Proclaiming a crusade to "Clean up Albany" (sigh, again) has always been a colorful campaign gimmick -- and can be counted on to generate juicy headlines. But it won't make life better for 90 percent of our citizens. "Moreland-gate" and the sudden media frenzy about corruption (as if it were some newly discovered virus) is a distraction from what really matters in this race.
That my two opponents are so preoccupied by this issue (Ms. Teachout on the offense, Mr. Cuomo on the defense) is to waste a wonderful opportunity to focus attention where it really belongs. And that means on the candidate who will not only revitalize our moribund economy, but make it more equitable as well.
Of course, to do that requires an actual economic plan (my goodness, what a novel idea!). But neither Ms. Teachout nor Mr. Cuomo has bothered to create such a plan, let alone present it to the public. But I do have such a plan, created with advice from Richard D. Wolff, visiting professor of economics at The New School, and bestselling author of Democracy at Work and Capitalism Hits the Fan. (I plan to name Professor Wolff as my special "New York Revitalization Czar.")
As New York's next governor, I will personally take the lead in correcting the injustices and inadequacy of the state's economy. In fact, I offer these five basic economic proposals, which I will make sure are publicly discussed, vigorously debated, and then turned into concrete state legislation.
1. Make "intangible" assets -- such as stocks and bonds -- subject to the same property tax that most of us, individuals as well as businesses, have to pay on our "tangible" assets, such as homes, land, buildings, machinery, etc. To that end, I will initiate a change in state property tax laws (which I will invite Connecticut and New Jersey to join). The first $500,000 of stocks and bonds per person would be exempt, so the law would not affect 99.9 percent of New York's citizens. After that, rates would be progressive, so that our richest citizens - that is, the tenth of one percent rich enough to hold much of their wealth in such "intangible" forms - will no longer be able to evade paying their fair share of state taxes, which they have been able to do until now for no justifiable reason ... except their political muscle.
2. Commit New York to testing Italy's Marcora Law, which gives an unemployed worker this powerful choice: Either (1) take his or her normal weekly unemployment compensation check, or (2) find at least 9 other unemployed New Yorkers, in which case the state would pay them the full amount of all 9 workers' unemployment compensation for an entire year - in a lump-sum -- to be used as start-up capital for a workers cooperative. Thousands of Italy's unemployed have chosen option (2) and formed many successful worker coops. Clearly, option (2) helps the economy -- and the individual -- much more than option (1). Under a Credico governorship, New York would provide a testing ground for what I hope would become a national program to create democratically operated co-op enterprises throughout America, owned and run by the workers themselves. I would mandate the use of existing New York State facilities and funds to provide technical assistance and subsidized loans for such worker coops.
3. To prevent further abandonment of New York State by big corporations looking to bottom-fish for lower taxes, sweetheart contracts, or sub-minimum-wage labor, I would pass laws requiring that any company wishing to move its operations out of state must repay -- to New York and its citizens -- the full value of all state subsidies, tax breaks, technical assistance, and other special considerations it has received since it started. Failure to comply would not only subject delinquent firms to legal recovery of that money, but also trigger additional fines, penalties and interest. The monies collected would constitute a Rescue Fund dedicated to helping workers and communities devastated by departing firms. The Fund would enable them to keep open the abandoned factories, offices, and/or stores as worker coops, so they could sustain themselves without the need for state welfare.
4. I was about to write: "Impose a New York State sales tax on Wall Street." But I don't have to, because such a Wall Street sales tax already exists. It raises $16 billion (billion!) per year, an amount equal to one quarter of the entire state budget. But few people know about this tax. Why? Because as soon as it is collected, it is immediately and automatically rebated right back to Goldman Sachs and the other giant financial firms from which it was collected -- an instance of shameless but sadly successful Wall Street extortion. I will lead the charge to claw back this $16 billion sales tax from Wall Street, and return it to our citizenry. This huge revenue stream would enable New York to reenergize our public school system, hire more teachers, fund more public libraries, construct (free!) public hospitals, make college tuition free at all state universities (as we once did), and give free health insurance to every New Yorker. The Wall Street sales tax is already being collected -- let's put it to work for New York.
5. I would destroy the long-standing and shamelessly cynical "gentlemen's agreement" (I use that term ironically) between our state legislature and New York's corporate establishment to block any meaningful increase in the minimum wage. Our state's minimum wage should be at least $15 an hour for all businesses that employ more than 20 persons or have gross revenues exceeding $5 million per year (which would exempt most restaurants, mom-and-pop stores, and small businesses). As governor, I pledge to make that happen.
6. Last -- but certainly not least -- I would immediately (my first day in office) create an FDR-style jobs program to put our more than 1 million unemployed New Yorkers back to work. The money for this program would come from extending the property tax on "intangible" stocks and bonds (as described in proposal 1) and from the Wall Street sales tax (described in proposal 4). After all, as long as average New Yorkers have to pay over 8 percent sales tax on what they buy -- whether a car, TV, furniture, a pair of pants, ticket to a movie, or can of soda -- why shouldn't Wall Street speculators have to pay a sales tax on what they buy? Until now, financial speculators have been able to exempt themselves from paying a sales tax on what they buy ... because they have already bought our elected officials.
Unless the above issues are vigorously debated by my two opponents (and by the media), the race for governor of New York will remain, as it has been so far, a farce.
Randy Credico, a candidate for governor in the September 9 Democratic primary, is a long-time political activist and director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.