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Editorials from around New York

November 15, 2017

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The (Albany) Times Union on tax cuts.

Nov. 15

Of the many faults of the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the most crucial flaw is its underlying premise — that cutting taxes primarily for rich people and corporations will miraculously create jobs and put money into the pockets of middle-class Americans.

The simplicity of this trickle-down nonsense may make it tempting to believe, but these magical promises have never been true. Yet without even going through the motions of waiting for an in-depth, objective analysis, House Republicans are rushing to vote on the bill as soon as this week.

What we do know for sure is that this bill will add at least $1.5 trillion to the federal debt, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which does legislative analysis in conjunction with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That would bring national debt held by the public to 97 percent of the U.S.’s gross domestic product, a level not seen since just after World War II.

What existential crisis — other than President Donald Trump’s and his fellow Republicans’ desperate desire for something they can call a “win” — is at stake here? What is this other than a no-strings-attached gift to wealthy individuals and companies on the dubious theory that they will somehow change the behavior that has led to decades of growing income inequality and an alarming concentration of wealth at the very top?

Let’s not forget that this giveaway will raise taxes on many middle class taxpayers, particularly hurting people in states like New York by reducing or eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes, and cutting things like the historic tax credits that have helped revitalize older communities.

There is a better way.

If GOP lawmakers are now willing to push America deeper into debt, which they historically have opposed, the least they could do is borrow for a good reason — that is, borrow to build.

The infrastructure built by previous generations is decaying. That’s the roads, bridges, dams, levees, waterways, energy grid, mass transit, water and wastewater systems, parks, ports, and other assets vital to a modern industrial nation. While federal, state and local governments have recognized this problem, funding falls far short — by at least $2.3 trillion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The $1.5 trillion bill Congress is talking about adding to the debt — some estimates approach $2 trillion — would go a long way toward paying that tab. Investing in infrastructure would directly provide at least a decade’s worth of jobs in a host of fields and skill levels. And in the end, we would have addressed a pressing national need.

Unlike the hollow promises of the latest version of voodoo economics, this would create assets to sustain America’s future. It would leave the country in far better shape than it is now, and leave our children and grandchildren something more than a bigger credit card bill that bought nothing more than empty promises.

Online: http://bit.ly/2AJ4vG2


The Middletown Times Herald-Record on Gov. Cuomo fundraising in California.

Nov. 14

If there is little hope that Orange County legislators will act to close fundraising loopholes, there is even less hope that New York state and its legislators will take any action. We should not look to Albany for the latest, most conclusive proof because it comes from the other side of the country, from California, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is adding to what is being described as “the largest tower of campaign contributions of any Democratic politician in America.”

It would take an extraordinary display of leadership by the governor to give campaign finance reform serious consideration in Albany. With a bank account topping $25 million, with his latest Republican opponent knocked out of public life by an embarrassing margin and with no credible threat emerging to his 2018 quest for re-election as a teaser for a 2020 presidential run, Cuomo has chosen instead to follow Sunset Boulevard to the riches at the end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Movie references are appropriate for this fundraising trip because it is the movie and the broader entertainment community that is lining up to pay $50,000 or so for a chance to meet and greet. State laws on fundraising are so lax that Cuomo can command that sort of respect and everybody on the scene knows that there are two reasons to show up, checkbook in hand.

The first is to get in early on the Cuomo presidential campaign. If he runs, which now seems very likely, and if he wins the nomination, which is not so certain, then $50,000 is a minor amount for a millionaire to pay for recognition. You can be sure that the same moguls and mini-moguls who are writing checks to Cuomo are going to be writing them to other serious candidates, if they have not already, between now and the convention season of 2020.

But those at these California fundraisers have a second, more businesslike reason to give Cuomo money. That’s because he gives them a lot in return. And that money does not come from the governor, it comes from us.

New York spends the most of any state on subsidies for film and television work, $420 million a year. The amount is likely to grow as more states compete for more productions, using tax incentives and other subsidies to compete.

But some states which have crunched all the numbers have decided that this is not such a good investment. As a wide-ranging report and analysis in USA Today found,” Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan have done away with their programs, concluding the tax breaks weren’t producing enough of a return on investment.”

Cuomo believes in tax breaks no matter how much evidence there is that they are not working. We see that clearly in his failed attempt to create tax-free zones, a program with significant expenses, lots of publicity and little to show for it.

As long as the Hollywood elite are willing to give Cuomo such big donations, he has no reason to doubt the wisdom of the production subsidies because they pay off for him, if not for us.

Online: http://bit.ly/2AOKQoN


The Utica Observer-Dispatch on smoking.

Nov. 15

This past Sunday’s “Dear Abby” column offered a heartbreaking letter from a writer in Sacramento, California, lamenting the loss of a father and younger sister. Both died young — 39 and 44 — from cancer.

The cancer was attributed to smoking.

The letter writer sorrowfully wrote about how these two young people missed out on many of the joys in life — family celebrations, grandchildren and other fun times. Their absence around the holidays was especially painful because the hurt never really goes away.

Then the writer beseeched smokers to quit. Now.

A good time to start would be Thursday. That marks the 40th anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.

The Smokeout traces its roots to Randolph, Massachusetts, where in 1971 Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund. The idea caught on, and on Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society succeeded in getting nearly 1 million smokers to quit for the day. The Smokeout began nationwide in 1977.

Since, every third Thursday in November smokers across the nation who decide to take part set aside their cigarettes. Some never pick them up again.

What makes the Smokeout great is that you aren’t quitting cold turkey. The idea is to stop smoking just for the day — 24 hours. Psychologically, that’s not so intimidating. And if you get a few of your co-workers, family members or friends to quit with you, the misery will love the company. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Maybe you won’t quit for good. Then again, maybe you will.

Advantages to quitting:

—You’ll smell better. Cigarette smoke stinks. It stinks worse in hair, on clothes, in cars, in homes and anywhere else. Kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray.

—You’ll have more money. According to “The Awl,” a New York City-based website dedicated to “news, ideas and obscure Internet minutiae of the day,” the price of a pack of cigarettes in New York state averages $12.60. That might be a little steep - but let’s say a pack around here cost about $10. There are 20 cigarettes in a pack, so you’re paying 50 cents a smoke. To kill yourself. If you conservatively smoke a pack a day, you’re blowing $70 a week. That $3,640 a year. That would pretty much cover monthly payments on a new car, pay a couple bills or be a nice little vacation nest egg.

—You’ll be warmer this winter. Thanks to good laws, there are very few places these days where you can smoke inside. That means as we move deeper into the season, we’ll see more people bundled and huddled outside buildings determined to get their fix. It’s sad.

—Best of all, you buy into better health. First, you’ll feel better. Being able to breathe is a good feeling. That will lead to better health. Maybe some exercise. Cigarette smoking contributes to a wide range of potentially fatal illnesses, ranging from cancer and emphysema to heart disease and stroke.

Yes, the best advice is not to start. But that cliche wears thin with smokers. They know that, but they’re hooked. Nicotine is terribly addictive - and that’s why the Great American Smokeout is so important. It’s a good first step.

Encourage someone you know and/or love to quit on Thursday. Quit yourself.

It could be a giant step into Friday.

Online: http://bit.ly/2zLUd8G


The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on recycling.

Nov. 15

New York state enacted a law 25 years ago that has changed the way homeowners handle their trash and kept more than 320 million tons of junk out of landfills.

This year marks the quarter-century mark for New York’s recycling laws, and we hope the progress just keeps snowballing in future years.

The glorious beauty that surrounds us in the North Country should be all the incentive needed to make us all strict stewards of the environment. Sadly, that is not the case here or elsewhere across New York.

Governments had to pass laws to force people to recycle unwanted and used material instead of dumping it all in trash bags and figuring it was someone else’s problem.

In 1988, Gov. Mario Cuomo signed the New York State Solid Waste Management Act, which gave municipalities until Sept. 1, 1992, to adopt local laws requiring the separation of recyclable and reusable materials.

Since then, local programs have diverted more than 320 million tons of recyclable materials from landfills, the State Department of Environmental Conservation said in a news release. That’s an estimated net emission reduction of 1 billion metric tons of CO2 — like taking 211 million cars off the road for one year.

Electronic equipment, batteries and thermostats are all covered under separate New York recycling laws. More than 520 million pounds of electronic waste have been recycled, DEC says, and more than 1 million rechargeable batteries and 21,099 thermostats were collected from 2013 to 2016.

And the state’s “bottle bill” recycles more than 4.5 billion plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers, DEC says. At first, water bottles were excluded, but they are also recyclable in New York now.

“Twenty-five years of reducing, reusing and recycling New York’s waste have proven the power of conservation in our fight to protect our natural resources for future generations,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.

“Our recycling programs are putting thousands of New Yorkers to work in the state’s booming green economy while cutting the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change and preventing pollution from harming our air, waters and lands.”

The New York Environmental Protection Fund has invested more than $155 million in funding to municipalities to support recycling infrastructure, coordinators and household hazardous-waste management since it was created in 1994.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the fund has increased to $300 million and promoted stewardship through public-private partnerships.

The state has shown its dedication to keeping materials that can be recycled out of the landfills. But it is up to every citizen to put the power in these programs.

People who dump old tires by roadsides or sneak cans and plastics into their trash are undermining a system that not only protects the environment but saves us all money in reduced landfilling and trash-disposal costs.

Be a recycling stickler. It is not only our social responsibility; it is smart and cost-effective, as well.

Online: http://bit.ly/2AKRf3t


The New York Times on Jeff Sessions.

Nov. 14

The House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, at which Attorney General Jeff Sessions faced more than five hours of questions, was supposed to be about oversight of the Justice Department.

The committee’s Republicans appeared to have missed that memo. Instead, they toggled between sweet-talking Mr. Sessions — “This is so great to have you here today,” ″I sure appreciate your service” — and demanding that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate a raft of allegations, most half-baked if not entirely raw, against Hillary Clinton, her campaign for president and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

From the supposedly crooked deal that Mrs. Clinton engineered to sell off America’s uranium to the Russians, to the Clinton-Democratic National Committee-F.B.I. conspiracy behind the dossier on Donald Trump, to the tarmac meeting in 2016 between Mr. Clinton and President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch — no Republican talking point was left unspoken.

It’s not surprising that, after 10 months of the chaotic, scandal-strewn Trump presidency and a steady flow of revelations about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Republicans in Congress are desperate to talk about something, anything, else. What better way to distract from the investigation of the current special counsel, Robert Mueller, than to call for a criminal investigation of the president’s defeated opponent?

Committee Republicans asked the Justice Department to appoint another special counsel back in July, and appeared frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet. “It sure looks like a major political party was working with the federal government” to gin up a dossier and get the F.B.I. to “spy on Americans associated with President Trump’s campaign,” Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio said. “Doesn’t that warrant naming a second special counsel?”

Whether or not the department appoints a special counsel, the pressure to do so is clear, from both Republicans in Congress and Mr. Trump, who has threatened Mr. Sessions’s job if he fails to prosecute Mrs. Clinton. That’s what’s so alarming: the push for the Justice Department to undertake a politically motivated investigation of a president’s political opponent, and purely as revenge for an actual investigation already underway.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sessions spent most of Tuesday’s hearing as he has all the others he’s sat through this year — by not recalling things that one would think most people would. At his confirmation hearing in January, he testified that he’d had no contact with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Turns out he met at least twice with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Last month, Mr. Sessions appeared before the Senate again and was asked if any Trump campaign surrogates had had communications with the Russians. “I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened,” he said. Wrong again: Mr. Sessions spoke with at least two members of the Trump campaign, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, about their traveling to Russia, where, Mr. Papadopoulos said, he would to meet government officials.

The conversation with Mr. Papadopoulos was during a March 2016 meeting of the campaign’s foreign-policy committee, according to Mr. Papadopoulos’s guilty plea last month for lying to the F.B.I. about his Russia connections.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sessions said he “had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports.” His explanation for his poor memory was that he couldn’t be expected to remember every detail from 2016, since the campaign “was a form of chaos every day, from Day 1.” No argument there.

When Democrats pressed Mr. Sessions on his chronic unreliability, he defended his honor. “My answers have not changed. I’ve always told the truth,” he said. He’s right — if you redefine the words “changed,” ″always” and “truth.”

As Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington said to Mr. Sessions on Tuesday, “With all due respect, it’s difficult to take your assurances under oath.”

Here’s a related question going forward: What else are you forgetting, Mr. Attorney General?

Online: http://nyti.ms/2AIRUTi

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