THE BLOG
01/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Governor Paterson, Have You Lost Your Moral Compass?

The obscenity continues in America. The economy is destroyed -- short-term and long-term -- by incompetents and greedy people. But, it's regular people who had nothing to do with this disaster who take the hit. And now we have the governor of New York blessing the disaster by taking aim at workers and letting the rich of the hook.

The "liberal Democratic" governor in New York produces a budget that hits the poor and the middle-class but does not ask for higher taxes on the richest one percent of the population -- the people who have made off with hundreds of billions of dollars in the past decade. Instead, the state is proposing to cut pensions:

Gov. David A. Paterson on Tuesday proposed a steep rollback of some of the generous pension benefits that have been an alluring feature of government work for decades, initiating a contentious reckoning with public employee unions.

The governor is proposing to reduce benefits for newly hired state and municipal workers, including those in New York City, by placing them in a new pension category. The New York City portion of the plan was developed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

"We've made too many promises and asked for too few sacrifices," the governor said during an address to the Legislature. "We're going to have to change our culture as we know it."

The pension proposal was part of an austerity budget unveiled by Mr. Paterson.

With all due respect, Governor, have you lost your mind and your moral compass? You think that working 20 or 25 or 30 years in a job as a cop or a firefighter is not making a sacrifice? How many times have politicians rushed, to get the maximum p.r. value for their own careers, to the site of a fire or a shooting, where a cop or firefighter has died, and spouted the words "the ultimate sacrifice"... but now you are saying these people, when they survive the day-to-day grind and threats on the job, that they don't get to have a decent pension so they can live out the rest of their lives in some semblance of dignity and respect?

And exactly where in your moral frame of reference can you point to regular workers and say they have not sacrificed enough, compared to the people who you refuse to ask to sacrifice -- the richest one percent in our state?

We could wipe out the budget deficit -- or, certainly trim it down to something trivial -- by raising taxes on the very wealthy and going back to a more progressive taxation system that we had in the 1970s. You know this: if the state replaced the existing rate structure (consisting of 5 brackets with rates ranging from 4.0 to 6.85%) with one consisting of 14 brackets with rates ranging from 2.0 to 15.0%, we could bring in $6-7 billion more, and perhaps as high as $11 billion.

Under this plan, 95 percent of the state's taxpayers -- 95 percent of the people -- would receive a tax cut. Like the proposals championed by President-elect Barack Obama, a more progressive taxation system would be easing the burden on the people who are the most at risk in our economically troubled times. The top one percent of taxpayers -- whose average income is $2.685 million -- would see their taxes go up about 5.4 percent. The four percent below that top one percent -- those people whose average income is $326,000 -- would have their taxes rise 1.4 percent. In fact, the top five percent would have their dues burden slightly reduced because higher state taxes would lower their federal obligations.

Everyone else would realize a reduction in their taxes.

You want to talk about sacrifice? Over the past 30 years, workers have sweated their asses off, becoming more productive, laboring harder than ever. Their wages have not kept pace with that productivity -- if it had, the MINIMUM WAGE would be over $19-an-hour. The geniuses running our economy -- Robert Rubin et al. -- somehow didn't learn something basic in economics: if you want people to have money to spend (and since consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of our economic activity), you have to give them money in their pockets.

Well, they didn't get the wage increases. They sacrificed -- so that CEOs (who presumably donate to your election campaigns) could pocket tens of millions of dollars in pay, stock options and PENSIONS. Because of that wage robbery -- that is the only word that fits when you look at the taking of the sweat of the brow with no fair return -- people had to borrow the American Dream. Not own it. Borrow it--either by using credit cards or draining equity from their homes. That is gone.

And you say workers haven't sacrificed?

I've heard this demand calling for "sacrifice" and an end to "generous wages" before. The pundits, Republicans and economic wizards are demanding that auto workers give up "generous" pensions to save the auto industry. Of course, none of the people demanding that sacrifice have actually worked in an auto plant -- if they did they wouldn't be able to wave around their arms in such indignation at the "generous" wages and pensions because their arms would hurt too much, their shoulders would probably be disable or their tendons would ache so badly from the years and years of factory work. So much for meritocracy in America -- the people who fail continue to have jobs and get paid, while the people who had no say in the failure have to pay for it. Ain't America great?

And how, exactly, Governor, after you have cut peoples' pensions, do you think people will be able to spend money to prop up the economy once they retire? The debt-driven Ponzi scheme is over. So, Governor, are we going to replace decent pensions with coupons for Wal-Mart because that's basically the only place people will be able to shop -- and work.

Let's look at the Alice-in-Wonderland, Orwellian framing of this challenge: we have a shortfall in the budget because we've destroyed a progressive tax system, in the state and across the nation, and let an elite enrich themselves -- the same elite that has incompetently run the economy so that for three decades real wages have declined while workers pay for scandal after scandal (the savings and loan crisis, the Internet bubble, the housing bubble and on and on...).

And you ask for no sacrifice from the elite and demand all the sacrifice from those people who had no hand in the economic crisis we face?

Governor, have you lost your moral compass?