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    Friday, December 01, 2023

    Want to raise incomes? Better raise job skills

    East Hartford's new mayor, Connor Martin, has a vision and a prescription for his town of 51,000.

    “We're no longer going to be this blue-collar town, this poor community that we get labeled as," Martin says. "We have to start raising the household median income, bring in revenue through economic development, and bring in retail, entertainment, and shopping.”

    Great — but how?

    Raising incomes should be the objective of government throughout the country, especially since incomes have been declining for years under the pressure of soaring inflation — currency devaluation caused by the federal government's policy of financing huge increases in spending not through taxes but money creation.

    These days whenever presidents and members of Congress announce millions or billions to be spent on various goodies, there is no mention of how they are to be financed. Money creation is assumed to be able to do it, which means inflation. State officials are just as culpable for inflationary finance insofar as the goodies they announce are financed by federal grants.

    Meanwhile prices of necessities rise, real incomes fall, and most people can't understand why their living standards are sinking even as they are invited to credit the elected officials announcing goodies financed by inflation.


    So how is Mayor Martin going to raise the incomes of ordinary people in East Hartford?

    He's not going to do it by reducing inflation, since municipal officials have no power to do so. Since the mayor is a Democrat, he won't even be asking Connecticut's members of Congress to reduce inflation, since, while they are heavily responsible for it, they are all Democrats too. They will leave the inflation problem to the Federal Reserve, which has been raising interest rates to induce a recession, destroy economic demand, create unemployment and lower living standards some more.

    East Hartford could raise the incomes of its residents as some other towns in Connecticut do it: by impeding inexpensive housing and keeping the poor out. While East Hartford has some good middle-class neighborhoods, it also has many dilapidated apartments and tenements that could be acquired by the town and razed, with the lots sold to developers for construction of condominiums and luxury apartments that current town residents could not afford. Such redevelopment is called "gentrification."

    Driving poor people out this way has the advantage of reducing the number of neglected and poorly performing schoolchildren, cutting education expenses.

    Such policy wouldn't be very fair, but poverty is a burden, not a virtue, and Mayor Martin has acknowledged that East Hartford doesn't need more poor people. He's not alone in this. The mayors of Hartford and New Haven have said they would like to relocate many of their poor to the suburbs.


    But how can incomes in East Hartford and other poor cities and towns be raised without making life even harder for the poor people there?

    No one in authority in Connecticut seems to have the policy for that. Indeed, policy in Connecticut works strongly against raising the incomes of the poor by failing to qualify so many of them to earn more. Welfare policy weakens the family while education policy — social promotion — sends young people into adulthood without the skills needed to earn good incomes.

    Mayor Martin mistakenly equates "blue collar" with poverty. But "blue-collar" work can pay well and is often the work society most needs — machinists, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and such, people who do real things. Teaching and nursing may not be considered "blue-collar" jobs but they also pay well and are within reach of the working class.

    Manufacturers in Connecticut have thousands of well-paying jobs they can't fill because of a lack of qualified applicants.

    Can East Hartford increase the job skills of its many poorly performing young students, thereby increasing their earning power, while building the sound and affordable housing that would be needed to keep them in the state as their incomes rise? Can Connecticut?

    Any mayor who could achieve that might deserve to be governor, even president.

    Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. He can be reached at CPowell@cox.net.

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