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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Frothing

1. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives took the time to pass legislation prohibiting gay marriage and “marriage-like” ceremonies on military bases, and limiting reprimand for soldiers voicing opposition to gay soldiers. This was the big accomplishment of the week. This is what our leaders are focused on. This is the way it’s going to be until after Election Day.

2. Fifty-five days after Election Day, possibly in the middle of multiple transitions in the executive and legislative branches, the payroll-tax cut, investment tax credit and enhanced unemployment insurance will all expire. Also expiring are the so-called Bush tax cuts. At the same time, the automatic, across-the-board cuts in domestic and defense spending that were part of the debt ceiling agreement will kick in, including the immediate “sequestering” of $100 billion in federal spending.

3. A Morgan Stanley analysis estimates that this will affect one out of every $20 in America’s entire $14 trillion economy. That’s some mondo impact. We may just ride it out and see what it does, like the biggest flume ride ever.

4. It is very difficult for me to get my head around all of this, to understand how this country got here, so fast. So instead, I choose to be annoyed mostly at this: On the welcome signs at Eisenhower Park, the name of County Executive Mangano is significantly larger than the words “Eisenhower Park.”

5. Somehow, at a level I can’t express or understand, that seems to sum up everything that is not working in this country.

6. Mr. Mangano now regularly refers to our police as “special interests.” In an emergency, I guess you should dial 9-1-1 and ask them to send a Special Interest. Here is an actual headline now posted on the taxpayer-funded county website: “Taxpayers See through the Rhetoric and Scare Tactics Utilized by Police Unions.” Your tax dollars at work.

7. We pay some people to be the grown-ups, and its time for them to earn those paychecks and the Blackberrys they’re always checking at meetings.

8. Last month, a survey by Wells Fargo found that one out of four middle-class Americans now plan to delay retirement until they are at least 80 years old. The average life expectancy is 78. Not exactly optimistic.

9. Our economy needs to add about 170,000 jobs per month in order to grow. So the 115,000 non-farm jobs created in April isn’t really growth. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent, because more of us gave up or were otherwise erased from the balance sheet.

10. From January 2010 through April 2012 the government sector lost over 500,000 jobs.

11. The economies we’ve built are driven by credit, in all its forms, and by energy. These things affect demand and consumption. When every barrel of petroleum consumed costs over $100, there is little or no growth.

12. We aren’t running out of oil. We’re only running out of easy-to-retrieve, low-sulfur oil that doesn’t come from expensive and dangerous locations. There’s probably oil under this newspaper’s front office in Mineola, if you went down far enough into the bedrock, but it would be ridiculously expensive to collect and process.

13. In July, Sunoco plans to close its giant refining facility in South Philadelphia, because it can only handle ultra-sweet (low sulfur) crude. We don’t produce enough of it in North America anymore and it’s more expensive to ship it in from overseas. It will be the third Delaware River refinery to close since last fall. It isn’t personal. It’s only business. In the Northeast, the supply and cost of diesel, the stuff that moves trucks, and home heating oil, the stuff that warms much of Long Island, may be significantly affected.

14.Where does Long Island fit into a world in which distance costs more? What is supposed to come next?

15. And yet, I’m positive that there can be a place for us as a region. If we have a plan. If we are determined to get in front of all this. If we get serious. If we grow up. If we are human beings to each other.

16. If.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net