James Naddeo The barbarian through the gates

March 17, 2019 GMT

Connecticut, as we residents know, has been through a lot in the last 10 or so years since the economic crisis of 2008-09. Despite adding jobs beginning in October of 2010, when measured by gross state product, our state’s economy actually shrank for seven years. Personal income growth is the lowest in the nation, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, who took over for Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2011, inherited a mess and did his best to manage it. The result that came to be was a projected $242 million surplus for Fiscal Year 2019. Wage growth and gains in jobs also portend a brighter future, but it is not yet time to relax or stop working to advance the recovery through sound investment and stimulus.

Gov. Ned Lamont, an ambitious man who built successful, profitable technology companies from the comfortable safety net of incredible generational, familial wealth — he is estimated to be worth between $90 million and $332 million — has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start in his tenure as our state’s top executive. Despite an endorsement from the Connecticut Working Families Party, Lamont never exactly flexed his progressive bona fides during the campaign.

But many voters, myself included, had hoped that the Greenwich millionaire would govern from the Left, backed by majorities in both the state Senate and House, and focus on agenda items that will generate state revenue, such as raising taxes on the super-wealthy, regulating and making legal the sale of recreational marijuana, while pursuing ambitious social programs for the common good, such as paid family leave, and universal health care coverage. It’s early still, and there’s still hope.

However, after his first 10 weeks in office, Lamont’s trajectory Left has all but sputtered out thanks first to his changing position on tolls, then floating regressive taxes on groceries, and ultimately with his selection of a Goldman Sachs man, David Lehman, as the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

These are not the positions of an administration intent on protecting and promoting the working class of Connecticut. At Goldman Sachs, Lehman’s job was, quite literally, to bilk investors by packaging up shoddy, worthless “assets” of collateralized debts (e.g. mortgages) and then selling them to their clients while simultaneously “shorting” them, or betting against them to fail. Imagine putting $100 on the UConn Huskies football team to beat the New England Patriots in a meaningful game, telling people who depend on your insight and knowledge to do the same, but then simultaneously putting $100,000 on the Patriots to win. This is, essentially, what Goldman Sachs did, except their wager was $2 billion. The firm agreed to pay a $5 billion settlement for its role in the financial crisis. Think about that: willingly agreeing to “settle” for $5 billion.

Lehman was there for this chapter in the shameful history of this titan of finance, of Wall Street, that led to the near total collapse of the American economy. And now, he’s to lead the state’s economic (and community!) development?

We need personnel in Hartford committed to the recovery and revitalization of Connecticut, a state that is in an enviable geographic position on the coast between Boston and New York City, through people-first policy that grows wages, grows jobs in industries of the future, not the past. Allowing a barbarian through the gate, and handing him the reins, is not the proper path forward, and could jeopardize Connecticut’s future.

It is my hope that the Senate votes “No” on Lehman, and asks Gov. Lamont to find a better and more qualified public servant to lead such a critical post. A man who contributed to our state and country’s unraveling is not, and never will be, the answer.

James Naddeo is a resident of Bethel.