Thursday, November 12, 2009

If You Thought This Year Was Bad In NY - Wait for 2011.



The 2010 budgets aren't official yet in most counties across New York, but it is not too soon to talk about 2011. In fact, the county leaders I'm talking to say it's essential that we start talking about it now.

Counties in New York have mostly managed to avoid large tax increases by cutting staff, cutting corners where they can, raiding fund balances (those rainy day accounts they all try to maintain) and raising taxes as little as possible.

All the padding will be gone in 2011. The federal stimulus dollars will be gone. Fund balances will be smaller. Costs probably won't go down and revenues are unlikely to increase. In fact, people and businesses are leaving New York, not arriving. That means even if expenses stayed exactly the same, a smaller pool of taxpayers will be paying them.

Officials in several counties say Albany has to wake up and wake up now. 2011 will be, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group, "disastrous".

Despite lip service to cost cutting and consolidation, state government spending hasn't been really cut and has, in fact, increased. The state continues to pass on its costs to local and county governments - those are the same people who pay the state taxes, too...so any savings on the state level are just smoke and mirrors.

The heartening thing is that if taxpayers start talking now, they have the opportunity to make huge changes. Every state office is up for grabs in 2010. Remind your representatives of that fact and you're likely to get their attention; particularly if you organize a series of phone calls, emails or letters.

New York government has been a mess for years and New Yorkers put up with it. If New Yorkers are so spunky, so outspoken, why aren't they screaming yet? Better yet, why aren't they supporting viable alternatives to the 'business as usual' Democrats and Republicans?

Run for office and bring your pencil - there are a lot of budget items to be reconsidered.

12 comments:

nocomme1 said...

This may shock you, but I agree with you. But I would say that you haven't gone far enough in your analysis.

You say, "All the padding will be gone in 2011. The federal stimulus dollars will be gone. Fund balances will be smaller. Costs probably won't go down and revenues are unlikely to increase."
Doesn't this show how wrong-headed the Stimulus has been from its very inception? My idea of a "stimulus" is that its purpose is really to jump start the economy, meaning that, if federal dollars are involved, they should get the economy back on its feet, allowing the "stimulus" funds to then be removed, leaving a private sector that can then go about its merry way on its own, without a the need for a continuing infusion of dollars. If constant federal dollars must continue to be infused or collapse ensues then no stimulus has occurred at all. The stimulus then is just a mask, hiding the underlying problems. In the current situation the stimulus isn't even a very convincing mask as the precarious situation of so many states reveals.

In comments on the post previous to this one you say that you hoped Obama would be another FDR. Well, he is, isn't he? The Great Depression was the longest depression in US history and I would argue that is was SUSTAINED by federal funds. When federal spending was curtailed during the '30s the economy tanked again, not that things got much better even with the huge spending. Unemployment remained above 15% for a decade.

I would suggest that an entirely different tack was needed: Suspend the Capital Gains tax for a few years. Let most of the bailed out businesses fail and let other more efficient, better managed businesses take their place with tax and regulatory incentives available to spur growth oriented business policies.

Obama's big-government "solutions" are the complete opposite of what is needed here.

Susan said...

Never shocked when you and I agree. It happens sometimes. But if you are truly "right" as you say, we will always disagree at the core issue.

Here's where we differ, I believe.

You take the theoretical "let 'em fail and let better businesses take their place" and that's a fine and logical theoretical solution.

It does not address what happens to the thousands upon thousands who would have or will lose their jobs, and that's the hurdle that politicians from both this and the past administration simply could not jump. Cynically, they had other reasons as well, but that basic humanistic one is an issue that cannot be ignored.

I totally support cutting bloat in government. I support term limits. I support deep and meaningful regulation of industry AND government.

And I would rather spend billions on making sure every single citizen of this country has health care, has work that pays a decent wage, has a cushion against destitution in his or her old age, than spend those billions on wars waged for oil, for influence, for profit or for empire building.

If we immediately began bringing troops home, if we immediately scaled back our presence all over the world, if we immediately concentrated on rebuilding our own economy and supporting innovative industries that are sustainable for long term growth, we'd erase our deficit. We'd improve our standard of living.

I do not support our position as democracy's watchdog. We have interfered in governments for decades and usually with disastrous results.

We're paying for it and my children will pay for it, as will theirs if this country should last that long.

nocomme1 said...

Unemployment is now at 10.2 and rising. I'm not convinced that things would be worse if we'd just let the market run its course. As I said earlier the New Deal really did very little to improve the unemployment situation. It just put the economy on a very inadequate life support scheme. When blacksmith's were made irrelevant by the rise of the automobile there was certainly high unemployment in the blacksmithing biz but the automaking biz more than made up for it. Artificially keeping blacksmith's going probably would have made sense to your average Joe Blacksmith, but would it really have made sense in a dynamic economy?

I really don't believe that the war is responsible for the bad shape the economy is in and I'm not sure if there are many economists who do. WWII didn't send the economy into a tailspin. It helped bring it out of depression. I'm certainly not in favor of going to war as way of stimulating the economy but I don't think it necessarily harms it.

I'd love to see as many people have health care as choose to have it (I don't support MANDATING they have it or they get fined and/or jailed as the current plan before Congress would have it). I just think that it would be better if the free market arranged for it than for govt to do so.

"We have interfered in governments for decades and usually with disastrous results." You mean like when we fought WWII and rebuilt Europe and Japan after it was over? You're talking about isolationism and I don't think it has a very illustrious history. It helped bring Hitler to power and brought an assortment of other truly unpleasant consequences as well. Do you think we should pull our support for Israel? Were the Afhani's really in better shape when the Taliban were in power and stoning women to death and chopping off body parts in public arenas?

Susan said...

"When blacksmith's were made irrelevant by the rise of the automobile there was certainly high unemployment in the blacksmithing biz but the automaking biz more than made up for it."

What industry do you see growing quickly enough to replace millions of jobs in retail, auto, energy and banking?

And while that industry (will you tell me Green? There hasn't been much support of that until now.) develops, what about those millions of unemployed?

The stimulus was a shot of adrenalin and one that couldn't possibly last. Agreed. But it was rammed down our throats by both Bush and Obama. No point arguing it now.

"I would suggest that an entirely different tack was needed: Suspend the Capital Gains tax for a few years. Let most of the bailed out businesses fail and let other more efficient, better managed businesses take their place with tax and regulatory incentives available to spur growth oriented business policies."

Encouraging entrepreneurs, yes. Regulation? Yes, indeed. Encouraging unbridled greed, no. Growth without support for the citizens? No.

The "I want more" system has broken, cousin. Its rot is showing and the stench is all over the country. More of the same isn't the answer. We agree that businesses should have been allowed to fail. Where we disagree is what you do when that happens.

You don't address those people who lose their jobs, their homes, their health care insurance. Our current system cannot support them all nor can a dwindling number of overtaxed workers hold up an entire country on the dole unless a reasonable system is created and we reallocate our financial resources: ie: public support vs. military spending.

We have elderly family who are struggling. The dreaded FDR's social security is their only income. The massive government Medicaid and Medicare makes sure they can get treatment when they're sick.

I will never understand how you can argue against the systems we know are helping sustain people in our own family, nor how you can be against creating systems that might help you and me as we try not to sink under a cost of living that has skyrocketed while our pay stays flat.

I'm not buying the 'work hard and someday you might be rich' myth. I'm working hard. I always have. I don't need to be rich. I need this country to start thinking of us as a community with basic rights and obligations to each other.

And don't bother shrieking COMMUNIST unless you want to make me laugh. That would be too Fox News.

I'm talking community. Maturity means being able to see beyond self-interest to the needs of others. I already pay this government. I'd like my money to go to help other people, not help enrich the top one percent of this population.

I'd like America to grow up.

Susan said...

You certainly get me fired up, Eddie. You had a couple of other points and I want to clarify that I see that you said you'd support health care for all, you just want the free market to create it. If you can put enough regulations on it that there is no way for greed to subvert it (as it has every single industry as that's its bottom line motive), fine by me. But since it IS about making money, it's unlikely you can do that. Government doesn't have that problem...you can create an agency with a mandate to break even. That would be my choice.

Okay...the world's watchdog. We sing happy songs about democracy and how we're saving the world for freedom, but in almost every instance in the past forty years, it's really been about profit.

We've toppled democracies. We've supported dictators. Corporations create our foreign policy.

How can this war- excuse me, THESE wars, NOT contribute to our economic collapse? Simple math. You spend billions on wars, you're not making those billions back. We don't manufacture anymore. We shuffle money around and raid the natural resources under our soil. We're tapping a well that WILL run dry. It's already begun.

Taliban? They're religious extremists. We have those kinds of people here. They're everywhere. Slaughtering them doesn't get rid of them (why are we not screaming in rage that we condoned mass executions?), it only makes them stronger, more fervent. Education works. Humanitarian aid and goodwill can work. And the Afghan people rising up and refusing to allow them to rule will work.

Let's look at it another way. The religious right takes over America. The separation of church and state is abolished. Creationism becomes the only theory taught in science class. Gays are ostracized or perhaps imprisoned. Our individual rights erode as the Bible is used as the authority in all questions, and we know how enlightened some parts of biblical law are.

Women are sent back to their homes to create the perfect fifties family again....and refused an education or employment. Perhaps the abuses become violent. Maybe non-Christians are executed.

Should another country invade us and drive the bible thumpers out? Or should they allow us to sort out the mess by ourselves, offering as much humanitarian support and sanctions as they can until and unless we become a direct threat to them?

Susan said...

How about Paul Krugman's observations about Germany vs US and the free market problem?

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/11/krugman-on-the-need-for-jobs-policies.html

nocomme1 said...

So much to address, so little time.

"What industry do you see growing quickly enough to replace millions of jobs in retail, auto, energy and banking?" Currently none, as no business can grow in this anti-growth environment. And "what industry" is missing the point, anyway. I'd prefer the same industries AND new industries. Not every auto company failed. Instead of bailouts, how about incentives for BETTER run companies, maybe even companies that don't have unions running rampant and turning those companies into defacto social service agencies that just happen to make products the public doesn't want? Maybe all those displaced workers could go to work in new, booming, efficient companies? But the deck is now stacked against such companies arising in competetion with the giants that now have govt backing to support their continuing failure.

You talk about "green jobs" but I haven't seen any proof that this is "the answer" or even a big part of it. I saw a study done on green jobs in Spain recently and they don't produce many well paying, long-term jobs. I think green jobs are more fiction than fact.

"The "I want more" system has broken, cousin. Its rot is showing and the stench is all over the country." The point you seem to miss is that there are greedy people in both business AND government. In govt they're greedy for both money and POWER. The more power they get, the more they want. How many govt agencies and program have you ever seen that actually shrink over time? If government health care goes through it will be the biggest power transfer in history, from the private sector and the individual to the bureaucrats. They will be able to tell you what you can eat, drink, how much you can weigh, etc etc. If there are greedy businessmen, they can be dealt with (Hi, Bernie Madoff) but how do you deal with Big Brother "looking out for your best interests?"

I could go on and on (especially about your frankly paranoid delusion about the minions of the evil "religious right". GASP) but I'm out and about today so will have to get to it tomorrow.

Susan said...

The religious right is, for the most part, no problem for me. Live and let live.

Extremism is another story and it's always possible. Where do you think the Taliban came from? To dismiss that as paranoia is, frankly, delusional.

nocomme1 said...

"Women are sent back to their homes to create the perfect fifties family again....and refused an education or employment. Perhaps the abuses become violent. Maybe non-Christians are executed."

Sounds like you have a the religious right to me. If you believe that stuff, you should. Do you ACTUALLY believe there are large numbers of the religious who see your little scenario as being desirable? I haven't met many of them, myself.

"Extremism is another story and it's always possible. Where do you think the Taliban came from? To dismiss that as paranoia is, frankly, delusional."

It seems to me that you're drawing some sort of parallel between the Taliban and fundamentalist Christians. I don't think any such parallel exists. The difference I see between Islam and Christianity is that Mohammed was a warrior and pedophile and if you follow his teaching explicity jihad, killing of homosexuals and abuse of woman are mandatory. Christ was a peaceful carpenter and if you follow HIS words explicitly you'll turn the other cheek whenever possible. I don't think Muslims who do all the things the Taliban do are radicals; I think they are following the religion as it was meant to be followed. Read the Koran. This "Islam is a religion of peace" line is pc claptrap.

I know that many awful things have been done in the name of Chrisitianity but I believe that they have done been in violation of Christ's teachings.

Susan said...

"It seems to me that you're drawing some sort of parallel between the Taliban and fundamentalist Christians. I don't think any such parallel exists. The difference I see between Islam and Christianity is that Mohammed was a warrior and pedophile and if you follow his teaching explicity jihad, killing of homosexuals and abuse of woman are mandatory. Christ was a peaceful carpenter and if you follow HIS words explicitly you'll turn the other cheek whenever possible."

Religious extremism is religious extremism. And your dismissal of a religion that is no more inherently flawed than any other is shocking, frankly.

The Inquisition. The Crusades. These are Christian examples of religion gone horribly wrong. They were done in the name of a peaceful carpenter. No religion is exempt.

There are plenty of hateful, misogynist and downright stupid statements in the Bible, but there are also people who consider every line in it straight from their God. If you took it at face value, particularly the Old Testament, you're talking some pretty twisted ideas.

Fundamentalists of all stripes scare the crap out of me. Anyone who refuses to actually think does. Yes indeed.

nocomme1 said...

"Religious extremism is religious extremism. And your dismissal of a religion that is no more inherently flawed than any other is shocking, frankly."

Yeah, I used to think that Islam was just another religion taken over by extremists, too. And then I started to read a lot more about it. There is no moral equivalance between Christianity and Islam. Islam isn't just a religion, it is an entire cultural system with a built-in legal component that is unyielding and brutal, to women, Jews, gentiles, etc. Jesus never called for brutality, even though some of his followers acted brutally. Mohammed DID call for it and those who practice it are following his teachings. They aren't being "extreme". They're doing what the founder of their religion commanded. He wasn't a very nice man, you see.

The idea that one religion is only as inherently flawed as any other is as mistaken as the idea that no political ideology is any worse than any other. Tell that to the 100 million + who were slaughtered by communism and fascism.

You need to read a lot more about Islam. As I said it isn't such a nightmare because extremists have twisted it. It is a nightmare because that is what it is AT ITS HEART. I thought about it exactly as you did until I read more about it. It is a pernicious philosophy and it is the enemy of everything both you and I believe in: tolerance, freedom, equality.

I think there a millions of Muslims who are perfectly fine people, by the way. But they are certainly not devout. If they were they would be like the Saudi's are; confiscating Bibles at the airports, not letting women out without a male relative and all the rest. That isn't EXTREME Islam: that's just Islam. Period.

It is more pleasant and far less complicated to deny the reality of Islam than to face the truth about it but in not facing the truth we give it easier access into all our lives.

Susan said...

You would be far more convincing if you told me you'd read the Koran. I've seen books that support your view and others that totally discount it.
Primary sources are always best.
And, as usual, religious books are open to interpretation. Look at the incredible range of beliefs that say they are "Christian".