Finizio's exit tops the list of notables

A few weeks ago as President Obama visited Connecticut to join Governor Malloy in their campaign to raise the minimum wage, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio led the City Council into raising it for the city's seasonal workers.

But now Finizio acknowledges that the city is broke and needs a big refinancing just to meet payroll, proposes to raise spending by 7.5 percent, and says these desperate circumstances will require him to forgo re-election.

Whatever happens to the crumbling little city, at least New London will remain politically correct.

Beware tax reform

National hospital conglomerator Tenet Healthcare Corp., which is striving to acquire nonprofit community hospitals in Waterbury, Bristol, Manchester, and Vernon, is paying another $5 million to settle misconduct charges. Meanwhile Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, says he is inclined to oppose legislation to block such takeovers.

Conversion of nonprofit community hospitals to mere cogs in the chain of a national profit-seeking corporation seems to fit with the speaker's big idea of state tax reform. As part of a national chain, the hospitals would start paying municipal property taxes and state corporation taxes and would build that expense into their billings. In turn the tax expenses would be covered by medical insurers, which would increase their policy premiums to employers and individuals.

In effect such hospital takeovers will constitute a huge increase in state and local taxes that will be extracted from the public indirectly, via insurance companies, which will be blamed for the higher costs instead of the real perpetrator, government itself.

That long has been what Connecticut's liberal Democrats have meant by "tax reform": concealing responsibility for government expense.

Liberal hypocrisy

While another decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may unleash more big money in politics, liberal complaints about it are hypocritical.

For these days there are as many super-rich donors on the left as on the right. And most campaign money is spent on demagogic television commercials, a troublesome situation that easily would yield to a simple adjustment in federal broadcast regulations without any limits on political donations.

Broadcasters are recipients of great gifts from the federal government: grants of monopoly on the public airwaves and requirements that their signals be carried by cable TV providers. But broadcast licenses are never auctioned at regular intervals to the highest bidder, and having received their licenses for free, broadcasters are even allowed to sell them and keep the profit.

So as a condition of their licenses broadcasters should be required to provide much free commercial time to candidates for national and state office. In turn candidates using such free time should be required to deliver their messages themselves, so that they do any demagoguery themselves rather than use some faceless, sinister-sounding announcer.

This would be a thoroughly liberal reform, reducing the influence of wealth and special interests, yet there is little enthusiasm for it even among liberals in Congress.

Connecticut's congressional delegation, composed entirely of liberal Democrats, is typical in its subservience to the broadcast industry.

For 14 years the state's largest newspaper, the Hartford Courant, and two Connecticut TV stations, WTIC-TV61 and WCCT-TV20, have been operated by Tribune Co. in violation of the Federal Communications Commission's regulation against cross-ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same market. But no Connecticut congressman has ever objected.

The congressmen will sneer at the Koch Brothers, the conservative billionaires who are the bogeymen of the left. But the Kochs have never intervened in Connecticut even as Tribune's influence is felt powerfully every day and treated as the natural order of things rather than as the failure of government to enforce its own rules.

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