The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Robert McMillan Friday, 09 March 2012 00:00
During the current Presidential campaigns, there has been a great deal of discussion about China. Is China a threat to the United States? Are our gates for global trade to open for Chinese manufactured goods? Can China be an ally for the United States?
These are just a few of the questions that are debated about China. Now, I have to say that I am not a China expert, but I have had contact, in one way or the other, with China since Korean military service back in 1953. In addition, I ran the Asia-Pacific profit center for a major United States company; helped to open China for that company in 1984; and took a tour through China with my wife in 2008. I have a great deal of respect for the Chinese people. When we were there a few years ago; the people, everywhere we went in China, could not have been nicer to all of us in the tour group. In fact, we were stopped many times and asked if we would pose for a picture with a Chinese family.
As for transnational issues, let me take a look at whether the trade with China puts the United States behind an eight ball? It is true that China has a significant trade balance with the United States. What we often forget is that the trade imbalance started right after World War II when the labels all said “Made in Japan.” And then the labels read “Made in South Korea or Taiwan.” Remember those days?
As the economies of those countries grew, and a higher standard of living developed, the factories shifted from one country to another. Believe it or not, the same process is under way in China. On our tour in 2008, it was clear that factories were closing and the moves were underway to Indonesia, Vietnam, India and the Philippines.
Next, there is no doubt that China has a strong military presence and also has the capability to launch intercontinental nuclear missiles. But, in my opinion, the last thing China would want to do is confront the United States militarily. Just think about the sometimes strained relationship with Taiwan. China could easily takeover Taiwan, but has not done so. China would rather increase trade ties with Taiwan, and that is exactly what has happened over the last several years.
One other area, which deserves a great deal of attention is the control China has over North Korea. Remember, we still have 40 thousand United States troops in South Korea, and North Korea also has nuclear weapons with a delivery capability. China is definitely the balance in this part of the world.
The last thing the United States needs in today’s world is to shut the door on China. We must continue to work on trade issues while remembering it is much better for us to have a positive relationship with China than one where China is a threat to our interests.
One final point – more people are fluent in English throughout China than here in the United States!