Sunday, July 28, 2019


The following letter appeared in this week's Gazette

To the editor:

To live in New York today is to be a witness to history, as our leaders continue to do their utmost to rend the social fabric beyond repair. The latest undermining was the July 17 official statement issued by Governor Cuomo, announcing litigation regarding the scheme to declare that property taxes and school taxes can be classified as charitable donations.

There is a legitimate argument for allowing full deductibility of local taxes from income taxed at the federal level; there is also an argument against it. There is also an argument that some states bear a disproportionate burden while other states get a disproportionate share of federal dollars. Saying that property taxes are a charitable donation is silly, but if our Governor chooses to spend our tax money on litigation to persuade a federal judge to the contrary, that is Mr. Cuomo’s right as Governor. But there is more going on here.

Since 2016, we have been assured not to worry as the awesome power of our government has been turned to dubious ends, because this is being done in service of the greater good. 

Our legislature in Albany recently passed bills of attainder; the type of thing our grade school teachers taught us were prohibited by the US Constitution. Next up in Albany is abolishing double jeopardy protection, but nobody will object since the target is Donald Trump. We hate Trump and much like Will Roper in A Man for All Seasons, we will cut down every law in New York to get at him.

What happens when it is not just Donald Trump? We are going to find out.

The official position of the State of New York as enunciated by our Chief Executive on July 17, 2019 is that a lawsuit has been filed by the state because “New Yorkers are being used as ATMs, footing an additional $15 billion each year that will be redistributed to red states and corporations.”

“Redistributed to red states.” Let that one sink in a moment.

The issue is not the level of federal taxation. It is not waste in the federal budget. It is not that tax money is going to build roads and aid disaster victims in “blue” states. Rather, the explicit objection of the Governor of this state is that federal money is being taken from Democrats and sent to states that elect Republicans.

Even by the low standards of our time, our Governor has managed to go lower.

We have fallen a long way from just 5 years ago, when The Atlantic (hardly a conservative magazine) explained that this idea of “giver” versus “taker” states is not so simple. As they pointed out, much of the reason for the flow of money is tied to the historic power of long-serving Democrat Senators and Congressmen back in the decades when the South was a solid Democrat bloc. That is the reason that military bases and other government installations are disproportionately located in the South. 

More relevant to Governor Cuomo’s repugnant perspective, much of the reason federal dollars continue to be “redistributed to red states” is because of anti-poverty programs such as SNAP. Colloquially known as “food stamps” that federal program puts food on the tables of our fellow citizens who are less fortunate than we are. It prevents infants and children from going hungry.

Would dollars “redistributed to red states” be ok with Governor Cuomo if only registered Democrats in those “red states” got food stamps? Is it necessary for states hit by a natural disaster to vote straight-line Democrat before FEMA will send in electric generators and tents? 

We are generous in seeking to welcome oppressed people from foreign lands with free healthcare and free education, but we balk at feeding starving children who have the misfortune to be born in parts of the United States that elect Republicans?

Since 2016 we have turned a blind eye to the destruction of a system of checks and balances constructed over 2 centuries. We have allowed due process to become an obsolete concept. We have labored under the impression that come November 2020 we can go to the polls and kick Evil Orange Boogeyman out of office. Come Inauguration Day, we believe we can put the toothpaste back in the tube. 

I am not so sure. Our nation is a community. If we destroy our nation because we want to evict one man from a house on Pennsylvania Avenue, who is going to suffer?

Children who are hungry are not colors on an electoral college map. Parents whose homes have been destroyed by flooding or earthquakes are not living in “red states” or “blue states.” They are living in the United States.

--Paul Steinberg, Croton-on-Hudson

1 comment:

  1. This was such a great letter. THANK YOU.

    Pat and Harry, two old Crotonites who are getting out of New York soon