Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

1SCOTUS ruling strikes blow to CT’s forced unionization scheme

As millions anxiously awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v Sebelius (regarding the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all employers provide contraception coverage despite religious objections) the Justices released their decision in another case that has quietly dealt a huge blow to public unions and to decisions made by Governor Malloy and the General Assembly.

In Harris v Quinn the Court ruled that home healthcare workers providing services to individuals who receive state or federal funding should not be required to pay dues to a union that represents public employees (mainly the SEIU and AFSCME). This precedent sends shots across the bow of public union advocates seeking to add to their political coffers by forcing anyone who operates near government money to pay some sort of union fee.

The details of this case should sound familiar to folks here in Connecticut. In 2011 Governor Malloy, via two Executive Orders, effectively forced individuals providing home daycare and home health care services similar to those in Harris to pay union dues, regardless of whether or not they wished to unionize. The logic behind this fiat being that since these employees, mainly mothers running daycare out of their homes and healthcare workers contracted by persons needing in-home care, often provide services for individuals who receive public money through Medicare, Medicaid etc. they should therefore be considered public employees.

Unions have tried this in numerous states claiming that these private employees are “free riding” on the collective bargaining efforts of local unions who are of course only seeking to ostensibly improve things for workers, society and the human condition. In reality anyone who follows the money can see that this is a strong arm tactic that enables unions swing the political pendulum in their favor by getting and keeping Democrats in office by expanding their donor base by force.

In response to Malloy’s Executive Orders a slew of lawsuits were filed against him in 2012. Among them was a suit filed by the Yankee Institute on behalf of Cathy Ludlum. Ms. Ludlum, who suffers from Spinal Muscle Atrophy, wished to prevent the twelve people she employed, who helped her with everything from running her business to eating, from being forced unwillingly into the SEIU.

At a personal level it was argued that this forced unionization scheme effectively changes the relationship between employer and employee. When a union attempts to inorganically force its way into this relationship the people who get pushed to the side are the ones that actually need care. Loyalty for the service providers is diverted from their employers, such as Ms. Ludlum, to their union bosses. It was also argued that Malloy’s actions intruded upon a constitutional authority reserved for the Legislature.

Unfortunately for Ms. Ludlum and her peers in 2012 the CT General Assembly, who could not pass up the opportunity for increased campaign support, passed a bill that concurred with Malloy’s executive actions. In late 2012 the State Superior Court ruled that the lawsuits against the actions were rendered moot by the passage of legislation.

Fast forward to Monday June 30, 2014 and it appears as if the suits filed against the Governor may have not been all in vain.

The SCOTUS ruling on the Harris case is extremely narrow and pertains to only home healthcare workers, preventing them from being considered state employees and therefore subject to forced unionization. However, it signals victory for those types of workers in CT like those employed by Cathy Ludlum who do not wish to pay union dues and will now be able to opt out.

While unions will react to this decision by saying it is anti-worker, anti-poor, anti-(insert sacred cow of the left here) those who truly understand the underbelly of union politics should take solace in the fact devious tactics used to expand union influence have been put on hold; for now. For every freedom loving individual the holding in Harris (and Hobby Lobby) represents just a little bit more decision making power returned to the hands of individuals. Such a nice Independence Day gift from SCOTUS!

Andrew is a Tax Consultant at Alternate Tax Solutions and a Summa Cum Laude graduate of CCSU.  

2No state money for Rock Cats’ move

COMMENTARY

Hartford is a city plagued with a variety of public policy problems — not least the misuse of city funds and other financial mismanagement.  And it’s afflicted by a host of urban ills – including a poverty rate second only to Detroit (as of 2012) and the highest unsolved homicide rate (45%) of New England’s seven largest cities.

Keeping all this in mind, ask yourself: If Hartford weren’t, in fact, broke and actually had $60 million dollars to spend, would those funds be best used to construct a new stadium — for a minor league baseball team to move a scant 12 miles down the road?  

Are . . .you . . .kidding?!

Sadly enough, no.  Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the owner of the New Britain Rock Cats have struck a deal to bring the team from New Britain to Hartford, on the condition that the city (using government, i.e., taxpayer, money) builds a new $60 million stadium. (They’d better not be counting on embittered former fans from New Britain to fill all those expensive new seats!).

And in point of fact, funds for the $60 million stadium probably wouldn’t actually come just from city taxpayers, given that without even incurring any new expenses, Hartford already collects a generous helping of state funds just to operate — almost half its city budget’s worth.

And recall that, in recent years, Connecticut has witnessed the unsavory spectacle of state money being used to subsidize other intra-state moves.  Is there any serious doubt that this unhappy experience could well be repeated, given that the agreement between the Rock Cats and Hartford’s mayor leaves the door wide open for city officials to seek state funds?

The governor insists that the state was not involved in discussions about the move.  Fair enough.   Now it’s time to ask him and all our state officials — along with every candidate for a state office — to pledge that state tax money — our money — won’t be blown on a(nother) $60 million government boondoggle.

0I’m Fracking Confused

Gov. Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly don’t want fracking waste in Connecticut. That much I get, but I am really confused on where our political leaders stand on fracking.

Apparently, the administration wants to supply the frackers, buy fracked gas and even wishes we could frack.

Connecticut’s comprehensive energy strategy says fracking is good because Connecticut gets cheap natural gas (p. 119):

For decades, the prices of natural gas and oil have been linked, with gas historically being the more expensive of the two. Over the last several years, the price of the two commodities have diverged, or “decoupled,” from one another. The emergence of new extraction techniques (most notably horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or ―fracking) have made it economic to bring enormous amounts of new domestic natural gas supply to the marketplace from shale basins across the country (including in the mid-Atlantic states).

This recent development presents Connecticut residents and business owners with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to switch to a cheaper, cleaner fuel source.

Basically, fracking saves money and reduces emissions. That was in February 2013.

The month before, Malloy announced a $5 million state loan to Wallingford-based APS Technology to support an expansion project the company announced in April 2012.

APS is “a leading provider of MWD/LWD (Measurements-While-Drilling / Logging-While-Drilling), drilling & optimization and vibration management products for the oilfield.”

What exactly APS does is over my head – you try parsing this jargon – but I have a hunch their equipment has fracked a shale deposit or two.

In December, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty told WNPR, ”In fact, the governor often says he’s very disappointed we don’t have any ‘frackable’ areas. We have shale; it just happens to have no gas in it.”

The latest fracking news, again from WNPR (h/t Chris Healy):

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live on Monday, Governor Malloy voiced his strong support for a temporary ban. “We want to stop, right now, fracturing waste at the borders of the state,” he said, “at least with respect to a moratorium, until we have time to understand what’s in it.”

For more on fracking waste, go here.

0Access Health CT CEO Recognized for Valiant Efforts

Last Saturday a group of local college students known as the Wesleyan Young Advocates teamed up with the Middletown Community Health Center to honor the CEO of Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act portal, Kevin Counihan.

Flyers distributed by the studenaca bruncht group (pictured left) espoused Counihan and his underlings at Access Health CT for their “valiant contributions toward CT enrollment.”

Apparently the standard for what would constitute a valorous act has been lowered or is at least being misinterpreted by the WYA, who since September has been working to get Middletonians enrolled in the state healthcare exchange. I mean c’mon, does enrolling people in crummy government experiment that only 40% of people agree with really constitute an act of valor?

What surely was left unmentioned at this Left Wing love fest was the valor and courage it took to spend $79,000 on three pieces of artwork. Last December Raising Hale reported that Access Health CT, who is entrusted with the responsible management of private information on every enrollee, very responsibly used taxpayer dollars to have artwork commissioned and installed at various offices. Don’t worry though; Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman assures us that this is “a creative way for us to express that commitment to building healthier communities.”

Connecticut officials have boasted about the successes they have achieved enrolling people into the government controlled insurance marketplace in comparison with other state run exchanges. The Access Health CT exchange was also one of the first to reach completion, which of course is no surprise coming from a state that conceits to the President’s every wish.  

Meanwhile this week as millions instantly qualified for the Obamacare IRS penalty (supposedly), the President self-proclaimed the debate on repealing the healthcare law to be officially over. The achievement of the deadline enrollment goal of 7 million people apparently gives the president and the Left veto power over any argument concerning the successes or failures of Obamacare.

However what has not been reported by the administration is the amount of people that have actually paid for any of these healthcare purchases, the amount people who actually received healthcare for the first time or the amount of people that were forced off their existing coverage. Not to mention whether or not a sufficient amount of young “invincibles,” who are expected to shoulder the burden of healthcare costs, have enrolled to offset enrollees who will be totally subsidized.  

I guess when expectations for success are lowered to whether or not a multi-million dollar website actually functions one can easily be impressed.

Andrew is a Political Science Major at CCSU and a veteran of the USMC. 

0Obama Rewards Malloy with Trip to CT

On Wednesday President Obama will travel to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain to give a speech advocating for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. He will be joined by the governors of MA, VT, RI and of course CT.

Last week Governor Malloy scored brownie points with the administration when he defended Obama’s minimum wage push at the National Governors Association meeting. Malloy has consistently been an active mouthpiece for all Obama administration policies; many have attributed this to higher aspirations of serving in the Obama cabinet. Unfortunately for CT the President did not see fit to appoint Malloy to his cabinet. However, for loyalty to the regime, the President has decided to reward Malloy with two trips to CT in less than a year. Last April Obama kicked off his gun reform initiative at the University of Hartford.

It seems fitting that the President would choose Connecticut to advocate for legislation that would cost thousands of jobs and is considered by many to be an awful economic decision. Under the leadership of Malloy our state’s economy has become first in every category you want to be last in and last in every category you want to be first in.

The President and Malloy will be in good company (or bad depending on how you look at it) at Wednesday’s meeting of the minds in that all of these leaders preside over poorly performing economies. Governors Chafee, Patrick and Shumlin state’s rank 44th, 45th and 36th respectively on the American Legislation Exchange Council’s ranking of overall economic performance. Malloy’s CT ranks 46th and Obama’s America continues to go through its slowest economic recovery in history. These hardly seem like the men we should be taking economic advice

US-POLITICS-OBAMA-GUNS

While my professors and peers at CCSU dream of what they will say to their political idol should they get the chance, the rest of us are left with the harsh realities of Obama’s policies. Instead of dedicating their efforts to creating friendly business climates with good paying jobs these leaders center their attention on legislation that, according to the CBO, will kill 500,000 jobs. In reality less than five percent of workers make minimum wage and most of them are teenagers. These leaders claim that raising the minimum wage will bring thousands out of poverty, but in reality businesses will be forced to shed non essential employees or raise their prices.

If this exponential increase goes into effect businesses will now have to adjust for an increase in payroll spending on top of an increase in healthcare spending (thanks to the ACA). How do these politicians, who create nothing except burdensome regulations, expect businesses to survive? Where do the students who overwhelmingly support these politicians expect to find good paying jobs? Not in the stagnant economies of these states.

Meanwhile everyone turns a blind eye to the real winner in this situation, big labor. Labor unions have always underwritten the minimum wage raise movement simply because their members stand to make gains as the prevailing wage rises in concert.

Here’s the bottom line; no matter good an increase in everybody’s wages may sound, if it is inorganic and not tied to a real increase in value then in the end nobody wins.

Thankfully last time the President kicked off a legislative initiative in Connecticut it failed at the federal level. Despite the President’s attempt to use Sandy Hook victims as political leverage at UHART, federal gun reform effectively went nowhere in Congress. Hopefully this is a good omen.

1Malloy Slams Jindal for Exposing the Emperor with no Clothes

In the aftermath of the now highly publicized showdown between Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Connecticut’s Dannel P. Malloy at the National Governors Association meeting, pundits on both sides have been scrambling to analyze which governor gained the upper hand. However you value the contextual validity of each man’s argument there is one fact that became blaringly apparent at that podium on the White House lawn; no way was Malloy going to let Jindal show that the emperor has no clothes.

Jindal noted that after five years under Obama the economy has now become oriented around minimum wage, and then challenged the United States to strive for more. He then offered a number of suggestions to alleviate our woes, such as authorizing the Keystone pipeline and loosening regulations.

Almost before 140224_pol_jindal_malloy_mi_wgJindal could finish speaking Malloy swooped in to defend the Democrat minimum wage agenda by inarticulately accusing Jindal of inappropriately inserting “partisan politics” into the mix. Since then many left leaning news outlets have accused Jindal of “breaching protocol” at the RGA event.

To the inquisitive observer this accusation may appear a bit hypocritical. When you really look at it, hasn’t Malloy’s party been the vanguard of partisan divisiveness? After all, it was Democrats who developed a healthcare law behind closed doors that not one Republican in the House voted for. It was Democrats who wouldn’t budge on any budget cuts and eventually initiated a demagogued partial government shutdown. It was the leader of the Democrats, President Barak Obama, who told the American people that he will push forward with the Democrat agenda by hook or by crook, and then told a visiting Francois Hollande that he has the privilege of breaking protocol and doing whatever he wants. Hardly sounds like the epitome of pragmatism.

Why then should Republicans be held to some higher standard of bi-partisanship? The President and his allies –Dan Malloy being one of the closest- have taken every opportunity to slight and defame the Republican agenda. Republicans have unjustly been called racists, homophobes, Islamaphobes, anti-poor, anti-working etc. for years now. Yet when Bobby Jindal, who holds a leadership position in the Republican Governors Association, offers some legitimate concerns and possible solutions he is bullied for “breaking protocol.”

Malloy would have none of it. How dare an opposition leader break protocol and criticize a President who brags about breaking protocol? In Malloy and Obama’s world the opposition is shouted down and defamed for trying to voice its concerns. Is that not why Obama attempted to send FCC police into news rooms and television stations across the land?

Jindal’s rant against increased minimum wage was founded in concerns known to all who study its effects and instead of addressing these concerns the Left has dubbed Jindal as a blabbering jerk. Meanwhile the CBO has estimated that an increase in the federal minimum wage would result in the loss of half a million jobs. With unemployment being American’s top priority shouldn’t we cheer on someone who will challenge the regime on these issues, or have Republicans been relegated to a  content minority?

As this country continues to struggle economically and the fallacies and lies of this administration’s agenda are continually exposed, Malloy and the Democrats have taken on an obvious mission; protect the movement, protect the king.

Photo Courtesy of ABC

Andrew is a political science major at CCSU, a tax consultant with Alternate Tax Solutions and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps 

0Delauro Celebrates as Obama Perpetuates Gender Gap Myth during SOTU

Anyone who watched Tuesday’s State of the Union address may have noticed a colorfully clad Rosa Delauro (D-3rd District) jumping for joy and high fiving fellow lawmakers at a particular point in the President’s speech.

What inspired her gleeful reaction was Obama’s attack on the 77 cent apparent wage gap between men and women. This “equal pay for equal work” argument is one of the keystone issues to which politicians pander in order to secure the female vote.

However for anyone who cares about economic reality as opposed to myth, this portion of the speech and Delauro’s overreaction, are riddled with fallacy and hypocrisy.

It has been well documented that Delauro is one of wealthiest members of Congress. Before the 2008 recession Rosa posted a net worth of around 5.6 million dollars, making her the wealthiest CT Congressional delegate at the time. In the post rescission years while millions of families have taken a pay cut and experienced extreme financial hardship, Delauro has managed to more than triple her net worth to around 17 million dollars, and some claim that she may be worth up to 26 million. Needless to say it does not appear that Delauro is suffering from any kind of pay discrimination.

Delauro’s asset portfolio far exceeds that of the average member of Congress and even she is dwarfed by fellow liberal delegates such as Richard Blumenthal, Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein.

To be fair it is not that these liberal elites have been able to accumulate such wealth that is our cause for discontent. There are plenty of Republican members who fill the ranks of Congress’s top earners and one should be proud of his or her own successes (if earned in a reputable fashion).

Our discontent arises from the hypocritical redistributionist philosophies held by these liberals who have conveniently accumulated a significant amount of wealth for themselves and have no intention of giving it away. On the one hand they accuse high earners in the private sector of not doing their “fair share” and “cheating,” while on the other hand they benefit equally from occupying public positions from which they point the finger.

With that said let us turn to the issue for which Delauro was applauding, the economic fallacy that a woman is paid less than a man. This myth is constantly perpetuated byrosa those in the media and academia who have allowed it to become a coveted it a dogma of the Left.

This myth was dispelled by Thomas Sowell in the early 1970s, yet his research has conveniently gone unnoticed. This simple break down of the myth goes like this:

When the incomes of men and women are averaged as a whole it is true that the aggregate of men make more than the aggregate of women. However if you break the data down to a case by case comparison one finds that it is the life choices of men and women that account for the differences. Women often do not have as much vested time in a job due to an important biological necessity, raising children. Also women often do not pursue the same disciplines as men, who have up until now dominated the high paying high skilled jobs in the fields of science, technology and finance and are often more prone to negotiate for higher wages.

Sowell argues that if you take a man and a woman with the same amount of education working in the same job for the same amount of time, then one would find that the women makes as much if not more than the man.

Sowell’s 1971 findings have been quantified time and again by contemporary sources such as Forbes, Real Clear Markets and Sowell himself. Real Clear Markets notes that highly acclaimed author Marty Nemko found in a 2010 review of Census Bureau data that:

“…  in a study of single childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. And according to the Labor Department, “of men and women who work 30 to 34 hours a week, women make more, 109 percent of men’s earnings.”

It is apparent that when the data is broken down categorically it is the life style differences between men and women not an inherent gender bias that accounts for discrepancies in overall pay between the two sexes.

Next time you hear the “equal pay for equal work” argument ask yourself if the one bringing the charge in fact holds the same job, has the same amount of relevant education, has the same amount of vested time in that job and has the same work experience. If the answer is yes to all of the above, and there is a discrepancy in pay, then and only then may there be a case for gender bias in the work place. As of now such a bias would be the exception not the rule.

Watch Sowell’s argument here: Thomas Sowell- Race and Gender

(Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Andrew is a political science major at CCSU, a tax consultant with Alternate Tax Solutions and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps 

0Coverage of the Government Shutdown Highlights A Lack of Critical Analysis on the Left

When it comes to the circus that is the modern day news cycle, the government shutdown has undoubtedly become the main attraction.

At the same time, an ever-popular sideshow attraction seems to be the saga of division within the Republican Party, presenting differences between Tea Party Republicans and John McCain moderates that people are silently hoping will turn ugly.

Many have lamented the unfavorable coverage of what seems like a divided political ideology on the right. I, on the other hand, welcome it.

A party rich with intellectual differences is both healthy and vibrant. Compromise within and without parties is a natural and productive exercise (a fact which it seems some in Washington have forgotten).

And, in fact, the focus on Republican differences does not mean that the left is a unified entity. Rather, the seeming unity of the Democratic Party is due to a lack of intellectual challenge to modern liberalism, a deficiency which is neither healthy nor productive.

The difference stems in many ways from the double-edged sword that is conservative talk radio. Men like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin are lambasted for their support of the right, and yet their criticism of certain elements of the Republican Party has provided all the fuel needed to stoke the “Republicans are divided” fire.

However, I prefer to view their criticism in a more favorable light: they provide the intellectual stimulation and critical analysis that ultimately results in a solid, logical political platform.

Liberals, on the other hand, have been largely left to their own devices. A lack of media scrutiny and internal analysis has allowed the left to present an ambiguous blob of ideas as a firm absolute. They have been allowed to equate misguided, unfounded ideas and programs with kindness and populism, and thus equate the liberal Democratic label with the notion of caring for the people.

The difference between the Republican and Democratic Party is therefore a difference in how the debate is framed. If voters must choose between what seems like a firmly established, ‘benevolent’ ideology and a fragmented, ‘evil’ one, they will obviously choose the former. Not because liberalism is better, but because it seems simpler.

And yet these citizens fail to realize that the simplicity of liberalism is its greatest weakness. A lack of internal criticism has allowed the Democratic Party to expand government power and influence unchecked. It does not solve problems, but rather exacerbates them. It is not emancipating, but rather enslaving.

For this reason, until people start to examine both sides with a critical eye, the fallacy of the caring liberal will remain. It is far too easy to establish a dichotomy of good and evil. A much more complicated and intellectual activity entails understanding the deeper meaning of issues and policies.

This is what the Republican Party is endeavoring to do, and maybe, just maybe, it will pay off in the long run. But first, it must survive this current crisis.

0The meaning of Connecticut’s low business taxes

An annual study out last week showed Connecticut businesses pay low taxes.

True.

As it was last year.

If Connecticut only taxed businesses – and not people – it would have one of the lowest tax burdens in the country.

However, Connecticut taxes everything people buy, earn and own, which is to say, everything.

And at a pretty high rate, too.

When all taxes – on businesses and people – are taken into account, Connecticut has one of the highest tax burdens.

Connecticut businesses pay about 3.6 percent of the state economy in taxes. The most recent data for total tax burden – pre-dating the largest tax increase in state history – shows total taxes amounting to 12.3 percent of the state economy.

Is it good that Connecticut’s business taxes are low? Yes. Business taxes are inefficient because businesses don’t pay taxes, people pay taxes.

When Connecticut taxes a company its customers, owners and employees split the cost (although not necessarily evenly).

It is good that Connecticut’s business taxes are low, but it is bad that we compensate with high taxes on people.

Although businesses don’t pay taxes there is a relationship between taxes on people and costs to business. If taxes on people are high (as they are in Connecticut) people need to earn more to have the same after-tax income. That means businesses need to pay Connecticut workers more because of the high taxes on those workers.

The study, by Ernst & Young for the Council on State Taxation, also found Connecticut had one of the largest increases in business taxes last year, 10.3 percent, which makes this victory lap by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s spokesman odd.

“The governor has been clear that he’s out there every day competing for jobs, and what this report shows us is that Connecticut is an extremely competitive place to do business,” Andrew Doba told the Connecticut Mirror. “That’s part of the reason why we’re adding jobs at a faster clip right now than at any other point since the recession began.”

0Predictable Results from a Union-Run School

Most people who have ever taken a physics course know Newton’s law, which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Similarly, most people who follow state and local politics recognize that every governmental action has (typically) negative unintentional consequences.

As an intern at the Yankee Institute in the summer of 2012, I wrote an article which predicted the unintentional consequences of a New Haven “turnaround” school being administered by its own teachers union. I wrote:

While most will agree that a more individualized education is in the best interest of children everywhere, the fact that the New Haven Federation of Teachers will have so much discretion in this education is a topic of contention… [At other union-run schools, rather] than improving efficiency, increased union involvement has made it more difficult to run these schools effectively. Is it too late to turn this decision around in New Haven?

A recent article in the New Haven Independent seems to answer this question in the affirmative.

Melissa Bailey notes that union leader Dave Cicarella, the effective chief of New Haven’s High School in the Community, is seeking changes which have “sparked some tension, confrontation, and distrust between the union president and his membership at HSC.”

Experimental schools are most likely going to become a larger fixture in American education. Magnet schools, charter schools, and voucher programs are all potentially positive school reform efforts. However, schools run by teachers unions, with vested interests and no political accountability, are not.

As my article noted, similar union-run schools in New York City experienced problems long before the New Haven proposal was adopted, with one teacher comparing a school to a union “dictatorship”.

And now, the High School in the Community and the New Haven Federation of Teachers union are facing the same issues as those New York schools: a hijacking of school administration by an unaccountable union head and teacher-leaders who are caught between the best interests of the school and union directives.

After only one school year, my predictions seem to be coming to fruition.

If this story did not involve the education and future of so many young students, I might savor the “I told you so” moment. Unfortunately, however, the situation is no laughing matter. With every failed “school reform” movement or union power struggle, the school children suffer. For every wasteful government attempt to retool education without first examining similar failures in neighboring states, Connecticut taxpayers suffer.

So, perhaps the most important “turnaround” would be a 180 degree turn away from union meddling and government incompetence. That would be a reform in everyone’s best interest.