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How I Got the Pollsters To Leave Me Alone

I found that saying I'm not a Democrat or Republican makes them go away.

Farewell Little Solider

Should I Write About the Candidates for Mayor?

It sure has gotten quiet here on Room Eight. Perhaps those who once posted here regularly have spoken their piece after seven years. Perhaps they’ve decided to clam up because they are hoping for a job in the next administration, and don’t want to tick anybody off. Perhaps it’s hard to come home to a hobby that involves typing and calculating when your job is the same.

While waiting for the next spark of inspiration, I’ve been wresting with the question in the title. I don’t know the candidates for Mayor, and they don’t know me. The press coverage has been vacuous, the “policy statements” not much better. Neither get to the core of the question – when push comes to shove, who will be asked to make what sacrifices when, and why, and for what goals? When I’ve written about something publicly, I’ve known what I was talking about. I could be wrong, but it don’t consider it likely. With regard to the candidates for Mayor, what I have is impressions – things that have been said or done that stuck with me as indicative of broader values. Because for me that’s what it’s about – values. Not celebrity or personality or which tribe gets to suck out more or put in less at the expense of the other tribes, and the common future. Does it make sense for me to put forth my limited knowledge for the benefit of those who know even less? Or better to keep my mouth shut?


TODAY WAS A HISTORIC DAY FOR THE MINORITY BUSINESS COMMUNITY OF NEW YORK! The New York Real Estate Chamber (NYREC) had its "coming out party" today in a big way, by hosting four high profile economic development forums, featuring the candidates of the mayoral, comptroller, Manhattan borough president and Queens borough president races.

The Generation Greed Political Class Doesn't Understand Life Among the Serfs

"Speaking of rabbit years, Councilman Lew Fidler thoroughly disapproves of Time Warner Cable’s CBS blackout. “Shame on all of you,” he declared at a recent hearing. “There is something wrong with all of you … Every time I want to watch The Big Bang Theory I have to put 50 cents into the pot? … No one has rabbit ears anymore!”

Actually, I've never been willing to spring for paid TV. Same with quite a few people I know. And Brooklyn has traditionally been the urban county where paid TV had the lowest percentage of the market. But that may have changed, because younger generations, who are poorer, are skipping cable TV (and auto ownership and homeownership) in droves to try to offset the economic and fiscal hand they've been dealt by Generation Greed. I guess you can’t expect those in politics, who are mostly in Generation Greed or insulated from the situation of those coming after, to get that.

Anthony Weiner: Delusional or Maybe He Knows Something We Don't?

Flabbergasted after yet another former sexting partner for Anthony Weiner has gone public recently, "his campaign is on life support" was perhaps the most sympathetic and honest assessment I could initially offer on televisio

Anthony Weiner: Delusional or Maybe He Knows Something We Don't?

Flabbergasted after yet another former sexting partner for Anthony Weiner has gone public recently, "his campaign is on life support" was perhaps the most sympathetic and honest assessment I could initially offer on televisio

Local Government Expenditures in FY 2011

One of the big issues in the current Mayoral race is how high the raises will be for New York City’s unionized public employees. They have not agreed with the Bloomberg Administration on a contract for years, and despite the fact that most city residents have also faced falling wages relative to inflation, the income gains of those at the top had been strong enough that the wages and salaries of New York City’s local government employees fell from 7.1% of the total personal income of all city residents in FY 2004 to 6.6% of that income in FY 2011. In addition to the wage freeze, there are also fewer city workers producing fewer services, and more work contracted out to businesses rather than being done by public employees.

There is, of course, another side to this. Local government taxpayer pension contributions increased from about 0.8% of the personal income of city residents in FY 2004 to 2.0% of city residents’ income in FY 2011. Many city residents are probably now putting aside more for the retirement of public employees, in taxes, than they are putting aside for their own retirements. Taking salaries and wages and pension contributions combined, city residents were already paying more of their incomes for public employees in FY 2011 than they had been in FY 2004, and other benefits such as employer-funded health insurance – generally tabulated separately under “other” in this dataset – presumably shifted from those providing services to those no longer expected to do so as well. As a result, the city’s “direct” spending on most public services, not including pensions and debt service, fell somewhat as a share of NYC residents’ personal incomes from FY 2004 to F2011, despite a higher state and local tax burden. So did aid to the poor. These trends and others are examined in more detail here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

Local Government Revenues in FY 2011

The big job in tracking state and local government using data from the U.S. Census Bureau is making adjustments so that the comparisons between places and with the U.S. average are meaningful. One should to adjust, to the extent possible, for the varying structure of local government in different places, the division between state and local responsibilities, the amount of services contracted out, and the differences in the local cost of living and the ability of taxpayers to pay. One should also try to use comparable years, so the effects of booms and busts on the local tax base and social service costs can be excluded from the comparison. For a reasonable comparison with FY 2011, a year when most of the country was struggling to exit a recession but Wall Street and the rich were helped by cheap money and a related stock market –re-bubble, I have chosen the similar year of FY 2004.

Once all these adjustments are made, however, what is surprising is how slowly, and how little, things change. The big change in New York City is higher taxes, and higher taxpayer pension contributions. A spreadsheet with the data, and a discussion of what it shows on the revenue side, is here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.” A subsequent post will cover expenditures.

The State and Local Tax Burden: FY 2011

I received an e-mail from the Census Bureau, and found that its tabulation of state and local government finance data for FY 2011 has been released sooner than I had expected. This will provide one more look before the Mayoral/City Council election at how New York City’s taxes and other revenues by type, spending by type and function, debts and pensions compare with the rest of New York State, New Jersey, and the national average, and how this has changed since the last pre-Bloomberg budget in FY 2002. All normalized, as best as possible, for the differences between state and local responsibilities in different places, and the relative cost of living and ability of taxpayers to pay. Just to get to the point where I have a spreadsheet, and can begin thinking about what it means and what to say about it, took me seven hours work this weekend. It would be nice of someone actually on the public payroll were to do this sort of work instead.

Before moving on to the main spreadsheet, I’ve done a quick compilation of the state and local government tax burden for the U.S, every state, New York City and the rest of New York State (by subtraction). The tax burden is measured as a share of the total personal income of all the residents of each state/area, which adjusts for both the relative cost of living and relative ability to pay. The spreadsheet and a discussion of what it shows are here on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”

A P (For Pandora) From The Pod

Every once in a while there comes a column by a purportedly reputable opinion writer which is such a monumental pile of intellectual dishonesty or unadulterated ignorance (if not both) that it deserves special notice.

It's time for Anthony Weiner to pull out (yes: pun deliberately intended)

Look, I don't want to get too deep here. There is no need for all that. Things are both simple and elementary. The stuff this column purports to be about is truly self-explanatory.

The New War on the Working Poor

Politicians thrive on the combination of hypocrisy and amnesia, but some of us remember what was going on 20 years ago. Back than America’s economic problems, its social problems, its government fiscal problems, were being blamed exclusively on the dependent poor, particularly Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and other poor people living in America’s older cities. That’s where all the money was going, we were told, in a decade-long propaganda campaign. And in a massive anti-welfare crusade, the programs and benefits for such people were cut across the country, and spending on them fell dramatically.

One of the arguments was fairness. What about the working poor? And sure enough, as many of the welfare dependent found jobs, money was shifted to the other American welfare system, the one for people who work. This includes the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), unemployment when you lose your job, food stamps if it doesn’t pay enough to get by, and disability insurance if your health or other problems mean (given the state of the labor market) no one wants to hire you. At one time this was thought of as a good thing. But now, as the country goes bankrupt as a result of the debts run up by Generation Greed and the promises it has made to itself but was unwilling to pay for, there is a new war on the working poor. An attempt to blame American’s economic, social and fiscal problems on, and find solutions that shift the sacrifices to, the sorts of people that bought into resentment of the dependent poor 20 years ago. Suckers.

The Gateway (Patrick Mc-Goo-Hand Edition)

There's a man who leads a life of danger.
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger.