I read the article. It made me nuts. So I read it again. After all, this is an article in THE Atlantic, I must be missing something, right?
The article raised my ire not, in fact, for a lack of "factualness" but rather for its lack of deep analysis.
More crazy-making, the author seemed to reduce the very complex and quite predictable experience in the Nutmeg State to a liberal/conservative tug-o-war. How can Connecticut be so blue and so unequal? The article has generated a lively debate among my colleagues, all of whom have spent most of their adult lives working to reduce injustice and all are "blue enough" for walk-on roles in Avatar.
One particularly cogent note begins with this observation:
"Missing an analysis of how such “high” taxes were not able to fund the pension obligations which are crippling the state. More the case that the politicians and corporations conspired to postpone the pain until they were no longer around. Corporations play this game all of the time, shopping around for deals and leaving once they have milked it dry. CT’s citizens will swing from one extreme to the other with no clue about the real problems. Pension obligations of this magnitude did not grow overnight. More accurate to say they grew over decades and business and government and the unions have played kick the can for fifty years all over the country and certain states (Illinois, CT, etc.) have gotten left holding the pyramid scheme equivalent of the empty envelope. One other example is Detroit where companies and professionals are returning to gentrify after getting the debt of the city reorganized and real estate is now at bargain basement levels. Bottom line is CT (like other states and cities) got caught in the whipsaw of power brokers playing footsy with each other and caring little or not at all for the state or its residents. There is nothing wrong with CT that isn’t wrong elsewhere too. People forget the fiscal problems of other states over the last fifty years which always serves as a useful way to squeeze concessions from cities and states which had become too demanding to the poor defenseless plutocrats who control everything in America."
CT Voices for Children raised the tax policy alarm bell decades ago, warning about the multiple areas where we were disinvesting, not just in human capital, but mostly by Connecticut choosing to use tax expenditures via abatements and other mechanisms that wound up costing more than the revenues we ultimately received. Do not even get me started regarding pensions. Talk about a rigged system with the beneficiaries frequently at the losing end. Pensions these days seem to have created a new legal category; contracts in which a promise isn’t actually a promise.
In my own very superficial analysis, our State’s situation (regardless of our bluish tint) is the ultimate endpoint of inequality and poor tax policy and Federalism. I believe the parochialism of of “every town” for itself, which is particularly popular in Connecticut, is a mini-version of the interstate business arbitrage that occurs when States compete to attract businesses. The arbitrage of regulations and tax policy seems to indicate we've long forgotten what “commonweal” or a core sense of common good might look like. Perhaps the Calvinism at our roots, as well as our country’s history and practice of violent exploitation wrapped in the language of meritocracy is at fault? After all, exploitation in the name of God allows us to avoid naming our complicity when we get in trouble, as we are now. I've spent enough time in interfaith circles to believe God is deeply anti-exploitation and pro-equality. The sacred texts of every great religious tradition thoroughly back me up here.
The article ends with this simple prescription, invoking our Calvinist core and reminding us the objective is staying rich:
"In the biggest picture, Connecticut is a victim of two huge trends—first, the revitalization of America’s great rich cities and second, the long-term rise of hot, cheap suburbs. But Connecticut’s cities are not rich or great; its weather is not hot year-round; and its cost-of-living is not low. The state once benefited from the migration of corporations and their employees from grim and dangerous nearby metros, but now that wave is receding. To get rich, Connecticut offered a leafy haven where America’s titans of finance could move. To stay rich, it will have to build cities where middle-class Americans actually want to stay."
I could go on and on and on. I’ll stop ranting.
How about a do-over? Next time, analysis by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
I’ll really stop here.