Blue State Blues: Residents Say ‘Enough’ to Tax Burden, Stifling Culture of Connecticut
All such adventures in statewide left-leaning rule produce similar tales, told in both citizen anger and an accountant’s ledger. Connecticut only managed to hide its maddening decline for so long due to its equally stunning tax base.
But those days are over -- and it’s not just the statism, it’s the culture. New London is “New Brussels”; the distance Connecticut’s utopian-minded leaders were able to maintain from the resulting chaos of their ideology is gone. Hope can survive where geography still promises quality of life, yet few are choosing to stay and fight that entrenched one-party rule when relief is just a U-Haul and a rough week or two away.
Below, three passages help illustrate the economic and cultural situation facing Connecticut.
Noted food writer and since-departed-for-South-Carolina resident Michael Stern set off a predictable, “tolerant” rain of bigotry when he announced his reasons for fleeing Connecticut in the Hartford Courant recently. Stern couldn’t have done a finer job illustrating the creeping, lockstep hatred than some other residents did in bidding him a terrible future in a “Tea Party” state.
Below is Stern’s op-ed, after which Stern expands for PJ Media on his life decision and his newfound relief in South Carolina.
Then, this article concludes with a message from Connecticut GOP state Senator Scott Frantz. Frantz's district includes all of Greenwich, plus parts of Stamford and New Canaan. These are some of America’s wealthiest per-capita towns, and thus home to a large percentage of the now-ravaged tax base that helped the state’s liberal governance stay afloat for so long. Frantz addresses the issues raised by Stern, and the fight he faces in Connecticut’s legislature.
Michael Stern op-ed, published in the Hartford Courant on Aug. 27 -- “I’m Not Leaving Connecticut, It Left Me”:
In 1968, I came to Connecticut to attend school. Yale was fine, but my real education took place in pizzerias on Wooster Street, at picnic-table clam shacks along the shoreline and in diners from Curley's in Stamford to Zip's in Dayville. So inspired was I by the state's sleeves-up eats that I made a career of reporting about regional food all around America.
I have seen a lot of the country, but no matter how alluring the scenery, the weather and the cost of living elsewhere, I always have come back home to Connecticut. My pride in living here has been downright patriotic. I truly believed that Connecticut was better than anywhere else.
That is why it hurts so much to leave.
Oh, how I will miss hot lobster rolls and apizzas! Beyond excellent food, I will miss riding horseback through the blaze of autumn; I will miss saddle pals from High Lonesome, Sunny Brook Farm, Happy Trails and Fairfield County Hounds. I will miss homes that are three centuries old, tumbledown stone walls, dairy farms and apple orchards, the Connecticut River and the Litchfield hills. I already miss the late Dr. Mel Goldstein. Heck, I might one day even miss good old New England winter!
But I must get out.
For me, Connecticut is no longer the best place to be. Rather than feeling proud when I tell people where I live as I travel around the country, I am embarrassed. I am not going to whine about the all-too-obvious economic reasons for leaving, such as backbreaking taxes, moribund cities and gutted home values -- all of which make Connecticut look like the next Detroit. What bothers me more is a matter of character. When I came here nearly a half-century ago, Connecticut was hard to define -- in the best possible sense. It was a place between New England and New York -- not just geographically, but temperamentally. Here I found equal measures Yankee sense and urban sensibility with heaping portions of Italian flavor and preppy-WASP seasoning, a full ration of African-American soul, and a soupcon of Jewish culture.
That mix of flavors still exists to some degree, now augmented by fresh (and delicious) waves of Latin-American and Asian influence: all good stuff. But a state is more than the sum of its contents. A state is attitude, manner and mien. And there's the difference. Connecticut's uncommon disposition -- a paradoxical stew of hidebound and unpredictable, refined and irreverent -- has been eclipsed by a dreadful sameness that makes living here all too much like living in New York or New Jersey -- according to Forbes, the only two states with tax burdens higher than ours.
OK, I said I wouldn't gripe about taxes. Instead, let's talk guns. I never thought much about firearms when I grew up in the Midwest. But Connecticut's heritage as home to such fabled names as Colt and Winchester inspired me to become a competitive shooter and vintage revolver collector. I used to feel quite superior to residents of neighboring states because Connecticut still had some respect for its people's gun rights. But the Sandy Hook shootings prompted regulation every bit as onerous as that of New York and Massachusetts. This is not the forum to argue that draconian gun control is political pandering, its only effect on lawbreakers to make it easier for them to prey on law-abiding citizens. But our elected leaders' demonization of guns and gun owners is one more good reason to leave. I do not want to live in a place where only the government and criminals are well-armed. That is known as a police state.
Placebo gun laws are just one symptom of Connecticut's descent into banality. The problem isn't strictly political, although ironclad Democrat domination is, for me, a big part of what's wrong. Without effective opposition to the ruling party, we have become indistinguishable from the lockstep political correctness that defines any inexorably blue state.
Cases in point: Dannel Malloy, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy. They all have been handily elected, so I grudgingly and sadly acknowledge that they are what voters want. For countless specific acts and statements during their tenures, they make me squirm to be their constituent; beyond what they've done and said is the matter of personality. There is nothing about these predictable politicians that is distinctive or imaginative, nothing feisty or original or iconoclastic or bold -- certainly not compared to the likes of Ella Grasso, Abraham Ribicoff or Joseph Lieberman.
The truth is that I mostly disagreed with those leaders' policies. But even when I thought they were wrong, I respected them as freethinkers. They and generations of nonconformist predecessors were symbols of a state like no other, a state where I was once so proud to live. Their leadership reflected the independent character that used to be Connecticut's hallmark -- character that I fear is becoming history.
I am grateful I was here to savor the unique spirit that defined Connecticut and, in some small way, to contribute to it. I leave with sorrow for its loss.