Archive for April 2013

Cuomo showing power without purpose – By George J. Marlin

April 30, 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?

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New York is America’s least free state – By George J. Marlin

April 17, 2013

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.

Will the Republicans Abandon Pro-Lifers? – By George J. Marlin

April 16, 2013

This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on April 16, 2013.

Ronald Knox on “The Modern Distaste for Religion” – By George J. Marlin

April 3, 2013

This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on April 3, 2013.

It’s time for Skelos to head South – By George J. Marlin

April 2, 2013

The following appears in the March 29 – April 24, 2013 issue of the Long Island Business News:

At the Albany press conference in late March announcing the 2013-2014 budget agreement, Senate majority leader Dean Skelos made this statement: “I do believe that the budget is a continuation of what we started two years ago and we have to continue in this direction. So, governor, I am very proud to work with you. I am very proud to call you our governor. And I think this is another excellent budget.”

Huh?

If the comments had been made by the liberal Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, I’d understand. But it came from a Republican who has claimed he supports conservative fiscal, economic and social principles.

A budget loaded with sleight of hand fiscal gimmicks including one-shot revenues, back-door borrowing and overly optimistic revenue estimates is not “excellent.”

The budget contains destructive tax increases including the so-called millionaire’s tax. There are also a slew of fee increases in this budget. For instance, fines for talking on cell phones while driving will go up 50 percent from $100 to $150.

Let’s not forget the minimum wage, which will rise to $9 per hour by 2015. This action will not help grow New York’s economy nor will it help bring down unemployment, which is 8.4 percent in New York versus 7.7 percent nationally. The wage increases coupled with the tax increases will cost jobs and will persuade more people, particularly wealthy entrepreneurs, to move to tax-friendly states like Florida.

And what about the $350 checks that will be mailed in 2014 – an election year – to 1 million families with children earning between $40,000 and $300,000? This is classic income redistribution. In effect, Skelos has agreed to hike taxes to pay for a $350 million kickback to a select group of New Yorkers.

Older readers will recall that 1972 super liberal presidential candidate George McGovern promised $1,000 per family, and was rejected by voters in 49 of the 50 states.

Skelos should not be boasting about this tax-and-spend social-engineering budget, he should be hanging his head in shame.

I also can’t figure why the Senate leader said at the joint press conference he is proud to call Cuomo his governor. After all, the governor has signed into law measures that Republicans and Conservatives have historically opposed, including same-sex marriage, extension of the World War II relic called rent control, a 2011 income tax increase and a hastily drafted and severely flawed gun- control law.

Skelos, as Republican leader, permitted all these Cuomo bills to come to the floor for a vote and supported most of them. Instead of leading the loyal opposition, Skelos has been Cuomo’s legislative lackey.

Since becoming a Senate leader in 2008, Dean Skelos has demonstrated he is not a Conservative. For that matter, he’s not a Republican or a Democrat. He is, in fact, a member in good standing of Albany’s dominant party. He’s an incumbocrat, who will do whatever it takes to hold onto power and perks.

To keep his fancy office and government automobile and driver, Skelos has pandered to the governor and left-wing special interests. To get a few crumbs from Cuomo’s table, he has sold out his party and his Senate conference.

If Republicans and Conservatives want to stand up for their principles, they should tell Skelos it is time for him to call it quits and give him a one-way ticket to Florida.

He won’t be lonely in retirement. There will be plenty of former New Yorkers he drove to that income tax-free state to hang out with at the pool.