For many years state government has been obsessed with making taxes and spending add up without much regard to what government actually produces. Few in authority have noticed that despite the desperate efforts with arithmetic, Connecticut has been declining steadily. While the state auditors of public accounts often expose the ordinary management failures of particular agencies, no one in authority has tried to audit Connecticut on a comprehensive scale.
But a few months ago a scholar with the Manhattan Institute, Stephen D. Eide, working with the Yankee Institute, Connecticut’s foremost public policy research organization, produced a few lines of data that may be all the audit Connecticut needs.
For a study titled “Connecticut’s Broken Cities,” Eide took U.S. Census Bureau figures for Connecticut’s four largest cities — Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, and Waterbury — to calculate the changes in the poverty of their populations from 1970 to 2014. Eide found that poverty had exploded.
Hartford’s population fell 21 percent but its number of poor people rose by 56 percent. New Haven’s population fell 5 percent but its poor rose 41 percent. Bridgeport’s population fell 6 percent but its poor rose 86 percent. Waterbury’s population rose marginally, by 1.7 percent, but its poor rose by an extraordinary 154 percent.
That is, during the last five decades Connecticut’s cities have been turned into poverty factories. Government policy has only increased poverty and social disintegration in the cities, not reduced it.
Ordinarily such policy might be considered a catastrophic failure. But since these results have been produced for so long without causing any change in policy or even reconsideration, another possibility must be acknowledged: that Connecticut intends to create poverty. After all, poverty creates dependence on government; dependence on government creates political power; and administering poverty creates lucrative business for government and its agents in what are called social services and criminal justice. Eliminating poverty would destroy that political power and lucrative business.
But now the poverty business — welfare, child protection, rent subsidies, Medicaid, criminal justice, remedial education, and so forth — along with government employee pensions are cannibalizing the rest of state government, and the General Assembly and the governor lately have not been able to enact a budget. Taxpayers are noticing.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.