Archive | November, 2009

The Fail List

30 Nov

I don’t want the Mayor and County Executive teaming up with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to devise a wish list of remarkably expensive silver-bullet projects to help Buffalo remain essentially the same as it is now, only with shinier buildings. Frankly, I can’t think of three people I’d less like to have plotting the future of Buffalo and Erie County than the Collins-Brown-Rudnick troika.

Instead, what should really be on the wish list is for New York State to lower the barriers to doing business in this region. Whether we’re talking about regulatory reform, a reduction or simplification of the tax structure, or just giving WNY some autonomy to make the changes needed to enable us better to compete with other places. As we’ve been saying for a week or so now, there is a cognitive dissonance when you bitch and moan about big government spending in one breath, and then demand half a billion dollars’ worth of big government spending in the next.

I don’t trust Albany any more than I trust WNY’s disingenuous troika, but I do trust that easing the cost of doing business in this part of the state would help this part of the state.

I spent a great deal of time driving through rural central New York yesterday, passing through dilapidated-but-holding-on town after dilapidated-but-holding-on town. With rare exception (Ithaca), many of these places are all but dead. They, like the industries that brought them to life, are anachronisms. I don’t know, frankly, what hope there is for places like that. But there is hope for places like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the like. We just need government and big business to grow up and stop pretending like every silver bullet idea is just what Buffalo needs to turn the corner.

Collins' Constituents: Businesses Only

29 Nov

Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ spokesman Grant Loomis asks a non-rhetorical question:

Why should taxpayers subsidize the capital improvements of other taxpayers?

That question is asked in connection with home improvement tax relief legislation being considered in the county legislature. Ty Pennington would be proud.

Under the proposal, county government would delay taxing expensive additions — those worth $3,000 to $80,000 — that raise the taxable value of single-family and two-family homes.

So rather than taxing a $25,000 addition as soon as it goes on the tax rolls, the county would exempt the improvement from taxes in the first year. The county would then remove 20 percent of the exemption a year over the next five years, in effect taking six years to tax the addition at its full value.

In theory, the tax break would encourage investment in neighborhoods, especially in older homes found in Buffalo and its inner-ring suburbs. Other communities are considering similar abatements on their own property taxes.

Collins is against this legislation because, “Why should taxpayers subsidize the capital improvements of other taxpayers?” Yet coincidentally, Collins is in favor of PILOT programs and Empire Zone tax breaks to businesses, so his philosophical opposition to this idea, as set forth by his spokesguy, is (a) disingenuous at best; and/or (b) a blatant lie. (You pick).

So, if the tax abatement goes to big business, Collins is totally on board. If the tax abatement goes to people, he’s opposed. I extrapolate from this that Collins is opposed to the STAR rebate / property tax reduction program because it helps average homeowners and not, e.g., Volland Electric.

The curtain on this whole “running government like a business” charade is getting pulled back more and more each day.

And henceforth, when Collins attends a ribbon-cutting or (more likely) an announcement of something being built with the help of public subsidies or incentives, the question must be asked:

Why should taxpayers subsidize the capital improvements of other taxpayers?

O Hai

29 Nov

On Liberty

25 Nov

This Thanksgiving, you can be thankful for the fact that you can celebrate Thanksgiving any damn way you want to. That is the true mark of America: very individualized personal freedom.

Big BirdThe irony is both the Left and Right are constantly trying to control the general public’s behavior, and find great offense and shock (SHOCK) when their opponents do the same.

The Right wants your children to listen to prayer in public school. They want Manger scenes outside of city hall at Christmas (not Holiday) time. And most of all, they want you to keep your baby in your womb until its time to for him or her to come out.

While expressing constant outrage at these attempts to push personal beliefs on others, the Left simultaneously wants to you to hand in your gun, stop driving your gas guzzling SUV, and otherwise reorder your life to stop destroying the planet.

For both sides, the quest to change the individual behavior of every American is a matter of great moral and ethical importance. For every F-150 pickup with an “Abortion Kills Children” bumper sticker, there is a bicycle with a “Save the Earth” type decal.

The culture wars will continue in America, but do not fear. Soon gays will be able to marry and we’ll all be smoking pot – the arc of the American story is a constant bending towards personal liberty. And not just happy-fuzzy personal liberty. It will bother Libertarians to hear, but America is indifferent to offensive, destructive, bad-for-the-common-good personal liberty.

You will continue to be able to own guns with no training required on how to use one, or registration of how many guns you own. You will continue to be able to kill your baby as long as it hasn’t been born yet. You will continue to be able to smoke tobacco your whole life and then get the government to pay for your lung cancer treatment. You can drive a tank that gets 3 mpg, skip all public transportation, and never recycle a blessed thing in your life. You have the personal freedom to not just be destructive to yourself, but to others as well. In America, we err on the side of liberty, with little regard to offense or impact.

Of course, there are certain behaviors we as a society have deemed favorable, and while we don’t mandate them, we do encourage them. This is well established, but is changing as well. Traditionally, our society thinks owning a home and having children is a good thing for the general welfare. Therefore, there are tax incentives (and some straight handouts) for doing those two things. These are carrots – do what you want, but if you do these couples things, we’ll pay you a little extra.

What is changing is the coming round of sticks to add to the carrots. Our list of advantageous behaviors to modify is growing. And when the carrots don’t seem effective enough, we turn to sticks. There are plenty of carrots for employers to offer healthcare to their employees. But not enough companies are participating. So, for the first time, sticks in the form of penalties to companies who fail to provide are proposed. There are ample tax rebates for companies who upgrade their manufacturing processes to be more environmentally friendly. But the carrots are not enough – a cap-and-trade stick-based program is coming soon.

The arc remains to liberty. Americans don’t like curtailments on their freedoms. And sticks are supposed to be for rogue regimes, like North Korea. Is non-health-insurance-providing Walmart a rogue regime? Don’t answer that.

Be thankful for your liberty today. It is the defining mark of our nation. Do whatever you want today, like read a blog. Or go eat turkey. Or tofurkey. And think about how much behavior modification you advocate and deride (but only if you want to).

Happy Thanksgiving Open Thread

25 Nov

Fail In a Nutshell

24 Nov

If you haven’t already seen Chris’ post about the Buffalo Niagara Partnership from earlier today, please do.

What do you do with a half-assed, unaccountable chamber of commerce that bleats endlessly about excessive taxes and government spending on the one hand, but demands $500 million in government handouts for its members’ pet projects?

The Partnership is as stupid as it is feckless.

Bohemian Rhapsody

24 Nov


Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tea Party Movement

24 Nov


From HuffPo:

A group called the Chicago Tea Party Patriots publicly heckled a grieving family and suggested that the couple fabricated their tragic story.

At a town hall held by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) on Nov. 14,, Dan and Midge Hough spoke about how they believed the death of their daughter-in-law and her unborn child were caused, in part, by a lack of health insurance. Twenty-four-year old Jennifer was uninsured. According to her in-laws, she was not receiving regular prenatal care and was not properly treated when she got sick. She ended up in an emergency room with double pneumonia that developed into septic shock, had a heart attack, a brain bleed and a stroke. The baby died and Jennifer died a few weeks later.

Midge Hough was heckled by anti-reform crowd members. “You can laugh at me, that’s okay,” she said, crying. “But I lost two people, and I know you think that’s funny, that’s okay.”

Remember This, Above All

24 Nov

Golf is the root of all evil.  Golf.

BNP Messaging FAIL

24 Nov


On one hand, we have the Buffalo Niagara Partnership telling Albany to “Unshackle Upstate” from the chains of big government, big spending, high taxes and incompetent government.  That if left to our own devices up here in Buffaloland, we’d fix our own problems, thank you very much!  So, Albany, keep your hands out of our god damned pockets and leave us free marketeers to ourselves!

Please ignore the cognitive dissonance behind the curtain!

Please ignore the cognitive dissonance behind the curtain!

And then, we have the Buffalo Niagara Partnership begging our state delegation to please, please, please fund the UB 2020 plan, the Niagara Falls Airport Expansion, and their other regional priorities with $450,000,000 in public funds.

In essence, the position of the BNP can be summed up as:

“Stop taxing us to death, you’re making it hard to do business in this state with all of your spending that does not directly benefit us and what we deem to to be the priorities.  Also, please make the money appear from thin air because as mentioned above, we hate taxes and government dependence and whatnot!”

Fucking hell, no wonder we can’t get shit done around here.  Our “private sector” leadership is just as rife with stupidity and graft as our public sector.

Less taxes, more public money for us please

Less taxes, more public money for us please

Also, I know there is nuance to the issue.  Also, I don’t care.