A Phony Tax Cap Is Worse Than No Tax Cap At All
Not that it bothers those who are doing it, but it would certainly bother me to be in a situation in which other members of the community had to be deceived for me to avoid being despised. But those who have been getting richer over the past 20 years as everyone else has gotten poorer, as a result of their manipulation of our public and private institutions, have that sort of deception as their stock in trade. So the most likely outcome of the property tax cap debate is to enact a cap that is a fraud, so those who have been taking more and more in exchange for less and less can wail they had sacrificed, while they do nothing of the sort. Kind of like the “sacrifice” made by existing and retired public employees by agreeing to lower pay and benefits for future public employees, followed by the argument that all public employees should do a less good job because they are underpaid. Or the “sacrifice” of layoffs, which unions love, because they provide less in public services in exchange for the same or slightly more money, rather than the same public services in exchange for a lot more money. That is a sacrifice, in their view, compared with less in public services in exchange for a lot more money, which is what they have provided to New York City for the past four years.
The most likely fraud is the exclusion of pension costs from the cap. Public employee unions have secured, through a series of political deals whose cost was hidden from those who will become worse off to pay for them, a huge increase in their compensation. But it is in the form of a higher payment for more years not working, rather than in higher cash pay for working – which is both easier for the general public to see and might make public employees feel morally obligated to do a better job in exchange. The unions, and the politicians they control, want the property tax burden to go up two percent per year plus the cost of past pension deals, whenever those deals are admitted to, and future pension deals, eventually leading to the perfect contract of being paid in exchange for no public services at all.
The press is reporting that Governor Cuomo may agree to such a deal. That is yet another variation on the deal that is always offered – sell out the future of the state and all the insignificant people who live in it, to benefit the privileged interests that back our campaigns, and we’ll offer you a symbolic victory that enhances your political career. It’s the deal every member of the New York State legislature has taken. You can see the Republican Congress being paid off, as they work to stop financial regulation reform in order to get Wall Street funding.
Two politicians who might have been expected to say “no” to such deals were future President Bloomberg and future President Spitzer. And yet both signed off on a drastic pension enhancement for New York City teachers that came with a symbolic “merit pay” bonus program which has since disappeared. In exchange for the teacher’s union’s cooperation in their pretence of being on the side of the children, which neither they nor the UFT actually were. And just to complete the fleecing of Mayor Bloomberg, the UFT later reneged on the Bloomberg career enhancement part of the deal while keeping the extremely costly pension enrichment. That very deal is the very reason why we are facing a decline of over 11,000 working teachers over several years, including 6,000 this year, though no one involved wants to talk about it.
The fraud didn’t exactly seem to suit their political careers. Bloomberg for President is still out there somewhere, along with Spitzer for Mayor, but deals like that require cashing in before the victims are victimized, and neither man pulled it off. It’s kind of like trying to cash in stock options for executive massive pay after the stock market bubble imploded and the accounting frauds were exposed. Not that other people similar in values to the public employee unions didn’t get away with that one.
And now they are talking about Chris Christie for President after the imposition of a property tax cap that is full of loopholes – for pension and debts paid to the rich and powerful, not public services for the serfs. And some have mentioned Cuomo for President. Make a deal and be portrayed as the hero, for a while, Mr. Governor. Or call a spade a spade and go to your grave with your pride intact.
As for the pensions, consider this. When they can’t avoid talking about it, the unions claim that richer pensions attract more motivated and grateful employees, even though they also tell their members that they should not be either grateful or motivated. So even if it means wages freezes, layoffs, and far fewer workers, public agencies ought to be providing more public services because – including the cost of enriched retirement – they are getting more money. So the property tax cap shouldn’t be a problem.
After all, with the nation’s highest state and local tax burden as a share of personal income, the distribution of all that money – more to the retired here than elsewhere – is exactly what the public employee unions insisted on. So now they are morally obligated to deliver. And if they don’t, the media is shilling if it prints their wailing about “cuts” when in fact they are taking more money in exchange for what they are providing.
One more point. Beware Andrew. What will happen in 2014, as you run for re-election after crowing about your 2.0% property tax cap, when property taxes go up 10.0% because of the exceptions? The state legislature will laugh. The people will blame you. The proposal isn't exactly what I would propose, but it is better than a fraud as in New Jersey.
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