This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on May 15, 2013.
Categories: The Catholic Thing
The following appears in the May 10-16, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Albany’s ever growing bi-partisan gallery of rogues confirms British historian Edward Gibbon’s observation that corruption is “the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.”
In recent years, more than 30 state-elected officials have been convicted of a crime, or have been indicted or censured. The list of those who have been found or pleaded guilty:
Republican Sen. Guy Velella, Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., Democratic Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr., Democratic Sen. Shirley Huntley, Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger, Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell, Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate, Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, Democratic Assemblyman Clarence Norman, Democratic Assemblywoman Diane Gordon, Democratic Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin and Democratic Assemblyman Roger Green.
April nominees to the perp walk were Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblymen Nelson Castro and Eric Stevenson. In May it was Sen. John Sampson. All were indicted by the feds on various corruption charges.
These arrests have caused the usual uproar. The ruling classes and media have expressed outrage and shock and have demanded reform measures to cure Albany’s diseased body politic.
Reacting to the April indictments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo treaded carefully. Remember, when he signed into law two years ago his ethics proposal he declared, “This legislation will help end an era of corruption in Albany.”
This time he was not so boastful and made this sober comment: “You’re not going to legislate away criminality and greed and venality and abuse and arrogance. It doesn’t matter what the law says. It’s human behavior.”
Every person who has achieved the age of reason knows that accepting a bribe is illegal, as is selling political nominations or selling government contracts. So why do so many in Albany choose to commit felonious acts?
Hubris, insolence or excessive pride has driven many in Albany off the path of righteousness.
The other reason many Albany pols wind up behind bars: They are dumb. Anyone with American horse sense would see through the stupid hot money schemes concocted by these dopes.
While the governor’s initial comments hit the mark, unfortunately he felt compelled to unveil a slew of hastily composed election reform proposals that he claims will “help prevent public corruption.”
His plan for an independent office to enforce the election law is absurd. Every time there is a problem, Cuomo rushes to create another commission or oversight board.
Remember JCOPE, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics created two years ago as part of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011? It was supposed to instill the fear of God into legislators. We can see how much good it has done.
What needs to be fixed is the patronage-laden and incompetent State Board of Elections. The governor should order the authority to get rid of the political hacks that serve as commissioners in every county elections office and to appoint competent managers who are not subservient to local political bosses.
The governor’s proposal to dismantle the Wilson-Pakula Act of 1947, which requires candidates seeking to run on another party’s line to obtain the permission of the leaders of that party, would not improve the system but further corrupt it.
Wilson-Pakula was created to prevent third parties from being infiltrated and taken over by the major parties. Major party leaders could “persuade” fellow party members to re-register in a third party in order to impose the will of the major party. Republican turncoats, for instance, could take control of the Conservative Party, and nominate the preferred candidate of the GOP boss.
Cuomo’s so-called reforms just don’t cut it. Instead of strengthening New York’s electoral process they will further encourage arrogant and dumb politicians to game the system.
Categories: The Catholic Thing
This article I wrote appeared on The Catholic Thing web site on May 1, 2013.
The following appears in the April 26-May 2, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:
What has become evident since Andrew Cuomo took office as New York’s chief executive 27 months ago, is that no one – including the governor himself – can say whether he has any beliefs at all. Save one. He believes in himself.
The Cuomo record confirms this claim:
Elected on a pledge of no new taxes, Cuomo also promised that extending a tax beyond its statutory sunset would count as a tax increase. After extending the “millionaire’s tax” for two years – a transition period that was supported by the business community and the NYC Partnership – he eliminated that sunset in this year’s budget. Pledge made. Pledge broken.
After Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, Cuomo blasted the Long Island Power Authority, a wholly-owned and run subsidiary of his state government, and ordered an Inspector General report. Report ordered. Report never issued.
After Sandy destroyed the fabric of communities in Long Island and New York City, Cuomo attacked LIPA again. LIPA failed. LIPA was not prepared. LIPA did not restore electricity. LIPA was at fault. But LIPA and the state are synonymous. The state is LIPA and LIPA is the state. So what about the governor? When asked if he had any responsibility, he replied “Absolutely not.” The obvious question. The fictitious answer.
When a low-level employee of New York’s Department of Transportation was quoted in an upstate newspaper without preclearance from the governor’s office, the man was terminated even though his comments were favorable. Ignore? Never. The governor’s director of operations went on a radio show to castigate the employee’s personnel record and disclose information about his employment history. Overreaction? For most, yes. To instill fear, absolutely.
Fracking. From Cuomo, we do not get a yes, we do not get a no. We get a study. And another study. And another. Then a consultation with his former brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy. Then another study. What is the governor’s position? It is Fabian. Delay is the path to victory. Not for the people of the Southern Tier, of course. For him, of course.
To “beat” the feds, the governor pushed through hastily prepared gun-control legislation that limits magazines to seven bullets. But no one makes them. Did he admit a mistake? Nope. Rather, he approved an amendment that permits you to buy a gun with a magazine with 10 rounds but bans the use of more than seven of them except on a firing range where you can use all 10. If you are out to hurt people, you can only use seven. More than seven would be illegal. Huh? You really cannot make this up.
Faced with a federal audit demanding the state return money for the care of people with mental disabilities – New York had been collecting administrative costs to the tune of $5,200 per patient per day in state institutions – Cuomo cut aid to the disabled by nearly $100 million. State mistake. The most needy pay the bill.
Meanwhile, the governor signed a cynical $400 million bill that gives couples with one dependent and making between $40,000 and $300,000 a year a $350 check that will be delivered in October 2014 when he runs for re-election. Why? He says these families are “hurting.”
If they are, are they not hurting now? And is a family making $300,000 a year really “hurting” – and would they be not “hurting” after they get their $350 check next October?
And what about a couple in their early 70s with no children living on Social Security? Are they not “hurting” more than the family making $300,000?
Where are his beliefs?
One answer. He is ahead in the polls. So he must be right.
The key question for Cuomo is simple: Is power without a purpose worth having?
The following appears in the April 12-18, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Despite the fact that the tax-and-spend New York budget for fiscal 2013-2014 contains fiscal gimmicks and does nothing to relieve struggling municipalities from unfunded mandates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been joy riding around the state proclaiming he is “Hap Hap Happy” because the severely flawed budget was passed on time.
The governor does not seem to grasp that an extension of $2 billion in annual “temporary” taxes, a raid on the State Insurance Fund and more long-term bonded debt only puts off the fiscal day of reckoning and perpetuates New York’s reputation as pro-tax and anti-business.
Did I mention disbursement of $400 million of tax revenues to targeted people two weeks before the 2014 election? Crony capitalism tax subsidies for a pro-football team and a late night talk show?
The “Freedom in the Fifty States” study released by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center in late March confirms New York’s poor standing. The report, which assigns ratings “based on how their policies promote freedom in the fiscal, regulatory and personal realm,” concluded that New York is “by far the least free state” in the Union.
New York holds the distinction of having the highest combined taxes in the nation. Fourteen percent of total income is paid to the state, municipalities and school districts.
The Empire State is also the most indebted at 33.2 percent of income.
Regulations are horrendous. There is eminent domain abuse, rent control, onerous labor laws, no right-to-work laws and tyrannical environmental regs.
Health insurance rating regulations are the strictest in the nation and have destroyed the non-group market. Mandated coverage has caused premiums to skyrocket.
Unlike many other states, New York does not have a strict balanced budget requirement and does not require a super-majority of the legislature to approve tax increases.
As for personal freedom, the Mercatus Center determined that the state’s ranks last due to volumes of restrictive laws. Motorists are highly regulated and home school regulations are excessive.
Antiquated rent control laws, according to the report, are “estimated to cost residents about $300 million in dead weight loss alone.”
The study’s conclusions are in sync with other reports including the 2013 Thumbtack Small Business Survey, which gave New York a D+ on regulatory burden, and the 2012 Chief Executive.net survey, which rated the state the second worst for business.
New York comes in dead last according to the Freedom study’s co-author Jason Sorens, who teaches political science at SUNY-Buffalo, primarily due to “taxes.” This helps explain why 9 percent of the state’s population, on net, left for greener economic pastures between 2000 and 2011 and why Florida, which has no state income tax, is the No. 1 destination for migrating New Yorkers.
Meanwhile, the freest state, North Dakota, with unemployment at 3.4 percent – versus N.Y.’s 8.4 percent – is thriving due to low taxes and debt and business-friendly regulatory agencies. North Dakota’s economic and personal income growth has outpaced every state since 2009 thanks to its hydraulic fracking boom.
Not that we want to move there. But Cuomo should heed North Dakota’s example and implement genuine tax and regulatory reform before his joy ride takes him over the fiscal cliff.
Categories: The Catholic Thing
This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on April 16, 2013.
Categories: The Catholic Thing
This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on April 3, 2013.