Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why I Don't Support the Separation of Upstate from Downstate New York

Following the reelection of Andrew Cuomo as New York's governor, I began thinking hard about separating upstate New York from downstate New York.  Downstate New York includes the five counties of New York City and the four counties that surround it--Westchester, Rockland, Suffolk, and Nassau.   Upstate New York is more Republican than downstate, although it is not as Republican as it was 50 years ago because few retirees can afford to remain here, and most of the productive business--as opposed to real estate developers, Wall Street, and other businesses on public outpatient support--have fled.

The issues of guns, fracking, religion, and regulation divide the state, but views are variable. The upstate urban centers of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse are Democratic, and the many university-and-college centers sprinkled throughout upstate also are Democratic. Woodstock and Olive, where I live, dominated by  the music, film and art businesses as well as weekend homeowners from New York City, is Democratic too.  Nearby Kingston and New Paltz, home of a state university campus, are also Democratic.  Therefore, upstate New York is variegated; nevertheless, there is a difference because the big-government philosophy dominant in New York City is less prevalent upstate.  The recent gubernatorial election saw small-government candidate Rob Astorino lose in downstate New York but win the majority of the vote and the majority of the counties in upstate New York.  Crooked, big-government advocate Andrew Cuomo, closely linked to super rich real estate developers, hedge fund managers, and other of the privileged rich on government outpatient support, handily won downstate.

I thought I'd write a piece about separating the two regions for the Lincoln Eagle, and I interviewed a leading activist in the separation movement. He told me that there is increasing support for the idea, especially following Cuomo's reelection.  Cuomo's dictatorial approach to guns and his fascistic attitude toward conservatives (he says that they don't belong in New York) stimulated strong opposition upstate.

My thought was that the values and needs of upstate differ sharply enough from New York City that government would be more representative if it were more decentralized.  I've changed my mind.  Having interviewed the separation activist and read an interesting piece in the Rochester Business Journal, I am coming to the conclusion that separation isn't worth the fight.

The decision to separate or not should not be financial; it should not be based on on net monies transferred from downstate to upstate.  First, no one is clear about the direction in which money actually flows. Second, even if money flows upstate, if the political union doesn't work, then the money isn't worth it.  Readers who posted   on the Rochester Business Journal article claim that upstate could not build roads without New York City's financial support; they might consider turning their heads toward Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, whose roads are fine without New York City's help.

Two elements counterbalance each other.  First, New York City probably does subsidize the rest of the state because of the taxes collected from the financial industry, although the subsidization probably benefits two categories: special interests and welfare recipients.  Second, upstate suffers heavily from regulation and political mandates that emanate from the city.  These include a bloated, stupidly managed Medicaid system and heavy demands from public sector unions, to include the Service Employees International Union--which has successfully lobbied for the bloated Medicaid plan--teachers' unions, and statewide bureaucrats' unions like PEF and CSEA.  There is also the current prohibition on fracking, by which the environmental ignorance and superstitions of New York City's ideologues and cranks have deprived New York's Southern Tier of billions in revenue.

The question that remains is whether, given freedom, upstate will repeal the mandates,  regulations, and bloat that the city has imposed.  If it does not, will not, or cannot, there is no point to separation.  Having lived in Albany, Kingston, Potsdam, Binghamton, and New York City, my guess is that the people of New York are unable to overcome the lobbying of the special interests, the unions, the developers,  and crackpot green advocates, who have driven business away from the state.  The same processes of special interest brokerage will continue to dominate upstate New York, just as it has,  and I have no reason to think that upstate New Yorkers will gain 15 IQ points and start to think rationally about the costs and benefits of government policies.  North Dakota, with a population not much bigger than Buffalo's, has, but few states have.

The inner cities in upstate New York, such as the small city of Kingston, which is near me, are as backward as New York City; New Yorkers in rural areas are often co-opted by welfare and Medicaid programs that make them advocates of the bloated state, and a large share of upstate New Yorkers are public union looters.  The result will be, like the breakup of Standard Oil, two behemoth operations rather than one.  In the case of Standard Oil, the oligopoly included Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, ARCO, Sohio, and Pennzoil. In the case of New York, the oligopoly will become the bloated bureaucracy to the north and the bloated bureaucracy to the south. I don't think upstate New Yorkers have the brains to end the bloat that has deprived them of an economic future.

1 comment:

Bruce Hyland said...

Well, it wouldn't be Wyoming. But didn't upstate N.Y. just vote overwhelmingly Republican and help put the Senate back in Rep hands? And isn't the broader arc of U.S. politics starting to swing to the right? I'm agnostic on this, but it might have better prospects than you're suggesting here.