Connecticut Yankee Whiners
I am embarrassed to report that my home state of Connecticut, the most affluent per capita in the nation, harbors a burgeoning colony of bellyachers.
Last month, tens of thousands of screaming, spitting malcontents besieged the capitol in Hartford to complain about our new income tax. It was an arresting sight to see acres of usually straitlaced Connecticut Yankees cursing and shoving anyone who didn't agree with them. Richard Foley, chairman of the state Republican Party, was observed sicking the mob on a lone pro-income tax legislator, who had to be escorted to safety by the police.
The entire scene was more reminiscent of Yugoslavia than New England, where the natives have a centuries-old tradition of orderly self-government. Indeed, the first written constitution in the Americas, the Fundamental Orders, was drafted in Hartford in 1638.
It would unduly dignify this horde of "ax the tax" juveniles to describe them as a political movement. Its alleged leaders offer no alternatives to the budget balancing taxes and spending reductions already in place. We Yankees were once thought of as a practical lot, able to fix or invent things to solve problems. Now we seem to be most adept at bleating.
The main attitude of the anti-tax elite (besides transparent demagogy) is reflected in its ability to use words like "whore" and barnyard epithets in political debate. Words we tell our children not to use have found their way into what were once known as family newspapers.
Yes, all of a sudden there Is great anger in the so-called land of steady habits. To be sure, times are not good and no one looks forward to paying new taxes. I was recently laid off myself. But before we Nutmeggers get in the habit of moaning the blues, let us consider the advantages we do enjoy.
First of all, in most countries on this planet the vast majority of us would be considered obscenely wealthy. We average two cars per household, and even our poorest residents tend to have cars, color televisions, stereos, VCR's, if not entire home entertainment complexes. Connecticut is a state blessed with handy paved roads, indoor plumbing, clean drinking water, good medical care, colorful scenery, passable schools and considerably more.
In a recent letter to The Hartford Courant, a visitor from abroad was flabbergasted to observe a people living so high off the hog and yet squealing like stuck piggies. It isn't as If we live in Haiti or Cuba and don't have a say in who governs us.
In 1990, one of the three candidates for governor insisted time and again that he would never ever even think for a nanosecond of proposing an income tax. If "No new taxes" is the modern moral equivalent of "Give me liberty or give me death," then we could have easily ensconced that gentleman in the governor's mansion. He lost.
In November 1990 a paltry 41 percent of the voting age population of the great whining state of Connecticut went to the polls to elect the governor. And less than one in five residents capable of voting cast his or her ballot for Gov. Lowell Weicker, whom so many people are eager to jostle and spit on. (That Is, when a mob is handy, since the Governor Is a large man with a short temper himself.)
We Connecticut Yankees were once known for self-reliance. Roger Sherman of New Haven forged the Connecticut Compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, settling the sharp debate over how both big and little states could be fairly represented. His ingenious solution was to divide Congress into two houses, one apportioned by population and the other allotting two senators per state.
Today we earn our renown as a howling mob led into political combat by shrill Neanderthals. Mark Twain, who adopted my state, wrote about mobs In "Huckleberry Finn": "The pitlfulest thing out Is a mob ... But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifulness."
Perhaps the State of Connecticut wouldn't be so pitiful If thinking and voting were as easy as spitting.