March 10, 2011
By Ken Krayeske • 8:05 PM EST
A happy Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy walks alongside an unknown Connecticut Air National Guard honcho at his January 5, 2011 inauguration. Austerity for thou, but not for the military. The Iraq war equals 20 percent of our gross domestic product.
Somewhere in a Hartford, a high school student shivered through last night because his single father couldn’t afford the $1,000 it takes to fill the oil tank to heat his house.
The father is among America’s working poor. He has a “full-time” job that only lets him work 32 hours a week, which prevents him from the full-time status of benefits. At least he has a job, right?
In school today, the child will be poorly prepared because he was too cold to concentrate on his homework. He might nap during class, and his teachers will think he is slacking off.
Some of the teachers probably wouldn’t understand the dad’s predicament: he owns a house but can’t afford to heat it, and can’t find help to pay the bills. They might wonder why the dad isn’t out hustling more. It is a man’s duty to provide for his kids, right?
If the dad is lucky, the pipes won’t freeze and he won’t lose running water.
The student’s teachers are mandated to report child abuse and neglect, so if he told his teachers the truth that his dad is attempting to keep him warm by using the stove, his teachers would probably have to report it to the state Department of Children and Families.
But poverty is not a reason to punish parents, at least according to what new DCF chief and former state Supreme Court justice Joette Katz has said. I was relieved to hear Katz say this on WNPR’s “Where We Live” a few weeks back.
Yet how can DCF reach out to this mom and her child and help them? DCF does not provide home heating assistance. In fact, the previous Republican governor attempted to cut home heating assistance.
Clearly, whatever monies were in the program were not enough. But how do we get more resources to our poor to help them succeed?
Somewhere in Hartford, a Governor is calling for shared sacrifice and an austerity budget to cut the deficit because previous governments spent beyond the state’s means.
The Governor has called himself a fiscal conservative, more conservative than previous Republican governors. Yet he claims to be a Democrat. According to models of American political thought, his Democratic label makes him a “liberal.”
Being a liberal might indicate that this Governor is aware of the intense poverty facing residents of his state’s capitol city, and that this Governor is concerned about how to ameliorate those badges and incidences of poverty.
But I doubt that to this Governor, shared sacrifice means that those who live in Avon or Wilton in 5,000 square foot homes should go a night or two without heat. Just to see how it feels, right?
Certainly, to this Governor, shared sacrifice doesn’t mean the millionaire in Avon should pay their proportionate share of income taxes.
This Governor has inherited a state income tax that is more regressive than most other states, according to liberal activist Jon Pelto and studies by the watchdog group Connecticut Voices for Children. And there appear to be no plans to change that imbalance.
“The lack of appropriate tax rate tiers means that Connecticut families who make $30,000 per year are taxed at the same rate as those making $900,000. This means middle and lower income families are disproportionately burdened,” Pelto wrote in his February 7, 2011 column for the New Haven Advocate.
So our dad above, who maybe ekes out $30,000 a year at her 32 hour a week job and whatever side jobs he can find, pays between 10 percent of his income in state taxes. If he makes less than $30,000, he possibly pays 12 percent.
Connecticut’s rich pay 4.9 percent. Pelto reported that Connecticut is home to 10,000 people who make more than a million smackeroos a year. But we only tax them at half the rate we tax those in lower income stratas.
Somewhere in Hartford, a legislator who works for the school system just took a bonus that is large enough to fill that mother’s oil tank seven times.
At least one member of the City Council has called for the Superintendent who gave that bonus to resign.
This columnist is calling for those who took bonuses to give them back. The children clearly need the money more than they do.
Somewhere in Hartford, there is a college student living at home with her single mom. The college student has to study in the library all night because her mom can’t afford to pay the electric bill.
The mom has a job working as a teacher’s assistant in a Hartford elementary school. But this salary is hardly enough to pay the bills. At least they have a roof over their heads, right?
If the student graduates and walks across the stage, it should be a moment of immense pride, because of what the young woman has had to overcome. But why do we make children climb these mountains?
Somewhere in Hartford, important, smart people are gathering to discuss how to fix problems, like how to sell wine with gift baskets. Seriously.
House Bill 6267, introduced by the General Law Committee, will establish a gift basket retailer permit to allow for the retail sale of wine with gift baskets, subject to certain restrictions.
It was ready for action by the House of Representatives on March 9, 2011. This bill ended up in front of the house because it is good for commerce, and because monied people interested in making more money by selling wine with gift baskets had to ability to get the bill raised and to a vote.
Our single dad and our single mom are too worried about feeding their children to be politically active. If they were in politics, and they ran for office and tried to tell their stories, people would say to them, why are you trying to change things politically when your own house isn’t in order? How can you waste time running for office when you can’t pay your bills?
People would look down on them because they have tried to use the political system to gain resources (wealth) without actually doing the work.
But who in power in the legislature is looking out for their interests? The wheels of commerce get more legal grease than the children who are ground beneath the wheels.
And remember that our single parents are working. The 32-hour a week job is an attempt to skirt labor laws and enrich the bottom line, at the expense of this child.
Our single parents are trying to find the American dream, and put their children in a better position than they are, or were. But it just keeps getting tougher every day.