Choosing a New Police Chief: No Local Ties, Please.

Do you want your town to look like The Dukes of Hazzard? Then again, maybe New Milford has been run by Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane for a while. If that's not your idea of how a quaint New England town should be run, then help make sure the next police chief has no local ties - political or familial.

The next police chief should be the most qualified candidate, period. Local knowledge and local ties should factor zero into this hiring decision. Promoting from within the department is fine, but with 57 people applying for the job, I'd bet some highly qualified out-of-town candidates were on that list.

The recent rash of retirements have significantly affected the leadership of the New Milford Police Department. Seven (7) officers left the force, including the chief and three in the administrative ranks. Without going into the details as to "why" (i.e. retirement benefits will be reduced with the new union contract), the retirements now bring the politicos into the arena of police power. And that's where the trouble can begin.


According to the Town Charter, the Mayor appoints (with TC approval) a chief for a term "not to exceed four years." They can then reappoint the chief for successive terms. Then it's the Chief that can pick the rest of his leadership team.

Some politicos in town are already whispering about those losing connections to the top brass of the NMPD. Here's why Roscoe and Boss Hogg comparisons have started popping up:
  • A key member of the retiring top brass has a "long term relationship" with a family member of a leading local businessman/politico
  • This local businessman/politico is often seen with "R" town council members
  • One of these "R" town council members is the only TC member to ask for a committee to search for the next police chief. Even though the Mayor had already started a search process (using an outside consultant), this TC member remained obstinate about wanting a committee

Why would this TC member be so insistent about a committee - unless he and his politico pal didn't want an outside consultant to bring in an outsider? Is all of this a coincidence? I'll let you decide - place a comment below.

Can you guess who the TC member is? Put your guess in a comment (if you do your homework, you can find the answer in less time than it takes a politico to drive home from Milano's).

With all of the current co-mingling of business, political, and personal lives, it's almost like The Dukes of Hazzard. In fact, there is a replica of the General Lee in New Milford - it even has the confederate flag painted on the roof. But I've never seen Bo or Luke Duke behind the wheel. Break out the moonshine, boys!

To ensure "NM politics as usual" don't become part of the future police department leadership, tell the Mayor and TC members that the new chief should not be connected to anyone in New Milford. Not connected to a politico, a builder, a blogger, Grandma or Uncle Jesse. If a candidate is chosen who has local ties, ask the tough question: WHY is this the BEST person for the job? If the politicos can't tell you, then you know they've picked Roscoe P. Coltrane.

If you don't think hiring a new chief is significant, then you've never been pulled over for a traffic ticket, arrested, or helped from a dangerous situation by a police officer. In other words, the powers of the police are very significant. These powers shouldn't be granted to a friend or relative of the local cabal.


Party like it's Orwell's 1984

This summer, I read George Orwell’s paranoid dystopia novel, 1984. I have no idea how I managed to graduate from high school, let along college, without reading it, but, there you go. (And, all literary genius aside, I’m so glad I wasn’t friends with Orwell. Somehow I doubt he was ever the life of a party.)

Now that I’m done with it, I can safely say that I will never read it again. Not because it’s a bad book (it’s brilliant), or because Orwell’s prophetic powers were off (in so many ways he’s so dead-on-balls-accurate it’s frightening). No. I will not reread it, because I can go anywhere there’s a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag flying, and relive it, kind of like a Renaissance Faire or a Civil War Reenactment. Between the idea of perpetual war and the permanent underclass, the celebration of enforced ignorance, the rewriting of history, and “Newspeak” (Orwell was channeling Sarah Palin’s Twitter account, wasn’t he?!), I am certain most of the novel is actually set in a TEA Party rally.

Want an example of Orwell’s Oceania in “real” life? Look no further than this discussion between CT 5th district Congressional candidates, Chris Murphy (D) and Sam Caligiuri (R).


Let’s remember a few things: we’re in a recession. The worst one since the Great Depression. We all, no matter our political leanings, want to end the recession as soon as possible. And, while progressives and Democrats have suggested investing in economic stimulus projects to create jobs, services and infrastructure (like Grove St and Boardman Rd), Republicans have been screaming since, oh, November 6th 2008, that we Must! Lower! The! Deficit!

Thankfully, our 43rd president showed us the way to do just that. The huge tax breaks to the biggest earners are set to expire. This will return tax levels to Clinton administration levels. (Remember the great recession of the Clinton administration? Neither do I). And yet, suddenly, this is a bad idea. It’s a startling idea. It’s also, apparently, a plot cooked up by Obama.

So. Chris Murphy calmly explains how these expiring tax cuts will be good for everyone, and Sam Caligiuri repeats the same double-think talking points that every Republican across the country has repeated since Obama won the presidency.

Murphy: “If you are serious about deficit reduction, then I can’t see how you can support adding $700 billion over the next 10 years to the federal budget deficit by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy when a millionaire is getting an extra $100,000 in tax reductions and a middle-class person in Waterbury is getting $20 a year.” (Duh.)

Caligiuri: “Small business owners I talk to in the district have said that they are concerned that those tax cuts might be there in January, and it can have an effect in them hiring again.”

According to Caligiuri, “If you tax the upper class more, then you’re going to have fewer jobs and less revenue.”

Because, in his world, you must be of the “upper class” to own a small business. And a marginal increase in the tax rate causes otherwise prosperous businesses to go belly up. (I’m guessing he also will tell us that a million bucks just isn’t worth what it used to be too.)

Murphy, dwelling in reality, reminds us, “People expand their businesses because they have more customers.” If you sell widgets, and people start buying your widgets faster than you can make them, you hire someone to help you make widgets. You may even bump up the price of your widgets. Regardless if your personal income tax rate is 28% or 31%. Because, dude, you’re selling more widgets! (And if that’s not how you do business, UR doin it wrong!)

It’s like watching a college senior debate Scooby Doo. Except not as funny.

Caligiuri is selling that old song, that asking top earners to bear a greater portion of the tax base than their mini – er, employees, is “wealth redistribution.” Which is communist, or at least French and gay, and could lead to dancing. Or a terrorist attack (I get lost after the “redistribution of wealth” part). Of course, this is pure bunk. The thing is, the Bush tax cuts of the last decade were a “redistribution of wealth” back into the hands of the very, very, rich, at the expense of the other 98% of earners.

But, don’t take my word for it.


There’s some nifty charts, some fancy economist words, and a well-supported argument that we are not in danger of sending our million- and billionaires to Siberia while we dirty proles dine on their Bichon Frises off their gold plates. Basically, we as a nation do not over tax our population, we do not play Robin Hood with the tax revenue, and we are not in danger of becoming French and gay.

Here’s a more plain-spoken explanation of the blatant hypocrisy of the “tax cuts save jobs” double-think:


“Those who want to extend the Bush tax cuts make the following argument, among others. This is not their only argument: 1) The rich include many small business owners. 2) Small businesses are the primary engine of job growth. 3) If we raise taxes on the rich, they will not hire people or will hire fewer people than they would have under the lower tax rates. 4) Therefore, raising taxes on the rich will hinder job growth.”

But … we’ve been doing tax cuts for much of the last decade. How did they work out for jobs, growth, and small businesses?

They sucked at it. Why? Because:

“If there is no increase in business, no profitable reason to add to the payroll, no small business is going to hire people no matter what their tax rate is.”

Now, why did Bush enact those tax cuts in the first place? Because, in his world, Bill Clinton (remember when Bill Clinton was a socialist? Neither do I.) had imposed an unfair tax burden on the rich (those poor business owners, again). So, maybe if the Bush tax cuts hadn’t been enacted, the uber wealthy would have done even worse?

I dunno. I look at these numbers, from the oppressive Clinton tax era, and it doesn’t look like many of the “upper class” went hungry:

“In 1990, the marginal rate was raised from 28 percent to 31 percent and the higher rate bracket was changed to include income over $82,150 (previously it was $162,770). That year job growth slowed dramatically from about 2 million in 1989 to 321,000 in 1990. In 1991 there was a net loss of 857,000 jobs.”

This was under Bush Senior. (Remember his “No New Taxes” pledge? Yeah. Me too. But, hey, the guy was trying to pay for a war in a tiny, far away, oil-rich country. Because he apparently forgot that wars pay for themselves.) Here’s what happened under Bill Clinton:

“In 1993, two new high income brackets were created: For income over $140,000 the rate went from 31 percent to 36 percent; for income over $250,000 the rate went from 31 percent to 39.6 percent. In 1993, 2,791,000 new jobs were created on a base of 109,415,000. In 1994, 3,851,000 new jobs were created.”

I know, I know, I mentioned the C-word! And even though he shepherded America through a fantastic economic boom (and recovery from the Bush-41-era Recession), created millions of jobs, balanced the budget, and left us with a huge surplus, by taxing the super-rich at slightly higher rates than his predecessor, America did not crumble, nor did super-rich people find themselves homeless, penniless, or too scared to hire people and make more money.


“ Not only was the entire national deficit eliminated after raising taxes on the wealthy in 1993, but the economy grew so fast for the remainder of the decade that many conservative economists thought that the Fed should raise the prime interest rate in order to slow it down.

“This is another of conservatives’ hidden agendas: they keep promising workers that if we cut taxes on the wealthy and the economy grows, their wages will go up. But when wages even start to go up—for whatever reason—conservatives do everything they can to slow down the economy.”

How’s that for double-think?

Of course, in true Orwellian fashion, many citizens on the Right have decided that the Bush-41-Recession was really Clinton’s recession, and the Clinton-era good times was Bush 43’s boom. Sigh. Or, if they can remember the reality everyone else experienced, they assume the Clinton boom was an aberration.

Too bad history doesn’t support that idea:


“In Greek mythology, Atlas was a giant who carried the world on his shoulders. In Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, Atlas represents the "prime movers"--the talented few who bear the weight of the world's economy. In the novel, the prime movers go on strike against the oppressive burden of excessive regulation and taxation, leaving the world in disarray and demonstrating how indispensable they are to the rest of us (the "second handers").

Rand wrote in a world in which the top marginal federal income tax rate in the United States was 91% (beginning at taxable income of $400,000). This is an unimaginably high rate by today's standards, when the dominant view in Washington is that a marginal rate of 39.6% (the top rate from 1993 to 2001) is too high. The key turning point in the process of abandoning high marginal tax rates occurred in the presidency of Ronald Reagan. When Reagan became President in 1981, the top marginal federal income tax rate was 70%; when he left office in 1989, the top rate was 28%.

The reduction of marginal tax rates in the Reagan years was driven by a new policy consensus that still persists today. That consensus is that high marginal tax rates on the rich come with an unaffordably high price for the U.S. economy in the form of reduced incentives for the rich to work and to save, and increased incentives to engage in socially wasteful tax planning. And yet 1957, when Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged and the top income tax rate was 91%, falls in the middle of the period from 1951 through 1963. Those were the golden years of the U.S. economy, in which the average annual rate of productivity growth was 3.1% (compared with about 1.5% after 1981). Of course, the growth might have been even faster had the marginal tax rates been lower, but the coincidence of high rates and high productivity raises challenging questions for those who believe that high marginal tax rates carry an unacceptable cost.”

Not that I want to eat the rich. I don’t want to punish them (well, except for the knuckleheads who melted down the economy, then walked away with millions while regular people watched their homes fall into foreclosure. Those guys … I want to punish. With plagues of boils or some other Biblically poetic means. But, failing plagues of boils …) I understand that returning to Eisenhower-style tax brackets is probably inefficient. There is only so far the super-rich can be taxed.


It’s just, right now, the super-rich aren’t being taxed at a reasonable rate. There is a “vast redistribution of wealth” happening in this country. Wealth Trickles out of the pockets of the average tax-payer, up to the super-rich, where it apparently dissipates into off-shore accounts or gets spent on diamond-studded doggie collars.

This is probably best explained in a play:


Thank goodness we don’t live in George Orwell’s Oceania. This play was written nearly a decade ago. If this were 1984, Winston would long ago have slid this gem into a memory hole, or else rewritten it entirely.

I’d love to sit Sam Caligiuri down to a performance of Bush Tax Cut, and then ask him to repeat his talking points. I’d like to see how deep his double-think programming goes.

Actually, I’d prefer it if the voting public viewed it. Over Halloween Weekend.