POWELL: Lamont has earned a break; and prevent big bank merger

Published on Friday, 26 February 2021 20:59
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By CHRIS POWELL

Everyone is entitled to be sick and tired of the virus epidemic, and no one is more entitled than Governor Lamont, whose administration has been consumed by it.

Most people were happy with the administration's handling of the epidemic until this week, when the governor changed policy on prioritizing the long-awaited vaccinations. Instead of giving priority to the elderly, classes of employees deemed essential, and people with some particular medical vulnerability, the governor decided that it would be better to vaccinate people simply by age, from oldest to youngest.

This angered people who were getting near the front of the line or who have medically vulnerable relatives who were nearing the front. They felt cheated. But except on this personal basis, it was hard to argue with the governor. He noted that assigning priority by occupation or special susceptibilities would cover more than a million of the state's 3.5 million residents, and keeping track of such a large group was getting too complicated.

So the governor came to figure that going by age would be faster and generally favor the people more vulnerable to the virus - older people - and that increasing the number of vaccination clinics would get the work done faster still.

Maybe the governor and his advisers are wrong, but they are the ones who have been organizing the campaign against the virus and so must be credited for experience as well as best intentions.

In any case the primary measures of the epidemic show it is steadily receding, probably because of vaccinations and because many people are strengthening their immune systems with vitamins and dietary supplements and because daylight is lengthening as spring approaches, daylight being vital to the body's creation of Vitamin D, on which the immune system depends.

People are entitled to regret their loss of place in line but great progress against the epidemic is visible and this should console them and foster another month or two of patience.

Like everything else, state government is imperfect, may not be getting everything right, and needs criticism to check against errors. But state government is working hard in circumstances unprecedented in living memory. There is no cause for recrimination.

Under the pressure of the epidemic, education in Connecticut has largely collapsed. Most students already were performing below grade level. Now many will be two grades behind. Summer school could recover some of the learning that has been missed - if the classes are in person, state government makes them mandatory and arranges for the necessary money, and if teachers agree to do the extra work and take some risk for the greater good as supermarket clerks and cashiers do.

Since he is still ruling by decree, the governor should make this happen, though he has been timid about the schools, leaving local boards to do as they see fit and to cope with the recalcitrance of the teacher unions.

But one summer session won't be enough to catch up. Given the chronic lag in student performance, it would be best to require summer sessions for all schools for the next two or three years, exempting students who can pass a grade-level proficiency test. That might be a powerful incentive for students and their parents to stop relying on social promotion.

With M&T Bank's plan to acquire Bridgeport-based People's United Bank, the concentration of Connecticut's banking industry and the national economy is accelerating without much notice from government.

Since 1955 People's United has acquired about 18 other banks, including two banks formerly based in Vernon, Rockville Bank and United Bank.

Since 1987 M&T Bank, based in Buffalo, New York, itself has acquired 20 other banks.

Such acquisitions profit bank stockholders by eliminating competition and reducing employment. There is no advantage to the public here.

Suffering badly financially, news organizations are not likely to examine these acquisitions critically. But federal and state antitrust laws should be applied against them. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong finds time nearly every day for many less important things. Anti-competitive and anti-employment bank combinations give him a chance to get real.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Column, Editorials on Friday, 26 February 2021 20:59. Updated: Friday, 26 February 2021 21:02.