Chris Powell: Connecticut sinks so fast because no one cares much

Published on Saturday, 9 December 2017 16:56
Written by Chris Powell


Connecticut state government’s appalling financial condition isn’t such a mystery. Practically every week brings explanations for those who want them.

In federal court this week a con man was sentenced to three years in prison for scamming Hartford city government out of a half-million dollars with a scheme to build a soccer stadium. The con man claimed to be a former professional football player with wealthy contacts but he wasn’t. Indeed, he had virtually no credentials at all. But no one in city government checked him out before giving him lots of money, which he misused.

Governor Malloy and legislative leaders have offered no comment about the con man’s case even as their new state budget has appropriated an extra $40 million for the city to forestall its bankruptcy filing. State government will impose no penalty on Hartford city government for its chronic incompetence and corruption.

A week ago the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender reported that four executives at state government’s medical insurance exchange, Access Health CT, got $376,000 in severance payments after being fired quietly in the last two years and that the exchange won’t explain the circumstances. The exchange’s spokesman, former Enfield state Rep. Kathleen Tallarita, says the agency doesn’t discuss personnel matters - the dumbest non-sequitur in government, since personnel is government’s biggest expense and no law forbids discussing its details.

But again the governor and legislative leaders have offered no comment and asked no questions about the firings and payments, nor about the general unaccountability of the “quasi-public” agencies established by state government. Not even the Republicans, who hope to replace the state’s Democratic administration, have said anything here.

What would strike taxpayers as extravagant is considered normal by both parties at the state Capitol.

Part of this silence is the fear of government employees, whose unions are Connecticut’s biggest special interests. Criticism of one government employee may be considered criticism of all. But part of it also is probably the aspiration of leaders in both political parties for one of those high-paid positions in the executive branch, positions where even getting fired can be lucrative.

But nothing may be more lucrative than superintending the destruction of competition in the medical insurance industry. According to news reports, if his company’s acquisition by CVS is completed, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini will receive salary and stock compensation ranging from $88 million to $500 million.

Golden parachutes like Bertolini’s tend to support complaints from the political left that a lot of administrative bloat could be squeezed out of medical insurance, just as those huge and unexplained severance payments at Access Health CT suggest that there’s a lot of administrative bloat to be squeezed out of state government.

The governor, legislative leaders, and candidates for attorney general also have had nothing to say about the destruction of competition in medical insurance, nor about Bertolini’s golden parachute.

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Little virtue on Conyers, Franken: Don’t give congressional Democrats much credit for pressing Michigan Rep. John Conyers and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken to resign on account of sexual misconduct, since their successors are sure to be Democrats as well.

Similar calculation is behind the support President Trump and congressional Republicans are giving the equally tainted Roy Moore in the special election for senator from Alabama. For only Moore’s election will keep the seat Republican.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns on Saturday, 9 December 2017 16:56. Updated: Saturday, 9 December 2017 16:59.