A war withut asking; and a rationale for bloat

The Chris Powell Column

Another day, another imperial war. This time it’s intervention in the civil war in Libya, whose mode of governance suddenly is considered a crucial interest of the United States, though nobody suggested as much only a few weeks ago. A few weeks ago, the United States and its allies were happy to help pump and purchase Libya’s oil and thus finance the regime of the dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

At least a few members of Congress — particularly, from Connecticut, U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District — are questioning the adventure. Larson notes that it’s war, that the Constitution places the power to declare war with Congress, and that President Obama never consulted Congress before starting the war.

Yes, the Obama administration consulted the Arab League and got a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing outside powers to protect Libyan civilians, but only Congress represents the American people.

“Given our current fiscal constraints and our military’s current responsibilities,” Larson says, “this deserves a robust debate before we commit our young men and women in uniform. Using our military against another nation, even a brutal regime like Colonel Gadhafi’s, requires that Congress both be informed and exercise our constitutional authority.”

Political conservatives may be especially happy with the chance to overthrow Gadhafi. But since when have conservatives been great believers in U.N. resolutions?

This is another discretionary, opportunistic war characteristic of an empire and an emperor, not a democracy and a president.

Government in Connecticut is too small, according to an economics professor at the University of Connecticut, Steven P. Lanza, editor of UConn’s quarterly magazine, The Connecticut Economy. Lanza argues that state and local government work best when they claim at least 20 percent of the people’s income through taxes, and he calculates that state and local government in Connecticut now claim only 18 percent. Taking 20 percent, Lanza wrote, would enable public employees to produce more goods and services.

Almost simultaneously with publication of Lanza’s conclusion, the Yankee Institute updated state government payroll data on its Internet site, disclosing that two UConn police executives, Chief Robert Hudd and Maj. Ronald Blicher, were paid $246,961 and $193,616, respectively, in 2010. That’s far more than the governor and big-city police chiefs are paid, even if UConn police executives have to compete with the supersized egos of academia.

Also almost simultaneously the university announced that an assistant professor of anthropology had received a grant of $400,000 from the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, to study ancient plant life at Middle Eastern archaeological sites.

Gov. Malloy and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly seem like devoted adherents of Professor Lanza’s 20 percent formula. But almost every day brings evidence that makes even 18 percent more painful to those on the paying end, even as Lanza himself, maybe a bit too high up in his ivory tower, seems oblivious to the evidence coming out of his own backyard.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.