Larry Littlefield's blog
As I recall from high school Latin, “scrute” is trash, and the word scrutinize, from which it is derived, means to pick through the trash. Using data from the Governments Division of the Census Bureau, and the New York State and U.S. Departments of Labor, this essay will pick through the trash at the NYC Department of Sanitation to find out what kind of deal we are getting. That isn’t as easy as for, say, schools and policing, which are provided in every locality, because not everyone has public trash collection. But I did the best I can, and from what I can see, our deal stinks.
It's over 90 degrees as I sit here, and I'm thinking about energy, the environment, and leadership. If you read my prior post on the subject, you know that I believe leaders are those who can convince people to cooperate toward a common goal, trusting that their goodwill will not be abused by those who are just out for themselves. I said there was no leadership on energy.
We don't have air conditioning because in this climate, unless you have it and become dependent on it, you only really miss it a few days a year a few years a decade. And on those days, you are begged not to use it. With energy scarce and the environment only capable of holding so much carbon, with with so many billions living in multiple dwellings without cross ventilation, with so many people who are old and without health problems, I’ve decided air conditioning is one amenity we can live without. But somewhere in the west, I’m sure Dick Cheney, who considers conservation a “personal virtue,” has an air conditioned dog house.
In my prior post, I pointed out that although New York City’s poverty rate is 55% higher than the national average, its private, mostly non-profit employment in the Social Assistance sub-sector relative to population is 154% higher than the national average -- 2 ½ times that average. Yet, despite all these people hired, at first glance, to tend to their well being, advocates and analysts say the city’s poor are not well off compared with poor people elsewhere. Disaggregating 2004 annual average employment relative to population for this sub-sector into specific industries, on finds a complex picture that raises many issues, but let’s put the headline up front. Excluding one industry, one finds that New York City employment in the rest of the Social Assistance sector relative to population is just 54% higher than the national average, dead on what one would expect given the city’s higher poverty rate. On a net basis, therefore, that one industry can explain all the additional Social Assistance employment in excess of what one would expect given the city’s higher poverty rate. In that industry, New York City’s employment per 100,000 residents is seven times the national average, a greater disproportion than for just about any other sector. That industry is…
Is New York City the best place to be poor? If the measure of quality of life for the poor and troubled is the number of people hired to provide them with services, it certainly appears, at first glance, to be one of the best places. Or at least it should be.
In 2004, according to data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau attached to a prior post here, the City of New York employed 278 persons in “public welfare” agencies for every 100,000 residents. The national average was 93; the rest of New York State averaged 231 and New Jersey averaged 121. Much of the social service work in the city, however, is actually done by private, mostly non-profit agencies in the Social Assistance sub-sector which, according to the current industry classification system, “provide a wide variety of social assistance services directly to their clients.” According to covered employment (ES202) data for the second quarter of 2005, New York City had 1,857 people employed in this sub-sector for every 100,000 residents. The national average was 708; the rest of the New York State averaged 1,048 and New Jersey averaged 730.
As noted in my prior post, we are facing a slowly building economic crisis on energy, and we are facing it without leadership. But what would leadership on energy look like? And do I have a proposal? As it so happens, I do. The unfortunate fact about the demand for energy in the United States is that it is “inelastic” in the short run. Since we cannot start living in compact cities or throw away our energy-intensive homes and vehicles overnight (doing so would take a lot of energy), we consume nearly as much no matter how much it costs, desperately bidding against the rest of the world for the limited supply, sacrificing other aspects of our standard of living. In the long run, if we had had leadership, we would have made different choices over the past 20 years. In the long run, if we had leadership, we might make different choices over the next 20 years. In the short run, however, there is only one thing that suburban, auto-oriented America can do to substantially reduce its energy consumption – carpool on a large scale.
I am more concerned about the intermediate-term future of the U.S. economy today that I have been in nearly 20 years, since 1986 and 1987. At the end of the 1990s I knew the stock market was overvalued and heading for a fall, but felt that the underlying economy was sound. Now, despite the hard work of the American people and the innovation of American companies, we are vulnerable to a significant downturn in our standard of living.
Those of you who read my first posts on this blog may recall reading that from 1990 to 2005 local government employment fell in New York City while soaring in the rest of the New York State, with public school employment a particular growth sector outside the City. You may also recall that public school employment outside the city soared after the state implemented the STAR program, diverting even more of the state taxes paid by city residents away from the city’s schools, and in particular after the first ruling in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. It is almost as if the school districts elsewhere were rushing to establish “facts on the ground” that could not be taken away regardless of the needs of the city’s children or the burden on its taxpayers. Well, more recent data from the State Department of Labor shows that from June 2005 to June 2006, that process continues.
Most people agree that the NYPD has done a really good job. But with the contract for police officers now going to arbitration, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association wants us to think we’ve had a good deal. That isn’t necessarily so. In fact, we’ve paid a huge price for the level of police protection we have received, according to local government data from governments division of the U.S. Census Bureau – even if the police officers, on average, haven’t received a big paycheck.
In Fiscal 2004, this source reports, the City of New York spent $11.01 on police protection for every $1,000 of its residents’ personal income. The City, therefore, had to collect about 1.1% of our income in taxes to pay for it. The national average was $6.21 in police spending per $1,000 of personal income, requiring local taxes of about 0.6% of income. The rest of New York state, and New Jersey, were about average. For New York City residents, the NYPD costs one out of every $200 they earn MORE than they would have to pay if they lived elsewhere. And the city’s spending on correction, at $3.70 per $1,000 of personal income, was nearly double the national average as well.
Up in Albany, they are selling out our future to benefit narrow interest groups with one foot out the door. It is government by the insiders, of the insiders, for the insiders, the rest be damned. That is mostly what I write about on this blog (lots more to come when I get the time).
I've also been upset enough at some things Mayor Bloomberg has done to vote against him, after expecting to vote for him. And if Speaker Quinn decides the say "screw you" to the people of the city by revoking term limits, we'll she'll have black mark in my book forever. The federal government? Forget it.
Sorry, to those who are bored, to take my argument with Mr. Wonk to another post, but I think this is an important issue.
I believe the "free media" given to incumbent politicians during their terms, combined with a lack of similar attention to challengers (other than those with "interesting" backgrounds like KT), is in part responsible for the lack of competitive legislative and congressional elections. As responsible, if not more so, than imbalances in money and gerrymandering.
When I've had this discussion with journalists such as Ben Smith and Erik Engquist (the latter, unlike other news outlets, did write about my protest campaign for state assembly two years ago). Ben responded that it's a dilemma since you want to be evenhanded but you also don't want to waste the reader's time with something that is not significant -- like a challenger with no chance to win. Erik pointed out that you have to work to get the attention of reporters rather than just send literature and letters asking for an interview, as I did, and that there are other ways (community organizing, prior successes) to draw press attention.
Now that I know how to post spreadsheets here, why not go nuts?
I attached a spreadsheet on health care finance backing up my assertions on that subject in an earlier post.
I attached a spreadsheet of comparable fiscal 2004 local government finance data to my prior post on who the winners are in New York tax and spending priorities.
And, for comparison, attached here is more detailed information for FY 2002, for New York City, the Downstate Suburbs, Upstate Metros, the rest ofr New York State, New Jersey, the United States, and Fairfield County.
In addition, for the fun of it, I also attached on spreadhseet on comparative local goverment finance in several parts of California. I whipped this up to send out to Donna Frye, in lieu of donation, who was running for Mayor of San Diego. I hope she found it useful, but she lost. Would that we had a Donna and Skip Frye in New York.
New Yorkers who have been paying attention must wonder what to think about the interests that rule the roost in Albany. On one hand, you local doctor or hospital might do its best to make you well. On the other hand, despite getting far more taxpayer money here than elsewhere, the Greater New York Hospital Association and Local 1199 put out commercials threatening to kill our babies if there is any limit on their funding. On one hand, many NYC schoolteachers use their own money to buy school supplies. On the other hand, the UFT has as its top goal a retirement at age 55, not a better education for New York City’s children. Many city residents have friends and relatives in the suburbs or upstate who seem nice enough. But their representatives in Albany have created a reverse Robin Hood school aid system that may be the least just in the nation, all at the expense of New York City’s children. The members of the TWU rebuilt the transit system after the 1970s. But they went on strike to get an early retirement at age 50, the cost of which would re-create the 1970s, without ever thinking about their own situation relative to those who pay their salaries, most of whom have no pension at all. Your grandma seems nice. The AARP gets more health benefits for the seniors, without giving a damn about the uninsured, or what will be left (besides debt) for future generations when they get old. Your state legislator seems like a nice guy; the legislature is evil.
It is attached. To understand it, read the prior post with 2005 data.
Note that this much larger file provides local government data for every county in New York State.
That data isn't exactly comparable with to regional totals. How do you allocate the LIRR, which counts as "state data" but has been allocated to Downstate New York local government to make it comparable with NYC and the U.S., between Nassau and Suffolk for example. But it is pretty close. So you can adjust the formulas in the output tables for data for any set of counties you choose.
Isn’t technology wonderful? I’ve just finished compiling 2005 local government employment and payroll data from the U.S. Census Bureau, along with some relevant private-sector data, for New York City, the Rest of New York State, the U.S. average, and (well almost done) New Jersey. And, I’m told by the management that I can actually attach the spreadsheet to this post, available for you to download. I will attempt to do so, but if that doesn’t work you can still get it by e-mailing me at vampire-state (at) att.net. I’ll be writing about the implications of the numbers (which are very much like those in 2002, 2000, 1997, etc. etc.) in the coming weeks, but for now I’ll just provide them and explain how they are calculated.
As I was standing amidst the overflowing garbage on the boardwalk on Coney Island on July 4th, which the oft-downsized Parks Department can apparently no longer afford to pick up (the trash bins in Prospect Park were not emptied on Monday July 3rd either), and watching the police recruits, who will be replaced by those with so little ability that they cannot get a job for more than $25,000 per year, I wished more people were aware of the importance of the 2000 pension deal, which in an instant transferred $billions to retired and about to retire public employees from our then-future, now present. As long as the benefits for the insiders, and cost to the rest, are separated by a few years in time, most people do not notice the connection. They are vaguely dissatisfied, but they don’t understand why. The ongoing losses to our quality of life are “inevitable.” Now, it seems, more “inevitable” losses may be coming.