Category Archives: Uncategorized

NYC Sanitation: Stop Trying, Stop Lying, Pursue Alternatives

As you can read at the end of this post on infrastructure employment and payroll, based on the 2017 Census of Governments…

The mean earnings (including benefits) of metro New York private sector workers (including the self-employed, excluding Wall Street) was 21.4% above the U.S. average in 2017.  As of March 2017, however, the mean payroll per NYC FTE local government Solid Waste Management worker was 73.0% above the U.S. average.   Multiplied by 12 it equaled $92,912 per FTE, well above (for example) the mean payroll per private sector worker in the NY metro area Construction sector.

Well, OK.  Picking up the trash is a tough job, and New Yorkers might want their neighbors to be well paid for doing it.  

But the NYC Department of Sanitation also had four times as many employees per 100,000 residents as the U.S. average, even though NYC’s private solid waste collection employment was nearly at the U.S. average by the same measure.  Meaning the average NYC sanitation worker is not only better paid than the vast majority of NYC’s workers, but also doing much less work than the average sanitation worker in the U.S.

I’ve tried to come up with some explanation for this, other than New Yorkers once again being ripped off by those working the system, for what now amounts to decades.  Does the number employed on street sweepers explain the difference?  Nope, not nearly enough of them. How about the fact that NYC staffs its own landfills?  Not anymore, they are closed.

Now I have a new possible explanation – and a new proposed solution.  One can find it in the title.

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There and Here, Generation Greed Wants Everything but Refuses to Pay For Anything

Who, in a decade or two, will want the job of changing former President Donald Trump’s diapers, and who will have to pay for it?  

As I’ve said for years, The Donald is THE MAN of his generation.  A generation that came to interpret freedom as freedom from responsibility, to a greater extent than the generations before or after.  For those on the so-called “right,” it was freedom from social responsibility — to the community through paying taxes, to the planet by conserving natural resources, and even, it turns out, to those around them by wearing masks and getting vaccinated.  For those in the so-called “left” it was freedom from personal responsibility, to family members, or non-family progeny, when personal fulfillment, or sexual gratification, or just wanting to get high made that responsibility burdensome.  That has been the story, but not the fact.  In reality Trump, like the majority of his generation, was against any responsibility at all, social or personal.  Eventually, however, he and those of his generation will age to the point where they require custodial care, care that is either hugely expensive or personally draining to provide.  To be provided and paid for by whom?

I bring this up again because it would appear that in the UK, the generation that demanded lower taxes on itself is now demanding additional old age care for itself, paid for exclusively by the less well of generations to follow. Generations already on the wrong end of slashing social benefits for children, while putting a triple lock on a guarantee of benefits for aging adults.  Thus continuing to align Generation Greed’s economic, social and political choices with what, at least here in the United States, have been the personal and family choices of many, if not most.  All while engaging in a culture war to distract attention from what they, collectively, have done.  But there, unlike here in the U.S., generational inequities are at least talked about.

If you happen to be a comedy writer or comedic playwright, hold that thought about Trump’s last days.  I’ll have a suggestion for you at the end of this post, one that could bring 40 years of economic and social trends home to the later-born in a way that perhaps lots of boring data and analysis that you’ll have to get through first does not.

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“Affordable” Phonies Make Life Unaffordable for the Serfs

According to Merriam Webster online, affordable means able to be afforded: having a cost that is not too high.  And among New York’s Democrats and progressives there is always talk of having government policies make something affordable:  affordable education, affordable health care, affordable housing, affordable transportation, etc.  And yet observing 40 years of public policy in New York, I can think of only a handful of examples of policies that have actually made life, or a better life, less costly for the public at large.

When one examines the totality of public policies enacted in so-called Blue States, you see that the goal actually seems to be to make many things more expensive.  

Sometimes for reasons I agree with.  A developed country (and I’m not sure ours is) shouldn’t be making goods and services more affordable in the short run by making them more expensive, more dangerous, or more misery-inducing for the community as a whole, in the long run.  That’s what the builders of the “affordable” Surfside condo in Florida did by cheaping out on the building structure.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-the-florida-condo-collapse-rampant-corner-cutting-11629816205?mod=trending_now_news_1

But mostly for reasons that would be impossible to justify if openly admitted.  To make some workers — those who work for the government, or are paid funded by government programs — richer compared other similar workers, at the expense of making those other similar workers pay more and become poorer.  And to make it more expensive to live in politically influential “liberal” communities, ensuring the less well off, their burdens and troubles, will be somewhere else.  The result is hypocrisy.

When Democrats and progressives say “affordable” what they really mean is “subsidized.”  Part of the cost is paid for by someone else, so it seems to be more affordable.  But since fiscal resources are not unlimited, even in New York City where we have the highest state and local tax burden and the most debt, the subsidies for “affordable” health care, education, transportation, housing etc. only end up going to the fortune few.  And many if not most of those few often turn out to be among those were already fortunate.  For the rest, somebody has to pay after all.  Often those who are already burdened by policies to make things more expensive – policies that lead to the need for subsidies to begin with.

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DeBlasio’s Last New York City Budget: He Predicts Even More Inequality and Gentrification, or Else NYC is Toast, Because Those Cashing in And Moving Out Will Take More Off the Top No Matter What

Mayor Bill DeBlasio released his last budget recently, and it assumes that pre-pandemic trends will continue.  The rich will continue to get richer and the stock market bubble will continue to inflate, thanks to the federal government doing whatever it takes, regardless of the long-term cost, to prevent asset prices from going down.  Despite higher and higher taxes, the rich will stay in New York City and just keep paying.  So will hundreds of thousands of young adults, who will continue to live in less and less space for higher and higher rents and accept higher taxes, fees and fares and diminished public services, including crowding and unreliable service on the subways no elected official is in charge of.  More and more economic activity and educated workers will be concentrated in New York City compared with the suburbs, and in metro New York compared with the rest of the country.

All this will offset the extent to which DeBlasio’s (and all the other NY politicians) public union and contractor supporters will continue to get richer and richer, compared with other workers.   Other workers whose lower pay will keep the cost of living down for public workers and retirees, as the overall inflation rate remains below the long-term trend.  Based on these assumptions, the total city budget will grow more slowly than the total personal income of NYC residents over the long term.  Even if the average New Yorker continues to become worse off, because there will be more and more working adults.

But if that is what has happened, and will continue to happen, then why have NY’s state and local taxes been increased, over and over, and risen as a percent of personal income?  Instead of falling.  Why are debts continually increasing, and with interest payments rising as a share of city residents’ personal income despite rock bottom interest rates (also assumed to be permanent)?   Instead of debts being paid down.  Why does the Mayor plan to hand early retirement deals to city workers age 55 and over yet again, to “prevent layoffs,” after having already agreed to no-layoff guarantees? And why, in this Mayoral campaign, is no one asking questions about any of this – in the place with the highest state and local tax burden in the country, where the media is full of claims that we deserve even less in return because we aren’t paying enough – notably by the police and teachers?

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Homeless Hypocrisy Always Has A Home in New York – and Elsewhere

Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced the NYC subway would return to 24/7 service, following a shutdown that was supposedly about cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but coincidently followed an act of arson, allegedly by a homeless person who has been charged with murder, that left a subway train car destroyed and a train operator dead.

https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/3/27/21210390/motorman-s-death-in-subway-fire-adds-to-transit-worker-fears

Multiple sources told The City that authorities discovered a charred shopping cart with a possible accelerant inside the second car of a northbound No. 2 train that filled with smoke and flames as it pulled into the Central Park North-110th Street station at 3:14 a.m — around the same time as three other fires in and around the subway system.

More recently, another train operator has been suspended for photographing homeless people in the subway, and putting out the photos on Twitter.

https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/11/1/21544690/nyc-subway-motorman-mta-first-amendment-homeless

Recently there has been an article calling for the very limited number of public restrooms in the subway to be re-opened.

https://www.thecity.nyc/life/2021/5/2/22411841/nyc-subway-bathrooms-closed-pandemic-reopening

The article is exclusively about having the subway be the place that homeless people use the bathroom. Not about having subway restrooms for use by anyone else.  And not about having restroom facilities available anywhere else for homeless people to use the bathroom.

If not for past debts and pension increases, along with the need for more and more city workers to do the same (or less) work during the DeBlasio Administration (cops, teachers), the city might have the $ required to rent storefronts with restrooms and other services specifically for the homeless throughout the city.  Then it would just be a matter of deciding in whose neighborhood to site them.  The City apparently believes the subway is that neighborhood. The subway and jail — that’s the de facto homeless policy, except for now not jail.  Elsewhere the policy is exclude and ship away to somewhere else.

But then trying, and failing, to figure out what to do with troubled and troubling people like this has a very, very long history in New York – and elsewhere.  One filled with failure and folly.  Yet you have people today saying the same things, proposing the same things, that were tried and failed years ago.  If you are under 50, don’t know this history, and are prepared to face some tough realities, read on and follow the links below.

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The Supreme Court by Political Party: An Exercise That Will Probably Interest You More Than It Interests Me

I’ll take break from the reality of the effect of government on our lives with a brief discussion of something you probably care about more than I do: the U.S. Supreme Court. Politically active people involved in tribalist disputes and culture wars are obsessed with it. But I consider those tribalist disputes and culture wars to be an intentional distraction to shift attention from the ways most Americans have become worse off, decade after decade, and the future has been cashed in, to benefit those working the system in the past. And I would prefer that the Supreme Court do as little as it could possibly get away with.

While listening to a harangue by a relative on the right, however, a thought occurred to me. Hasn’t the majority been appointed by Republican Presidents as far back as I could remember? Could the majority have been Republican-appointed much farther back even than that? After all, I do know from high school history that some of FDRs plans were thwarted by a conservative court, and that the “liberal” Warren Court was actually led by a Republican Chief Justice. Could it have been a Republican-appointed majority for 100 years? For 150 years? I was curious enough to look it up.

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Remember This Day

For 40 years, the trends have been as follows:

1) The generations born in 1957 and earlier get richer and richer, and freer and freer of obligations to others (including family obligations and taxes), while those born later get progressively poorer and more burdened by responsibilities to those older.

2) The executive/financial class and political/union class cut deals with themselves, and use control of the federal, state and local governments, and private sector organizations, to get richer and richer.  And the serfs get poorer and poorer, and go deeper and deeper into debt, to pay for it.

3) The connection between those who are taking more and putting in less, and those who are forced to put in more and accept less, is disguised by separating them in time via debt.  The media refuses to allow a discussion of the link between the two.

When this crisis is over, how do you think these various groups will have turned out? What will each lose? Will some actually gain?

In five or ten years…

1) Will the rich be richer?

2) Will executive pay be this high or higher?
3) Will the former middle class be poorer?
4) Will taxes be higher?
5) Will public services be worse?
6) Will old age benefits for later-born generations be reduced?
7) Will the life expectancy of those born after 1957 be lower, and/or the death rate higher?

8)  In NYC, will mass transit service and other public services degrade even more, and will state and local taxes, having been repeatedly increased, increase yet again?

Will all this happen yet again?  These are the questions. Remember this day, years after the virus is in the rear view mirror.

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Treason?

In all the coverage of the events yesterday, I have yet to hear the word. My first thought was that the Republicans have finally had their equivalent of Chicago 1968, the same generation with a similar result, now with the added element of dementia. Except that the 1968 protesters didn’t actually manage to storm the Democratic National Convention. Will we now have assassinations? And of politicians from which party? The 1968 example implies Republicans.

Yet this discussion of the constitutional treason clause, and the limited number of cases on the subject, makes it seem likely that The Donald committed treason on January 6th. Especially if can be established that he is responsible for the failure to adequately defend the Capitol. Compare his actions with those of Aaron Burr and his associates and judge for yourself.

https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/article-iii/clauses/39

It was not enough, Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion emphasized, merely to conspire “to subvert by force the government of our country” by recruiting troops, procuring maps, and drawing up plans. Conspiring to levy war was distinct from actually levying war. Rather, a person could be convicted of treason for levying war only if there was an “actual assemblage of men for the purpose of executing a treasonable design.” In so holding, the Court sharply confined the scope of the offense of treason by levying war against the United States.

I have said for years that Donald Trump is THE MAN of his generation, the living embodiment of its values, aspirations, and impact on all the generations to follow. And now it has come to this.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Actually, here it is.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/06/president-trump-has-committed-treason/

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Some Musical Optimism For A Dark Winter

Twenty-twenty hasn’t been the greatest year.  After decades of slow deterioration, we have faced an audit of our society and values, and failed it – politically, economically, and personally.   From the shocking realization that we were facing a pandemic with a shortage of medical masks, to the reality of politicians – in the Untied States and elsewhere – using a global tragedy to benefit themselves and their backers at the expense of ordinary people.  And so many people being unwilling to make sacrifices for the benefit of the broader community in a crisis, while others are completely indifferent to the long-term economic, social and eventually health cost of those sacrifices imposed on others.

Fortunately it has not been a technological, scientific, or medical failure.  Just the opposite.  An industry that had captured a greater and greater share of the U.S. economy with an increasingly limited return, the health care industry in general and biotech-pharmaceutical industry in particular, suddenly sprung to life and has done amazing things in an incredibly short period of time.   From an early phase in which those suffering severe COVID-19 would probably have been better of staying at home than receiving harmful treatment at a hospital, health care workers all over the world worked together to figure out how best to respond, and drastically reduced the death rate in just a few months.   Meanwhile the cause of the illness was rapidly identified and analyzed, also in mere months, using tools that did not exist 20 or 30 years ago, to produce a type of vaccine that has never existed before, in just a year.   

Like biotechnology, the internet once had only had a slow, gradual impact on our economy – and with some pretty nasty social and political side effects.  In the pandemic, however, it allowed many people to work, shop and socialize at home in a way that while not completely satisfying, is far better than what would have happened in its absence.  Bad as things are, just imagine what they would have been like had we faced this pandemic 30 years go.

When this is over, we will be back to the same negative long-term trend we were on before, while being deeper in the hole.  There is, however, a silver lining.  After a dark winter, we can expect a huge short-term improvement in our lives compared with the way things have been – and some of us might even approach some parts of our lives that had been missing with a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude.  So through the magic of YouTube, I have provided a selection of optimistic songs that I have in my own music collection (generally, not always the specific version), so you can listen to them as well.

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Alice Kramden Voted Against The Donald, But Ralph Kramden Voted For Him

I had read that there might be a shortage of poll workers, so I did my civic duty and signed up, asking the Board of Elections to hire someone else if they needed the money, but offering to serve if required.  I was selected and asked to work as a Line Manager at a poll site on Stillwell Avenue, on the Gravesend/Bensonhurst border.  

These had been traditionally an Italian-American neighborhoods, and there are still some folks like that around based on what I observed, but there are also many Chinese, Eastern Europeans, some Latinos, some Afro-Americans and Caribbean Americans, and a few Hasidm.  Judging by their accents and limited English there were many first generation immigrant Americans, often there with their Americanized children, some of whom were voting for the first time.  If one ignores skin color, religion and country of origin, in fact, the neighborhood is probably exactly what it was in 1950 – a working class area occupied by immigrants transitioning to Americans, but now with less pizza.

At the end of the night, they put the tapes up on the wall with the results for that location, and I took a look.  Adding it up quickly, there seemed to be about 1,000 votes, and The Donald finished second among the candidates for President.  By two votes.

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