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.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New York Still A Backward-Looking Exception to Backlash against Kelo v. New London

New York, continues to refuse to address the Kelo decision, preferring the needs of wealthy developers to those of private homeowners.  Christina Walsh of the Castle Coalition has e-mailed the press release below.  At the five year anniversery of the Kelo decision, Pfizer, the developer, has decided not to develop the land that they and the City of New London stole with the assistance of the US Supreme Court. Forty-three states have passed legislation to reverse Kelo, but not New York, the leader in eminent domain theft.

The State has lagged almost all other states in economic growth and progress while the government has stolen land for favored developers, mostly friends of the Ochs Sulzbergers and the New York Times.  At the same time, the State has forbidden development in the Adirondacks.  In other words, the State has turned the downstate area into a sinkhole with its eminent domain actions and forbidden any alternative upstate.

Kelo Ruling Marks 5-Year Anniversary Wednesday

43 State Legislatures & Many State Supreme Courts Reject Ruling, Act to Protect Property from Eminent Domain Abuse

Arlington, Va.—Kelo was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that became the property rights shot heard ’round the world. Wednesday marks its fifth anniversary.

In the merely five years since that infamous ruling, the vast majority of state legislatures, many state supreme courts and the public itself have acted to limit Kelo, which took away the homes of seven New London, Conn., families for private development and sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain for private gain.

And what now stands on the land where 75 homes once stood around Susette Kelo’s little pink house? Nothing but barren fields, weeds and feral cats. Ten years lost and more than $80 million in taxpayer money spent. Even Pfizer, which received massive corporate welfare to move to New London and sparked the abuses of eminent domain, has now announced that it will close its research and development headquarters and leave New London.

These dramatic changes are addressed in a new report issued today by the Institute for Justice: “Five Years After Kelo: The Sweeping Backlash Against One of the Supreme Court’s Most-Despised Decisions,” available at: IJ also created a brief video (available at outlining the successes in the five years since the Kelo ruling.

“For property owners nationwide, Kelo remains the classic example of losing the battle but winning the war,” said Scott Bullock, an Institute for Justice senior attorney who argued the case on behalf of the homeowners. “After the Supreme Court completely abdicated its role as guardian of rights under the U.S. Constitution, there has been an unprecedented public revolt against the decision in terms of public opinion, citizen activism, legislative changes, state court decisions and lessons learned from the New London debacle. More work needs to be done, but the results of the Kelo backlash have been striking. The Institute for Justice used to get continual requests for assistance in fighting eminent domain for private gain. Now, we receive far fewer and, of those, many are defeated by activism in the court of public opinion before they ever reach a court of law.”

In the five years since Kelo was handed down:

43 states have passed either constitutional amendments or statutes that reformed their eminent domain laws to better protect private property rights. Although the quality and type of reform varies, the bottom line is that virtually all of the reforms amount to net increases in protections for property owners faced with eminent domain abuse. (For a state-by-state grading of all state eminent domain reforms, see:

Nine state high courts restricted the use of eminent domain for private development while only one (New York) has so far refused to do so.

Kelo educated the public about eminent domain abuse, and polls consistently show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to Kelo and support efforts to change the law to better protect property rights. Among the most-recent surveys was one conducted by the Associated Press, which found 87 percent of respondents said government shouldn’t have the power of eminent domain for redevelopment, 75 percent opposed government taking private property and handing it over to a developer, and 88 percent of respondents said property rights are just as important as freedom of speech and religion.

Citizen activists defeated at least 44 projects that sought to abuse eminent domain for private gain in the five-year period since Kelo.

“This significant public opposition to eminent domain abuse led to a complete change in the public’s view on this issue,” said Christina Walsh, IJ’s director of activism and coalitions. “Although public officials, planners and developers in the past could keep condemnations for private gain under the public’s radar screen and thus usually get away with the seizure of homes and small businesses, that is no longer the case.”

“One of the other reasons for this fundamental shift in eminent domain policy has been the response of state courts to Kelo,” said Dana Berliner, an IJ senior attorney and co-counsel in the Kelo case. “When the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to correctly interpret the U.S. Constitution, the state high courts began to fill that void. For example, the courts in Hawaii, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania—all states that used to regularly abuse eminent domain—each decided that, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, they would closely scrutinize municipal takings and prevent unconstitutional abuses.”

There is one significant exception to this good news for property owners in state courts—New York. The Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) routinely ignores evidence of eminent domain abuse, refusing to give the facts any real scrutiny. The Court of Appeals does have a chance to redeem itself in another challenge to a completely trumped-up claim of blight, combined with concealment of relevant evidence, in another case currently pending before it involving the use of eminent domain to expand Columbia (a private university) in Harlem. New Yorkers can only hope the Court of Appeals will remove its head from the sand before reaching its final decision.

“Even though the Fort Trumbull neighborhood was lost, Susette Kelo’s little pink house, where this fight all began, still stands, now in downtown New London about one mile away from Fort Trumbull,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. “Like Betsy Ross’ house in Philadelphia and Paul Revere’s home in Boston, Susette Kelo’s pink cottage stands as a monument to her and her neighbors’ struggle, one that has changed this nation for the better.”

For a compelling account of the history and back-story of the New London controversy, read Jeff Benedict’s “Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage” published in 2009 by Grand Central Publishing.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mercy Killing Strategy: Become a Democrat

I am coming to think that because the State of New York is too corrupt for reform, the best strategy will be to become a Democrat, support their policies, and so encourage more rapid economic collapse in the state.  The Republicans do not help the state, they merely slow down the pace of corruption slightly.  Mercy killing is wrong when it comes to humans but when it comes to economic catastrophes like the Democrats' economic policies the right course may be to hasten things.   The same at the national level.  The currency depreciation and banking catastrophes that the two party system has caused should be accelerated so that the system finally collapses and can be replaced.

My strategy would look something like this.  Enroll in the Democratic Party. Support more expansion of government and entitlement programs; more stimulus packages; more state employees.  Push up spending on Medicaid. So many needs, taxes must be raised.  Drive ever more people out of New York.

Economic collapse isn't far off, and helping the Democrats will hasten it.  When the state collapses, radical change may then be possible.  It is a high risk strategy because New Yorkers have been so badly educated that they believe the pro-bank media and so will probably aim for even more state control and socialism in response to the final collapse.  But that's not a given, and there's probably more hope for change then.  An increasingly authoritarian and socialistic economy is a given in any case, and the Republicans lack the competence to improve things.  Also, the GOP in New York City is just as left wing as the Democrats, so there is little hope.

The GOP is a lost cause and New York State needs to be taken out of its misery.

Depopulation of the Town of Olive

I am a Town committee-person for the GOP and so carry petitions.  I had called twenty people in the tiny district of Olivebridge, which isn't really a village.  Olivebridge was gutted when New York City built the Ashokan Reservoir about 100 years ago and now it is dispersed streets and roads which are extremely rural.  Moreover, many of the residents are transplanted New York City people, often who have second homes there.  Thus, it is about 35%-25% Democratic-Republican. As a result, it is difficult to find people to sign the petitions.

Judiciously I saved the names I collected last year.  Of the twenty, so far I have found that at least five or six have moved away, at least 25% (the majority have not been at home when I called).  I spoke to a retired IBM worker who told me that his daughter, who had lived next door (she and her husband had signed my petition last year), had moved to Virginia for job reasons.  He also mentioned that in 35 years his son in law had not been able to live at home also for job reasons. They can now live together in Virginia.   IBM, of course, had closed its Kingston plant where Steve worked in the early 1990s.  Steve mentioned that his daughter's children could not stay in Olive because of lack of job opportunity.

This was not the only instance of petition-disappearance as there were numerous "dead" phone lines.  New York State's destruction of its economy is mirrored in miniature here. The people of Olivebridge continue to vote for policies that destroy their neighbors' lives. 

The retired IBMer enjoys the upside of depopulation as well.  As families have fled New York's crippled economy, the beneficiaries of Federal Reserve Bank monetary expansion, business owners, Wall Street bankers and government employees, have bought the houses vacated by former Olive residents. His neighbor is a now a multi-millionaire.  His neighbor and his wife took a shine to him and now they fly him to Germany and Florida for vacations.  That's a nice bonus, but it probably doesn't really make up for his daughter's being forced to move hundreds of miles away because of lack of jobs.

Decline and Fall of the United States

The United States is humanity's last hope and it is in serious decline. The reason for the decline is a paradox.  Individualism, the spirit that motivates human achievement and is the chief American value, causes government to misfire.  America is built on individualism, and in a condition of freedom, including a free economy, that individualism supports achievement.  But in a government-dominated state individualism leads to manipulation of the state at others' expense.  America did not need to expand its government. But once it did, its decline and fall were only a matter of time.  In 1960 the process we are witnessing today could have been reversed.  In 1970 there was still some possibility.  It no longer can be reversed.  The extent of indebtedness; the misallocation of resources; the damage that the government has done to the economy are too great.

Political involvement is now unimportant.  Because America's decline and fall are cast and because the American public is addicted to the drug of "something for nothing", there is no turning back.  The two political parties are agents of corruption, and the public lacks the imagination and vision to replace them. The centralization of power opens control of the United States to power seeking psychopaths.  Their assumption of power is only a matter of time.

I had thought I could make a difference with respect to the trajectory on which the nation is traveling, but I cannot.  Political activity is a waste of time.

When the United States falls, there will be a push for greater centralization.  I do not think that the American public is spiritually or intellectually prepared to resist this last incursion on their liberty.  America has become a nation of serfs.  It will continue its descent into national slavery.  Political activity or debate is powerless now. Insane extremists are in charge, and Americans have acquiesced.

I Resign from Republican Liberty Caucus

I have concluded that the Republican Liberty Caucus is but one more corrupt Republican organization. In a state where the Republican Party is generally corrupt this does not come as a surprise.

I have not heard a single RLC member or candidate come up with a coherent scheme to reduce government in New York. Carl Svensson personally told me that he did not believe that it was possible for a viable candidate in New York to run on a platform of budget cutting because of the opposition of public unions. In a year when the public has become energized via the Tea Parties, New York's RLC has contributed nothing, zero, to the Tea Party movement. When I proposed that the RLC back a candidate who offers $10 million to run on a platform of budget cutting, the RLC cannot figure out how to support such a candidate.

Rather, members indicate that supporting a budget cutting candidate will hurt their own chances for miniscule public offices, and that is more important to them than reducing government in New York.

I have not heard of a single RLC candidate to run on a budget cutting platform whereby he or she has advocated a 20% or greater budget cut. When a candidate appears who says that he favors a 20% budget cut, the RLC refuses to endorse him.

I think we can we conclude that the RLC is not an organization that has a thing to contribute to reducing the size and corruption in government in New York.

Please count me out. New York's RLC is a joke.


Mitchell Langbert