We the People: Politics shouldn’t trump sensible policy-making

Who is best suited to handle the problems we face and lead the people in a direction that will assure a brighter future? The people used to be able to count on Democratic leaders to fight for organized labor, social fairness and education while Republicans leaders would fight for less government spending, less government, as well as support for business and industry.

Our Democratic mayor and City Council are seemingly unconcerned with taking MTA bus drivers and “throwing them under the bus” with new legislation to make them criminally liable for accidental deaths while driving city buses. The work conditions are beyond the control of these overworked employees and current laws make anyone criminally responsible for reckless or intentional conduct that causes a death.  There is no need to scapegoat these workers and single them out for specific liability with new laws. It is outrageous and unfair.

Governor Cuomo yanked funds to repair roofs on public housing in New York City. The leaking roofs on 100+ buildings ruin the quality of life for tenants who cannot afford lobbyists. The City Council just okayed zoning changes to let a developer build a 63-story skyscraper next to Grand Central Station. There will be a tax break or two in the deal so those millionaire tenants have a leak-free roof on the swanky tower. Perhaps Republicans can advocate and support for these workers and tenants under attack.

The Republican presidential field may approach 20 contenders; former governor George Pataki just threw his hat in the ring. Why is this happening? President Obama is a “lame duck” so the Republican candidate will not have to face an incumbent Democrat and many GOPers believe it’s their turn after eight years of a Democrat in the White House.

Undoubtedly, some of the Republican “fringe” candidates hope the large field will split support and allow a less-known contender to gain traction and enough momentum to challenge the front runners: Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.  However, money will make that an uphill battle.

Big money and corporate interests pushed until the Supreme Court cracked and delivered the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010 which undid years of bipartisan work for campaign finance reform. The Supremes decided that corporate donors and faceless lobby groups had an equal constitutional right with voters to spend virtually limitless and anonymous money through interest groups to advocate for preferred candidates and to attack enemy candidates. It’s just that regular citizens don’t have access to limitless money. The ruling makes many races a contest between the best-funded demagogues.

Hillary Clinton, no stranger to big-time money raising or spending, is speaking out on the need to have a Supreme Court that does not equate money with free speech. Ms. Clinton announced, “I will do everything I can do to appoint Supreme Court justices who will protect the right to vote and not the right of billionaires to buy elections.”

Putting aside the propriety of a “litmus test” for candidates for the Supreme Court, it is refreshing that a candidate will take a stand and recognize that something needs to be done so that Supreme Court jurists have a judicial philosophy consonant with the legislative and executive branches of government.  The next president may appoint three new justices to the bench so this issue will be of vital importance.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, as a public service, issues an annual report that is supposed to reflect the extent of the liabilities accepted by the U.S. government to guarantee our financial system.  This system charges consumers 22 percent for their credit card debt and pays out one percent for deposits.

This is an industry that has paid billions in fines for unethical and illegal activities it pursued to bump up its profits. This month, five more banks pled guilty to conspire to rig foreign exchange rates and rip off customers. Those banks will pay $5 billion in fines. The Richmond report calculated that our collective liability to guarantee these corporate citizens is almost $26 trillion.
Meanwhile, New York City’s resources are being strained but not by hiring new police officers to make our streets safe. The mayor’s budget, announced on May 7, did not include money for more police officers despite increased tax revenues of $1.2 billion.

In 2001, the NYPD numbered 40,000 officers and today it is around 34,000. Mayor de Blasio argues that crime in the city is low and changes to police policy have led to fewer arrests and therefore less of a need for police officers.

The $78.3 billion budget included $100 million for homeless services and $409 million for his pre-kindergarten program. The spending — which is a 12 percent increase over Mayor Bloomberg’s 2013 budget — “may not be sustainable,” especially if there is an economic downturn, according to budget experts.


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