By CHRIS POWELL
Legislation can't be right when its premise is wrong, and a big premise of the proposals to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut is wrong. That is, the proposals presume that racial minorities deserve special reparations for the damage the "war on drugs" has done to them. So the proposals would give preference to members of racial minorities in the issuance of legal drug-dealing licenses.
This premise is doubly mistaken, first because drug prohibition penalized racial minorities less because of racism in criminal justice than because they were disproportionately involved in the drug trade. They were not so much more penalized than they profited.
Second, and far more important, the "war on drugs" wasn't the war that most handicapped racial minorities. It was the "war on poverty." People don't deal illegal drugs when they have many better career options. But a half century of welfare and education policies has only worsened living conditions in Connecticut's cities.
Connecticut might have noticed this by now. For various worthies long have prattled about the gap between the educational performance of white and minority students and city and suburban schools, but government has failed to reduce the gap, because those worthies never trace the problem to its source in welfare and education policies.
The victims of the "war on drugs" deserve more than a patronizing pat on the head, a discount on drug-dealing licenses, government loans for opening storefronts, and encouragement to push more of their neighbors toward intoxication, lethargy, and dependence. They deserve to have the right questions asked of government:
- Which policies have been destroying the family and impairing education in minority communities?
- How have those communities benefited from government subsidies for childbearing outside marriage and from social promotion in school?
- How are fatherless, neglected, uneducated, and alienated young people not supposed to be tempted by the money of the contraband drug trade when they can't get better jobs?
Maybe the only way to get those policies questioned is to call them racist. Maybe they were not meant that way, but their results are.
State legislators want to increase the yearly appropriations to compensate municipalities for the revenue they lose because of the property tax exemption given by state law to nonprofit organizations like colleges, hospitals, and churches and the state and federal governments.
The exemption is especially burdensome for Hartford and New Haven, half or more of whose grand lists is tax-exempt. But then those cities get half their budgets covered by state grants, so the injustice isn't as great as the cities claim.
So it might be better to question the property tax exemption itself.
The exemption is a government subsidy to any enterprise that claims to be entirely pursuing the public good. The exemption is most profitable for colleges, which cover far more land than the typical church or sober house. Of course colleges already receive other huge subsidies from government, particularly through the student loan system and the tax-deductibility of donations to their endowments, even though college education now may take more out of the country than it puts back.
This drag is demonstrated by the estimated $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, the many student debtors who don't earn enough to keep up with their loans, the many indebted college dropouts, and the many graduates with degrees irrelevant to their employment.
By far the biggest beneficiary of property tax exemption in Connecticut is Yale University in New Haven, for which the exemption is worth an estimated $160 million each year even as the university has an endowment of more than $31 billion.
So why not limit property tax exemption to, say, the first million dollars of assessed value? While hospitals would have to pay a lot, they could recover it simply by raising charges to patients, most of which would be paid by insurers and government itself.
Then New Haven's city government could gorge on $160 million from Yale each year, maybe a lot more as city property taxes kept rising, and eventually city government could devour the mentor of the city's lunatic liberalism. It might serve them both right.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.