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.
Cutting taxes on those whose dreams have already come true does not create good jobs. Growing a healthy economy creates good jobs, and you cannot have a healthy economy in which a vast majority are losing ground or are barely holding on, or are just worrying about next month.
Biologists and naturalists conduct experiments in resource scarcity and competition using yeast, paramecium, flour beetles and other little animals. Behaviors change, relationships change, levels of ferocity change. A series of recently published surveys show that one third or less of Americans trust their fellow citizens in everyday interactions. As social trust deteriorates, so does a willingness to work for a common good. I am hopeful that Americans will handle things better than the flour beetle, but we need to hold it together and keep our perspective.
Federal, state and city lawmakers have the power to reduce the region’s traffic congestion while also promoting mass transit. If the past is prologue, they will decline to use it.
Congress, for instance, has until the end of this month to extend a law allowing mass transit users (e.g., bus, subway, commuter rail) to use up to $245 in pre-tax dollars toward their monthly commute. The federal government already allows $245 in pre-tax dollars to be used by drivers each month for their parking expenses, a figure which will increase to $250 on Jan. 1, 2014. The monthly pre-tax limit for transit users will fall to $130 on New Year’s Day should Congress fail to act on this matter by year-end 2013, something which happened in late 2011. D.C.’s inaction left transit users at a competitive disadvantage to drivers in 2012.
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net Thursday, 30 May 2013 00:00
Citizen Action of New York and Working Families Organization sent a direct-mail piece this month to registered Democrats in state Senator Jack Martins’ (R-Mineola) district, asking them to call his office and “tell him to clean up Albany by passing public funding of elections.”
But why should anyone bother? Publicly funded state electioneering is taking place today, something that is self-evident to any New Yorker who has watched television this spring.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have seen on multiple occasions a television ad from the state’s Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC), touting The “New” New York, a place where taxes are coming down, burdensome regulations are being rolled back, and out-of-state businesses are eager to relocate. The online version of The “New” New York is at www.thenewny.com. In real life, it is harder to find instances where these trends are materializing within the Empire State.
Now, I knew I’d heard the “New” New York phrase before. And, sure enough, it appeared in the governor’s January 2013 State of the State address. Knowing few New Yorkers would hear that speech, the ESDC allocated millions of dollars in taxpayer monies toward TV ads in the hope that the “New” New York tag line, and the illusion of progress it conveys, would become imprinted on every TV-watcher’s brain.
Yes, these ESDC TV spots are publicly funded, but what does this have to do with state elections? This is all about the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, even though the governor’s name is not mentioned in the ESDC’s ads. Someone visiting the website cited in these TV spots, however, is immediately greeted by a picture of the governor. The New York Times’ Danny Hakim subsequently reported that the ESDC’s TV ad budget received an influx of federal taxpayer money through the Hurricane Sandy aid package so 49 other states are now funding this initiative, as well. The Sandy-themed ads will tell people New York State is “open for business.” Who knew?
The ESDC’s advertising campaign reached a crescendo this month when the agency touted Buffalo as a place to do business. It was the least the ESDC could do after the ESDC secured for itself a 12-seat suite at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the upcoming Buffalo Bills season, a deal first reported by the Times’ Hakim. Who’s getting the Bills tickets? The ESDC said they’ll be used to entertain decision-makers weighing whether to move their business to western New York. Yet the suite could just as easily be used by state office holders to repay their political supporters.
So, to recap, here’s the situation. State and federal taxpayers, without being asked, have through the ESDC’s ads lent their indirect support to Cuomo 2014. The state’s taxpayers have also made a $54 million commitment to refurbishing Ralph Wilson Stadium, which may have had something to do with the Cuomo administration gaining suite seats this year to eight Bills home games, too.
Citizen Action of New York and Working Families Organization, through its advertising efforts, has done two things for the governor: promoted his call for publicly funded state election campaigns, and criticized Republican state senators who are unwilling to codify such a system. The holdouts are right. There is no need to have a law on the books; taxpayer-financed state campaigns are already occurring.