Archive for the ‘Blank Slate Media’ category

Proud to be parochial – By George J. Marlin

October 7, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, October 4, 2021 on The Island Now’s website:

Last month a reader’s letter to the editor characterized me as “parochial” because I oppose legislation that would empower federal or state bureaucrats to override local zoning laws.

The reader is correct, I am “parochial.” But I do not consider it a pejorative label.

I am parochial because I agree with the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that the theory “you can run the Nation from Washington … at least … with respect to the kind of social change liberals generally seek to bring about” which pertains to “social attitudes” is “false.”

I subscribe, as Moynihan did, to the social concept known as “subsidiarity” which champions parochialism.

The principle of subsidiarity affirms that decisions are most appropriately made by municipal and social entities closest to the relevant issue and by the next highest entity when decisions and actions are beyond the scope of those at a lower level.

Hence, the national government is the proper agency to wage war; the family is the proper agency to raise children.

People depend on one another: first upon their parents and then upon friends, neighbors, teachers, employees, etc. Individuals and families naturally broaden their associations to meet their needs in “subsidiarity.”

According to the noted sociologist Andrew Greeley, subsidiarity means “no bigger than necessary” and by structuring life according to this principle, “one can protect, promote and defend the freedom, the dignity, the authenticity of the individual human person.”

Incidentally, subsidiarity is the foundation of Catholic social thought.

In his 1930 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (The Social Order), Pope Pius XI defined subsidiarity as “the fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry.”

Pope John XXIII re-enforced his concept in Mater et Magistra (1961):

The state should leave to these smaller groups the settlement of business of minor importance. It will carry out with greater freedom, power, and success the tasks belonging to it, because it alone can effectively accomplish these, directing, watching, stimulating and restraining, as circumstances suggest or necessity demands. Let those in power, therefore be convinced that the more faithfully this principle be followed, and a graded hierarchical order exists between the various subsidiary organizations, the more excellent will be both the authority and the efficiency of the social organization as a whole and the happier and more prosperous the condition of the state.

Moynihan agreed with this papal teaching, as I do, because he realized that subsidiarity “occupied a middle ground between the radical individualism that grew from classical liberalism and the statism that evolved from both continental socialism and conservative absolutists.”

In fact, in a speech Moynihan delivered at a conference in 1975, he chastised progressives for rejecting papal teachings on subsidiarity:

Now a century earlier—just to keep matters complicated—such papal doctrine would have been seen as the embodiment of liberal principle! But by 1963 this was no longer so. To the contrary, American liberalism was at the very moment about to enter a period of unprecedented attachment to whatever it is that is the opposite of the principle of subsidiarity. The state was encouraged to take over more and more individual functions, and the highest levels of the state were encouraged to take over more and more of the functions of the “lesser and subordinate levels.”

Like Moynihan, I do not believe federal or state governments should micromanage local issues by overriding or stripping supervisory powers of local magistrates.

Hence, consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, I oppose state regulation of local zoning laws.

But, on the other hand, I oppose Garden City magistrates holding up LIRR Third Track project work permits for the replacement of the Denton Avenue Bridge.

The project is beyond the purview and competence of Garden City officials. Because the project benefits commuters throughout Long Island, decision making rightfully belongs in the hands of a higher government entity, the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

If my positions on these issues are “parochial,” so be it. I wear the label with pride.

Political silly season in full bloom – By George J. Marlin

September 21, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, September 21, 2021 on The Island Now’s website:

The most misused and overused word uttered by New York politicians is “transparency.”

For example, Governors Spitzer, Cuomo and Paterson all pledged that their administrations would be the most “transparent” in the state’s history.

Well, we all know what happened to them: two disgraced their office and resigned. As for the third, David Paterson, a Commission on Public Integrity “found that [he] had lied about accepting five free World Series tickets and fined him $62,125.”

When Kathy Hochul was sworn in as New York’s 57th governor on Aug. 24, she too pledged that her administration would be “transparent.”

The New York Post pointed out on Sept. 3, however, “Gov. Hochul just broke her vow that transparency would be her administration’s ‘hallmark’—in the first bill of her tenure.”

Hochul approved eviction moratorium extension legislation that was voted on without any debate or discussion. Also, the extension includes language that “effectively” suspends the state’s Open Meetings Law.

“Until January,” the Post reported, “any governmental body that broadcasts its meetings online via conference call can ban protesters, lobbyists, the press and members of the public from physically attending meetings.”

So much for openness and transparency in government.

On another front, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has called for the elimination of academic honors for its top students.

“Recognizing student excellence via honor rolls and class rank,” the DOE has determined, “can be detrimental to learners who find it more difficult to reach academic success, often for reasons beyond their control.”

Instead of grading students on reading, writing, and mathematic skills, the DOE wants to judge students on their “contribution to the school or wider community and demonstrations of social justice and integrity.”

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in a 1993 essay published in The American Scholar, called such policies “Defining Deviancy Down.” By this he meant there has been a “manifest decline” in America’s public educational systems by “redefining problem[s] as essentially normal and doing little to reduce it.”

Because teachers are failing to educate large segments of New York City’s student population, (only 14 percent of Black eighth-graders are proficient in English and 10 percent in math), the DOE wants to redefine standards downward to cover up poor student performance.

During the de Blasio years, his DOE has waged a brutal war on excellence. In addition to ditching grading standards, they have been attempting to eliminate testing for admission to elite public high schools and gifted and talented classes.

They will not be satisfied until they define standards low enough to ensure that every student, regardless of ability, gets a lousy education.

Next, Long Islanders returning to work this fall in the Big Apple have every reason to be concerned about the rapid increase in crime—particularly in the city’s mass transportation system.

Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, fears that the subway crime problem will scare people away unless the police “step up again.”

Her analysis concluded that “during 2020, despite severely reduced ridership, violent crimes rose to 928 incidents from 917 the year before.”

Non-violent felonies also increased during the same period. “In 2020, there were 2.71 felonies committed per million rides, up from 1.45 in 2019.”

This increase in criminal activity can be laid at the feet of the governing class who believe criminals are victims of society, that punishment and imprisonment does not deter crimes, and that violent crime should be treated as a public health issue.

This attitude helps explain why the city’s five district attorneys are declining to prosecute more and more accused felons and judges are dismissing more cases.

The state Division of Criminal Justice released data that indicated DA’s in 2020 dropped charges in 17 percent “of the 38,635 felony cases that were closed in N.Y.C. during 2020.” In 2019, the rate was 8.7 percent.

The Bronx DA took top honors. He declined to prosecute 28.5 percent of cases. And judges in the county dismissed 28 percent of the cases that appeared before them. Hence, the conviction rate dropped to 27.4 percent vs. 44.2 percent in 2019.

There seems to be no end to the follies of New York progressives who live in ideological fantasy lands.

And that explains why New York’s political silly season is in full bloom.

Time for prudent fiscal policies in Albany – By George J. Marlin

September 7, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, September 6, 2021 on The Island Now’s website: 

The word “prudence” is rarely uttered in the political arena. This is particularly true in Albany where Democrats, controlling the state government, have been acting like kids in a candy store spending every penny of their allowances the day they receive it.

For those under 60, not exposed to classical and medieval thinkers who opined on “prudence,” here’s a little background.

The greatest Athenian philosopher, Aristotle (384-322 BC), distinguished scientific knowledge and craft knowledge from practical wisdom—“phronesis” or prudence. The historian John Mearsheimer, interpreted Aristotle’s position as meaning “prudence dictates that [politicians] behave according to realistic logic.” So, for instance, Albany’s politicians spending all the state’s one-shot revenues on recurring operating expenditures, would be imprudent and contrary to “realistic logic.”

In medieval times, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275), writing in his masterpiece the “Summa Theologica,” agreed with Aristotle and defined “prudence” as “wisdom concerning human affairs” or “right reason with respect to action.”

Perhaps the most succinct definition of “prudence” was expressed by the contemporary French thinker André Comte-Sponville. “Prudence,” he noted, is “what differentiates action from impulse and heroes from hotheads.”

And having watched this year’s spending spree in Albany, I have concluded there were plenty of impulsive hotheads who have ignored practical financial reasoning.

This year the state Legislature approved a record-breaking $212 billion spending plan. They imprudently funded the budget by dispersing the unrestricted federal COVID one-shot revenues of $12.2 billion and on top of that increased taxes by $4 billion.

They also utilized various fiscal gimmicks such as deferring $3.5 billion in Medicare payments owed to providers into the next fiscal year.

The fiscal antics of the spendthrifts in Albany may get them through the 2022 elections, but as E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy pointed out, “after that the bottom falls out with big and growing deficits projected by mid-decade.”

There is one elected official, however, who preaches prudential fiscal realism, and that person is State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has released thoughtful annual reports analyzing the flaws in the state’s budget plans and he has warned, time and again, that steps must be taken to shore-up the state’s finances.

In a recent op-ed DiNapoli penned for Newsday, he calls for much-needed prudent fiscal measures.

DiNapoli warns that the state’s current fiscal plan has inherent risks. “A slowing recovery or a second economic downturn,” he cautions, “will upend revenue forecasts, and may create spending pressures to extend or enhance programs currently funded federally or intended to be temporary.”

Yes, a drop in capital gains revenues that the state is heavily dependent on or a mass exodus of the top 1 percent of taxpayers, who pay about 40 percent of New York’s personal income taxes, could be devastating.

To avoid a fiscal meltdown, DiNapoli made several sound recommendations:

  1. “Prudently [his word] and transparently use federal recovery aid.” Avoid employing one-shot dollars “to support recurring spending, which may put spending on an unsustainable trajectory.”
  2. Replenish the state’s rainy-day funds that are presently significantly below the statutorily authorized $6.4 billion.
  3. “Carefully consider strategic infrastructure priorities.” Proceeds from long-term bonded debt should be used prudently for projects that “are most important to improve service, enhance economic growth, or address repair needs.” In other words, avoid boondoggles like Cuomo’s scandal-ridden “Buffalo Billion.”

Following these steps, DiNapoli rightfully concludes, “will help ensure the state limits the financial impact of future risks and is able to sustain investments through downturns, disasters and other emergencies.”

The key concern of the prudent government official, Aristotle wrote, “is to determine not ends, but means to ends, i.e., what is most useful to do.”

And Comptroller DiNapoli’s recommendations are “most useful” because they are not driven by delusional ideological formulas that have no relation to reality.
Tom DiNapoli is a prudent politician whose analyses could save an ailing state.

If the leaders of the Democratic Party are wise, they would nominate DiNapoli as their gubernatorial candidate in 2022.

But don’t hold your breath. Sadly, the AOC-wing of the party will not be content until the chief executive office is controlled by one of their imprudent “tax and spend” comrades.

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

June 1, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, May 31, 2021 on The Island Now’s website: 

New York’s political silly season has begun and as always there’s quite a cast of characters.

First, there’s the revelation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is receiving advances and/or guarantees from Crown Publishing exceeding $5 million for his book, “American Crisis.” That’s an extraordinary amount considering his previous book, “All Things Possible,” sold only 3,500 copies.

It so happens I have experience with publishers, having had 14 books brought out by various houses, including Doubleday and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

Typically, an author of non-fiction gets a modest advance—unless the writer is of the stature of David McCullough or Robert Caro.

After the publisher recoups the advance, an author earns, on average, a 10 percent to 15 percent royalty off the cover price of every book sold.

Now Cuomo’s book has a cover price of $30 and sold 50,000 copies.

Assuming a 15 percent royalty, that translates into $4.50 per book. Based on the math, 50,000 times $4.50 equals $225,000 in royalties—a far cry from $5 million.

The argument that Crown Publishing made a bad call and overpaid doesn’t fly, in my judgment. Publishers are not that dumb. Let’s face it, Cuomo is no Barack Obama, who commands large advances because of who he is and his past publishing successes.

Frankly, the Cuomo book deal smells fishy to me.

I’m reminded of the observation of the early 20th century Tammany Hall stalwart and longtime member of the state Legislature, George Washington Plunkit. The cynical pol championed “honest graft” and is best remembered for saying “I’ve seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.”

As for Cuomo finding the time to write the book: My latest work, “Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man,” took three years to complete. A year and a half spent researching and a year and a half writing approximately 150,000 words.

I do all my own research and no matter what anyone tells you, at best one can write about 1,500 words a day. Then there’s the time-consuming jobs of revising, proofreading, fact-checking and footnote assembling.

On top of that, I have a day job.

And so does Gov. Cuomo.

For him to research and write an 85,000-word book in six months, he had to have plenty of outside help. The question is: Were his helpers state employees performing book work on government time?

Next, there are the follies of the Democratic candidates for mayor of NYC who live far removed from reality in ideological cocoons or high-rise penthouses.

When candidates were asked the median price for a home in Brooklyn, former Obama Housing Secretary and Bloomberg Commissioner of Housing Shaun Donovan said $80,000.

Candidate Ray McGuire, a wealthy investment banker, guessed between $80,000 and $100,000.

The correct answer: $900,000.

Ronald Reagan was president when the median price was between $80,000 and $100,000.

Then there’s Andrew Giuliani’s surprise announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for governor.

I find his candidacy incredulous.

His only mark on the political landscape: in 1994, as an 8-year-old, Andrew’s obnoxious behavior during his father’s delivery of his inaugural address at City Hall stole the show.

As a college student, Giuliani’s ambition was to become a professional golfer. Would-be golf pros, I have observed, have ne’er-do-well tendencies and are generally unemployable.

That may help explain why the best Giuliani could get was a political patronage job in the Trump administration as associate director in the White House Office of Public Liaison—whatever that is.

Since the Biden administration did not keep him on, perhaps Giuliani’s campaign slogan will be, “Please elect me, I need a job.”

Another Republican gubernatorial wannabee is Rob Astorino. He happens to be very bright and an articulate spokesman for the conservative principles I hold.

However, Astorino lost to Cuomo in 2014, failed to win election to a third term as Westchester’s county executive and last year lost a state Senate race in his home county. If you can’t win in your political backyard, you can’t win statewide. And for a Republican to be elected governor, carrying Westchester County is the “sine qua non.”

Well, folks, the political Silly Season is in full swing and it’s only June. There will be more to come between now and Election Day and I’ll pen regular updates.

New York State’s fiscal shell games – By George J. Marlin

May 18, 2021

The following appeared on Monday, May 17, 2021 on The Island Now’s website: 

In April, the New York State Legislature approved and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a record-breaking $212 billion spending plan for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

To fund the budget the state is dispersing the federal COVID relief windfall of $12.2 billion and has increased taxes to the tune of $4 billion.

Despite this huge influx of revenues, it appears that it is not enough to satisfy Albany’s ravenous spending appetite.

Hence, Albany utilized fiscal gimmicks to bury various expenses that are spelled out in state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s “Annual Review of the Enacted Budget.”

Here are his findings: First and foremost, the state, once again, deferred $3.5 billion in Medicaid payments owed to providers into the next fiscal year. That’s like skipping your credit card payment due in December. Your checkbook may have been balanced at year-end, but you are still in debt come January.

Instead of using one-shot Federal money judiciously to clean up the state’s financial ledgers, Albany is squandering the money on lard-laden projects like $300 million for farmlands, botanical gardens and zoos.

The state has also failed to make additional deposits into its “rainy day” funds.

“Although current law,” DiNapoli notes, “authorizes a balance of more than $6 billion, the state has just under $2.5 billion in rainy-day reserves. While the Department of Budget sets aside additional funds in the General Fund for various needs, including economic uncertainties for debt management, the sum of these resources is not high enough to ensure sufficient reserves for future economic downturns.”

Even though the state is flush with cash, the budget authorizes the governor to borrow up to $3 billion in short-term notes and up to $2 billion in letters of credit. “Although less than the $11 billion in short-term borrowing, enacted in SFY 2020-2021,” the authorizations are “unnecessary given the strength of the state’s cash position and revenue outlook,” the report concludes.

To permit even more spending, the budget excludes new borrowings from the provisions of the Debt Reform Act of 2000 that put a cap on debt. “Combined new debt to be excluded from debt caps and capital requirements could exceed $19 billion.”

Also, the budget includes questionable terms to circumvent accounting standards. If left unchecked those changes “could also artificially reduce the appearance of true liabilities and reported receipts and disbursements of the state.” In other words, “blue smoke and mirror” accounting practices.

Segments of the budget are far from transparent.

For example, there is a $25 billion appropriation whose description is so nebulous that the spending of those dollars will be at the sole discretion of the governor.

About $8 billion in emergency COVID spending is exempt from “the state comptroller’s oversight and waives competitive bidding procedures.”

Other oversight exceptions: The new Excluded Worker Fund, which will provide $2.1 billion in relief to undocumented workers without jobs, $130 million for the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, and over $100 million for various capital projects.

Evading “high standards of transparency, accountability and oversight,” the Comptroller rightly concludes, “undermine[s] the state’s responsibility to promote an accurate understanding of how public resources are generated and spent.”

It also opens the door to cronyism and corruption.

Finally, there is the issue of state spending sustainability.

A boatload of one-shot revenues from Washington finance existing programs for education and Medicaid.

When that money runs out next year, where will the revenue come from to maintain those programs? More taxes?

The radicals who control the Legislature will probably say “Sure! Why not?”

But what about the residents who are now paying the highest state and local taxes in the nation. Will they say “Why not?”

I doubt it.

About 40 percent of the personal income taxes are paid by the top 1 percent of earners.

“With the prospect of a high tax burden,” the Comptroller concedes, “high-income taxpayers may consider relocating … Since the financial plan will be even more dependent on high earning taxpayers, it will only require an additional small number of these taxpayers to relocate to adversely impact revenue projections.”

And since there has been a net migration of taxpayers for the past five years, it is unlikely that trend will change.

New York’s tax-and-spend ideology will not only drive out people from all walks of life seeking economic opportunities and lower taxes, it will drive the state into the fiscal abyss.