AN IMPORTANT LETTER FROM THIS WEEK'S GAZETTE--TESLA, CIMINELLI, AMAZON, PAY TO PLAY, YOUR TAXES AND MORE...
To the editor:
Westchester residents pay the highest property taxes in the most heavily-taxed state in the country, but that still is not enough. County Executive George Lattimer wants more of your money. After that, Lattimer will want still more. It never ends.
We might want to reconsider our tolerance of pay-to-play corruption and the cost it imposes on New York taxpayers. If we gave less money to corrupt businessmen there would be less political corruption and less need to raise taxes to fund corruption.
This week, Louis Ciminelli became the latest criminal sentenced to prison for his role in Mr. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” scandal. Carl Paladino is not the most pleasant person, but it turns out that he was correct in his assessment years ago of Andrew Cuomo’s pal Louis Ciminelli and the Albany pay-to-play schemes.
Ciminelli and his affiliates gave about $100,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign and in return got a contract for $26,250,000, with profits in excess of $1,000,000. Not a bad return on investment.
What is particularly disturbing is that the Cuomo administration drafted the official Request for Proposal in a manner to ensure that Ciminelli was the only person who could qualify. It was so blatant that it was modified out of fear that the RFP was too obviously corrupt. Cuomo gave Ciminelli the contract despite widespread allegations of Ciminelli corruption during the $1.3 billion Buffalo school district renovation contract.
The Ciminelli corruption in turn was part of the giveaway of our tax dollars to billionaire Elon Musk’s company. Tesla’s “RiverBend” solar tile factory in Buffalo is quite impressive from the outside, but it turns out that the inside is mostly empty: little actual work is being done, with few people employed.
Tesla got $750 million dollars from New York taxpayers for RiverBend. Elon Musk brags that the facility employs 600 New Yorkers. That means that we could have taken 600 people and given them each $1,250,000 instead of giving the money to Elon Musk.
The only people who have benefited from the taxpayer subsidies and handouts have been wealthy people like Mr. Ciminelli, Mr. Musk and—of course—Andrew Cuomo. In 8 years, Mr. Cuomo has raked in a national record of $100 million in campaign cash. Most of that has been from large donors: a mere 128 donors gave him $17 million.
Jeff Bezos is so wealthy he makes Elon Musk look destitute. So naturally the taxpayers of New York are now subsidizing Mr. Bezos. In fact your tax dollars are even subsidizing the construction of a heliport so that Mr. Bezos can fly high above us peasants.
Mr. Bezos is worth $150 billion, and Amazon has a market cap of around $870 billion. So why are New York State and NY City taxpayers giving billionaire Bezos an additional $3 billion? Not to mention the heliport. To Mr. Bezos, 3 billion dollars is a rounding error on his bank statement.
There was a time in the distant past when crony capitalism was reputedly a Republican practice. Now it is a proud plank of “progressive” New York Democrats, and a key element of the Party’s campaign fundraising. Boss Tweed would be in awe of Andrew Cuomo; unlike Tweed, Mr. Cuomo has managed to avoid prison.
There was a time when the Democratic Party stood up for working people being abused by fat-cat millionaires. Times have changed: Elon Musk's Fremont, California factory is notorious for not only being a hazardous workplace but also for silencing employees who are injured and refusing to call ambulances. Jeff Bezos is more sophisticated and when he is called out for the abuse and overwork of workers at Amazon facilities worldwide, Bezos says that the people being abused are employed by separate employment agencies and so Bezos is not responsible for what goes on in Amazon warehouses. Amazon is only slightly better than Tesla: in Allentown PA, so many workers were collapsing that Amazon finally paid to have ambulances stationed outside the warehouse. As workers collapsed, they would be taken away by paramedics and a new worker would take their place. But Amazon workers are still so strictly timed on bathroom breaks that some workers pee in bottles on the warehouse floor to avoid demerit “points” that would get them fired.
We should not be overlooking the workplace abuses of Tesla and Amazon, nor should we as New York taxpayers be subsidizing their billionaire CEOs. Just because Elon Musk is a hero of the green movement and Jeff Bezos is doing yeoman’s work bashing Trump each day in the Washington Post does not provide a rationale for giving billions of our tax dollars to 2 people who already have a combined worth of almost $200 billion.
There is no risk of Mr. Cuomo losing an election. So why this massive corruption? The list of campaign contributors and the list of government contract recipients and tax subsidy recipients has a significant overlap in New York. It is true that several of Mr. Cuomo’s money sources are either convicted or under indictment, but the pay-to-play machine continues to deliver taxpayer money in exchange for political contributions.
When our tax dollars are being used to build a helipad for a billionaire, we have entered a new age of political corruption. Even by New York standards.
When Mr. Lattimer demands that you fork over more of your hard-earned money, ask him why he doesn’t first tell his friend Andrew Cuomo to stop funneling our tax dollars to billionaire cronies who abuse working people.
--Paul Steinberg, Croton-on-Hudson