Even the first American patriots might defend Haddam Selectwoman Melissa J. Schlagâ€™s right not to salute the flag with the Pledge of Allegiance but instead to kneel in protest of President Trumpâ€™s policies, no matter if her kneeling is just a political stunt, pious posturing resulting from Trump Derangement Syndrome.
As Continental Congress delegate Sam Adams declared in 1776, calling for the overthrow of the royal government: â€śDriven from every corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum.â€ť
Schlag says she will keep kneeling during the pledge as long as Trump remains president. She will have that right as long as the people defend their liberties.
But Schlag still has a problem here, both as a citizen and as an elected official. For in refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag -- â€śand to the republic for which it standsâ€ť -- she suggests that her loyalty to the country is now impaired and that she no longer feels bound by her oath as a voter and public official to be faithful to the state and federal constitutions. She suggests that she makes no distinction between a particular administration, which will be transitory, and the country generally -- its Constitution, laws, and liberties -- which, it may be hoped, will be everlasting.
Indeed, the pledge Schlag will no longer take is not to any president but to the country itself.
If Schlag cannot make this distinction she should resign her office, or Haddam should not elect her again.
American political leaders throughout history have managed to avoid Schlagâ€™s self-righteousness in addressing situations like the one in which the country now finds itself. One such leader, Carl Schurz, was a German revolutionary who became a general for the Union in the Civil War and then a U.S. senator. Serving in the Senate during an administration he found as odious as Schlag finds the current one, Schurz declared: â€śMy country right or wrong -- if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.â€ť
Repudiating her allegiance by kneeling during the pledge, Schlag says, she â€śfelt powerful.â€ť But she has offended more people than she has persuaded and has changed the subject from the policies she deplores. That wonâ€™t set anything right.
Governor Malloy has sought sympathy by contending that all the money raised by his two record-setting tax increases has been deposited in state governmentâ€™s pension funds, whose liabilities still overwhelm their assets. Of course such underfunding of pensions is considered a critical problem in many other states too.
But a study published this month by a public policy research and news organization in Illinois, Wirepoints, concludes that underfunding really isnâ€™t the state government pension problem at all -- that the problem is actually excessive benefits promised to government employees, because state pension liabilities since 2003 have increased far more than state economies have grown.
The study calculates that Connecticutâ€™s government pension liabilities have grown more than three times as fast as the stateâ€™s economy.
The study is more evidence that the main accomplishment of the Malloy administration has been to protect the government class against the financial burdens borne by ordinary taxpayers, that funding of pension liabilities will continue to cannibalize public services, and that the only true reform is reducing benefits and restoring the proper relationship between the public and government employees.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.