Archive for the ‘The Island Now’ category

Summer 2022 Reading for Political Junkies – By George J. Marlin

July 13, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, July 11, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

Here are books I recommend political junkies read while vacationing:

Team America: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, Eisenhower and the World They Forged by Robert O’Connell.

In Team America, Dr. Robert O’Connell, a military historian and former professor at the Naval postgraduate school, has written an informative overview of the lives of the nation’s greatest World War II leaders. What I found most interesting is how these four men interacted with one another during military careers that began in the early 20th century. Needless to say, there were ego clashes—over war-time strategy, over promotions.

But, as O’Connell concludes, the key ingredients to the success of Team America was “mental agility, a gravitas that masked their intensity, and an almost intuitive understanding of how armies in the millions actually functioned and fought.” Were it not for their leadership in time of war and peace—“the world we know would be vastly different.”

The War on the West by Douglas Murray.

The associate editor of the British journal, The Spectator is an accomplished commentator on the human condition. He argues that the collapse of religion and political philosophy as guides for our day-to-day existence has been replaced with identity politics whose aim is to “politicize absolutely everything … to turn every human relationship into a political power celebration.”

The result, “in public and private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant.”

Murray laments in The War on the West that students “are offered a story of the West’s failings without spending anything like a corresponding time on its glories.”

They will never understand, he concludes, that it is Western culture “that gave the world life-saving advances in science and medicine and a free market that has raised billions of people around the world out of poverty and offered the greatest glowing of thought anywhere in the world….”

Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon and the Election of 1960 by Dr. Irwin F. Gellman.

The presidential campaign of 1960 between Sen. John F. Kennedy and Vice President Nixon was one of the most exciting in the nation’s history. The two candidates, both World War II Navy veterans and in their 40s, vied to be the first leader of the nation born in the 20th century.

The coverage of that campaign and the subsequent Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore H. White, cast Kennedy as a knight in shining armor and Nixon as a black knight.

That narrative, which has been perpetuated for over 60 years, has been challenged by Gellman.

His outstanding work is based on previous unused sources. The result, Kennedy does not “come out as a saint” because “his campaign was far more corrupt and ruthless than has been presented.” And Nixon does not “come out as the villain or the foil; he ran a far cleaner operation than has been described.”

The First Populist: The Defiant Life of Andrew Jackson by David S. Brown.

For most of its history, the Democratic Party revered its founder, Andrew Jackson. But not anymore. He has been dismissed by the WOKE crowd as a white supremacist. Brown, the author of an excellent biography of historian Richard Hofstadter, attempts to place the nation’s seventh president in the context of his times—something contemporary leftists are incapable of doing.

Jackson was the nation’s first populist president. His political code could be summed up in four words: honor, self-reliance, equality and individualism.

Living by that code in the early 19th century, Brown points out Jackson “became the defining figure of his era, variously a hero, a sometime scoundrel, and to his enemies, a second Caesar.”

Blood and Ruins: The Last Imperial War 1931-1945 by Richard Overy.

This distinguished British military historian attempts to recast the origins of the Second World War. He postulates that the conflict was “the last imperial war, with almost a century-long lead-up of global imperial expansion, which reached its peak in the territorial ambitions of Italy, Germany and Japan in the 1930s and early 1940s, before descending into the largest and costliest war in human history—and the end, after 1945, of all territorial empires.

Blood and Ruins, at 1,000 pages, is a long read—but worth the effort.

Happy reading on your vacations this summer.

Empire State Faces Population Drain – By George J. Marlin

June 29, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, June 27, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

Statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service do not bode well for the Empire State and the City of New York.

The IRS announced that the number of federal income tax filers continued to decline between 2019 and 2020.

While over 477,000 filers fled to other states, there were only 248,000 new filers. The net loss, 229,000, is the largest drop since the IRS started tracking the numbers a decade ago.

The IRS report also revealed this frightening fact: While the average annual income of those fleeing is $114,000, the average income of those who have migrated to New York is $83,000.

Overall adjusted gross income for the state is down $23.7 billion. Compared to the other 49 states, New York was the biggest loser. California came in second place with adjusted gross income down $17.8 billion.

As for states that experienced a net increase in adjusted gross income, Florida gained the most at $23.7 billion and Texas came in second at $6.3 billion.

Census Bureau figures released in March confirm New York’s population drain. Manhattan was hit the hardest, losing 110,000 people (-6.9%) between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.

Brooklyn was down 3.5%, Queens off 3.1% and the Bronx lost 3.2%. The total number who moved out of N.Y.C. was 305,605.

On May 23, the Census Bureau struck another demographic blow. It disclosed the bureau had overcounted New York’s population by 625,000 people. The actual number is 19.6 million, not 20.2 million people.

So, the population figure used to determine the number of New York Congressional seats was wrong. If the correct number had been utilized, the state would have lost two seats not one.

What an incredible decline. In 1940, the Empire State had 45 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. On Jan. 1, 2023, that number will be only 26—and should really be 25.

Overall, the state’s population has been falling steadily since 2016. And I expect that to continue.

Here’s why: A survey commissioned by the Partnership for New York City revealed that 40% of people who work and live in Manhattan are seriously contemplating moving out and finding employment in another state.

In the city’s other boroughs, the number who would like to take a powder hit 48%.

Why have so many people had it with New York?

First and foremost, ever-increasing taxes. New Yorkers pay the highest state and local taxes in the nation. A city resident in the highest tax bracket pays a combined federal, state and city income tax rate of 51.8%. (If Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez gets her way in Washington, that burden will increase to 61%.)

Driving people out on the high end of the wage scale can easily destroy the state and city income tax base. That’s because 40% of income tax revenues come from the top 1% of households.

Other reasons people are leaving the city—increasing crime, growing number of homeless living on the streets, declining and unsafe transit service, filthy streets and lousy public schools.

And when the recession kicks in, those quality-of-life issues will only get worse.

Why?

Because a huge drop in the stock market means Wall Street executives will earn less money and will pay less in taxes.

Remember, while the financial industry employs only 5% of N.Y.C.’s workforce, it generates 20% of wages.

As for the state, E.J. McMahon, of the Empire Center, pointed out that “New York’s state budget depends more heavily than ever on taxes generated in the multimillion-dollar tax brackets where incomes tend to correlate more closely with financial cycles.”

Less tax revenues will force the state and city to exhaust its reserves, to utilize fiscal gimmicks and to raise taxes even higher.

With inflation rampant, government employees will demand higher wages—and the political class will add to deficit woes by giving in to their demands.

As taxes and spending continue to climb and quality of life continues to decline, more and more New Yorkers will flee, and the state’s fiscal and economic prospects will continue to deteriorate.

It is a vicious cycle that’s driving the Empire State down the path to financial collapse.

Gov. Hochul’s budget giveaways – By George J. Marlin

May 17, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, May 16, 2022, in the Blank Slate Media newspaper chain and on its website, theisland360.com:

When Kathy Hochul was sworn in as governor in August 2021, she told New Yorkers that she would govern differently than Cuomo.

And so she has….

Unlike Cuomo, who fought tooth and nail with state legislators, Hochul has rolled over to their demands in order to get $600 million for the new Buffalo Bills stadium.

To secure that funding, she resurrected—what Cuomo had buried—pork spending for legislators known as “members items.”

On top of that, Hochul has kept alive Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development programs that replaced “members items” and served as Cuomo’s personal pork barrel spending for local projects that have often been dubious in nature or were rewards to supporters in the form of capital grants or tax credits.

Ed McMahon, of The Empire Center for Public Policy, has noted that the more than $12 billion committed to RED projects in recent years “is in classic terms almost Marxist. This is the state owning the means of production. It’s corporate welfare on steroids.”

Many corporations that received grants failed or the payback promised never materialized. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion,” for example, which included the Solar City factory, employed only about 20% of the 3,000 jobs projected.

Another flop, the Central New York film, hub cost taxpayers $90 million.

And let’s not forget that several of Cuomo’s economic development shenanigans led to the conviction in 2018 of two of his political cronies, Joe Percoco and Alain Kaloyeros.

Which brings me back to Gov. Hochul. Did she learn anything from the Cuomo-era regional spending boondoggles?

Apparently not.

To get a budget passed, “…she managed to make everybody happy on something,” Kathryn S. Wilde, president of the Partnership for New York City, told The New York Times.

The deputy senate majority leader, Democrat Michael Gianaris (whom I’m guessing is getting his share of pork for his district), likened Hochul to Cuomo “in terms of looking out for corporate interests and her ideological positioning.”

The state comptroller’s analysis of the 2022-2023 budget pointed out that “several new discretionary lump sum capital appropriations were added, with little detail regarding intended purposes…” In other words, political swag. These appropriations include:

• $800 million for “the New York State Regional Economic and Community Assistance Program”—also known as corporate welfare.

• $385 million for the Community Resilience Sustainability and Technology Program to support “projects intended to improve the quality of life of the residents of the state … through investment in facilities which support arts, cultural, athletic, housing, childcare, education, parks and recreational … tourism, community development … and other civic activities.” These are pork grants that state legislators could dole out to 501(c)(3)s, and community groups in their home district.

• $350 million for the Long Island Investment Fund to support “manufacturing, agriculture, business parks, community anchor facilities … and main street revitalizations.”

This is more corporate welfare with few strings attached.

• $185 million for the Local Community Assistance Program to “support community development or redevelopment, revitalization, economic development, economic sustainability … and local infrastructure improvement or enhancement.” Even more corporate welfare.

Here’s a tiny sampling from a “members items” list compiled by Newsday’s Albany reporter Michael Gormley:

• $5 million for a Rochester soccer stadium.

• $108 million to redevelop the Bronx Kingsbridge Amory.

• $8 million for a parking garage in Rochester.

• $20 million for Syracuse University’s basketball team Carrier Dome.

• $8.5 million for a Syracuse “Landmark Theatre.”

• $1 million for Old Fort Niagara.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars of such pork barrel projects.

Blair Horner, the executive director of the N.Y. Public Interest Research Group, stated that these funds “are used to bolster the image of elected officials in an effort to curry favor with voters.”

“Big lump sums,” like the $350 million coming to Long Island, Blair added, “limit public accountability and have been abused in the past.”

Yes, several legislators have gone to jail for abusing these grants by taking care of friends, relatives and donors.

Giving away the store may help Hochul get over the finish line in November, but it will not help taxpayers who will be stuck paying the tab for Albany’s unsatiable spending appetite.

Cuomo might run for governor again – By George J. Marlin

January 16, 2022

The following appeared on Monday, January 10, 2022 on The Island Now’s website:

Readers of my column know that during most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s time in office I was one of his staunchest critics.

When he was first elected, I did agree to be the “conservative” voice on his transition team and on his Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. However, I was quickly disillusioned.

The man I thought would govern as a centrist quickly moved to the far left. He abandoned his solemn promise not to raise taxes and he promoted and signed into law extremist legislation on social issues that I opposed.

From his second year in office until he resigned in 2021, I maintained a “Cuomo Watch;” critiquing his fiscal, economic and social policies.

When accusations against Cuomo hit the papers—I was at first skeptical. I grew up with many Italians in Queens County and knew they hug and kiss—both men and women—particularly at family, social and religious gatherings.

I am not a hugger. But I have been hugged by both Mario and Andrew Cuomo. It’s part of their ethnicity.

But after reading the Report of Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released by state Attorney General Letitia James on August 3, I concluded the governor may have pushed the “affection envelope” too far and was politically cooked.

I was reminded of the post-Watergate comment made by Richard Nixon during the famous May 1977 David Frost interview concerning his political enemies: “I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in. And they twisted with relish. And I guess, if I’d been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.”

I, like others, sort of enjoyed twisting the political sword into Cuomo. Many experienced what the Germans call “schadenfreude,” which means “joy over some misfortune suffered by another.”

When he resigned in late August 2021, I wrote at that time that his fall was inevitable. His ruthless approach to governing took its toll. He had few friends and a long list of enemies.

And when Albany Sheriff Craig Apple filed a criminal misdemeanor complaint against Cuomo for allegedly touching a female aide “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires,” it fortified my belief that Cuomo had to depart.

Since that time, however, circumstances have broken in Cuomo’s favor.

In November, Albany District Attorney David Soares delayed Cuomo’s arraignment to January because the sheriff’s complaint was “potentially defective.”

As Cuomo waited to be arraigned, there were other developments: The district attorneys of Nassau and Westchester declined to prosecute him for any sexual harassment allegations.

Next, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office ended its investigation into Cuomo’s mishandling of nursing homes during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.

While there is no doubt in my mind that his wrongheaded policies caused the deaths of thousands of our seniors living in nursing homes, the DA’s office concluded “there was no evidence to suggest that any laws were broken.”

Then on January 4, Albany prosecutors moved in court to drop their case because there was not enough evidence to “meet our burden at trial.” Albany City Judge Holly Trexler granted the district attorney’s motion.

Looking back, despite his cries of innocence and unfair treatment, Andrew Cuomo had to leave office last year.

First and foremost, his political support collapsed.

The other reason: If he remained in office and was impeached and convicted, he would be unable to run for office ever again.

The New York State Constitution states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any public office of honor, trust or profit under the state.”

But now with various charges dropped, a January 7 New York Times headline declared that “Some See a Possible [Cuomo] Comeback.”

Will he seek his old post? He certainly has the money in his campaign chest to finance a comeback. He may run to vindicate himself to spite his critics and to restore his family’s honor.

Such a move, in my judgment, would be a mistake. It would open old wounds and his enemies would have a field day sniping at him.

The brooding, angry, former governor must not let his pride cloud his thinking. Cuomo should be mindful of the Biblical proverb, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Gov. Hochul:  Please Fix NIFA – By George J. Marlin and Adam Haber

November 15, 2021

This article Adam Haber and I wrote appeared on the The Island Now web site on Monday, November 15, 2021.