OP-ED | Good News is Hard to Take
Connecticut’s economy grew by 3.9 percent during the third quarter of 2017, ranking us as one of the fastest-growing economies in the entire nation.
Wait, no, that can’t be right. Can it?
When I saw this I immediately began to make excuses for it. It’s just a blip. Maybe they got the math wrong. Are they sure they’re measuring the right state? Connecticut is next to Colorado in the alphabetical listing, I bet that was it. Did Trump cook the books to make us like him? Is this just the prelude to an even bigger economic disaster, a false spring in the middle of winter?
Because it can’t be that the economy really is improving. That makes no sense to us. Even if it’s true, it can’t last, right?
We’re really good at reacting to bad news here in Connecticut. Oh, GE left, we’re just not business-friendly. Oh, Aetna’s going, so long Hartford, oh well, RIP our state. Endless fiscal crisis? Something something Democrats bad, same old same old. Ho hum, boo hiss, Dan Malloy, back to moping.
We have no idea how to deal with good news.
Even Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s sigh-of-relief statement sounded a cautious note: “We certainly welcome being ranked one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, but do so with a recognition that we must work even harder to fight for every job and continue to grow our economy in the long-term,” Malloy said. In other words, we’re hedging our bets that the next quarter numbers will be back in that same old familiar toilet.
Okay. Let us cautiously peep out from our blanket fort and examine the numbers. One of the sectors of the economy that grew most strongly during that third quarter of 2017 were finance and insurance, which we’re pretty good at. As a point of comparison, the pirate hideout/tax haven of Delaware grew fastest of all, clocking in at a brisk 5.7 percent.
Two of the other strong sectors were manufacturing and information technology, which contributed to growth in every state. These are areas in which Connecticut has done a lot of catch-up work, especially when it comes to manufacturing.
Meaning: if these trends continue, this could be the start of a brighter future.
So what gives? Why is this happening now?
Well, there’s a bit of conventional wisdom that says New England both enters and exits recessions behind the rest of the country, so maybe that’s part of it. We don’t have any big cities to drive growth, so we lag behind New York and Massachusetts as well.
It’s also possible that we had nowhere to go but up. It has been a grim decade, after all.
And yes, it’s certainly plausible to speculate this has something to do with President Donald J. Trump’s economic policies. There has been quite a stock market run, after all, and plenty of big businesses gained value just on the idea of someone from their rarified world being in charge. Pandering to the rich can sometimes move the numbers, even when it’s socially and morally reprehensible to do so.
As for the tax cut, these numbers preceded that. In fact, the economy grew at this rate back when Connecticut still couldn’t scrape a budget together, and the hand-wringing and moaning about our imminent economic doom could be heard from New Jersey.
So… does that mean comprehensive state-level economic policies and big federal tax cuts are less important to growth than how a bunch of super-rich guys in Manhattan feel at any given moment? Probably. Welcome to the Second Gilded Age, I suppose. How long any of it will last is anyone’s guess.
We can, for a brief moment, feel some kind of satisfaction, or maybe just a marked lack of gut-wrenching disappointment, when it comes to our state. And why not?
Connecticut’s dirty little secret has always been that this is actually a pretty good place to live. We hate admitting it, but a lot of us stay here not because we’re trapped or because we don’t yet have the resources to emigrate to North Carolina, but because we like it here. And somewhere deep in our cold Yankee hearts, we’re all desperately rooting for Connecticut.
So let’s enjoy our moment of economic resurgence while we can. The doom and gloom will be back before you know it, and we’ll all feel better.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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