Connecticut’s ‘big C’ is an ongoing problem

Greenwich-Voices-von-KeyserlingDuring Breast Cancer Month there is a growing awareness that the big “C” in Connecticut stands for corruption. The only way out of our state’s financial trap is to cut out the big “C” and then maintain a healthy regimen.

Over recent discussions over dinner with various instrumental political operatives, it has been let slip that neither political party has the ability to eradicate Connecticut’s deficit and growing unfunded debt, through conventional budget strategies.

Economic reality is trumped by the political reality and politicians are realists. Sensible reform and stewardship cannot survive the electoral backlash of special interest and voter impatience. Everyone wants the other’s interest to be sacrificed for their benefit and comfort. The harder the chase of tax revenues, the faster the taxed flee and the sources dry up.

Trim government staff and a negative factor is fed into the employment market, while only a fraction of the state’s personnel costs are salvaged. Cut services and infrastructure, the earners and business moves to greener pastures. This is why the political pros predict, privately, the inevitable collapse within 25 years.

The only real growth sector seems to be in governmental corruption. It has become institutionalized in “Corrupticut.” These parasites do not even have the grace and dependability of our sister, Rhode Island.

Generally, the corruption is not identified by political party. It is more the purview of the urban coalition where party is more a matter of leverage and convenience. The combined populations of several cities, focused through common avarice, allows the control of all other 163 municipalities of Connecticut, its assembly, as well as state and federal elections.

I am told that a state senator managed somehow to gain the audit of a $300-million state grant to Bridgeport’s school system. The results could not identify where the money went and Bridgeport still has a failure in public education. Dare I suggest that an explanation might be the politically organized “shrinkage” (shoplifting in retail lingo) of public funding?

Connecticut runs an annual budget of around $23 billion. If one were optimistic (or maybe even naive) and considered a 10% gratuity for the government “waiters,” that would be a $2.3 billion annual budget item for corruption. Of course, no one can achieve complete success, but if one-quarter of that amount could be recaptured, the state’s deficits and debts could be wiped out in four years, without any other remedial action by the legislature and governor.

Not only would government employment be stabilized, but service probably would improve at frozen tax levels. A little more success, and tax levies could be reduced, our state’s death spiral could be reversed, and we could lead the country in the best, not the worst.

Today there is no mechanism to police our spending. The attorney general, the secretary of the state, and the state treasurer should be the watchdogs, but they are, of political necessity, part of the problem. The state had an independent officer who was the check against corruption, the inspector general, but that post was legislated out of existence about four years ago. Perhaps clothed as budget and duplication cutting, but how convenient and timely.

We need a return of a state inspector general. Why not? What elected legislator would stand up to defend corruption, graft, cronyism and other such potential subsidies to their grand, annual income of $24,000?

There is a delicious irony for me that I am writing to you from Hong Kong, where the newspapers are filled with the political corruption reforms in the last, great communist nation, China. You, dear reader, at least have a vote. Use it forcefully in Tuesday’s elections.

Vote for fresh leadership with the courage to serve you, and not themselves.

Christopher von Keyserling is a Republican and a longtime member of the town’s Representative Town Meeting, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own.

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