Bowing to extraordinary pressure from both the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish blocs, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo has put his weight behind an ‘education Tax Credit’ proposal that is just plain wrong.

No matter how you slice this, it is not just wrong, it is also unconstitutional.

Our federal and state constitutions mandate certain services be provided to all residents and citizens, services which include public education.

Sometimes, economists view the shifting a tax burden required to provide sufficient funding to ensure provision of adequate and acceptable services from one taxing entity to another in order to create the illusion of a tax cut or a public cost savings as a “Zero Sum Game.”

This proposed tax credit program is certainly NOT a zero sum game.

The sole beneficiaries of this proposed tax credit charade will be those families – and their allies and supporters – who elect to eschew the free and publicly supported education system which is intended and expected to provide all children in New York State the opportunity for a “sound basic education,” defined as a meaningful high school education that prepares students for competitive employment and civic participation .

When Rhode Island adopted an education tax credit program a few years back, it resulted in a windfall for the state’s two Jewish day schools. Between them, their students received some $400,000 in scholarship money in the program’s first year.

In Florida, tax credit legislation has resulted in nearly $10 million annually for scholarships for Jewish day schools and yeshiva students.

Now New York, which has some 150,000 Jewish day school and yeshiva students — more than all the other states combined — has a chance of getting an education tax credit program that could deliver millions of dollars annually to Jewish day school families.

Another primary beneficiary of this proposed tax credit program will be supporters of private Catholic schools which have been plagued with declining enrollment and decreased core funding from the Church for several decades.

Offering a small number of self-selecting individuals the option to designate (Read:  Divert) up to 75% of their NY State Tax Liability to fund private religious schools is just plain wrong.

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What, another Congressional Witch Hunt?

Why not just send the elected officials home from D.C, then drag a huge bag of money out onto the National Mall, and burn it?

That solution would accomplish much more, and cost much less, than this current circus John Boehner wants to convene.

Please: let’s not forget that John Boehner is a Congressman who was elected in 1990 to represent an obscure rural district in SW Ohio, having taken the seat from an incumbent child molester….

There really is something wrong with a governance model that has allowed Boehner to subsequently acquire so much power over the people of the United States — despite the reality that his Congressional District – the 8th District in Ohio – is comprised of just 725,000 people, roughly 0.0023% of the U.S. population.  And, this Congressional District looks nothing like the rest of the U.S.

It is 90% White, very blue collar, predominantly Republican, and quite conservative (not that there is anything wrong with that).

His district is not at all representative of the demographics of our citizenry, yet Mr. Boehner has somehow achieved the status of Chief Rocket Scientist (aka Speaker of the House), so he now has the power to pull the strings which may ultimately destroy our economy and take our country down.

We have a huge weakness in our governance model, and it is certainly not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as some ultra-conservative characters might like us to believe.

Walrus Feeling Guilty

October 4, 2013

With all of the attention on the shenanigans in Washington and the in-depth moment by moment reporting, I thought the Walrus might sit this one out, but various forces have caused guilt.

Congress certainly has the authority to challenge the Affordable Care Act. Why don’t they just challenge the ACA in Court? Why are they messing with the greatest economy in the World?

Oh, wait. They did challenge it in court. In the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” finding that the federal government can require people to purchase affordable health care insurance coverage or face an income tax penalty.

So, we have a law which was approved by the House of Representatives, approved by the U.S. Senate, approved by the President of the U.S. and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

But, wait! We also have a splinter group of dubiously elected officials (i.e. the Ayatollah John Boehner, Cruz Control, Private Ryan, Eric “T.P.” Cantor – and others who shall remain anonymous for now).

These creatures have determined (in September 2013) that the only appropriate way for the Congress to arrive at a Continuing Budget Resolution which would keep our federal government running is to open a debate on a law which was enacted in 2010?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many times I wish that I could just put all of the clocks and calendars around the world on pause. Just give me a few days to catch up on all of the loose ends, and then I would restart the clocks and calendars as though those few days I had to myself were invisible and inconsequential. Sort of like a short “working vacation” in the Twilight Zone.

Boehner and his Band of Merry Men apparently have gone beyond the Twilight Zone and have jumped all the way down the rabbit hole, desperately trying to drag the rest of the country with them.

I have to wonder – how does the Supreme Court feel about this behavior?

Somehow, Rob Astorino was elected to the position of Westchester County Executive in 2009. Since then, Mr. Astorino has accomplished nothing worth noting, other than a consistent and flagrant disreguard for the laws of New York State and the United States of America.

Now, Mr. Astorino is showing his true colors, attacking his Democratic Party endorsed opponent in the upcoming election for Westchester County Executive, and manufacturing reasons why his silly lawsuits against the federal government are a good idea, despite the fact that none of them have been successful.

Manufacturing his own facts, and drawing on his highly polished skills perfected during his long career as a radio broadcast journalist, Mr. Astorino and his Band of Merry Men are closely following the national model employed by Boehner, Ryan, Cruz and their ‘brothers’ using highly-charged emotional messages backed up by imaginary ‘facts’.

For some unfortunate reason, there seems to be a cohort of gullible — or perhaps dishonest? — New Rochelle residents who are willing to put their own character and reputation on the line to spread false facts.

Meanwhile, Noam Bramson, who has a solid track record of doing the right things to support and benefit the long-term success of all people in the County, is having to deal with the spillover effects of a divisive and dirty attack campaign from Mr. Astorino.

Some days, I wonder if America has been dragged down the rabbit hole by Alice and Astorino, and it’s all just a weird dream which will end with a nice cup of tea?

August 2013.

Westchester County is known as the bucolic gateway to the Hudson River Valley. Located just north of New York City, Westchester has a plethora of attractions, including castles, mansions, historical sites, and the iconic Playland Amusement Park in Rye.

Westchester boasts thousands of acres of parks and nature preserves; world-class museums and performing arts venues; exclusive shopping, wineries and orchards; public gardens; excellent dining; and year-round, family-friendly fairs and festivals.

That’s what current Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and his cronies would like the world to know and believe.

The real Westchester County consists of 45 independent communities on a land area of 450 square miles. Just under 1 Million people live in Westchester, and they are racially, economically and culturally segregated.

From the City of Peekskill (population 24,000) where 51% of the population is white, 14.5% live in poverty, and the median family income is $65,585; to the City of Rye (population 16,000) where 90% of residents are white, just 2.3% live in poverty, and the median family income is $210,824; the contrasts are dramatic.

Meanwhile, it is very clear: Current County Executive Rob “I cut your taxes” Astorino has no shame.

Much like Don Quixote jousting at windmills, Mr. Astorino loves to do battle with various federal agencies. As he stamps his feet and screams, “I want my Maypo”, he tries to divert attention away from the huge financial penalties Westchester County Taxpayers face because of his incompetence, inability to lead and inexperience managing an organization of any size.

The most recent revelation?

The County had been given a deadline of April 2012 to provide Ultra Violet treatment to the water in Westchester Water District 1 which serves White Plains, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon and Yonkers.

Career professionals in the County had developed solutions; Astorino allowed the progress afforded by the solutions to grind to a halt.

Now, we find out that the County has been in violation of the mandate to deliver clean drinking water for 16 months, with probable fines of $37,500 a day. 16 months x 30 days x $37,500 is $18 Million. That’s a lot of money!

Cryptosporidium is the pathogen that is often behind the syndrome sometimes known as “Montezuma’s Revenge.”

It is highly resistant to chlorine disinfection, which is the primary form of disinfection used at most water treatment plants.

As long ago as 1999, the US EPA published definitive research showing that UV treatment is the only reliable and effective treatment system against all pathogens, including Cryptosporidium.

It is somewhat surprising that CE Astorino would mess with folks in Scarsdale.

His predictable pattern of abuse and benign neglect tends toward Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Port Chester, Peekskill and New Rochelle. Those folks just don’t seem to make time to come out to vote, and they mostly don’t make campaign contributions.

Maybe his campaign advisors told him, “Don’t worry, boss. People in Scarsdale don’t drink tap water. They drink bottled water. They will never find out that we are sending them potentially dangerous water.”

Hopefully, some of our neighbors in Scarsdale who do vote will get a bit vociferous about the gamble Astorino and his cronies seem to be willing to take with the physical (and financial) health of fellow Westchester residents.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against Westchester County this month after county officials refused to enter into a consent decree to resolve the violations.

The potential legal fees and fines are astronomical.

What is even worse?

The lack of UV treatment puts thousands of Westchester residents (the majority of whom are registered Democrats!) at extreme risk of serious illness or even death from drinking improperly treated tap water.

Pretty clever political strategy, I think.

If you can’t convince the other party you have a solid plan and strategy, then disable or kill them so they can’t vote.

Brilliant move, Mr. Astorino!

The Wal-Mart Paradox

July 10, 2013

With annual revenues in the $450 billion range and a global workforce of more than 2 million, Wal-Mart can’t avoid being in the cross-hairs of labor advocates because it may be the world’s largest employer. And, there are consistent allegations of worker mistreatment.

Wal-Mart started with good intentions, it seems.

Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Ark. in 1962. The strategy was very simple: low prices and good quality. By 1967, the Walton family owned 24 stores, ringing up $12.7 million in sales.

As it grew, it seems the company may have lost touch with the mission.

Today, it seems that Wal-Mart has become a predator.

It seems that when Wal-Mart comes into a community, it builds a vast, low-rise supercenter — often on land that hadn’t been developed before Wal-Mart showed up.

The chain now has 698 million square feet of store space in the U.S., up from 530 million in 2005. Its U.S. stores and parking lots cover roughly 60,000 acres.

Beyond the negative environmental impact, Wal-Mart destroys local economies through its predatory pricing practices. It generally destroys and decimates local, family-owned businesses; it hires people right at the margin: low wages; variable work hours; marginal benefits.

Wal-Mart invariably is the beneficiary of huge direct public subsidies and benefits, which include: free land; infrastructure assistance; below market financing; outright grants from state and local governments around the country; and property tax abatements, often called PILOTS.

On top of that, taxpayers indirectly subsidize the company by paying the healthcare costs of Wal-Mart employees who don’t receive coverage on the job and instead turn to public programs such as Medicaid.

Today, the extreme wealth of Sam Walton’s family is shocking.

While most Americans have done our best to work hard, be honest, fair and ethical, there seem to be a few pirates who have a different agenda.

The Walton family is dripping in wealth — from ill-got gains? – and, if so, that really concerns me.

Some amazing stuff going on in Washington this week.

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal today, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) unveiled a proposal that would allow President Barack Obama to raise on his own the federal borrowing limit by $2.4 trillion in three installments before the end of 2012, unless two-thirds of Congress votes to block it.
Mr. McConnell’s proposal to allow the president to raise the debt ceiling came after he said in a Senate speech that the country cannot solve its fiscal problems with Mr. Obama as president. “After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable,” he said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) suggested they consider temporarily lowering corporate tax rates as a way to offset revenue increases from closing tax loopholes, a Republican familiar with the discussion said.”

All of this rhetoric has the 21st century tingle of the Billie Holiday song, “Strange Fruit.”

Every time I turn on the radio, I seem to hear a Republican Senator or Congressman representing a state below the Mason-Dixon line denouncing our President as though he caused our economic dilemma.

Bear in mind: The last time our country had a balanced budget was in 2001.

Prior to Mr. Obama taking office, we experienced almost a decade of overspending, compounded by tax cuts.

Today, July 13, 2011, Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), rejected the McConnell plan to give President Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling.

So, we have various factions of the white male republicans from south of the Mason-Dixon line in dispute over exactly how to derail the Obama administration.

Should we lynch him? Shoot him? Starve him?

Stand by for more in the early morning news….