Will Rogers, the “unequal distribution of the money” and the elections of 2014 and 2016

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“I was born on Nov. 4, which is Election Day. . . . My birthday has made more men and sent more back to honest work than any other days in the year.”  – Will Rogers

There was a time in our nation’s history when one out of three Americans followed the writings of a single newspaper columnist.  More than forty million Americans would read his pieces.  Will Rogers wasn’t a radical or left-wing agitator, although he’d probably be labeled one if he was around today.

Will Rogers was a newspaper columnist, writer, humorist and cowboy.  He was a folk hero and a truth-teller.

In early 1931, as the country collapsed under the weight of the Great Depression, Will Rogers wrote an article entitled “Let’s Give Every Man a Job That’s Out of Work!”

One could call it an eerily perceptive commentary on the Republican’s trickle-down economic theory or Governor Malloy’s belief that if we limit tax increase on the rich and just give out more corporate welfare, the economy will turnaround.  (Wait, What? readers will recall that under Malloy’s $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011, the income group that DID NOT see any increase in their tax rate were those making more than $1 million-a-year).

Back in 1931 when it came to the issue of fair taxation, Will Roger’s wrote:

“Course the big man’s argument, and all the heavy Taxpayers’ alibi is that when you take too big a slice from a man as taxes it takes that much more out of his investments and might cut down on money being put into enterprises. But it didn’t work that way after the war, and during it why income taxes run as high as seventy percent on every dollar earned, and yet there was more money being made and put into things than there is now.”

[…]

“This is becoming the richest, and the poorest Country in the world. Why? Why, on account of an unequal distribution of the money.”

[…]

“Now that we got that settled all we have to do is get by Congress and see if the Republicans will vote a higher Income tax on the rich babies. It might not be a great plan, but it will DAM sure beat the one we got now.”

Speaking the truth was one of Will Roger’s many strong points.

And he was fearless when it came to that task.

In an October 18, 1931 national radio broadcast that became known as the “Bacon, Beans, and Limousines” speech, Rogers laid out the truth once again.  (A video of the speech can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyfvamwM4Yo).

Rogers told the people of the United States;

“Now we read in the papers every day, and they get us all excited over one or a dozen different problems that’s supposed to be before this country. There’s not really but one problem before the whole country at this time… The only problem that confronts this country today is at least seven million people are out of work. That’s our only problem.”

[…]

“[We must] see that every man that wants to is able to work, is allowed to find a place to go to work, and also to arrange some way of getting more equal distribution of the wealth in the country.”

[…]

“You know, there’s not a one of us that has anything that these people that are without it now haven’t contributed to what we’ve got. I don’t suppose there is the most unemployed or the hungriest man in America that hasn’t contributed in some way to the wealth of every millionaire in America. It wasn’t the working class that brought this condition on at all—it was the big boys themselves who thought this financial drunk we were going through was going to last forever. They over-merged, and over-capitalized, and over-everything-else. That’s the fix that we’re in now.”

We need another Will Rogers now more than ever.

But in the end, if there is any chance of changing course, its rests in our hands … and it is called the gubernatorial election of 2014 and the national election of 2016.

“The Governor was referring to a fact that everyone in this state knows — that our economy…”

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As the blind man led the deaf man toward to edge of the precipice he was heard to utter….”things are looking up, we are almost there…”

Those words and that image could certainly be used to describe Governor Malloy’s approach to the Connecticut economy and his so-called economic development strategy of giving away hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds to successful multi-million dollar corporations.

 “You can’t name a recent governor who’s had net job growth…I’m the one — no others.”

That is what Governor Malloy told listeners during a recent appearance on the Connecticut Public Radios show “Where We Live.”

But of course, the Governor’s statement wasn’t true.

And when informed of that, Malloy’s PR operation spun into high gear releasing a statement “clarifying” what the Governor meant when he uttered his inaccurate assessment of the truth.  Malloy’s spokesman said;

“The Governor was referring to a fact that everyone in this state knows — that our economy had been stagnant for decades. We failed to invest in the industries that were poised to grow, and instead careened from one project to the next without any real cogent strategy.  That can no longer be said about Connecticut’s economic development strategy.”

The Governor’s political two-stepping is the manifestation of the Malloy administration’s failed economic development strategies and his attempt to convince voters that the real world isn’t actually real.

The single greatest indication of the Governor’s utter detachment from the real world can be found in his response to the news that although the number of jobs in Connecticut increased in the month of July, Connecticut’s unemployment rate actually rose from 8 percent to 8.1 percent.

To that Malloy explained, “People are sensing that it’s easier to get a job.”

“It’s easier to get a job…” ?

Now that was certainly a Wait, What? moment!

As Malloy spends his time trying to count the number of angels that can fit on the top of a pin, tens of thousands of Connecticut residents feel the crushing pressure of Connecticut failing economic development strategy.

An August 2013 report from Connecticut Voices for Children, the non-partisan research group paints a grim picture of the state of the state when it comes to the Connecticut economy and especially “The State of Working Connecticut 2013: Young People in the Workforce.”

Governor Malloy and his administration would do well to study the report in detail.

CT Voices reports;

  • Youth unemployment has dramatically increased in Connecticut over the last decade and is more than twice the rate for older workers.  
  • The unemployment rate for Connecticut’s young workers (age 16 to 24) is at about 17.1 percent, which is more than double the rate for 25 to 54 year olds (7.4 percent) and almost triple the rate for workers 55 and older (6.4 percent).
  • Connecticut’s youth unemployment rate is higher than the United States average (16.2 percent).

Fewer people are looking for work because there is no work to be found;

  • A smaller share of the working age population is working or looking for work.  (The labor force participation rate is the share of the working age population that is working or looking for work.) 
  • The rate for all Connecticut workers fell from 68.8 percent in 2007 to 66.2 percent in 2012. The largest decline in participation is among the state’s youngest workers: the rate among 16 to 24 year olds in Connecticut declined over this period from 62.0 percent to 54.5 percent.

Long-term unemployment has reached crisis and historic levels:

  • Long-term unemployment — the share of the unemployed who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks — was second highest in Connecticut among all states. Among Connecticut’s unemployed youth, one-third (33.6 percent) have been out of work for more than 26 weeks, above the national rate of 27.7 percent. 
  • And long-term unemployment is hurting older workers even more.  In 2012, long-term unemployment in Connecticut for those age 55 and older, at 61.5 percent, was the highest rate for that age group among all 50 states.

Connecticut’s minority workers are disproportionately hurt by Connecticut’s economy.

  • Connecticut’s Black and Hispanic workers face high unemployment and low wages.  In 2012, Black unemployment (13.4 percent) and Hispanic unemployment (15.7 percent) were about double the White unemployment rate (7.0 percent). 
  • On average, Hispanics earned 55 cents and Blacks earned 72 cents for every dollar earned by Whites. 

And Malloy’s corporate welfare program of giving out hundreds of millions to successful corporations will not create the breadth of jobs Connecticut needs.

As the CT Voices report explains, “While Connecticut has added jobs in the recent past; these jobs are among the state’s lowest-paid sectors. Connecticut added 15,655 jobs between 2011 and 2012. However, the majority of these jobs (10,050) were added in the lower-wage job sectors.”

Connecticut’s economic problems go much, much deeper than a governor who can’t seem to tell the truth about the state of the state’s economy.

Just ask the deaf man who is being led toward the cliff by the man who is blind.

You can find all this data and the rest of the CT Voices report at: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ13sowctes.pdf and http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ13sowctfull.pdf

When it comes to our state’s economy, our elected officials are our own worst enemies…

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With a state-economy ranked 50th in the nation, one would think that Governor Malloy and our elected officials who drop their economic development strategy that relies on corporate welfare to lure hedge fund companies and other corporate giants to move or stay in Connecticut.

But in the legislative session that just ended, Malloy and the majority decided to stay the course and, in the process, throw Connecticut’s hospitals under the bus.  Despite the rhetoric from the Malloy Administration that the massive cut to hospitals would have no impact, policymakers knew the consequences and turned a blind eye to the fact that the new state budget would lead to the loss of hundreds of Connecticut jobs.

The CT Mirror summarized the situations when they listed Connecticut’s hospitals as one of the biggest “losers” during the recent session.  The CT Mirror wrote:

“Hospitals: Hospital officials decried the governor’s proposal to cut more than $500 million in funding from hospitals, saying it will lead to job cuts and hurt patient care. But their pleas went largely unanswered. The next two-year budget slashes payments hospitals receive to compensate them for treating uninsured and underinsured patients, and money they currently receive as reimbursement for a provider tax they pay. The Malloy administration says the hospitals will still receive more money because more people will have health insurance, but hospitals counter that the funds will only come from treating thousands more poor patients…”

The impact of the Malloy administration’s approach started to be seen earlier this week when, according to the Connecticut Post, St. Vincent’s Medical Center “eliminated 100 positions and laid off nearly 50 employees this week, including some nurses and doctors. The cuts are expected to save the hospital about $10 million.”

As hospital’s vice president for health services explained, “This is a case of trying to look forward and protecting the direction and mission of our organization as the ground shifts beneath us.”

There is no question that many senior hospital administrators are overpaid and are diverting scarce resources away from patient care, but rather than confront that controversy head on, Malloy and the legislature simply slashed the amount of state funds going to hospitals and left the overcompensation issue unaddressed.

According to the Connecticut Post article, “Layoffs began Monday and continued Tuesday. The cuts were across all levels of the hospital, and included some nurse and doctor positions…Of the positions cut, 48 were filled and resulted in layoffs.”

As the Connecticut Hospital Association warned during the legislative session, “A state budget that cuts hospitals by $550 million will result in job loss and the loss of programs and services…”

There is simply no question that most hospitals around the state will be laying off employees as a result of the new state budget.

And for the record, these aren’t mythical six figure jobs that companies are supposed to be creating over the next ten years; these are the very real jobs of the very real residents in communities across Connecticut.

Adding to the disaster is the fact that not only will Connecticut residents be losing their jobs, but access to quality health care in our local hospitals will be undermined.

You can read more about the St. Vincent’s Medical Center layoffs here:  http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/St-Vincent-s-to-eliminate-100-jobs-4593474.php

Slam-Dunk! Touch-down! Goal!!!! Taxpayers come through for American’s highest paid CEO

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Don’t let the residue of the Great Recession get you down.

While it is true that America’s middle-class is on the ropes, unemployment remains high, sending a kid to college costs more than most people save in their entire lives, child poverty in Connecticut has gone up 50% in the last decade and the state is facing a $1 billion dollar budget deficit next year, Connecticut’s taxpayers managed to dig deep and find the money to provide one of the world’s biggest hedge fund owners, Ray Dalio, with $115 million in state funds. Meanwhile Stamford’s taxpayers learned this week that they were helping to put the whole deal together thanks to their Mayor’s decision granting a private developer access to some of the most valuable publicly owned waterfront property left in Connecticut.

In return for all this generosity, Dalio, the founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, and a man who was paid $3.9 billion last year will move his offices from Westport to a new $750 million office complex on Stamford’s waterfront.

The deal began with Governor Malloy’s decision to give Dalio a taxpayer-funded corporate welfare package that included a $25 million forgivable loan, $5 million in grant funds for job training, $5 million for an alternative energy system and $80 Million in tax credits.

Now, under Part II of the effort, Stamford’s Mayor Mike Pavia has signed a “letter of intent” granting the developer of Stamford’s Harbor Point the right to use city-owned property as part of overall effort to clear the way for Bridgewater Associates’ headquarters.

The mayor’s action will allow the developer to move the South End boatyard to a different location.  Never mind that boaters say the alternative site doesn’t accommodate their needs, we’re talking about pleasing a billionaire – and that is billion with a B – so what he wants is what he gets.

Just to make the whole situation as absurd as possible and to add insult to injury, while the letter of intent was signed back in December, it was only made public this week.

According to reports in the Stamford Advocate, “Mayor Michael Pavia said the goal of the document was simply to allow the zoning review process to commence so as to give the city a chance to assess the plan…Pavia said the city has not yet negotiated a price for the land in question. According to the letter of intent, should the boatyard plan be approved by the Zoning Board, the city and BLT [the private developer] will determine the price as part of a final agreement granting the developer property rights.”

Oh, and for those who are into reading the fine print, although initially Mayor Malloy and then Mayor Pavia pledged that no development project would go forward without all of the appropriate approvals, the letter of intent includes special language that reads, “The Applicant shall obtain final approval of such grant by City of Stamford Boards and Commissions as may be required by City Charter, state law or as the Mayor of the City of Stamford, in his sole discretion deems necessary or appropriate.”

The new wording certainly suggests that if Stamford’s various public boards and commissions didn’t act in an appropriately way, the mayor might have to intervene to move the project along without such approvals.

It is nice to note though that when confronted about this latest addition, the Pavia administration claimed that the language is being misunderstood and the letter of intent does nothing more than allow the process to start moving forward.

So here we are.

On the long list of challenges facing Connecticut, we can put a check mark next to the task that reads – “Help the world’s biggest hedge fund and the highest paid CEO in the country pay for a great new office with a great waterfront view.”

More on these latest developments can be found in the Stamford Advocate: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Setting-table-for-Bridgewater-city-paves-the-way-4177724.php#ixzz2HgLY6z9H  and  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Boatyard-plan-agreement-defended-4184605.php#ixzz2HgLH7Uac

Unemployment in Connecticut climbs again – back to 9 percent.

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The latest data from the Connecticut Department of Labor reveals that the state is making little progress when it comes to re-bounding from the Great Recession.

According to the more conservative unemployment measurement, 171,100 Connecticut residents are presently unemployed.  However, using the federal government’s U-6 rate, which measures both the unemployed and those who are in a part-time job but actively looking for full-time employment, more than 15% of Connecticut’s workforce is without the jobs they need.

In addition, of the 117,500 jobs lost since the “recessionary downturn” began, Connecticut has only recovered about 30,000 jobs (25% of all jobs lost).

Despite the claim that the recovery began in February 2010, Connecticut’s government, financial, construction and manufacturing sectors have yet to even begin regaining jobs.

Still on the downside, Connecticut’s government sector remains down 11,100 jobs, while the number in the financial sector is down 4,200 positions, construction and mining is down 1,200 jobs and manufacturing is down 800 jobs.

Since much of the federal Stimulus Funds were not used to supplement government activity, but instead were used to substitute for existing spending, elected officials have failed to help those who lost their jobs in two of the sectors that leaders could actually have had an impact over – government and construction.

Since Governor Malloy took office, government positions have been further eliminated and despite his predilection for the Financial Sector, his First Five Corporate Welfare Program has yet to have any impact.  Although considering those favored business need only create 200 jobs, and have five to ten years to do so, whatever impact the corporate welfare program does have will be limited in nature.

A related problem for Connecticut businesses is that as a result of the lengthy recession, the State of Connecticut has already borrowed more than $635 million from the Federal Government to help pay unemployment benefits.  Borrowing was necessary because the amount of funds collected from employee unemployment taxes wasn’t enough to cover the costs associated with payments to the unemployed.  Since these funds will need to be paid back, Connecticut businesses will be facing high unemployment taxes on an ongoing basis.

CT Taxpayers invest in “Hot App” company, will the Wait, What? Blog be next?

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An 18-month old company, incorporated in Delaware, with an office in Westport, but its chief financial officer and chief operations officers in California, landed $750,000 in Connecticut taxpayer funding this week, thanks to Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-state agency that works to support the Connecticut economy by investing public funds in private companies.

deets, inc., who has had no sales to date, is developing a “productivity App” that, “facilities message sharing for a specific group of workers, parents of Little League players or other small groups, getting them information cleanly and quickly. It also provides smooth contact synchronization.”

A version of the App is now available at the Apple App Store.  According to an article written by the Hartford Courant’s Mara Lee, “The writers of the free app, which has nearly 10,000 users since its launch in August, are hoping to capitalize on the “’anti-social sentiment that’s out there.’”

The company plans to use the new funding to hire 5 employees in Connecticut.

In addition to the Apple version of the app, deets reports that an Android version will be out in January and the plan, according to the Courant, will be to “launch paid versions for businesses. The businesses could use deets to send messages to customers or to help teams communicate internally.”

The news that scarce public funds are being given to a company with limited connections to Connecticut, but who are engaged in an effort to break into a growth field, led Jonathan Pelto, whose blog, Wait, What? seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the Malloy Administration and Connecticut State Government, in general, to consider submitting an application for funding.

“We are definitely considering submitting an application to one of these agencies,” Pelto said, “Attempting to bring transparency to the Malloy Administration is definitely a growth market and we’ve literally had hundreds of thousands of visits to Wait What?,” Pelto noted.

“While our sales have been limited to date, with $750,000 we’d hire, not five, but at least ten Connecticut residents to be researchers and writers, and with that, we’re convinced we could turn the blog into a money-making venture over the next two years,” added Pelto.

However, when asked whether he or his Blog, Wait, What? might be blacklisted from getting state aid, Pelto failed to return multiple phone calls, and referred any further questions to his lawyers.

For the Courant Story see:  http://www.courant.com/business/hc-ci-deets-inc-relocation-20121113,0,281750.story

Update: Mayor Finch & “Education Reformers” spend record amount in bid to take away Bridgeport voters’ rights!

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Bad enough that Bridgeport political and business leaders are trying to reduce the democratic rights of Bridgeport voters, but the next most shocking factor is they are using the people’s money to do it.

In addition to all the time Mayor Finch has dedicated to the effort, a major portion of the money that is paying for all the mailings and television ads have been donated by United Illuminating, Bridgeport Hospital, St. Vincent Medical Center, Aquarion Water Company and Harbor Yard, all entities funded, at least in part, by Bridgeport residents and Connecticut taxpayers.

Add $20,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Residents For A Better Bridgeport, the political action committee behind the campaign to support Mayor Bill Finch’s power grab to eliminate a democratically elected school board and replace it with one appointed by him, will break all the records when it comes to spending money on behalf of a charter change.

Bridgeport Hospital donated $14,422.90

St. Vincent Medical Center donated $14,400

United Illuminating donated $10,000

Aquarion Water Company donated $14,000

Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment donated $14,442.90

Think about it…

Bridgeport’s two hospitals that are dedicated to providing emergency and critical care to the people Bridgeport and Fairfield County.

Last year, Bridgeport Hospital provided $13.6 million in care to people who had no health insurance.  Add in the bad debts from people who couldn’t pay their full bill, and Bridgeport’s total level of uncompensated care exceeded $41.9 million

Meanwhile, St. Vincent Medical Center provided $9 million in care to those with no health insurance.  Add in their bad patient debts and St. Vincent’s total uncompensated care was $41.8 million.

However, apparently they both have the financial resources to make maximum donations to an effort to undermine democracy in the city that they call home.

And yet, every year, these two hospitals beg the Governor and General Assembly for financial support to stay in business.

So how do these hospitals stay in business?

The State of Connecticut provides these hospitals with major subsidies, using taxpayer funds.

Meanwhile, storm or no storm, UI can find an extra $10,000, the regional water company $14,000 and the publicly funded Harbor Yard can find just over $14,400.  All receive direct funding from taxpayers, rate payers, tax breaks or money from the hard working families of the region.

But without your knowledge or support, some of these funds are being diverted from providing services to paying for Mayor Finch’s immoral political power grab.

Of course, when it comes to using scarce resources, corporate executives, like those at the two hospitals Bridgeport hospitals find other favorite ways to spend your money:

Bridgeport Hospital:  Total salary and compensation for top corporate executives

President/CEO William Jennings:             $764,770
Senior Vice President of Finance/CFO    $688,999
Senior VP of Human Resources                  $468,241
Senior VP/COO                                                  $458,001
Vice President                                                   $452,611
 

St. Vincent Medical Center:  Total salary and compensation for top corporate executives

President/CEO Susan David                        $1,484,755
Senior VP of Finance/CFO                           $567,478
Senior VP $                                                        $456,215
Vice President                                                  $455,920

So next time you pay your taxes, or write out your health insurance premium payment, or pay your water bill or simply try to come up with the money to take your kids to an entertainment event, remember just where some of that money is going.

And it’s not like there is no one who could step in and stop this madness.

All of these organizations have Boards of Trustees or executive leadership teams who could be speaking out for the people of the region…but they aren’t.

Bridgeport Hospital Board of Trustees:

David Bindelglass
Emily E. Blair
Gayle L. Capozzalo
George P. Carter
John Falconi
Robert S. Folman
Richard M. Freedman
Janet M. Hansen
Richard M. Hoyt
William G. Hulcher
Peter F. Hurst
William M. Jennings
Newman Marsilius, III
Patricia L. McDermott
Ronald B. Noren
Jeffrey P. Pino
Meredith B. Reuben
Howard L. Taubin
 

St. Vincent Medical Center Board of Trustees

Sr. Martha Beaudoin
Peter Boone
Susan L. Davis
George Goldfarb
Daniel Gottschall
Edward T. Grossman
Sr. Maura Hobart
Anthony Milano
Manuel Pun
Ruben Rodriguez
Charles Strauss
Anthony Vallillo
Brian Worrell
 

United Illuminating Board of Directors

Thelma R. Albright
Arnold L. Chase
Betsy Henley-Cohn
Suedeen G. Kelly
John L. Lahey
Daniel J. Miglio
William F. Murdy
Donald R. Shassian
James P. Torgerson
 

Aquarion Water Company Executives

Charles V. Firlotte , President and Chief Executive Officer
Donald J. Morrissey, Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary
Howard J. Dunn, Vice President, Operations – Aquarion Company
Bruce T. Silverstone, Vice President, Corporate Communications
Doug Kniffin, Vice President and Chief Information Officer
 

Here are just a few of the companies and organizations that are funding the anti-democracy campaign.  More names to come…

Company/Organization Amount
Aquarium Water Company: $14,000
AT&T Connecticut Employee PAC $2,000
Benchmark Trademark Ltd $5,000
Bradford Evans (Senior Advisor Morgan Stanley) $25,000
Bismark Construction Company $3,500
Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Company $14,000
Bridgeport Hospital $14,442.90
Charles Valentino, State Marshall $1,000
CT Coalition for Advancement Now (ConnAD) $14,000
Hal Rosnick (Attorney) $500
Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment LLC $14,442.90
Jarvis Group LLC, NY (in-kind video) $14,376.40
Juda Epstein (Attorney) $1,000.00
Mark Tillenger $2,500
Merit Insurance $2,500
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of  New York City $25,000
Michael Halperin, Washington, CT $2,500
Poko Core Builders, Farmington, CT $2,500
Pullman & Comley (law firm with significant state business) $7,000
St. Vincent’s Hospital $14,400
Steven Simmons, Greenwich, CT $1,000
United Illuminating 10,000
WC & F Real Estate and Development $1,000
Zachary Zeitlin (Silver Point Capital, Westport) $2,000
2 Dog Media (in-kind web design) $1,200
*The Latest from the CT Post can be found here:http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Ed-board-charter-change-divides-voters-4007166.php

The President’s Speech and the 2012 election

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Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention, last night, was impressive, (as one would expect.)

The President’s passion, dedication and commitment to putting the country on track were evident, and he provided a sense of hope that a Second term would see a true re-commitment to the ideal that got him elected four years ago.

For many of us, it is that sense of hope that will lead us back to the polls to vote for him in November.

The President’s speech also brought me back to a commentary piece I wrote for the Hartford Courant in April 2008 that was titled “Bitter? You Bet.”

At the time, the Democratic Party nomination process was headed into the all-important Pennsylvania primary.  At an event, candidate Obama was quoted as saying that some people in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere in the country) were bitter.

Establishment politicians and the media went nuts.

The New York Times reported, “The remarks touched off a torrent of criticism from Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain and Republican activists and party officials, all accusing Mr. Obama of elitism and belittling the working class.”

Time Magazine led with an article entitled, “Will Obama Pay for ‘Bitter’ Flap?”  The piece observed, “After the last few days he has endured over his controversial comments about ”bitter” small-town America , Barack Obama can only hope that the Pope’s arrival in Washington on Tuesday steals some of the spotlight. But given the hits he took from both the Clinton and McCain campaigns over his questionable choice of words, that may be too much of a miracle to ask for.”

Obama’s response was, “No, I’m in touch…I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s going on in Indiana, I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up, they’re angry, they’re frustrated, they’re bitter and they want to see a change in Washington. That’s why I’m running for president of the United States of America.”

But among political pundits, there was serious discussion as to whether Obama “bitter” comment might have derailed his campaign. His own team was backtracking, saying Obama meant to use the word frustrated, not bitter.

Although a supporter of Hillary Clinton, a week later, I wrote a commentary piece for Sunday’s Hartford Courant.

Bitter? You Bet, started out with the statement that, “Our Political Leaders Seem Unable to Grasp, Let Alone Solve, The Economic Problems Confronting Connecticut and the Nation.”

I wrote;

“Although I can’t speak for the small-town people of Pennsylvania, I can certainly report that as far as I’m concerned, I’m bitter and getting more bitter by the day.

In fact, as a middle-income American, I’m not only bitter, I’m angry and disappointed as well. Political pandering, mediocrity and incompetence on the national and state levels are undermining many of the fundamental values that we middle-income Americans hold dear, while threatening the economic vitality and viability of our country and our state and undermining the economic health of many of our families.

The damage from failed leadership is evident throughout the political process and across the political spectrum. Perhaps most clearly of all, it can be seen right here in Connecticut, where our state is losing its competitive edge while our leaders are unable or unwilling to confront the challenges of the 21st century.”

I then outlined the reality of Connecticut’s failed economic development policies and the fact that, “although it’s true that some of Connecticut’s wealthiest families have done just fine over the past decade and a half, the level of income inequality between Connecticut’s top- and middle-income families, as well as the income disparity between Connecticut’s top and bottom families, increased more than in any other state in the country.”

And I concluded with the observation that, “it is hard to imagine anything more troubling than the state’s decision to saddle our state, our taxpayers and our children with an extraordinary level of irresponsible and crippling state debt….Excessive borrowing and the failure to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future costs associated with state employee and teacher pensions, as well as health and retirement benefits, means that a future bill of unimaginable proportions awaits us all.”

I ended my piece with the observation that , “Regardless of what Sen. Obama really meant by his recent comments, it strikes me as quite obvious that many families, lower- and middle-income alike, are undoubtedly bitter.

Here we are, four years later.

We have a Democratic President and a Democratic Governor.

We have a right-wing Republican Party that will do and say anything to undermine the President’s ability to get things done.

And we also have a Democratic Party that is generally timid and meek, unwilling to truly challenge the status quo.

Listening to President Obama, I was reminded, again, just how far short our leaders have fallen from their promised goals.

That said, listening to President Obama’s speech, I was also reminded why the choice to vote for Obama over Romney is such an easy one.

I am bitter.  In fact, I’m even more bitter than I was in 2008.

But last night, Barack Obama proved, yet again, that he truly understands what needs to happen in the country, and I’m banking on the hope and belief that, in a second term, he will fight even harder for those beliefs and policies.

The alternative is to vote for Romney and that ensures that we will be going in the completely wrong direction.

My full 2008 Hartford Courant commentary piece can be found by clicking the links above or here: http://articles.courant.com/2008-04-20/news/commentarypelto0420.art_1_connecticut-economy-connecticut-economic-resources-center-job-growth

Connecticut: The State of Modern Capitalism:

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The concept that Connecticut taxpayers need to pay the world’s biggest hedge fund $115 million dollars to stay in Connecticut is, understandably, a hard thing to truly understand.  They managed to pay their CEO $3.9 billion last year and we have to cough up $115, or they’ll move?

But of course, Bridgewater is not the only private corporation that taxpayers are subsidizing.

In fact, while cuts are being made to vital services, more and more companies are demanding what is, in essence, a ransom.  If we taxpayers don’t pay the ransom, they won’t relocate to Connecticut, or even worse, they’ll leave and take their jobs with them.

Take, for example, the situation that occurred two months ago, when on Sunday, July 8, 2012, more than 400 people joined Governor Dannel Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops and a “host of outdoors celebrities from the world of fishing, bullriding and NASCAR,” for a press conference at Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor industrial site.

The event was to announce that Pro Bass will build a 150,000 square-foot store, a store that will serve as the anchor tenant of Bridgeport’s plan to develop the now vacant Steelpointe area.

According to press reports, the agreement was the product of nearly a year of negotiations between the State, the City and Bass Pro Shops.  The full subsidy package remains vague, but according to the Malloy Administration, the project “is expected to generate at least 250-300 jobs.”

Governor Malloy proudly proclaimed, “This is about jobs, and its great news for the City of Bridgeport…Bass Pro will be a draw for people from throughout the region, one that will help revive the local economy.”

And Mayor Bill Finch added, “Today’s announcement marks a historic moment for the City of Bridgeport and Steelpointe Harbor. Bass Pro Shops’ investment in Bridgeport will create hundreds of jobs, generate new tax revenues and bring economic growth to the City. They are a proven brand that will generate interest and attract customers from throughout the region. Bass Pro Shops is committed to Bridgeport and we are proud to have them as a major anchor tenant at Steelpointe Harbor.”

On behalf of the business community, Joe McGee, vice president of public policy with the Business Council of Fairfield County, and a former commissioner of the Connecticut Development Authority (the state agency responsible for attracting business to the state) said, “Bass Pro is not just a Bridgeport opportunity. It’s a regional opportunity. A Bass Pro competitor — Cabela’s — continues to enjoy significant success at the other end of the state in East Hartford several years after opening.”

For the politicians and business leaders in attendance, the day could not have gone better.

So what about the Cabela’s story:

Six years ago, almost to the day, a different Connecticut governor and a different major outdoor retailer held a similar press conference.  Governor M. Jodi Rell, the Mayor of East Hartford and the corporate leadership of United Technologies Corporation and Cabela’s, held a press conference at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field to announce an agreement that Cabela’s would build a 200,000-square-foot “superstore,” its first store in New England.

The onlookers were told that Cabela’s is “a significant cash generator” and the new store at Rentschler would “benefit the Hartford area.”

In Cabela’s situation, the Connecticut Development Authority wooed Cabela’s with a $10 million incentive package for the company and another $12 million to build roads and make other infrastructure improvements on the site.  To sweeten the deal, East Hartford’s Town Council approved a ten-year tax abatement plan that would save Cabela’s $6.7 million in property tax payments.

As with Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor site, The Rentschler Field plan was looking to Cabela’s to be the anchor tenant for a $2 billion development that would include stores, hotels, offices and high-tech companies. A study conducted by the University of Connecticut predicted that the Rentschler Field project would create 6,000 to 8,000 jobs and generate $40 million in state revenue and $57 million in local taxes, every year.

It wasn’t long before officials had to admit that, “The presence of Cabela’s, considered a retail super magnet, hasn’t been enough to persuade companies and developers to invest money at Rentschler.”

By the beginning of 2009, East Hartford Mayor Melody Curry was quoted as saying “I think we were expecting to see more growth and development than we’ve seen so far.”

Now, six years after the State of Connecticut and East Hartford “invested” nearly $32 million in public funds to attract Cabela’s, there is no sign of the projected $40 million, a year, in state revenue, nor is East Hartford getting its $57 million.  In fact, after letting Cabela’s keep nearly $7 million in what would have been their share of local property taxes, in about 2016, Cabela’s will finally start paying East Hartford about $750,000 a year in real estate taxes.  At that rate the taxpayers of East Hartford won’t even recoup their investment until 2026.

The question arises, if Connecticut’s taxpayers got burned in 2006, why did Governor Malloy and Mayor Finch engage in the very same strategy in 2012?

Was the 2006 experience just bad luck?

The answer can be found in an investigative report conducted by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a non-partisan, independent watch-dog group outside of Washington D.C.

The Franklin Center found that Bass Pro shops and Cabela’s “received or are promised more than $2.2 billion from American taxpayers” over the past 15 years.

The study found that, “The stores are billed as job generators by both companies when they are fishing for development dollars. But the firms’ economic benefits are minimal and costs to taxpayers are great.”

The researchers noted, with some irony, that, “the amount of tax dollars that have been poured into these two companies would be enough to purchase every man, woman and child in the United States their own fishing pole.”

The Franklin Center report, released in August, found that:

  • “Cabela’s has received $551 million in local and state assistance during the past 15 years.
  • Bass Pro Shops received $1.3 billion in local and state assistance during the same period.
  • The federal government helped ensure liquidity for Cabela’s’ credit card division by providing $400 million in financing for the purchase of the company’s securitized debt.
  • Both firms have a history of targeting rural or smaller suburban communities and negotiating deals that involve extensive borrowing on the part of the municipality to build a store.
  • In fact, Bass Pro Shops often pays comparably little toward the construction of its own stores. While this sometimes is the case with Cabela’s, its development schemes tend to involve elaborate agreements that include massive outlays for public spectacles in the midst of the retail setting.”

According to the report, Stacy Mitchell, author of Big Box Swindle, said that Cabela’s and Bass Pro always seek to convince elected officials that the store will be a major tourist attraction.

And even as Connecticut and Bridgeport were signing on the dotted line, it turns out the Franklin Center had discovered that, at least Cabela’s, has “begun to rethink its strategy, which has reaped it hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives.”  According to a top Cabela’s corporate official, “We have come to the conclusion that the places that are most likely to offer incentives are the places we are least likely to want to build.”

And as to the claim that the new Bass Pro will lead to jobs for Bridgeport residents, an investigative report by Brian Lockhart, a Connecticut reporter for the Connecticut Post and Hearst newspapers, discovered that both the Malloy Administration and the Finch Administration knew, but did not reveal, that Bass Pro was facing allegations that, “the company since at least November 2005 has denied qualified blacks and Hispanics retail positions.”

As the Federal Government’s lead attorney wrote, “Our investigation lasted over two years…(there was) a pattern or practice of discrimination…going on at virtually all Bass Pro stores across the country.”

So, despite knowing that the promised economic nirvana that would come with helping build a Cabela’s in East Hartford never occurred and that Bass Pro was facing discrimination charges for refusing to hire blanks and Hispanics, Governor Malloy and Mayor Finch told the assembled on July 8th of this year, “Bass Pro Shops’ investment in Bridgeport will create hundreds of jobs, generate new tax revenues and bring economic growth to the City.”

And on top of that, we still don’t know what Malloy and Finch promised Bass Pro in order to get them to say they’d build a new store in Bridgeport.

Dear Public Officials; Take off the rose colored glasses…

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One of yesterday’s Wait, What? Blog posts dealt with the reality that, here in Connecticut, we taxpayers are giving the world’s largest hedge fund, $115 million dollars to stay and expand in Connecticut.  The public subsidy will cost us about $150,000 for each of the 800 jobs they are scheduled to create over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, as a member of the dwindling middle class, it will cost me, after the available public subsidies, about $160,000 to pay for my child to get an undergraduate degree in her chosen field.

We are witnessing  modern capitalism in which taxpayers are giving money to a company that paid its CEO $3.9 billion last year while a person making an income at about the state average builds up a debt that drag me down for the rest of my life.

And we are told that things are getting better.

Things might very well be getting better, but that misses the point.

Today, Connecticut Voices has released a report that drives the point home in way that everyone, across the political spectrum will be able to understand.

Entitled, The State of Working Connecticut 2012: Employment, Jobs and Wages in the Wake of the Great Recession,” the report reveals that “the wage gap between the wealthy and others has grown over the recent economic recession and recovery, with the highest wage workers enjoying wage growth four times that of median wage workers, while wages stagnated for low wage workers…”

The report examines the period from 2006 – 2011 and key findings include:

  • “The gap between Connecticut’s wealthy residents and everyone else has continued to widen.  Connecticut’s median wage grew by only 2.4 percent (after adjusting for inflation) over the lowest paid workers actually saw their wages fall by 0.2 percent.
  • “Connecticut’s higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing and being replaced by lower paying jobs in healthcare, hotels, and restaurants.”  14 percent of Connecticut manufacturing were lost between 2006 and 2011, while healthcare and social service sector jobs grew by 11 percent.“  The Problem:  Healthcare and Social service jobs pay “78 percent of the statewide average weekly wage,” meaning those that are getting jobs are getting them in fields that won’t allow those workers to even reach Connecticut’s existing middle ground.
  • “Connecticut’s Black and Hispanic workers have not experienced an economic recovery.”
  • “Connecticut’s youngest workers are most likely to be unemployed, but Connecticut’s oldest workers are most likely to face long-term unemployment.”  As of 2011, almost in one in five younger workers were officially unemployed.  Meanwhile, of the unemployed workers 55 or over, a shocking six in every ten have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks.   Losing a job when you are 55 or over is becoming a death sentence when it comes to ever finding work again.

This study should be mandatory reading for every legislative candidate seeking office.  In fact, perhaps some Wait, What? readers could print off the executive summary or full report, send it to your local legislative candidates and ask, no demand that they provide the voters with some substantive response.

The Executive Summary is here:  http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ12sowctes.pdf

The Full Report is here: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/econ12sowctfull.pdf

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