Budget changes are an invitation to corruption

Balanced government is a good thing. In fact, in our kind of republican democracy, it is essential. For one thing, it helps to prevent dictatorship. While many of us have yelled and screamed about “gridlock” in Albany, for good reason, this might be a good time to examine our options. No doubt, part of the problem was brought about by an often greedy and venal Legislature who seemed to forget why they were there. Put succinctly, all too often they believed in representing themselves and not the people they were sworn to serve. Meanwhile the Legislature kept up its folly, drawing lines where only they could win.

A few bad apples were arrested and are on their way to jail. Into all of this chaos, like Lochinvar out of the west, comes Governor Andrew Cuomo on his white horse. Cuomo took full advantage of the mess in Albany and began to fix it. For the first time, he got an Ethics Committee that would look not only at the executive branch but the legislative branch as well. This was hailed as a great achievement although the jury is still very much out. In order for Cuomo to get this watchdog group, it appears that the fox was put in charge of guarding the henhouse. Time will tell on that one. So far we haven’t seen anything to write home about. Cuomo seems to like working with the moderate Republicans in the Senate and keeps saying that he will veto the self-serving redistricting bill. At the same time, he hints that he might not, which would be good for his Republican friends in the Senate.

Cuomo’s ratings are in the stratosphere which scares the Legislature to death. Following on George Pataki’s innovation, the governor has found that he can put anything that would once have demanded a separate bill into the budget. The Legislature gets a choice. Pass the budget or don’t pass it. No fiddling with it. The courts have made that red letter law. If the unpopular Legislature doesn’t pass the budget bill in a timely fashion, they are sent back to the dog house where they have resided for several years. If they do pass it, they will have to swallow some undeserved and unwise poison pills. Two are particularly heinous. The first is that the state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, will no longer have to approve any contract in advance of its being let. This is an invitation to corruption, maybe not for this governor but for others in the future. The Cuomo people assure us that there will be audits after the contracts are let, a case of locking the barn door after the horse has escaped if there ever was one. This is pure nonsense and Cuomo should know it. Much better to take steps to stop trouble before it starts rather than scrambling once the damage is done.

Cuomo also wants to take all the money in the budget and move it around as he sees fit rather than following the Legislature’s instructions as to what it should be used for. I am here to tell you that this effectively stops the Legislature from doing its job. If you watch the history of dictatorship you will see that this refutation of mixed government is exactly what dictators wanted and got. If you’ve got a 74 percent approval rating and the people are roaring about how wonderful you are, there is really nothing to stop you. You’ll find lots of examples of this in history. All this is helped by the billionaires who run the two biggest tabloids in the state telling teachers they should give up their retirement benefits.

No doubt the Legislature brought this on themselves with their gridlock and self-serving nonsense. They may even deserve what they are getting. The problem is, the people don’t deserve to suffer and they ought to keep their eye on the pea as the master magician moves it under the shells.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 2/27/12

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2 Comments on “Budget changes are an invitation to corruption”

  1. Alan Page Says:

    The “Empire” State is alive and well. NY needs a public ban that is a wholly owned entity of the state dba the State Bank of NY just as the State of ND has had for the past 90+ years. The interest that NY spends on bond issues should be paid to itself just as surely as the Greecian debt should be paid to a Greek Central Bank rather than private investors that take this money out the country as if NY or Greece were a mine!

    It is time to call the investor’s bluff and tell them that the money growth game is over. The idea that money should grow only for those who have it is the root of the problems we all face. If Cuomo wants to be part of the empire clique then he needs to be identified as such and be replaced, just as the political establishment in MA and Washington does. It is time that we tell these guys that we are going to make them behave just as Lyndon Johnson told the activists of his time that they had to do for him. We get what we deserve and right now we do not deserve much.

  2. Alan Page Says:

    My comment had not been allowed as of March 1 so here is some minor editing of the previous comment:
    The “Empire” State is alive and well. NY needs a public bank that is a wholly owned entity of the State dba the “Bank of NY” just as the State of ND has had for the past 90+ years. The interest that NY spends on bond issues should be paid to itself just as surely as the Greecian debt should be paid to a Greek Central Bank rather than private investors. It is helpful that the US Federal Reserve repatriates 90%+/- of the interest income it receives to the US Treasury. It is not helpful that there is a private bond trading entity between the US Treasury and the FED that decides who can buy Treasury debt. The private bond h0olders of US Treasury notes, NY infrastructure bonds or short term fund borrowing, and the debt of the PIIGS countries do not repatriate any of their interest payments. Rather they take the interest money paid to them out the country as if NY or Greece or Iceland or Ireland were a mine to be exhausted and closed down!

    It is time to call the investor’s bluff and tell them that the money growth game is over. The idea that money should grow only for those who have it is the root of the problems we all face. If Governor Cuomo wants to be part of the empire clique then he needs to be identified as such and be replaced, just as the political establishment in MA and Washington, DC does. It is time that we tell these guys that we are going to make them behave just as Lyndon Johnson told the activists of his time that they had to do for him. We get what we deserve and right now we do not deserve much.
    See this post on my blog: Common Good Dialog – Alan Page’s blog March 1, 2012.


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