Some Chilling Thoughts For Our Time
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
There’s no science or reporting here, just the observations of a guy who has been experiencing Queens for more than half a century – and watching carefully.
There’s more big snow on the ground for more days then I recall -- ever. The piles are higher, the parking more difficult, the intersections less visible and the sidewalks less passable than any other extended period in recent history.
The difficulty caused by the snow seriously impacts small business. Retail suffers when their stores are not easily accessible by car and foot. Small business suffers when delivery times increase greatly. And the city and private business are seeing their snow removal budgets busted.
I’m not complaining, but we’ve had more January lost work hours at the Trib than any other month since I took over the paper in 1979.
Hey the snow costs.
No, I am not complaining about the road clearing. On the contrary, after the December “blizzard,” the Sanitation Department has done a remarkably quick and efficient job. But if they don’t truck the snow away, the problem can’t be solved.
Everyone but the kids seems to have had enough – more than enough.
So what do the kids know or do, that we don’t?
If the snow season is not over, I’m going to look for some much younger friends.
Banana Republic Economy
Why is there such a chill in New York?
The Gotham Gazette reported that New York has the greatest disparities in income of any major U.S. city, with the top 1 percent of the population earning 44 percent of the income in the city.
New York City has extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and lots of both, but the share of the wealthiest has increased by four times over the past 30 years. The problem is national – not just local in scope – but New York has the largest share of those at the very top of the wealth pyramid.
New York State is the most polarized among the 50 states, and New York City is the most polarized among the 25 largest cities in the United States.
The report explains that Federal tax policy has contributed greatly to the disparity.
“The moves to reduce top tax rates and capital gains tax rates — as Presidents Ronald Reagan (Sunday was the centenniel of his birth) and George W. Bush did — and to maintain glaring loopholes have all had a major effect.”
Suggested policies that would both stimulate robust economic growth and reverse excessive income polarization include: increasing the minimum wage, expanding living wage requirements, increasing labor union membership, making investments in economic growth, helping small businesses grow, provide real assistance on home foreclosures, and investing in public higher education.
The most important step needed to reverse economic polarization according to the report would be enacting progressive tax policies at all levels of government. In New York City for example, while the top one percent earns 44 percent of city income, they account for only one-third of total New York City tax revenue.
The defense of Wall St. bonuses and excessive corporate compensation packages continue by those who are engineering the economy. But they fail to address the role/import of the worker, professional and small business people – the 99 percent of us who work hard and keep this country going?
In some “Banana Republic” countries, disparities like this would be the seeds of revolution.
But it’s cold here in New York.
The Coldest wind of all
But the coldest of all winds continues to blow through Albany.
The frigid chill emanating in the legislative halls of goverment, saps the energy and cultivates the diseases which have resulted in the woeful decline of the once mighty New York State.
The once large and powerful Empire State continues its decline and the members of the State Legislature have sowed the seeds, planted the weeds, and done the deeds that have brought us to this seminal moment.
On its knees and facing the tipping point with a new reforming hand on the controls the legislature faces the Governor. But Andrew Cuomo is neither perfect nor omnipotent.
The legislative leadership has demonstrated in the past that they can upset the best laid plans. . .
The members of the legislature have demonstrated an inability to accept responsiblity for the immobilizing dysfunction.
Sadly, if you’re waiting for a weather change in the New York State Legislature, you might have to wait for hell to freeze over.
Cuomo Takes on Dragons, Can He Win Submission?
By HENRY STERN
Governor Cuomo kept his word and presented a state budget of $132.9 billion for Fiscal Year 2011-12, which begins April 1. This figure, believe it or not, is a sharp brake on spending. He also gave a fine speech, with greatly improved visual aids, to make the state’s financial distress evident to anyone willing to see, including the legislature.
For eight years, New York Civic has been preaching that state spending is irresponsibly high, a notion that has gradually gained acceptance even though nothing is done about it.
On Sept. 22, 2002, we wrote an article headlined “Drifting from Erie Toward Ontario.” The geographic reference to the two Great Lakes is intended to imply to readers just what happens to ships that try to drift from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario: they go over Niagara Falls, a natural wonder but a disaster for shipping. Vessels can use the multiple locks of the Welland Canal, which forms the boundary between the United States and Canada.
The point of our 2002 article, which was written when Governor George Pataki was in his second (of three) terms, was that New York State was running out of money. In the intervening eight years, during the administrations of Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, disaster was postponed by borrowing billions of dollars in the name of various public authorities which are euphemistically referred to as off-budget entities. That is an Enronian phrase that should rank with ‘collateralized debt obligations’ in the vocabulary of fiscal irresponsibility.
In his remarks Tuesday, the new governor also referenced Enron, once No. 7 in the S & P 500, and now a synonym for fiscal flim-flam. Governor Cuomo said: “When you use reality-based budgeting, as opposed to Albany-based budgeting, which is where Albany meets Enron, in our opinion, the Albany-based budgeting institutionally assumes an exorbitant growth rate that is disconnected from fiscal reality. And this has been going on for many, many years.”
It is too early in the budget season, for us, anyway, to offer judgments on the individual appropriations that the governor proposes for agencies. But he is definitely inclined in the right direction. It is ironic that his message has resonated most with Republicans and Conservatives, and least with the Democratic left. That shows that the principal fault line in fiscal policy is not between the two parties, but between spenders and savers, with the Democrats evenly divided.
REMEMBERING THINGS PAST
It has been a generation since New York had a governor of whom we could be proud. A swallow does not make a summer, but think of where we were on Groundhog Day four years ago. The new governor had already described himself as “a fucking steamroller,” was preparing for the Troopergate war against Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and was trying to impose his choice for State Comptroller, Martha Stark, on the state legislature to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Alan Hevesi following his first felony conviction.
The legislature chose one of its own, Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, for the plum position. DiNapoli was a better choice than Spitzer’s candidate, who was subsequently compelled to resign as City Finance Commissioner because of sundry irregularities whose details you can find with the aid of Google. DiNapoli is not as bright as Hevesi, but there are more important qualities, like decency and integrity, that high public office demands. The Comptroller is a good man, highly affable and liked by his colleagues. His industry and devotion are unquestioned. Nonetheless, it is ridiculous that he be the sole trustee of a pension fund that exceeds $120 billion. That should be corrected.
MORE THINGS PAST
When I was Parks Commissioner, February 2 was the day of an annual ritual, consulting a groundhog who would advise what the season would bring. If the day were clear, and the groundhog saw his shadow, that meant that winter would continue for six more weeks. In 2011, winter is not over, no matter what the groundhog indicates.
The groundhog custom is most closely associated with Punxsutawney, Penn. Its spread to New York zoos (Queens and Staten Island) was flagrantly derivative. The Borough President of Queens, Claire Shulman (park name “Queen Bee”), a good friend of parks, came to the Queens Zoo every year to open the little door behind which the animals hovered, awaiting their annual fifteen seconds of fame.
We had a difficult experience one year with Claire’s predecessor, the late Borough President of Queens, Donald Manes. On a similar occasion, he saw a pair of otters climbing out of a pond in the zoo, and he threw rocks at them, even when asked to stop. To me, that was as bad as all the money he extorted from parking meter operators. You can Google him, too, for a sad chapter in New York City history. Who ever heard of a great big borough president stoning an innocent family of otters?StarQuest@NYCivic.org