Friday, June 25, 2010

Rethinking Congressman Hinchey

I just submitted the following article to the Lincoln Eagle in Kingston, NY.

The past year's political developments are frustrating. Many in Ulster County supported Barack Obama for president, expecting him to be an effective moderate, and instead found that he is an ineffective spendthrift whose policies mirror those of President George W. Bush. In 2009, President Obama and the Democratic Party increased federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product by ten percent.

At the same time, many remain loyal to Democratic Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey, who served as a State Assemblyman for 18 years and has served in Congress for 17 years since then. Many feel loyalty to "Moe", for he grew up in Saugerties, worked his way through SUNY New Paltz as a toll collector and has represented Ulster County for 35 years.

But there are times when loyalty causes bad judgment. At the local watering holes I visit I hear people complain about taxes; government waste; government's increasing intrusion into their lives; and corrupt special interests that benefit from congressional earmarks. The same people say that they have voted for Mr. Hinchey because "You have to vote for Moe." But many of the problems about which they complain are directly due to Mr. Hinchey. In voting for him, voters are condemning Ulster County to a depressed economy; continued slow growth; and an impoverished future for their children and grandchildren.

Economic Performance

Ulster County's economic performance during Mr. Hinchey's tenure in office has been dismal. From 1993, the year of his election to Congress, until 2009 the number of people employed nationally has grown 18%, from 111 million to 131 million. In contrast, the number of people employed in Ulster County has grown by 8.5%, less than half the national increase. If 1990 is used as the base year, the growth in employment in Ulster County has been a mere 2.5% over 19 years. The stagnation in Ulster County's economy is matched by the stagnation in the County's population growth. As the national population increased about 23% from 1990 to 2009, Ulster County's population has grown by less than 15%. The reason is lack of jobs and a depressed business sector directly due to policies that Mr. Hinchey advocates.

If he has his way Mr. Hinchey will accelerate economic decline. This is so not only because of Democratic Party policies, such as Cap and Trade, that Mr. Hinchey supports but, as well, because of his proposal to turn the Hudson Valley into a federal park.

Mr. Hinchey's federal park proposal hearkens back to his pivotal role as chair of the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Governor Mario Cuomo announced the formation of a Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st century. The commission proposed limiting development in the Adirondacks to 10 percent of the Park through zoning restrictions, according to the New York Times. Mr. Hinchey did not oppose this proposal, but after Republicans in the State Senate stopped it, Mr. Hinchey proposed re-establishing government review boards that would govern economic decisions and home development as well as limiting land use to a few primary uses such as farming, forestry and housing. Mr. Hinchey also proposed to limit transfer of land. In other words, he aimed to create a socialist dictatorship in the Adirondacks.

Mr. Hinchey’s bill did not pass, but it reveals much about his economic world view. At the time, the New York Times claimed that if the 245 points in Governor Cuomo's Commission were not implemented there would be environmental disaster. In fact, the proposals did not become law and there has been no disaster. Now, Mr. Hinchey proposes to turn the Hudson Valley into a federal park. In selling his proposal, he claims that his proposal will do no harm to the region’s economy. The meaning of the word “harm” is revealed in his proposal concerning the Adirondacks, which precisely parallels his more recent proposal for Utah. According to Rob Bishop in Deseret Mr. Hinchey has proposed to “lock up 20 percent of the state (of Utah) from economic activity.” This would not be economically harmful to Utah in Mr. Hinchey’s view.

Congressman Hinchey and American Economic Decline

When Mr. Hinchey took office in 1993, the American national debt was $4.7 trillion. In nominal (not inflation adjusted) terms the national debt increased nearly threefold during Mr. Hinchey's years in Congress. Every Ulster County voter is now responsible for $43,000 in national debt (based on dividing the nation's debt by its population) because of policies that Mr. Hinchey has mostly supported. Last year the national debt was $11.9 trillion and this year it will likely be about $13 trillion. In voting for Maurice Hinchey for Congress you are voting to increase the national debt.

For instance, on its Website the National Taxpayers' Union (NTU) shows the fiscal impact of bills that each of 441 Congressional members has proposed. They compute a spending index by subtracting proposed bills that decrease spending from proposed bills that increase spending. According to the NTU Mr. Hinchey comes in 24th of 441, in the top 5.4%, in increasing spending. Mr. Hinchey proposed bills that increased spending by nearly $1.4 trillion last year, and he also proposed bills that decreased spending by $155 million. A large portion of the $1.4 trillion was attributable to his proposal for a single payer national health care system.

With the exception of the Bush-Obama bailout of Wall Street, Mr. Hinchey has supported a wide range of spending boondoggles which tend to benefit business, especially agribusiness and big labor, at public expense.

Mr. Hinchey voted against the lowering of medical costs through tort reform, a sop to the Trial Lawyers’ Association worth $54 billion to taxpayers over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. He voted against the balanced budget amendment. He supported the $14 billion bailout of the auto industry. He supported the 2009 Stimulus Bill that cost $787 billion. He voted for Omnibus HR 1105, which included 9,000 earmarks and expanded spending on the following government bureaucracies: Agriculture; Commerce; Justice; Science; Energy; Financial Services; Interior; Environment; Labor; Health and Human Services; Education; Legislative Branch; State; Transportation; Housing and Urban Development.

One of the most economically damaging bills to be debated in Congress is Cap and Trade. The Obama administration has predicted that the financial effect of its cap and trade proposal would be as though income taxes were increased by 15 percent. Put another way, the Congressional Budget Office found that Cap and Trade will cost the average homeowner $1,600 (with Republicans saying the cost may be twice that) while Martin Feldstein points out in the Washington Post that the reduction in carbon dioxide gas will be only 15 percent. Cap and Trade sounds like good economics to Mr. Hinchey. Being loyal to him may cost you as much as $3,000 per year due to Cap and Trade alone.

Earmarks and Corruption

WBNG News in Binghamton recently reported that Rockwell Collins, which had already received $4 million in earmarks from Mr. Hinchey after contributing $1,000 to his campaign fund, had received a $63 million US Navy award to open a defense plant in Binghamton.

Open reports that the following corporate interests have received donations from Mr. Hinchey via earmarks: : Endicott Interconnect Technologies; BAE Systems; Center for Grape Genetics; Solar Energy Consortium; C9 Corp; Precision Flow Technologies; Rockwell Collins; and Armor Dynamics. The earmarks range from $2.4 million to $4.8 million.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Hinchey received $347,499 in contributions in 2009-10. His corporate contributors include Agri-Mark; American Crystal Sugar Company; Applied Materials; BAE Systems (which also received earmarks from him); Boeing; Brown and Company; Northrop Grumman; General Dynamics; Honeywell International; L-3 Communications; and Lockheed Martin.

In the coming months the Lincoln Eagle will pursue Mr. Hinchey’s involvement with the Adirondack Park; his links to agribusiness; and the connections among a United Nations initiative called UN Agenda 21 and his proposed Hudson Valley Park.

Mitchell Langbert is associate professor of business, management and finance at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and is a member of the Town of Olive Republican Committee.


Anonymous said...

You missed tom suerizi/john mullen and steve aaron. they are associated with his most recent dirty tricks.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Dear anonymous--Please feel free to call or e-mail ( to discuss this point as I would like some additional information or leads. Thanks, ML

Anonymous said...