Category Archives: new york state legislature corruption, dean skelos, sheldon silver

Overview of State and Local Government Expenditures: 2017 Census of Governments Data

In FY 2017, according to data from the Census of Governments, U.S. states directly spent, on average, $85.41 per $1,000 of the personal income of all U.S. residents, or $87.76 if unemployment insurance and worker compensation payments are included.   Spending by local governments equaled $110.85 per $1,000 of personal income.  This spending was funded by state and local taxes, charges for services, aid from the federal government, as described in the prior two posts, and money borrowed.  Taken together, state and local government spending equaled $198.71 per $1,000 of personal income, or 19.9% of the income (including fringe benefit income) of everyone living in the United States. That is about one dollar in five to/from the government, not including money the federal government directly spends rather than passes on to the states.

The State of New York directly spent $86.36 per $1,000 of the personal income of New York State residents’ personal income, or $89.28 including unemployment insurance and worker compensation payments.   Local governments in New York City spent $181.24 per $1,000 of city residents’ personal income, and local governments in the rest of New York State spent $129.20 per $1,000 or the income of people living there.   Assuming the burden of State of New York expenditures was distributed between the two areas in proportion to personal income, that is $270.52 per $1,000 of personal income spent for New York City, and $218.48 per $1,000 of personal income for the rest of the state.  Or 27.1% and 21.8% of personal income, respectively.

The rest of this post will summarize the government functions this money was spent on.   Posts on individual government functions, with comparisons over time and across the country, will follow.

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Annual Average CES Employment Data for 2019: Before the Coronavirus New York Had A Growing Budget Crisis Despite A Massive Boom

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released rebenchmarked Current Employment Survey data, with 2019 annual average data (the average of all 12 months), last week.  While it seems as if it were ancient history, it is worth looking at this data now, because it shows how New York State benefitted from a massive employment boom from the peak of the prior economic upturn in 2008 to what seems certain to be the peak of the expansion that just ended in 2019.  An employment boom that dwarfed the increase from 2000 to 2008, and exceeded the U.S. average in percent gains, even though New York is a slow population growth state.  A boom that was concentrated in New York City.

And yet by the end of 2019 the City of New York, the State of New York, and the MTA were already facing budget crises.  Service cuts, tax increases, fee increases and deferred maintenance to the point of a future drastic infrastructure decline were already on the table.  And now, no doubt our elected officials and the special interests they represent will use the coronavirus and an excuse for all of the above.  They should not be allowed to get away with it.  Just as the business crisis was caused not by the virus, but rather by all the debts businesses piled up to pump up stock prices and executive pay, as everyone across the ideological spectrum seems to be saying (the subject of my prior post).  So the fiscal crisis was coming one way or the other, due to similar heists over the past 25 years.

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Medicare, For All, and the Coronavirus

Last year, I wrote a couple of posts asserting, on both economic and equity grounds, that the federal payroll tax, which funds Medicare and Social Security, should be repealed and replaced by a value added tax (VAT) for the same purposes.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/a-value-added-tax-would-be-far-more-fair-than-the-payroll-tax/

Since I tend to put a great deal of information into each post, some may not have read, or might have forgotten, what I wrote at the end of that one.

In fact, I would go further than just having the VAT replace the payroll tax for Social Security.  I would increase the level of exemptions from the federal income tax to the point where only the affluent even have to bother with it, and use the VAT to pay for all federal programs intended to improve the public welfare.  Including food stamps, Medicare, Obamacare, etc.

Furthermore, although the Democratic Party-controlling public employee unions, the rich, and the Republican-voting generations now benefitting from Medicare, are all opposed to a single, equal federal system to provide for everyone’s health care.  On “I’ve got mine jack and am not willing to have others get the same benefits” grounds.  Perhaps a VAT could at least provide the additional revenues required to pay for everyone to have basic preventive health care, for the prevention and treatment of infectious disease (which threatens everyone, not just the sick person), and for the health care of children.

These types of health care provide broader social benefits, not just benefits for the individual beneficiary, and have a high level of bang for the buck.  That is why 100 years ago these types of health care were imposed on the poor by the better off whether they wanted them or not – recall “Typhoid Mary” — to protect the rich from the spread of disease and ensure healthy workers. It is these basics that have been neglected in the U.S., which is why our average life expectancy is lower than other counties despite such high health care spending.

And now here we are, facing a disease that — if it infects the young and poor — could spread to, and kill, the rich, retired public employees and those with seniority, and the old in general.  Our society is about to get audited.  Anyone in the mood to revisit that suggestion?

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The Sold Out Future By State Analysis Reprised

About a year ago I published an analysis based on U.S. Census Bureau government finances data, for all states and all available years from 1972 to 2016, that showed the extent to which each state’s future (with New York City and the rest of NY State analyzed separately, and the District of Columbia also included) has been sold out. Sold out by past decisions, non-decisions, deals and favors with regard to state and local government debt, past infrastructure investment, and under funded and/or retroactively increased public employee pensions.  The analysis was well received, and best of all many people downloaded the spreadsheet with all the data for all 50 states, all the tables, and almost all of the charts.  I always put up a post encouraging people to download the spreadsheets, look at the data themselves, and make up their own minds before reading my subsequent posts and getting my take on it. Generally people had downloaded charts, but not spreadsheets.  Last year that changed.

What I had forgotten last year, however, but have since remembered, is the multi-step process needed to put readable tables, in JPEG format, into the posts on WordPress.   So this year I added the tables to the posts I just completed on state and local government employment and payroll data from the 2017 Census of Governments, and I found that many people had downloaded them.  I don’t know why some people might prefer pictures of numbers to actual numbers, but apparently some people do.  So I plan to rectify last year’s omission of tables – except for people who downloaded the spreadsheet — from the Sold Out Futures posts with a brief reprise.   The data shows that while the blame for our sold out future is widely shared, New York City’s past taxpayers are the most the most blameless in the entire United States.  And New York City’s public employee unions and contractors have been the most unfair to other city residents.  And nowhere else is even close.

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Bureaucracy: 2017 Census of Governments Employment & Payroll Data

This post will complete my series on different government functions based on employment and payroll data from the Census of Governments, for March 2017 and previous years. It includes data for the kind of general government and legal workers one might generally expect to find hanging around in city and town halls, and county seats and courthouses, reviewing applications, keeping records, handling cases and doing inspections, rather than providing services.  At the local government level the functions included are, as delineated by the U.S. Census Bureau, Health, Financial Administration, Other Local Government Administration, Judicial and Legal, and Other and Unallocable. At the state level there are two additional functions:  Social Insurance Administration, basically state Departments of Labor, and “Other Education,” which includes oversight agencies such as the New York State Department of Education and Board of Regents.

For decades I’ve been making the case that for public employment and expenditures alike there is not much to see here. New York State is about average when you add everything up, and no part of the state is really out of line. Today, however, things have changed enough in one part of the state that this time around I don’t feel that to be true anymore.

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Hospitals, Social Services, and Housing: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

Health care vies with elementary and secondary education as the largest destination for federal and state government spending.  In fact, when I added it up in 2006 the federal, state and local governments were already paying for 75.0% to 80.0% of third party (insurance and public program) health care expenditures nationwide, which is to say expenditures other than co-payments and services people pay for themselves in cash (such as cosmetic surgery).  Directly (Medicare, Medicaid, the VA Hospital system) or indirectly (health insurance purchased on behalf of civilian public employees and their families, the exclusion of employer funded health insurance from taxable income, other tax breaks).

Socialized Medicine? Get Real, It’s Already Here

Since then the population has aged, leading to more Medicare and Medicaid spending, Medicaid has been expanded to more working people, and Obamacare has added another form of indirect federal support for private health insurance.  For all the discussion of “socialized medicine,” here in the U.S. the government share of third party health care expenditures is probably up to 85.0% or so, and as a percent of GDP it probably exceeds the cost of the entire health care system in developed countries.

Health care and social services, however, are provided by the government primarily through payments to private sector organizations, generally non-profits in New York City and throughout the Northeast.  Therefore in this, the fifth post based on my tabulation of state and local government employment and payroll data from the 2017 Census of Governments, data on related private sector organizations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will take center stage.   And this analysis features the most shocking trend I have found so far.

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It Would Seem That Somebody Doesn’t Like NYC Public Finance Charts

About a month ago, I went to post a comment on an article on the NYC blog Gothamist, which is owned by WNYC (to which we have contributed for decades), and found that I had been banned from commenting.

At about the same time, I sought to comment on an article on the NYC education blog Chalkbeat, and found that the same thing had happened.

Some other funky things started happening to some other comments I made elsewhere at about the same time.  I wrote to each of these sites to ask why I was banned, no so much out of disappointment, but out of curiosity.  Neither responded.  So I am left to look at my last comments on each site, which they deleted from their sites but cannot be deleted from my disqus account, to try to figure out the actual reason.

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