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The Red Line

“Hamas Can’t Be Destroyed.” – IDF Spokesman

“Hamas can’t be destroyed.” So announced Israel Defense Forces spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, last week. Immediately, Prime Minster Netanyahu contradicted him, revealing extraordinary disarray at the highest levels of the Israeli government.

July 1, 2024

Actually, Netanyahu’s rebuke was a concession, in which he reformulated his original war aim of “eradicating Hamas” into “the destruction of Hamas’s military and governance capabilities.”

While the concession was long overdue, it did not acknowledge the whole of what Hagari said “This business of destroying Hamas, making Hamas disappear – it’s simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public. Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people – anyone who thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong.” The “idea,” of course is freedom for Palestinians.

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April’s Surprise for Uncle Sam and CT

April this year brought a nice surprise for federal and state tax collectors. Uncle Sam enjoyed unexpectedly robust net income tax receipts of $483 billion, amounting to a $103 billion or 27%, increase over April 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Uncle Sam can use the revenue, but even a $100 billion surprise will hardly make a dent in ongoing massive federal deficits.

April 25, 2024

The increase was driven by a $77 billion, or 26%, increase in final payment of non-withheld income taxes, namely net taxes paid in estimated installments throughout the year. A large portion of non-withheld taxes are taxes on capital gains.

Connecticut enjoyed the same unexpected serendipity. Net non-withheld individual income taxes in April hit $1.7 billion, amounting to a $275 million, or 19%, gain over April 2023. Yet towering deficits loom.

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An April Surprise

April brought a big surprise – unexpectedly robust individual income tax receipts of $483 billion, a $103 billion, or 27%, increase over April 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Uncle Sam can use the revenue, but even a $100 billion surprise will hardly make a dent in ongoing massive federal deficits. But why was it unexpected?

April 25, 2024

The increase included a $77 billion, or 26%, increase in final payment of taxes paid in estimated installments throughout the year, so-called non-withheld taxes. A large portion of non-withheld taxes are taxes on capital gains.

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Lamont’s “CT Comeback” and His “Progress on Pensions” Are Myths

During his re-election campaign - and ever since, Governor Lamont has claimed credit for a Connecticut Comeback and for “progress on pensions.” Yet long-term debt has increased $3 billion. The unfunded liability of the state employee pension fund (SERS) has barely improved, despite that the state has put a whopping $5 billion in special deposits into it. The latest news on the economy is that Sikorsky will be laying off 400 workers. Where’s the Comeback? Where’s the progress on pensions?

April 25, 2024

When did you last hear of a major business moving into Connecticut?

This week every Democrat in the General Assembly voted for Governor Lamont’s 4.5% state employee wage increase for next fiscal year that will bring wage increases during Lamont’s time in office to an eye-popping 33% total increase. A state employee making $100,000 just prior to Lamont’s inauguration will get $133,000 next year. Nice pay if you can get it, and 46,000 unionized state employees will get it.

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An International Protectorate on the West Bank and Gaza

The time may be right for an international protectorate on the West Bank and in Gaza, creating a homeland for Palestinians and providing strategic security for Israel. Troops from a multinational coalition led by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia would replace Israeli troops. For Palestinians, this would end the hated IDF occupation; for Israel, it would place its existential security in the hands of troops from a broad and powerful international coalition.

April 25, 2024

The promise of the proposed multinational protectorate approach has just been demonstrated in an ad hoc way as multiple nations coordinated with Israel in the successful repulse of the recent Iranian missile and drone attack.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Joe Biden

Two weeks ago, Joe Biden okayed more weapons for Israel to use during the U.N.-mandated Gaza ceasefire that Biden then greenlighted. Huh?

April 2, 2024

Yes, you read that correctly. As widely reported, Biden okayed the U.N. resolution for an immediate unconditional ceasefire in Gaza on March 25th. Few knew that, over the prior weekend, Biden had certified Israel as being in compliance with U.S. law and U.S foreign policy regarding acceptable use of U.S.-supplied weapons. So, more bombs and artillery shells are headed to Israel for...  Somewhat incoherent, right?

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Talking Candidly About State Employee Compensation is the Third Rail of Connecticut Politics

Last week, there was a hearing in Hartford reviewing the investment performance of the state’s two big public pension funds. There was much self-congratulation. Hearst newspapers published a headline: “CT’s pensions hit $55B with a strong ’23 but debate rages over how we stack up.”

April 2, 2024

First, hitting $55 billion in assets is meaningless. What matters is whether those assets are sufficient to cover future pension costs. They are not.

April 10, 2024

Second, there’s no debate about “how we stack up.” The article confirmed once again the inadequate funding of the state’s big public pension funds, which rank – again – in the bottom five of the 50 states.

There was no mention at all of one major factor impacting “how we stack up"...

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Gaza Side Agreements

Wednesday, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Senate Republicans via video link. Netanyahu’s only friends in the world seem to be Republicans in the U.S.

March 20, 2024

Republicans seem to have forgotten the example of Ronald Reagan. When Israel began heavy bombing of West Beirut nine weeks into its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, President Reagan called then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and expressed ''outrage'' at the ''needless destruction and bloodshed.” Begin halted the bombing the next day.

March 28, 2024

Biden is no Reagan. He has been characteristically timid and feckless in his attempts to rein in Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has adopted a non-negotiable stance on his invasion of Rafah, despite that it will achieve none of his stated objectives. Backing down will constitute a dramatic rebuke for him – and, unfortunately, the nation he leads. How to prevent the assault on Rafah without Israel losing complete credibility?

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Where Does CT Income Tax Revenue Go?

Last weekend at my granddaughter’s birthday party, a parent asked me where Connecticut’ income tax revenue goes. He had gone online and compared the financials and government programs of Connecticut and New Hampshire, which has no income tax. He said he could not discern much difference in the services that the two states provide.

March 20, 2024

I replied that Connecticut income tax revenue goes to fund the overgenerous pay and the gold-plated benefits of Connecticut state employees. As if to illustrate the point, Governor Lamont has just inked a contract awarding employees another 4.5% annual wage increase next fiscal year. The contract is awaiting General Assembly approval.

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100,000 Casualties, Obliteration, Famine – For What?

With casualties in Gaza exceeding 100,000, the obliteration of the territory and the reduction of Gazans to such a state of desperation that over 100 died trying to access a rare aid convoy, the parade of horrors has been so continuous that there has been virtually no time to consider the fundamental justification of Israel’s invasion. It is assumed to be self-defense, but it is not.

March 7, 2024

It is widely acknowledged that the Netanyahu regime and the Israeli defense establishment were grossly negligent in failing to defend Israel on October 7th, when effective defense would have required so little. Few have applied the same logic with a future view. With all the military might that the U.S. supplies – fighter jets, tanks, howitzers, bombs – Israel is only exposed to Hamas fighters with their homemade weapons if it lapses into another instance of such gross negligence.

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