As recession-racked Americans try to enjoy this season of giving, this is a season of taking for too many in our political class. Their grasping hands are everywhere.
Consider Caroline Kennedy. The late John and Jackie Kennedy’s daughter hopes to fill Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton’s soon-vacant Senate seat. Never mind that the Democrat, age 51, is a politically inexperienced mom and philanthropist who manages to vote only occasionally. Forget that she aims to expand her family’s Senate profile — as if she were Lady Caroline of Gotham in the House of Lords. Kennedy should have stated her case privately to Governor David Paterson, who will appoint Clinton’s successor. Instead, she hired a campaign consultant and is trying very publicly to squeeze Paterson in a vice. Kennedy’s “my, me, mine” approach is beyond tacky, and should derail her senatorial ambitions.
For his part, “accidental governor” Paterson likely has depleted whatever goodwill he enjoyed after succeeding his hooker-chasing predecessor, Eliot Spitzer. Facing a $15.4 billion state-budget shortfall, Paterson recently proposed $4 billion in higher taxes and fees. But rather than a painful Doberman-like bite, namely an across-the-board income-tax boost, Paterson unleashed 88 new and increased taxes. Like a swarm of hornets, these sting all over.
Haircuts, gym memberships, and movie tickets are now to be taxed. Atomic-power-plant permit costs nearly would double. Licenses for doctors, notaries, and private eyes are movin’ on up, too. Need a drink? Good luck. Paterson would raise the beer tax from 11 to 24 cents per gallon and wine from 18.9 to 51 cents per gallon.
Rather than leech New York’s anemic taxpayers, Paterson should have frozen overall spending, then privatized state assets, closed useless agencies, and deeply slashed lavish public headcounts, pensions, and entitlement benefits. New York’s per-capita Medicaid expenditure should not exceed that of California and Texas combined. Alas, no recession is deep enough to slow the expansion of Albany, Inc. What the Empire State desperately needs is incentives to stimulate work, savings, investment, and production. Reducing New York’s onerous taxes would attract capital, generate commerce, create jobs, and ultimately reduce red ink as its moribund economy returns to life.
Meanwhile, sticky-fingeritis runs rampant in Washington, D.C.
Regarding the Bush administration’s $13.4 billion Chrysler and GM bailout, Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Sunday that Congress “had ample opportunity to deal with this issue, and they failed. The President had no choice but to step in.”
On December 11, the Senate “dealt with” this by making the House’s $14 billion Bush-Pelosi bailout contingent on concessions from the United Auto Workers. The UAW slammed on the brakes — but Senate Republicans were stalwart: This measure scored 52 votes to 35, eight short of the 60 needed to short-circuit a GOP filibuster. Under the United States Constitution, that legislation should have died. Whatever. Bush nonetheless swiped funds that Congress authorized for “troubled assets,” and then rewrapped them for “troubled autos.” Couldn’t GM and Chrysler have borrowed from bailed-out banks?
This cash is a golf cart beside the Hummer that is the $300 billion HOPE for Homeowners program. Congress enacted it to help some 400,000 Americans avoid foreclosure. Since July, only 312 homeowners formally have applied for relief. And the grand total spared foreclosure? Zero.
“Today the Bush administration blamed Congress, saying it micromanaged the program and made it too onerous,” NBC’s Lisa Myers explained December 17. “And congressional Democrats blamed the White House, saying it opposed the program from the beginning,” although Bush signed it.
This $300 billion is a bag lunch compared to the banquet that is the Federal Reserve’s $2 trillion in bank bailouts. While the Fed has become monetarily incontinent, it is air-tight with information. Fed lending has zoomed 138 percent since September 14, yet it refuses to identify recipients of its emergency loans, which taxpayers and investors should know. Bloomberg News sued for 231 pages of documents outlining this lending. So far, the Fed has stonewalled.
Fed Board of Governors’ secretary Jennifer J. Johnson told Bloomberg that “it would be a dangerous step to release this otherwise confidential information.”
Ironically, such non-transparency helped steer us into this ditch.
The grabbiest hands — no surprise here — are in Congress. While unemployment soars and Americans strain to survive, come January, each brave senator and representative will receive a $4,700 pay hike. They should have set an example and foresworn this $2.5 million obscenity. Perhaps it slipped their minds, what with all the bickering, earmarks, and fundraising.
So, this Christmas, please sip some egg nog, kiss your loved ones, and try briefly to forget what these clowns are doing to our beloved country.