Connecticut's disgraceful political economy was on display at the state Capitol this week.
The teacher unions summoned a thousand members to hear union leaders denounce Governor Malloy's proposal to connect teacher evaluations with teacher certification and tenure — that is, to connect job performance with job security, as they are connected throughout Connecticut's fast-diminishing private sector and indeed as they have to be connected in any enterprise that aims to accomplish anything.
Joining the union leaders in pandering to the crowd were House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th District; Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn; and Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, co-chair of the General Assembly's Education Committee. They pledged themselves against accountability for members of Connecticut's most influential special interest.
And so the vicious circle rules. Government pays ever-growing compensation to its employees, and they get ever-more mobilized in politics, making donations of money and time to campaigns in support of their stooges in government. In turn those stooges make sure that the government keeps paying off the special interest, and the special interest keeps kicking back to the stooges politically.
This is the great accomplishment of Connecticut's Democratic Party — the destruction of public administration.
So whatever gave the governor the idea that public administration might be restored through his party? Maybe he thinks that a coalition of public-spirited Democratic state legislators and the Republican minority in the General Assembly might pass legislation curtailing teacher union privileges. But it has been easy for the Republicans to vote against the special interest when they have been sure to be on the losing side, when their votes have been meaningless and have not upset anyone much. Are Republican legislators ready to be on the winning side against a special interest as strong as this one, a special interest that will be desperately motivated to retaliate if it ever loses its long control of the legislature?
A few weeks ago a majority of neither party's legislators dared to join the governor in support of public-interest legislation as obvious as repealing the ban on price competition at liquor stores. If legislators can't stand up to a special interest as indefensible as the liquor stores, how will they ever stand up to the teacher unions?
It's not that the public interest can't be asserted against these special interests. It well might be accomplished by a governor — but not without his going to war against them, and this governor can't talk about accountability in public education without emphasizing how "respectful" he is of the other side, even as the other side broadcasts television and radio commercials mocking him. Malloy may be serious when he's a little less respectful of the contemptible and a little more combative — like the governor of New Jersey.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.