes, proven helpful and secure in 2020. In Arizona and Texas, Republicans hope to narrow ballot submission times, dropping names from early-voting lists if a citizen votes less often. The first salvo, however, of what President Biden calls “21st century Jim Crow” was recently fired in Georgia. Advocates call their new law, which suspiciously looks like voter suppression, a necessary prevention of fraud. Maybe Georgia’s intentions are good, but one has

More

Americans Unflinchingly Repeat the Same Mistakes

EU citizens are astonished that the world’s most powerful, yet counterintuitive nation can be so logically and socially incoherent, that Americans unflinchingly repeat the same mistakes responsible for past surges of COVID-19. Reopening before herd immunity’s attained, riotous spring-breakers, and inconsistent mask-wearing and social distancing support their conundrum. Super-spreader events and anti-vaccination rants convince the rest of the world that Americans care little about others and even less about themselves. With 600,000 U.S. pandemic deaths imminent, words like “fragile” and “heedless” keep resonating. Europeans point to the Trump administration’s restrained pandemic response, demonstrators clamoring to “open up,” and Dr. Birx’

More

A Conversation with the Commissioner

“Getting There”  by  Jim Cameron        Joe Giulietti loves to talk, especially about trains.  As Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation when he calls me and say “Jim… let’s have a chat”, I’m all ears.  In a recent exclusive one-on-one, here’s what he said: WILL RAIL COMMUTERS COME BACK? The Commissioner says yes, but maybe not until the fall.  “Am I optimistic?  I have to be. The disappointing fact right now is we (still) only have 10% of (pre-COVID) ridership.  The trains we have now can meet (that) demand.  If ridership increases we can add more. ” ARE THE TRAINS SAFE?

More

Error Distorts Public Employee Pension Debate

In 2015, the Malloy administration commissioned a study of Connecticut’s State Employees Retirement System (SERS) by the Center for Retirement Research, a prominent pension research institute. While the Center’s report was well done and most of its recommendations were adopted by the state, the Center miscalculated the level of employee pension benefits, saying they were not “overly generous.” They were and, today, still are overgenerous.  The Center’s error has distorted subsequent debate about state employee compensation, the origins of the drastic underfunding of SERS, and the high cost to the state of pension benefits, as the state’s annual contribution to

More

‘Extremism in Defense of Liberty’ if Devoid of Truth and Ethics, is Definitely a Vice.

Homegrown terrorism keeps metastasizing, spreading through America’s lymphatic and cardiovascular systems as rightwing radio, social media and television. Faced with our greatest domestic challenge since the Civil War, finding solutions for combating QAnon, neo-Nazi white supremacist groups and anti-government militias is not unlike curtailing Boko Haram, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban. Limit their outreach and growth, and determine what makes extremist propaganda so alluring: a tall order given that American law enforcement is limited by freedom-of-speech. As a result, anything the Biden administration does to mitigate domestic terrorism will reinforce narratives of politically-motivated censorship. Thusly, without accompanying moral clarity, liberty and

More

Slush Funding Will Preserve State Government’s Excesses

With as much as $4 billion in discretionary largesse about to descend on Connecticut’s state and municipal governments and school systems, economizing and improving services to the public will be removed from the agenda for a long time. These slush funds can only worsen the excesses and exploitation in government, even as the Yankee Institute’s extraordinary investigative reporter, Marc Fitch, has noted some big excesses this month. Fitch reported that another 62 managers at the state Transportation Department are being permitted to unionize though their annual salaries range from $86,000 to $149,000, quite apart from their luxurious fringe benefits. According

More

How to Save Metro-North

How are we going to get riders back on the trains and save Metro-North from ballooning deficits, potential service cuts or fare hikes?  That’s the question I crowd-sourced on social media last week and found dozens of great answers! Most respondents said they won’t be commuting as much as before because they will continue working from home. It’s not that they are shunning the rails out of fear,  just that commuting won’t be necessary. “Most of us have figured out how to work without riding a train every day”, one rider opined. A few cynics said mass transit is dead. 

More

Our Infrastructure Can’t Withstand 21st Century Challenges

Three years ago, as temperatures in Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart, Tasmania topped 117º F, Australian roads melted and buckled like cardboard suitcases. Last month, the fragility of America’s electrical grid became apparent when Texas and the Deep South experienced severe winter storms, at least by Dixieland standards. Resulting power outages and water main bursts served notice how, in a light-flicker, industrialized nations, with infrastructures ill-equipped for climate change, turn Stone Age. Because Lone Star utilities failed to use low-viscosity, synthetic lubricants in wind turbines, as troubleshooters do up north, propellers froze. Instruments at nuclear and coal-fired power plants iced over

More

Instead of Undermining Responsible Town Government, Hartford Democrats Should Cede Authority to Towns

Give it to Connecticut Democrats They never give up. They are determined to diminish local government to a status of virtual triviality in the name of progressivism and in their unquenchable thirst for ever more state tax revenue. This legislative session, the Democrats want to impose progressive statewide zoning provisions that would virtually eliminate local authority over residential housing. In a second blow to housing and another blow to municipalities, the Democrats, led by Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, want to levy a statewide property tax. The very proposal demonstrates why local control should be defended at all costs.

More

Half-Earth Gives the “tree of life” at Least a Fighting Chance

Saved on my old Dell, CD-RWs and, more recently, a flash drive as failsafe is a 660-page tome I’ve been writing for years. Referenced to the point of overkill, it’s a heavily-cited compilation of environmental ethics and moral philosophy, delving into humanity’s destructive bent. I began writing it the first day I retired, over a decade ago. Although back-burnered in recent years, I could easily add another six or seven hundred pages. Surely, as Texas and Mississippi lift mask mandates, I’d be remiss not to include a chapter on stupidity prolonging the pandemic. But, for any realistic chance at publication,

More

DeLauro, Chief of Staff Show What ‘Public Service’ Means

Congratulations to one of Connecticut’s forever members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of New Haven, for teaching the country a wonderful political science lesson. Having ascended to the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, DeLauro has just revived the infamous practice of putting “earmarks” in the federal budget — requirements that funds that ordinarily would be appropriated for general purposes be reserved for patronage projects desired by congressmen. Now DeLauro is forwarding her chief of staff, Leticia Mederos, to a national law and government relations firm, Clark Hill, whose office on Pennsylvania Avenue is within walking distance of

More

Connecticut Revenues Depend on Hartford’s Ability to Adjust

COVID-19 and anthropogenic climate change are creating new social environments to which economies must adapt. Connecticut’s revenue stream will depend on Hartford’s ability to adjust, especially through green energy job creation. That was particularly difficult during the Trump administration because the former president relentlessly dismantled institutions, flouted rules and degraded the electoral process. Because capitalism, with all its faults, still depends on honoring contracts, America’s oligarchs weren’t about to let that happen. Knowing stability, not strife, predictably boosts profits, blue-chip companies are halting campaign donations to members of Congress who challenged 2020’s election. Corporations, however, will gladly cut workforces to

More

Lamont’s Budget Doesn’t Add Up

The Governor’s proposed biennial budget for transportation just doesn’t add up. Thanks to reduced rail ridership he’s projecting cost savings in the CDOT budget of $82 million over the next two years but promises no further cuts in service beyond those already taken during the pandemic.  But how does that jibe with Metro-North parent MTA’s projected $8 billion operating deficit through 2024? Even pre-pandemic when ridership was at record highs, Metro-North still lost money.  And taxpayers made up the difference.  Grumbling commuters packed in SRO rush-hour trains paying the highest commuter rail fares in the US still couldn’t cover operating

More

Gambling Expansion Plan Could Be Worse, Or Better

Gambling and intoxicating drugs mainly transfer wealth from the many to the few and the poor to the rich, so it is sad that state government is striving to get into the business of sports betting, internet gambling, and marijuana dealing. That’s how hungry state government always is for more money. Even so, Governor Lamont may deserve some credit for the deal he seems about to achieve with Connecticut’s two casino Indian tribes. The tribes long have claimed that the casino gambling duopoly state government conferred on them in the 1990s also gives them exclusivity on sports betting and internet

More

Connecticut’s Revenues — Anything But Simple

Last week, Governor Lamont invoked the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to explain his reordering of the sequence of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations.  He should not stop there. The entirety of state government could use a rigorous application of the principle.  Last year, Yankee Institute released a study of state revenue sources. The study was simple. What it found was not. The study was just a one-page list of all the state’s revenue sources – all 344 of them. The page was oversized, measuring 17 by 22 inches, with the list printed in a font as small as the

More

‘Reverence for All Life, Can Take us Out of Echo Chambers’

When species diversify by exploring new ecological niches, passing along novel behaviors, acquired knowledge and distinctive anatomical traits, we biologists call that adaptive radiation. Culture is the passing from generation to generation of learned and shared behaviors. Units for carrying such ideas, symbols or practices from mind to mind via speech, writing, rituals or other imitable ways are memes. Like genes in biological evolution, they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures. With so much rapidly transmissible misinformation, distortion of fact and conspiracy mongering, it’s time we Americans stepped up to the plate, pined less for the old, dysfunctional “normal”

More

Lamont Has Earned a Break

Everyone is entitled to be sick and tired of the virus epidemic, and no one is more entitled than Governor Lamont, whose administration has been consumed by it. Most people were happy with the administration’s handling of the epidemic until this week, when the governor changed policy on prioritizing the long-awaited vaccinations. Instead of giving priority to the elderly, classes of employees deemed essential, and people with some particular medical vulnerability, the governor decided that it would be better to vaccinate people simply by age, from oldest to youngest. This angered people who were getting near the front of the

More

Maybrook Madness

Anyone who follows this column knows I’m a “train guy”.  I’ve always been a supporter of mass transit and continue to be.  But sometimes I wonder just where the state’s priorities are when they chose to waste a million dollars on yet another crazy study. This time it’s a study of the Maybrook line, a 14-mile, single-track of rusting rail running west from Danbury to Brewster NY and beyond. Metro-North used to run their equipment (not passenger trains) over to their Croton shops via the line, but little else.  Now there’s going to be a study (yes, for one million

More

Don’t Give in to ‘Triangulating’ China

Next February marks 50 years since President Nixon and First Lady Pat visited the People’s Republic of China and, in an effort to underpin peace and thaw Sino-American relations, met with Mao Zedong. Perhaps no diplomatic overture in history has been as transformative or bold, nor could anyone but Nixon have pulled it off. His unassailable reputation as anti-Communist hardliner made him immune to criticism from anyone espousing conservative values. Yet Nixon, born in a Yorba Linda, California farmhouse, was a self-proclaimed “moderate reformer.” He revolutionized foreign relations, curtailed the Cold War, reduced nuclear and biological weapons, set cornerstones of

More

If Hartford Isn’t Farsighted Enough for a Public Bank, I’d like to See One in New London County

In 1935, as Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield, comedian and Dickens scholar W.C. Fields underscored financial struggle: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, happiness; annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and six, misery.” Were this Dickens’ London, many of us would be in debtors’ prisons run by CEOs and shareholders the political establishment allows to rig and parasitize our economy. And the fault is not in retirement pensions or luxuriant public services (unless trolley systems suddenly reappeared in Connecticut last night) it’s in hardwired, politically entrenched two-party myopia. The pandemic not only exposed inherent instability of

More

Teachers of Your Memories Aren’t Necessarily Today’s

Nearly everyone will forever remember some admired or even beloved teachers whose insight, enthusiasm, and caring pointed students in the right direction. Of course there were and are some mediocre, incompetent, and even malicious teachers too, but they are easily forgotten. So even as society becomes more fractious and angry, there is still a cult of respect around the teaching profession. But that cult may not last much longer as teacher unions, most notoriously in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but also in most states, including Connecticut, obstruct normal school operations amid the virus epidemic. The

More

Transportation Construction Costs

Why is transportation construction so expensive in our area?  What kind of honor was it when New York City recently surpassed Zurich (one of the most expensive cities in the world) as #1 on the most-expensive-place-to-do-underground-construction dishonor roll? The highly respected Regional Plan Association (RPA.org) has studied that question and offers some explanations and frightening examples.  Focusing on three recent MTA mega-projects in New York City… the Second Avenue Subway, the #7 subway extension to Manhattan’s west side and the LIRR’s East Side Access project (ESA), their findings make for depressing reading. Let’s focus on the ESA plan… an ambitious

More

Jed Clampett’s Days are Numbered

With his flurry of four dozen or so executive orders to date, Joe Biden’s hit the White House floor running. Some reverse harmful artifacts of the previous administration. Nearly all acknowledge crises facing America and the world, paramount among them climate change, the pandemic, and asymmetric human migration. Using a few prudent strokes of the pen, approval ratings buoyant, Biden’s rejoined the Paris Accord, revoked permits for Keystone XL, and negated withdrawal from the WHO. By directing agencies to review and reverse 100 or so of Trump’s misguided attacks on the environment, he’s setting a tone for rational and progressive

More

Legislative Dems Plotting to Bypass Lamont on Taxes

With Governor Lamont discouraging “broad-based” tax increases, many fellow Democrats in the General Assembly are planning to raise taxes around the edges. Most industrious may be Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney of New Haven. Looney would impose a special state property tax on expensive homes, a “mansion tax,” the revenue to be transferred to his hometown and other troubled cities. Looney also proposes rewriting the formula for state money to municipalities so as to give cities more and suburbs less for properties exempt from property taxes. These proposals and others are based on the premise that the cities

More

To Defeat Exclusive Zoning, Stop Failing at Poverty

Maybe Connecticut should be grateful to the Desegregate CT organization for having just provided a map detailing how local zoning regulations make it almost impossible to build multifamily housing in most of the state. But didn’t nearly everybody already know that in principle? After all, the roots of exclusive zoning in the state go back to colonial times, when no one was permitted to live in the earliest towns without being approved at a town meeting as an “admitted inhabitant” and anyone who tried to move in without approval was “warned out.” Then as now the objective of this selectivity

More
1 2 3 4