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Monday, July 31, 2006

Why can't people in Connecticut get ahead?

I think I know.

A discouraging report from Americans For Tax Reform reveals that people in Connecticut need longer than anyone to pay for the cost of government. Apparently the average American worked 193 days (until July 12) "this year to pay for all levels of government." The report says:

The highest state Cost of Government Day by far is in Connecticut. The day there falls 18 days later than the rest of the country, coming on July 30th. This is 3 days later than Cost of Government Day for the second highest state, New York, which has been increasing over the past few years.

I think the "by far" part is kind of twisting the knife a bit, don't you?

When you consider the number of people who likely pay no taxes at all, this is truly astounding - or should be. Have we lost the capacity to care about these things? You might have missed this piece in the Courant, letting us know that Connecticut enjoyed a budget surplus of some $940 million. Of this sum, some $455 million will go into the Rainy Day Fund. Governor Rell said:

"Our Rainy Day Fund had been seriously depleted in recent years, but we now have a nice fiscal cushion in place," Rell said in a statement. "That cushion will come in handy should we experience any future bumps in the economic road."

In a State with three and a half million people, a $940 million surplus is a lot of money. Other than a bit of relief relating to the high cost of gasoline, I haven't heard any serious discussion of letting the people who sent that money into the coffers get any bit of it back. In fact, we have at least one candidate for higher office, Mr. Malloy, who says he's of a mind to raise the income tax.

So it seems ironic to me that just a few days ago Governor Rell issued a press release calling upon oil companies to give back some of their their "obscene" profits.

Citing the $10.36 billion in second quarter profits reported by Exxon Mobil Corp. today, Governor M. Jodi Rell urged Exxon and other major oil companies to return a portion of their record profits back to consumers by immediately lowering prices at the pumps.

Exxon’s profits are up 36 percent in the quarter. This represents the second largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company.

In addition, London-based BP PLC has reported net income of $7.3 billion, up 30 percent, while Houston-based ConocoPhillips’ profits are up 65 percent to $5.18 billion.

“These oil companies’ profits of 30 percent and up are, quite frankly, obscene,” Governor Rell said. “Connecticut residents are beyond angry. They are livid, and so am I after seeing these numbers today. We want answers, we want accountability and we want to see some semblance of decency from these companies.

I'm sure that many of our readers pay literally thousands of dollars in State and local taxes every year. At what point would it be acceptable, to use the Governor's words, to become "livid" with anger? It would seem to me that we could get a "portion" of the State's "profits" returned.

Why talk about this here? I think we need to question the morality of confiscatory taxes. It's common to speak of raising taxes to address the needs of the poor, and this is done on moral grounds, or by citing biblical injunctions to care for the poor. But not everyone in Connecticut lives in Greenwich, Darien or Avon and can afford such a crushing tax burden. And certainly not all those who live in wealthy towns are wealthy, of course.

So what is the moral justification for making people work until the beginning of August to meet the needs of "government?" I'd like to know.

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