Hines Sight / Nation, state, town: depressing x 3
Does anyone else besides me think the whole country has gone crazy?
Let's think about this:
Members of the U.S. House and Senate were fighting with the other side and within their own chamber over legislation to raise the debt ceiling or face default. The president lacked a show of leadership throughout the debate. The president squabbled with the Republicans and with some members of his own party, losing their support. The House speaker knuckled under to the extremists of his own party. The Senate majority leader failed to adequately express his party's position (one wonders if the man is capable of raising his voice).
On the state level, the new governor has been a disappointment. He sounded good during the campaign and on paper, but he has not delivered. He blamed the unions for not agreeing to contract concessions and the unions blamed him for placing the entire burden of the multibillion-dollar deficit at their feet. New taxes have been imposed on some everyday activities, like taking a yoga class or having your dog groomed. The sales tax rose too from 6 percent to 6.35 percent on July 1. And now we have to endure higher personal income tax rates, which went into effect on Monday. This news is even more distressing as the higher rate is retroactive on income earned since January. People earning $50,000 a year or less will not see a change in their rate. Big deal.
And on the town level, where do we begin? There are multimillion-dollar school projects to do and to complete and nearly 900,000 in school roof repairs -- and we can't forget about the $2 million to $6 million needed to complete the third train station. It's all so depressing to think about.
The one thing that these groups have in common is that they are clueless about the American people. They don't live in the real world like the rest of us do. What they don't get is that the majority of the residents of this country don't give a darn about their political ambitions or ideologies. The American people want definitive, agreeable action on issues important to them and relief from being financially overburdened. And they want jobs, which, for some reason, no one is talking about. The only group of the three that gets a semi-pass from me is our Fairfield decision-makers. The chances that members of the boards of Selectmen and Finance and the Representative Town Meeting will see how their neighbors manage to live and those same neighbors giving them "what for" are greater.
Washington, D.C., and Hartford are just out of touch.
A breath of fresh air, though, came from our own John McKinney, the state Senate minority leader, who issued a statement last weekend in which he summed up exactly how detrimental a retroactive income tax rate will be on taxpayers. "Where are they going to come up with that money? No one planned for this. No one saved for this. It is a sad day when state government decides to reach back in time to garnish the wages of our hard-working residents because it can't get its own fiscal house in order."
You have to wonder if state and federal lawmakers ever read the demographic information that undoubtedly comes across their desk. As "The Old Professor" -- the legendary Casey Stengel -- said repeatedly, "You can look it up." I did.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in September 2010 that the real median household income in 2009 was $49,777, which essentially was unchanged from the previous year. Additionally, 43.6 million people lived in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008. And the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009.
And let's not forget about the unemployed. As of June 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 9.1 percent of Connecticut workers were jobless. The national unemployment rate for the same period was 9.2 percent.
Add to these the continued home foreclosures and the high cost of just about everything -- food, housing, clothing, repair services and gasoline.
These are real problems for which no one is finding a solution. Instead, our lawmakers bicker and banter, and are getting very good at inaction.
Maybe it's time to move into a hut on a private island.