Friday, December 13, 2013

Hunger Games : Bill de Blasio NYC Andrew Cuomo NYS Budget Realness

Expanding pre-kinder, making good on union backpay demands, and fighting income inequality will be paid for by how ?

Bill de Blasio will be sworn into office as the next mayor of New York City on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, a frigid day of painful New Year's Eve hang-overs and desperate resolutions that this will finally be the year when we make real change come true.

Hold your horses.

"The biggest challenge Mr. de Blasio will face in the first few months of his administration is negotiating contracts with nearly all of the city’s municipal unions," The New York Times reported, noting that, "The unions have been working under expired contracts for several years and are asking for some $7 billion in retroactive pay."

This potential $7 billion backpay price tag comes on top of a campaign proposal central to de Blasio's political win : a plan to expand pre-kinder to every child in New York City, a plan that is estimated to cost several hundred million dollars, WNYC has reported.

According to Mr. de Blasio's campaign Web site, he "called for an increase in taxes for New Yorkers earning $500,000 or more to dramatically expand after-school programs for all middle schools students, and to create truly universal pre-K programs."

To raise other money, Mr. de Blasio plans to also raise property taxes on empty lots, in order to spur more real estate development. "The goal is to spur development of affordable housing — the theory being that lot owners would rather sell to developers than face dramatically higher taxes," CBS reported. It's not known, as usual with desperate campaign promises, how the tax rate hike on vacant lots will exactly only create "affordable housing" and what will govern just how "affordable" the new housing will be. But there is a great need for affordable housing. By City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's own account, New York City has lost 300,000 affordable housing units in the past few years alone.

The mayor-elect's campaign promises are set to clash with a neoliberal governor set on window dressing the state budget as a springboard to a presidential run in 2016.

With so much pressing need, how can social, legal, and economic reforms be paid for ?

  • Since 2006, a total of 10 New York City hospitals have either closed or downsized, and several more hospitals have been identified for possible closure. Some astute political observers have said privately that they believe that Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to make large, indiscriminate healthcare cuts by closing entire hospitals in a desperate effort to window dress the state budget in preparation for a run for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race. (Activists take protest to save hospitals to governor’s office * WestView News)

Bill de Blasio Andrew Cuomo Bill Thompson photo 2013-09-16Bill-de-Blasio-Andrew-Cuomo-Bill-Thompson_zps4c42cc21.jpg

Economic realities will fracture Democratic unity : Pension IOU vouchers and hospital closings that will pay for the $2 billion election year tax cut gimmicks of Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo faces an election year campaign that overlaps with mayor-elect de Blasio's first year in office. Gov. Cuomo is already out of the gate with an expensive $2 billion tax cut proposal to endear himself with big business interests as he eyes a presidential run in 2016.

"New York’s corporate tax rate would be cut to its lowest level since 1968 as part of reductions in property and business levies called for by a commission appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo," reported Bloomberg News.

Former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch has blasted Gov. Cuomo's tax cuts on NY1's program The Road to City Hall :

"I think he's going to look for additional help, and I think the problem is the state is likely to put very severe caps on the growth of healthcare spending and education spending, which will have a terrible effect on New York City," Mr. Ravitch said, adding, "Based on what we read, the governor wants to cut taxes at at time when his social needs are growing, and that will be an interesting political battle. I think we are going to see a very, very interesting dilemma given Bill de Blasio's genuinely-held social commitments," noting that Gov. Cuomo's tax plan was "frankly … nonsense : The cities in New York state and the largest counties in New York State are in serious trouble."

Mr. Ravitch identified several counties, which are having to borrow money, in order to pay for operating deficits. "That's why New York City almost went bankrupt in 1975. Nobody learned the lessons of the past," Mr. Ravitch said.

"Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Phoenix and Jacksonville, Florida, are among large cities that had 60 percent or less of what they need in their retirement systems to cover promised benefits, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At least 29 public plans in 16 states are less than two-thirds funded, according to Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research," reported Bloomberg News. While city, county, and state governments continue to wallow in a fiscal mess exacerbated by the 2007-2008 global financial crisis and recession, one dangerous quick fix governments have resorted to is to issue IOU's or vouchers to their pension plans, leading to severely underfunded conditions.

The Neoliberal Hunger Games - Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio Tax Cuts Realness photo TheNeoliberalHungerGames-AndrewCuomoandBilldeBlasioTaxCutsRealness1_zpsb21b75db.jpg

  • Moody’s has put 12 towns and villages in New York on notice for failing to provide enough details to maintain their credit ratings, a move that affects $56.5 million in debt, reported Gannett Albany.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent $140 million of emergency relief meant for victims of Hurricane Sandy in an ad campaign to convince businesses to move to update New York, reported The National Review.

The Hunger Games : more of the tumultuous clash between community groups that have been starved of budgetary resources.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants billions from Washington in federal Medicaid dollars he's "saved" by making wholesale healthcare cuts, including closing entire hospitals, through the his neoliberal austerity program, the Medicaid Redesign Team.
(Cuomo spars with Obama administration over Medicaid exemption * The Washington Post)
The Rep. Paul Ryan federal budget deal will cost New York hospitals several hundred million dollars a year by cutting reimbursement rates for hospital procedures provided to patients, who do not remain hospitalised for more than two days under a controversial "two midnight rule."
(House budget tweak costs N.Y. hospitals millions * Capital New York)

Gov. Cuomo made an ''implicit threat that he could unilaterally pull out of Medicaid expansion, dealing a major blow to the success of the Affordable Care Act at a critical juncture if the state’s request isn’t granted.''

In an environment where mayor-elect de Blasio made brash "pie in the sky" promises to attract the votes of working families with school-age children as an election year gimmick, he must now contend with Gov. Cuomo's own "pie in the sky" promises of corporate tax cuts, in spite of the fact that voters have expressed demands for economic equality, not more corporate welfare.

Gov. Cuomo plans to pay for his $2 billion tax cut by having gutted Medicaid. He achieved wholesale healthcare cuts by closing entire hospitals that served the poor, uninsured, or underinsured. Those savings, and the billions he is now demanding from the Obama administration, will go to pay for corporate tax cuts. Added to that, Gov. Cuomo's gambling initiative will suck more money from the desperate poor, further depriving some poor people of their poverty wages. The poor are rightly looking for an elusive safe harbour from the today's tumultuous economic straights, but how sad that Gov. Cuomo wants to herd them into casinos, instead of giving the working class a living wage. Mayor-elect de Blasio, meanwhile, made it a fiscal priority to propose a tax-the-rich plan to pay for universal pre-kinder, that only benefits taxpayers with toddlers. Of all the pressing needs across the five boroughs, did taxpayers agree that the first order of business should be to expand pre-kinder ? First of all, there aren't enough classes to accommodate the number of children enrolled in New York City public schools. Where will the de Blasio administration find the classrooms to house toddlers ? It's unclear if the $500 million price tag for universal pre-kinder includes the cost of classroom construction that may be impossible to accomplish in old school buildings in dense urban New York City neighborhoods.

The finite tax dollars is already squeezing governments, as Mr. Ravitch said. "We're using promissory notes to make the contributions to the state pension funds."

Left out of the debate, for now, are the unions, affordable housing activists, healthcare activists, education advocates, homeless activists, public library supporters, and other stakeholders on how the decreasing tax revenues are going to be spent.

In this era of government budgetary famine, stakeholders are already having to fight against each other for resources. When Gov. Cuomo empaneled his Medicaid Redesign Team to close hospitals, he appointed affordable housing community groups to the panel and convinced them that the only way to find nickels and dimes for new housing programs was to close entire hospitals and to make cuts to healthcare for the poor.

One also saw this kind of friction between community groups when Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center for homeless New York City youth, threw Rev. Pat Bumgardner under the bus over allegations of inferior conditions at Sylvia’s Place, the homeless shelter for LGBT youth operated by Rev. Bumgardner's church.

Because New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn never made it a political and budgetary priority to put an end to homeless problem of LGBT youth, one could view Mr. Siciliano's attacks on Sylvia's Place as a way to shut it down in order to keep more of the city's homeless tax dollars for himself -- the same way affordable housing activists went along with an irresponsible spree of closings entire hospitals in order to build 154 housing units in the Bronx. These units are set to open in either 2015 or 2016.

Why are community advocacy groups pitted against each other, instead of trying to lift everybody up ? The fact is that there's only so much public assistance and private philanthropy, making community advocacy groups get stuck in a "us vs. them" worldview. The price society pays is that nobody dares to make a demand for all the resources needed to fully address social issues, like providing universal healthcare for everybody or providing shelter for all LGBT homeless youth. Where's the focus on the bigger picture to get *all* the needed resources ?

The Grand Central Air Rights Deal Won't Be Enough To Feed Everybody

Because community advocacy groups fail to make a full demand for resources, and because politicians lack the courage to impose a Wall Street financial tax of less than ½ of 1% on Wall Street transactions, you see all manner of budgetary and economic contortions, to try to mine new tax dollars (aka "resources"). The scramble to structure bespoke taxes or new government fees is wrought with corruption. Take, for example, the city plan to sell air rights for several blocks around Grand Central Station in Manhattan. The plan, which was the vision of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to upgrade the size, facility, and infrastructure of Midtown East office buildings, would raise about $1 billion in new tax resources for New York City, reported Bloomberg News.

Should Gov. Cuomo succeed at both enacting his foolish $2 billion tax cut and blocking Mayor-elect de Blasio's tax-the-rich plan, this $1 billion would be all that there is to divide among unions, affordable housing activists, healthcare activists, education advocates, homeless activists, public library supporters, and other stakeholders. Either the mayor-elect will miraculously divide the fish and loaves sufficient to satiate the hungry, or else look for either an escalation of the "interesting political battle" between City Hall and Albany predicted by Mr. Ravitch or else more community groups taking each other down as they fight for survival.

Big business interests always win, even after countless "change" elections

Note how the Grand Central air rights sale turned taxpayer's $1 billion bailout will enrich real estate speculators and developers.

This is, after all, a city that allows billion-dollar real estate projects to exploit tax breaks only after they make campaign donations in a corrupt political culture of pay-to-play. (Gov. Cuomo got $100,000 from developer, then signed law giving it big tax breaks * The New York Daily News)

And lobbyists, such as James Capalino, George Arzt, and others, stand to exploit their close connections to both the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations to benefit their lobbying clients, and it should come as no surprise that these and other lobbyists get involved in politics in order to keep their pockets lined while community groups go at each others' throats.


(Updated : Saturday 14 Dec 2013 15:10)

Carl Siciliano contacted me by Facebook to deny that he was motivated to close Sylvia's Place. He made complaints about the lack of licensing and other problems with Sylvia's Place, and he said that he's committed to "calling upon the City and State to commit to a plan to add 100 youth shelter beds per year until there are no longer waiting lists at the youth shelters."

Separately, statistics from PFLAG NYC show that, "Studies indicate that between 25% and 50% of homeless youth are LGBT and on the streets because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

According to New Alternatives NYC, "Every night, thousands of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender youth and young adults are homeless in New York City. Whether they have been kicked out by homophobic families, forced to flee conservative communities, aged out of foster care, or come from families torn apart by poverty, AIDS, drug abuse or eviction, these youth sleep in the City’s parks, on the subway, and in public facilities such as Port Authority and Penn Station. A fortunate minority find a safe haven in one of NYC’s handful of housing programs and shelters designed for this population, facilities so underfunded that youth wait months to get in or sleep on concrete floors and countertops. Another portion of the homeless youth population finds not-so-safe shelter in large, City-funded institutions or the men’s shelter on Ward’s Island, where they are subject to homophobic harassment- and even violence -at the hands of both staff and peers. The least fortunate of all find themselves practicing “survival sex” – trading their bodies for money or a place to stay."

Two years ago, GLAAD estimated that the census of homeless LGBT youth in New York City is approximately 1,500. It would take several years before all homeless LGBT youth in New York City would find housing if the rate of expanding shelters is capped at 100 new beds per year. Left unexplained is why community advocacy groups fail to make demands today for all the resources needed to provide shelter to all homeless youth in New York City, a point made to Mr. Siciliano, but which Mr. Siciliano refused to directly address.

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