Cuomo’s Primary Woes – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 31, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the August 29-September 4, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

Back in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo thought everything was going his way. His approval ratings were sky high and he looked forward to a huge second term victory that would enhance his national image.

But a federal investigation of his office and his “in your face” governing style has energized opposition on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum—and that could wreck his hopes for a big win in November.

On the right, pro-fracking, pro-gun and pro-traditional marriage voters are expected to come out in droves and could deliver a disproportionate ballot box impact in what is expected to be a low turnout election. Cuomo’s Moreland Commission scandal has given new life to Republican-Conservative candidate for governor, Rob Astorino, who’s proven to be an adept candidate despite his limited financial resources.

On the left, Cuomo has learned that it’s hard to keep the masses happy. No matter how high Cuomo raises taxes or how much he spends on education, housing, welfare or Medicaid—it’s never enough for liberals.

Members of the extremist Working Families Party made Cuomo grovel for their nomination—and his pledge to support their high-tax, high-spend agenda still wasn’t good enough for 42 percent of convention delegates who supported challenger Zephyr Teachout.

Undaunted, Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, entered the Democratic primary and have survived Cuomo court challenges.

In her first TV ad, Teachout described her ideologically driven perception of New York’s populace. She said “the people of this state believe in public libraries and believe in public education and believe in public transportation…. There are two futures. One future is a state with CVS or Duane Reade and Bank of America—really, really centralized power where people don’t have a voice. The other future is really responsive government—family farms, small businesses….”

While I’m sure most people have nothing against their public library, my guess is their main concern is jobs. And CVS pharmacies and Bank of America branches create more jobs throughout the state than public libraries.

As for owning family farms, that’s not the goal of 99 percent of New Yorkers. It’s the pipe dream of wealthy leftists—the liberal one percenter—who want to own large pieces of land in the Hudson Valley. They want to be perceived as environmentally sensitive farmers to avoid being labeled as decadent owners of great estates as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts of a century ago.

Teachout’s platform is designed to appeal to Manhattan’s West Side lefties and the East Side’s radical chic crowd. She could do well on Primary Day, because the bulk of the turnout will be in New York City where motivated voters will be mostly disgruntled liberals. Cuomo should still win, but a strong showing by Teachout will make him look ridiculous and wreck his national ambitions.

Another Cuomo nightmare: Teachout’s Lieutenant Governor candidate, Tim Wu, beating Cuomo’s running mate Kathy Hochul.

Cuomo chose Hochul not because she was qualified but because she was from Western New York and had a center-right voting record during her 19 months in Congress. Hochul may help Cuomo in November but she is lethal in September. A Wu victory will muck-up Cuomo’s total vote count in November. While the Democratic ticket will be Cuomo-Wu, the tickets of the Working Families Party and the Independence Party will be Cuomo-Hochul. And because the names on the tickets differ, all the votes cast for Cuomo on the minor party lines will not be added to the votes cast for him on the Democratic line.

If this comes to pass, it’s possible Cuomo loses or wins only with a plurality, or a very slim majority of votes. Whatever the outcome, expect Cuomo to fall far short of the 65.6 percent his father Mario received in his second term election.

Cuomo’s “thug” approach to governing and lack of core principles may be finally catching up with him. And that’s a good thing.

New York’s Cuomo to Leave a Legacy of Cronyism – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 29, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: The Catholic Thing

This article I wrote appears on the Newsmax.com web site on August 29, 2014.

More NY Silly Season Politics – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 19, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the August 15-21, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

In mid-July, one of New York’s top lobbyists, Al D’Amato, chastised Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino for daring to attack Gov. Andrew Cuomo. D’Amato demanded that Astorino apologize for calling Cuomo “corrupt” and criticized him for “doing gimmicky press conferences.”

That is awfully nervy considering D’Amato was known for savaging his political opponents and for employing all sorts of gimmicks to generate headlines. I remember when he sang a revised version of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” on the floor of the U.S. Senate and donned undercover clothes to buy illegal drugs in Washington Heights.

D’Amato, who was booted out of the Senate by voters in November 1998, forfeited the right to be a GOP sage years ago. Since leaving public office he has been a lobbyist, paid handsomely to represent the interests of the people that hire him. To further client causes and to enrich himself, D’Amato has endorsed and raised money for liberal Democrats, including Cuomo and last year’s unsuccessful candidate for New York City mayor, Bill Thomson.

Like Cuomo, D’Amato has no core principles and no interest in promoting the common good. He only promotes what’s best for him.

Sadly, I learned earlier this year the self-interest rule also applied when D’Amato was in the Senate. In Richard Ravitch’s memoir, “So Much To Do,” he revealed that D’Amato – the man I and many others supported because of his stark opposition to abortion – was a mountebank on that issue.

Ravitch revealed that at a breakfast, D’Amato had “asked whether I had voted for him. I said that in all my voting history I never pulled a lever for a Right-to-Life candidate. It was okay, [D’Amato] said; he didn’t really believe all that stuff.”

D’Amato is nothing more than a snake oil salesman and his political pronouncements should be dismissed by the public and the media.

It was reported in Newsday this summer that financially strapped Nassau County “paid $26.6 million last year to more than 2,000 part-time seasonal workers, some of whom have political or community ties or hold other governmental jobs.”

Several beneficiaries of County Executive Ed Mangano’s largesse earned more working part-time than their full-time counterparts. One part-timer earned $66,499 as a golf course attendant, while holding a full-time job with the Town of Hempstead that pays $126,000 annually. And the attendant’s part-time income was greater than the combined salaries of three full-time golf course managers.

Think about it. At $50 an hour the attendant would have to clock in 1,328 hours to earn $66,449. Considering golf is seasonal – April through October – about 30 weeks, the part-timer would have to work 44 hours a week. Remember, those hours are on top of a full-time job – what a remarkable feat. Obviously this person requires very little sleep.

That CSEA leader Jerry Laricchiuta was unaware of or unconcerned with these shenanigans is a disgrace. His membership – the lowest-paid county workers who were under a three-year wage freeze that Mangano asked the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to impose – should be outraged.

Taxpayers should also be outraged that Mangano has permitted cronyism to the tune of $26 million to continue when his budget’s structural deficit continues to grow due to smoke-and-mirror revenue and expenditure estimates.

One knows the dog days of August have arrived when former Gov. George Pataki – who left the state in worse financial shape than his predecessor, Mario Cuomo – turns up on television. In a Newsmax TV interview, he refused to rule himself out as a presidential candidate in 2016. That’s as ludicrous as me not ruling out running for pope in the next papal election.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

In spite of these silly season revelations, try to enjoy the rest of the summer.

New York’s Political Silly Season has arrived – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 5, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the August 1-7, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

It’s that time of year again – British journalist G.K. Chesterton’s “silly season,” when politicians hope that taxpayers are preoccupied with their summer outings and not paying attention to their underhanded antics.

Certainly, there’s no shortage of such follies on Long Island this year. Here are two of my favorites:

The LIRR Soap Opera. There was never going to be a strike. In an election year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not going to permit it. He had a front-row seat during the LIRR strike of 1994 when his father, Mario, also up for re-election, folded the second day of the walkout, gave away the store and was portrayed as the big loser in the showdown. Cuomo was not about to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Despite the name-calling and headlines announcing collective bargaining stalemates, labor and management were never far apart. The unions wanted 17 percent raises over six years while the MTA wanted it spread over seven years.

But there had to be nail-biting theatrics, so shortly before the threatened walkout, Cuomo could appear to come to the rescue. He called the parties to his office, and mirabile dictum – agreement was reached. The end result? Seventeen percent raises over six-and-a-half years! In academic circles, that’s known as game theory. In Brooklyn, where I grew up, it’s known as splitting the difference.

Cuomo’s involvement was only theater – albeit bad theater. At the press conference announcing he had saved the day, Cuomo revealed how little he knew about the tentative deal when he was unable to answer a media question about contract specifics. Cuomo also admitted the unions got just about everything they wanted.

What LIRR commuters did learn at the press conference is that this deal is retroactive to 2010 and expires on December 16, 2016. That means the management-labor kabuki dance starts all over only two years from now.

Moreland Commission Shenanigans. In a 6,000-word investigative report dated July 23, 2014, The New York Times exposed how the governor’s office “hobbled” the corruption investigation Cuomo empowered to look into “anything it wants to look at,” including himself.

The Times revealed that the governor’s chief-of-staff, Larry Schwartz, blocked the commission from probing parties related to Cuomo’s campaign apparatus. He badgered commission staffers to quash certain subpoenas.

While it’s unlikely the governor or his staff members broke laws, the exposé does give the public an inside view of how the office of the state’s chief executive operates. The staff acts like a bunch of micro-managing thugs. Ranting and threatening is their modus operandi.

Staffers emulate their master, who during his father’s time in office served as the administration’s thug and was called the “prince of darkness” by Albany wags.

What’s more distressing is that when Schwartz tried to block specific probes, none of the district attorneys serving on the commission told him to buzz off. Not one of them had the guts to quit and publicly denounce the unwarranted inference.

The commission’s co-chairs, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice and Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick, were not “Profiles in Courage.” And let’s not let state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman off the hook; he recommended nine commission members and deputized them so their subpoena powers extended beyond the executive branch.

The AG who sat beside Cuomo when he announced the creation of the Moreland Commission on July 2, 2013, has been MIA since the Times story broke. If he has chutzpah, he will investigate the commission the way then-AG Cuomo investigated Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s “Troopergate” fiasco. But don’t hold your breath waiting.

Yes, dear readers, the silly season is in full bloom.

World War I and the Papacy – By George J. Marlin

Posted August 2, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: The Catholic Thing

This article I wrote appeared on The Catholic Thing web site on August 2, 2014.

Where have all the good-paying jobs gone? – By George J. Marlin

Posted July 25, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the July 18-24 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

If one listens to elected officials, especially Gov. Andrew Cuomo, one would think New York’s economy and job market are chugging along at high speed.

Sadly, this is not the case. In 2013, New York’s GDP ranked 46th among the 50 states, growing only 0.7 percent, the smallest rate of increase in four years. In 2010, the rate of growth was 2.7 percent; in 2011, it was 1.2 percent and in 2012 it was 1.7 percent.

And 2013’s anemic economic results also include billions of dollars in post-Sandy reconstruction spending, particularly on Long Island.

While the median income in the metropolitan region, which includes Long Island, is about $63,000, the Fiscal Policy Institute reported in December that median family income adjusting for inflation declined slightly in 2012 and is $3,800, or 6.5 percent, below the 2008 level. Wages for the state’s 9 million workers, after factoring inflation, declined 4.4 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Forbes economist Joel Kotkin has observed that while Wall Street and the investor class have been on a bull run, “the economy has been, at best, torpid for the vast majority of the population.”

The fact is that since the recovery began, a larger-than-usual portion of New York job growth has been in low-paying service sectors where annual salaries average $25,000. Higher-paying middle-class jobs, particularly in the finance sector, aren’t coming back to pre-2008 levels.

The Economic Policy Institute reported earlier this year that one in 10 New York City workers are now in low-wage jobs, with 37 percent of all wage-earners earning less than $15 an hour.

Nassau and Suffolk counties are, fundamentally, in the same employment boat.

Now, it’s true that Long Island’s recovery has been outpacing the rest of the state, and that this region has not only gained back all the jobs it lost in 2008 but has added about 40,000 more. Nevertheless, almost half the 30,000-plus jobs created on Long Island in 2013 were in the low-wage retail and dining sectors.

“The manufacturing and defense jobs that once defined the region,” according to The Wall Street Journal, “aren’t likely to return after being trimmed during the most recent recession.”

According to the L.I. Index, since 2008, the largest losses in employment are occurring in sectors with the highest average wages. Long Island has lost 10 percent of its manufacturing jobs and 16 percent of its construction jobs. During the same period, finance employment has dropped 4.3 percent, insurance employment has fallen 7 percent and communication service jobs have also declined 7 percent.

Another indication that all is not well is the 9 percent decline in Nassau’s sales tax revenues versus the first six months of 2013. If this trend continues, it could mean layoffs in the retail sector and severe cutbacks in county services and employment – not to mention significant tax increases.

Why do the best-paying jobs continue to decline? The president of the Business Council of New York State blames the state’s tax climate – universally recognized as a problem, but always contentious whenever someone suggests tax reform.

Brian McMahon, executive director of the state’s Economic Development Council, agrees.

“New Yorkers shoulder the highest state and local tax burden in the country,” McMahon says. “The states that are growing fastest are those states with relatively low taxes.”

Yes, contrary to the happy talk of our political class, New York’s economy, particularly on Long Island, remains very fragile. And the fault lays at the feet of these pols. Study after study indicates that high taxes, onerous regulations and other mandates they’ve imposed have frightened away industries that create higher-paying middle-class jobs.

Casinos, VLTs can’t fix unfunded mandates – By George J. Marlin

Posted July 9, 2014 by streetcornerconservative
Categories: Articles/Essays/Op-Ed

The following appears in the July 4-10, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

In 2010, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised taxpayers he would help municipalities and school districts lighten tax burdens by “undertaking a comprehensive review of [unfunded] state mandates and state laws that otherwise limit the ability of school districts and localities to contain costs.”

Mandates imposed by Albany have been driving many local governments to the brink of insolvency. For instance, Erie County officials told The New York Times their entire property tax levy goes to pay the most costly state mandate: Medicaid. All the revenue is gone, they complained, before the county pays for libraries or snow plows or roads.

Failing to fulfill his promise, Cuomo tried to change the subject by supporting a ballot measure approved by voters last November to permit casino gambling and legislation that expands video lottery terminals in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Approval of these measures, Cuomo insisted, would lower property taxes, create jobs and increase aid to public schools.

Despite the governor’s claims, there’s a consensus among economists that gambling emporiums will not be the panacea for all municipal ills.

Gambling competition in the region – New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts – has become so intense that casinos are failing. In New Jersey, the Atlantic Club closed its doors in January, the Revel has filed for bankruptcy and the Showboat, which employs 2,100 people, announced last week that it’s closing its doors Aug. 31.

New York faces serious problems before casino building plans get off the drawing boards. Recently, two developers canceled plans to bid for casino rights in economically depressed Sullivan County because the more affluent Orange County – which is closer to NYC – is also eligible to compete for a gambling license.

The New York Post reported that “the mere prospect of a casino in Orange County makes it impossible to get financing for a gambling resort in Sullivan County, which has been waiting 40 years for one.”

There’s more bad news. In May 2014, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a 34-page report, “Trends in N.Y.S. Lottery Revenues and Gaming Expansions,” which concluded, “The projected new revenues from casinos, VLT expansions and payments by Native American [casinos] would add slightly less than half a percentage point to the state’s existing non-federal receipts. The permanent jobs projected to be created by new casinos constitute a small addition to the more encompassing broader strategy needed to [strengthen] the Empire State economy especially in struggling upstate communities.”

DiNapoli’s excellent analysis gives a slew of reasons why taxpayers should not have high hopes – the key one being that most gambling revenue will not come from out-of-state tourists but in-state residents.

Let’s face it; most rich people who fly to New York from London or Paris to shop on Fifth Avenue are not going to jump into a limo to travel to a Sullivan County Casino or a Suffolk County VLT.

If most gaming customers are local folks, then, “such activity primarily represents substitution of gambling losses for other consumer purchases rather than net new business,” according to DiNapoli’s report. In other words, instead of disposable income being spent in neighborhood restaurants or cinemas, it will be squandered at a betting parlor.

And then there are the social costs. Studies show that a significant number of locals who gamble at gaming parlors close to home can least afford it. They are seniors on fixed income and low-income workers risking their rent and food money.

Also, state and local governments will have to allocate more tax dollars to publicly funded problem gambling programs. Presently, about 5 percent of New Yorkers suffer from problem gambling and about 28 percent of them have experienced a substance abuse disorder. As casinos and VLTs become more accessible, expect these numbers to rise.

Don’t believe politicians who insist gambling – in whatever form – will be a fiscal game-changer for our local governments. Only genuine unfunded mandate relief will begin to help lessen the burden on New York’s taxpayers.

 


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