Featured Posts


Okay; so I know we have two and a half years to go before the 2016 presidential elections; but I just wanted to get my two-cents in early. 

As of now, I am leaning towards supporting either Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT); or Republican Colin Powell; should any of them decide to run for the presidency.

Carriage Horse Controversy

Carriage Horse Controversy - Was The Mayor "Wishy-Washy"?

 This is a tough issue.  The horses must continue, but the abuse of them must stop.




Foster Care. Great Challenges do make great kids

The issue of Foster Care is real.  All of us have an obligation to do all we can to help. And Foster Care Agencies (Almost all of them) are to be commended for what they do.


Great challenges do make great kids.

Public Higher Education: 2012 Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data

Public higher education is generally a state government function, with local governments generally (and not always) responsible for community colleges. This brief post will compare the level of employment and payroll in different places for this function, using data from the 2012 Census of Governments. Higher education costs have exploded in recent decades, leaving a generation of former students deep in debt, but the reason is different for public colleges and universities than for private colleges and universities. In the private sector soaring amenities and rising staffing are primarily responsible. In the public sector, the cause of rising tuition is reduced tax-based support. Virtually nothing, except housing programs for low- and moderate-income people, has been cut as much in recent years as public higher education.

New York State is radically different than other states regarding public higher education, and public higher education is treated radically differently than other public services in New York State. The public employee unions dominate state and local government in New York the way the wealthy dominate the federal government, and the state legislature generally seeks to get the general public to pay more for less. Compared with other states, however, New York has squeezed public higher education workers to try to keep tuition down for students. Even in public higher education and even in New York State, however, one surprising fact has always bothered me. The number of full time equivalent non-instructional workers exceeds the number of full time equivalent instructional workers (ie. the professors). The charts and further commentary may be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

Public Schools: 2012 Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data

According to the Census of Governments, public elementary and secondary school employment and payroll per employee in the portion of New York State outside New York City, which was already pretty high compared with the national average in 1992, got much higher over the 20 years to follow. In New York City instructional (ie. teachers) employment is somewhat above the U.S. average with non-instructional payroll far below, as has been the case for 20 years. In 2012 New York City’s instructional payroll per employee was above the U.S. average by about the amount one might have expected, given the higher average was for typical workers in the Downstate private sector. However New York City’s instructional payroll per employee had been much lower compared with the U.S. average, considering the local cost of living and typical private sector pay level, in the past. In the rest of New York State average pay was high and is getting higher. These and other trends are shown in a series of charts on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

Overview of Public Employment and Payroll Data: NY & NJ vs. the U.S.

I've written a post with a series of charts on the data I put up last weekend. It is the first of a series of posts. Since I don't know how to embed charts here, you'll have to read the post on "Saying the Unsaid in New York."

The Gateway (March 2014 Edition)

Like Puxatony Phil in February, it’s once again time for me to come out of my lair and do a little punditry before going back into hiding.


MARCH 1, 2014:

Census of Governments Public Employment Data: Comparative Data for NY, NJ, and the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a Census of Governments every five years, and a month ago released data on state and local government public employment and payroll across the nation for the 2012 census. The raw data may be found here.

I have spent much of my spare time over the past month, nearly 80 hours in all, putting the data in spreadsheets to make it readily and reasonably comparable across places. I have worked with data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau for nearly 25 years: the source of my expertise (and past data) may be found here.

In my compilation local government employment (full time equivalent) is shown per 100,000 residents for each government function (education, police, parks), for every county in New York State and New Jersey, regions of New York State, the U.S. average, and selected other states and counties around the country. The data by county is for all local governments in each county, and is from the Bureau’s “County Area” files. Spreadsheets are included for 1992, 2002, and the most recent Census of Governments, in 2012 – years I consider to be reasonably comparable with regard to the overall economy. The monthly payroll data is per full time equivalent worker, as a percent above or below the U.S. average. Related private sector data is also included, to put these numbers in perspective.

I intend to write a series of posts complete with charts, organized by government function, comparing New York City’s local government employment and payroll with other places, over the next few weeks. But I am putting the spreadsheets and tables out now for anyone to use, including those seeking to write about other areas. Links to the spreadsheets, and an explanation of how I compiled them and what the show, may be found here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

One Barrier To Affordable Housing

ou hear a lot of untruths about unaffordable housing in New York. Developers say NYC housing is unaffordable because they don’t get to do whatever they want. Despite some of the most liberal zoning in the country, tax breaks (instead of infrastructure assessments) for new buildings, and massive upzonings near transit stops in the last administration. Those who run public housing programs say the problem is not enough government spending on housing and not enough government regulation. Even though New York CIty has spent more than anyplace in the U.S on housing, to the detriment of other things, and is one of the few places in the country with rent regulations.

Another thing that’s been said from time to time is housing is unaffordable because New York CIty does not allow wood frame apartment buildings in the “fire district,” which includes every borough except Staten Island. Unlike places with cheaper housing, such as Houston. Next time developers bring up Houston, remember this “luxury apartment” fire. I seem to have a different idea than would be Houston renters as to what constitutes “luxury.”



Another Brooklyn political story: the sad parts of "the only game in town"

Many of my faithful readers know that I often refer to politics as “the only game in town”. By now, some will deduce my reasoning behind this statement, while others will probably remain guessing. Using figurative language is one thing, using metaphors and analogies is another; but the reality still is that political involvement means dealing with real people and tangible challenges: and that should automatically be the good parts to politics. And yet -too often in my regard- political involvement can lead to some really sad outcomes.

BLS Local Government Employment Data 1990 to 2013

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released annual average employment data for 2013, along with rebenchmarked data for that year and the years preceding. I’ve downloaded some of the data to review trends in local government and other employment, from 1990 (the earliest year now available) to last year, for New York City and the Rest of New York State. The data show that local government employment was 23,400 (5.0%) lower in New York City in 2013 than it had been in 1990. In the rest of the state, in contrast, local government employment was 79,800 (14.6%) higher. With regard to the private sector workers that have to pay taxes to support public employees, on the other hand, if one excludes the Health Care and Social Assistance sector (which is substantially government funded) New York City had 226,100 more in 2013 than it had in 1990. The rest of New York State had 2,900 (0.1%) fewer private sector workers in 2013 than in 1990, the Health Care and Social Assistance sector aside.

While those are the changes from 1990 to 2013, however, there was a big break in the direction of things from 2009 to 2013, as compared with 1990 to 2009. The rest of the state, coming off the Great Recession lows, has been adding private sector jobs, while local government has been losing jobs. More commentary, the data and some charts may be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

Taxing the Sick: The State Assembly Plan to Tax Pharmaceuticals

Look I know that "medical marijuana" is for many a Trojan Horse, and the real goal is to legalize marijuana use for the purpose of getting high. And as a means to raise revenues to be redistributed to those who control the New York State legislature. That is, after all, where the lottery money eventually went.

Even so, I can't help but note the hypocrisy of putting a 10% tax on "medical marijuana" in the State Assembly budget, as reported by Crain's. Are not healing drugs for sick people exempt from sales taxes in this state? If so there should be no additional revenues if the marijuana is "medical." In fact, unless more people spent more time getting high, there could be less revenue as highly taxed alcohol users switch to tax-exempt pot. (The same may be said for legalizing wine in food stores -- no additional drinking, no additional revenues).

Debt and Inequality Go Together: Rising Debt Is the Cause of Rising Inequality

As a German economist once pointed out, while any individual business can increase its profits (and thus executive pay, if shareholders are powerless) by paying its workers less, businesses in general must turn around and sell things to those same workers to make money. As inequality rises what they gain in the labor market they lose in the consumer market, as they must cut prices to make sales or see their sales fall. The same may be said of trade – country A can only sell goods and services to country B if country B has the money to pay for it, from selling to country A or someone else. For these reasons, debt and inequality go together. Debt allows businesses to pay workers less and yet sell them more, and countries with trade surpluses to sell to countries with trade deficits. And so it has been in the United States.

The Federal Reserve released the latest data on U.S. debts, for 2013, last week. Charts, a spreadsheet and related commentary may be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

Gatemouth Gets His Irish Up

I’d like to thank the current Czar of Russia for making my job here a lot easier by proving the point that any celebration of nationalism is inherently politically, which makes discussions of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade so much easier by shoveling off from the conversation a large layer of bovine-related excrement.