Category Archives: new york state budget

Comparative Public Education Finances in FY 2000 and FY 2020:  A Brief Review

As everyone who has gotten their information from New York’s local media over the past 20 years is aware, the New York City schools and its unionized teachers owe the children of New York City nothing, because the schools are underfunded and understaffed, and teachers unsupported by the rest of us, leading to large class sizes and teachers leaving for better jobs.  There is a constant stream of press releases to this effect, and no elected official seeking to maintain perpetual incumbency dares to contradict it.   And those seeking to advocate for more school funding or better conditions for teachers elsewhere would prefer that the New York City public schools not be discussed at all.

So, it has been left to this unpaid avocational blogger to tabulate and publish the readily available data released by the Census Bureau each year on how much New York City schools actually spend, compared with other places and with the past.  Since others are paid to not make this information available.

The past two years, years of pandemic, have been unusual and unrepresentative, and perhaps not relevant to any discussion of choices that have been made.  Therefore, I’m not going to go into the kind of detailed multi-post comparisons I did last year based on FY 2019 data, and two years before that based on FY 2017 data.  But perhaps a simple FY 2020 to FY 2000 comparison will be easier to digest.  A discussion of seven nine charts (sorry, can’t help myself), a correlation analysis, and spreadsheets with data for every school district in New York and New Jersey for FY 2020 and for FY 2000 (adjusted for inflation into $2020) follow.

Continue reading

DeBlasio and Cuomo Administration Management: A Review

Imagine it’s 10:30 am on a typical weekday during the school year.  At that time New York City is paying 211,843 members of the NYC teachers’ retirement system (or was a couple of years ago).  What are they doing?  If you made a pie chart, what would it look like?  How many are retired? (We know that, it was 88,507, or 41.8% of the total).  How many are out sick?  How many are in preparation periods?  How many are on break?  How many are in out of classroom assignments or administrative posts?  How many are on release time?  How many are on sabbatical?  How many are the second pedagogical employee in a classroom?  How many are doing not much useful because they are waiting for something from someone else, because of some disorganization that wasted their time?  And finally, how many are actually doing something useful with regard to the education and child care of children?

What if, instead of the pie chart being based on the number of people, it were based on the total cost of the NYCTRS members in each category – their cash pay or pension, their health benefits, their other benefits?  Now imagine the same charts being produced for all the other city and state agencies – police, sanitation, fire, transit, corrections, judiciary, parks, social services, hospitals, etc.  

Good management seeks to ensure that workers have the qualifications, motivation, training, tools, organization and scheduling to do useful work almost all the time they are being paid, and to limit the amount going to those not doing such work, to the extent possible.  So that the workdays fly by, and the maximum (or at least a fair) amount in services is produced for a given about of cost.  By that standard, how good was the management in the Cuomo and DeBlasio Administrations?  How fair is the deal the employees and contractors of the City and State of New York provide to other New Yorkers, compared with what public employees, retirees, contractors and their retirees expect to be provided with by private sector workers in exchange?  What would happen if an organization such as Consumers Union (Consumer Reports) were to examine the quality and value of public services provided by state and local governments the same way it looks at the goods and services provided by private corporations?  That is the topic of this post.

Continue reading

DeBlasio and Cuomo Administration Fiscal Policies: A Review

Have you seen all those ads from candidates for Governor?  I can’t seem to avoid them.  You turn the channel and you run into another one.  I’m here to tell you that if you are just a regular person living their life, what is said on the commercials doesn’t matter.  What matters is:

  1. Who paid for them?
  2. What, during the real campaign that takes place in secret, were they promised in exchange?
  3. How and when will you be made even worse off to pay for this?

I’m not in a position to answer those questions about the future.  The deals are secret, and stay under Omerta for eternity.  What we can do is see who the DeBlasio and Cuomo Administrations, with help from the state legislature and NYC council (always eager to cash in the future of the serfs) did in the past. At least to the extent that Comptrollers Stringer and DiNapoli didn’t completely fudge the data they reported to the Census Bureau, also in exchange for consideration, this post will attempt to find out.

Continue reading

The DeBlasio and Cuomo Administrations: A Review

A public chief executive has three jobs: policy, management, and leadership. With leadership being using one’s influence as a public figure, in competition with celebrities and marketing influencers, to change what people voluntarily do on their own, rather than what the government forces them to do or does for them.  For state and local government, the key policy is the budget — who is made to pay how much, and what it is spent on, compared with the past and compared with other places.  Management determines how much in services and benefits people actually get for that spending.

Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo spent much of their tenures feuding.  They would have you believe it was over policy and ideological differences.  I believe their primary ideology is careerism, the advancement of their own careers to higher office, and this made them rivals — and the rest of us and our futures pawns.  Perhaps that’s why both “President” DeBlasio and “President” Cuomo left office widely despised.  

But what did they actually do?  Even as we just had an election for Mayor, and are currently having an election for Governor, the media doesn’t seem to be talking about it, other than issues of the moment such as bail reform.

Most people can’t do it, but one ought to separate what the pols do from the broader situation. DeBlasio and Cuomo didn’t cause the opioid epidemic, the surge in homelessness, or the COVID-19 pandemic, or in Cuomo’s case, the long-term economic decline of Upstate New York.  But they didn’t cause the economic boom and soaring federal debt that allowed them to pander to every special interest group without completely screwing anyone else except transit riders and the later-born (until the future) either.  With regard to the budget, I’ve created some charts that make a fair and perhaps telling comparison.  This post will briefly describe what I plan to do, with additional posts making the comparisons to follow.

Continue reading

Home Health Care and Local Government — A Growing Burden on NYC’s Serfs

Not long ago, I read about therapists getting arrested for stealing from programs for developmentally disadvantaged children, overbilling and not providing the services for which they had been paid.

https://www.audacy.com/1010wins/news/local/9-nyc-therapists-stole-usd3-3m-from-child-development-program

While I can’t find it now, I distinctly remember one of the articles saying that the crew had paused their scheme for a while in 2014, after another group had been caught doing the same thing.  Were the federal authorities really going to do something about this?  (They don’t have to worry about the state authorities, as NY state politicians are pro-fraud at the expense of the serfs, in exchange for political support).  After a year or two, the scammers decided the answer was no and resumed their criminal activities.

Meanwhile, the federal government was also investigating home health agencies for defrauding Medicaid.  The investigation took place in 2020, and ended late that year.

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/10-defendants-arrested-home-health-aide-fraud-scheme

“Money that’s earmarked for Medicaid-approved services, and fraudulently paid out to those who don’t render these services, is a crime that’s ultimately paid for by taxpayers themselves. In this case, as we allege, there were even patients involved in the kickback scheme who were willing to play along with the no-show scam in order to earn a few extra bucks. With a nearly $5 billion increase in managed long-term care plan spending recorded over a recent six-year period, the money paid out to those charged today is no drop in the bucket.”

So, was there a pause in New York City’s stunning home health care boom?  And did that pause subsequently end?

Continue reading

Private Employment By State and Metro Area:  NYC Is Still in the Cellar, and It May Be About to Rain

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released re-benchmarked Current Employment Survey data last week, and the data shows that New York City is still trailing the rest of the country in recovering jobs lost during the COVID-19 shutdowns.  Only Hawaii is hurting as much, not surprising given that state’s dependence on the tourism industry.  The annual rebenchmarking process corrects the past employment data that was reported each month, based on the actual unemployment tax records of businesses.  Large-scale revisions are released each March.  Last year I found that New York City had lost more private jobs during 2020, the year of the COVID-19 shutdowns, than any other metro of significant size and (for those states without them) any state other than Hawaii.

And this year I find that NYC lags in recovering those lost jobs, with only Hawaii faring worse.  But NYC still has more private sector jobs than it had in any year prior to 2015, and there is a new positive trend in the Downstate Suburbs.

Continue reading

Medicaid by State and Age Group in FY 2019:  Curiouser and Curiouser

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid no longer provides state-level data on Medicaid expenditures and beneficiaries by age group, but it does provide state-level data on enrollment, expenditures, and expenditure per enrollee by “basis of eligibility.”  Spending per enrollee isn’t as good as spending per beneficiary in analyzing how much is being charged by the health care industry, because expenditure per enrollee is affected by the number of people enrolled who do not currently require expensive care.  And basis of eligibility is not as good as more detailed age groups, but it at least does provide separate data for children (under 18), non-disabled adults (18 to 64), seniors (65 and over), and disabled adults and children.  

When I looked at the per enrollee New York State data for FY 2019, however, I found it was reported to be far below the level of 2018, and even below the U.S. average for children and non-disabled adults.

Why?

Continue reading

Medicaid By State in 2020:  At Least Some of the Data Is Back

I once wrote a post on how New York’s Medicaid spending, by age and by type of service, compared with the national average and nearby states, every couple of years.  The “State Datamart” that allowed crosstabulations of the number of Medicaid beneficiaries and expenditures, by age and by type of service, disappeared after FY 2012, after fewer and fewer states had been included for several years.  That data had allowed expenditures per beneficiary, by age group and by service type, to be calculated for each state, and the number of beneficiaries in each age group to be compared with the total population in that age group, and the population in poverty in that age group, by state.

Today there is a different set of data that has been posted, and I plan to tabulate what is available and write a couple of posts.  The PDF report is here.

And the data is at http.//macpac.gov/macstats.

It isn’t what I was once able to get, but it is more than I’ve been able to find for many years.  A quick comparison of total Medicaid expenditures in 2020, as a percent of the personal income of residents of each state, and what it cost those residents in state and local taxes, follows.

Continue reading

Sold Out Futures by State:  The Sold Out Future Ranking For 2019

Over the past three posts I’ve documented how today’s and tomorrow’s Americans have had their future sold out and cashed in with regard to state and local government debts, inadequate past infrastructure capital construction, and retroactively increased and underfunded public employee pensions.  Over and above the generational inequities at the federal level in government, in the private sector, and even in many families.  Plus climate change, which some have claimed will be so bad I should stop worrying about other aspects of generational inequity.

These aren’t technical issues to be discussed one at a time, as if they were independent of each other.  They are a single ethical issue to be discussed and understood as a whole.  Look at any issue, any institutional decision in government, business and the professions, any social trend of the past 40 years, and examine how it has affected those in different generations – who benefitted, and at whose expense.  And you will find the same thing.  

That is why our society is in decline, something all those crazed about the tribalist cultural issues that consume out geriocratic politics apparently understand, and are desperate to find someone else to blame for.  The Sold Out Futures by state ranking, based on the state and local government part of it, is my contribution to the bigger story, one that remains under Omerta.  

Adding it up, on average today’s and tomorrow’s Americans have inherited a Sold Out Future due to past state and local government deals and non-decisions equal to 47.0% of their personal income in FY 2019.  That is virtually unchanged from the 47.1% I found when I did the same analysis for FY 2012, despite a much stronger economy and another asset price bubble.   

Unlike the other generational inequities in our society in the wake of Generation Greed (and more like the differences between families), the state and local government burden is not the same everywhere in the U.S.   It is greater or smaller depending on where you live.  It attaches to the people there now, unless they move away from it, and may eventually attach to each place’s real estate, since real estate cannot pick up and move.  This final post in the series will rank states, and New York City and the Rest of New York State separately, based on how sold out their futures are.

Continue reading

Sold Out Futures By State:  Public Employee Pensions from FY 1972 to FY 2019

Even another stock market bubble, in fact an everything bubble that has temporarily inflated the price of every asset to historically high levels relative to income, has not been enough to get the average U.S. public employee pension fund out of the hole.  But it has been enough to knock the public employee pension crisis out of the news, and give politicians an excuse to shift even more of the cost to the future.  As I showed here…

When asset prices bubble up, future investment returns are going to be lower.  If the bubble is big enough, future returns could be negative for decades, as they have been in aging countries like Japan, and countries that try to inflate away their debts like Argentina, two (hopefully but not necessarily extreme) versions of our own future.  Predicted future return returns should be reduced as asset prices rise, as ERISA requires private pension funds to do by tying future returns to current interest rates.  But in the public sector, which was exempted from ERISA, when asset prices bubble up public unions cut deals with the politicians they control to increase benefits in Blue States, and while anti-tax politicians slash pension contributions to cut taxes in Red States.  (Actually, they do both things in both types of state).  Then, when asset prices correct to normal, somehow it’s nobody’s fault.  Wall Street stole the money!, PBS Frontline claimed in an investigation of the problem.  That’s why nobody is talking about pensions now – that lie temporarily unavailable.  

Thus far the federal government, at great cost to ordinary people in disadvantaged later-born generations, has managed to keep paper asset prices – and housing prices – inflated, to benefit the rich and seniors.  Even so in FY 2019, despite sky-high asset prices and the passage of more than a decade since the problem was acknowledged (by some), my back-of-the-envelope estimate is that U.S. state and local government pension funds were $3.65 trillion in the hole, more than ever before.  A more sophisticated analysis by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, using the assumptions private pension funds are required to use, put the hole at $4.54 trillion in 2018.  But in which states is the problem the greatest?  Read on and find out.

Continue reading