The bearer of bad news

Just last week Governor David Paterson was in Broome County, personally spreading the word to residents of the Southern Tier that New York State is in dire straits. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and painful cuts across the board would be necessary to keep the foundering state out of bankruptcy. And he didn’t expect it to be easy.

“Eventually, all New Yorkers are going to have to share in the sacrifice,” the Governor said.

But is his money where his mouth is? Something I read yesterday made my blood boil. While our esteemed governor has been preaching sacrifice, it seems he has given several of his top level aids pay raises. Oh, he’s shaved the requisite 10 percent from his office’s payroll, and downsized the number of his staff. But by shifting money and titles around, Paterson was still able to reward a few key staffers. The move has a lot of people crying foul, and I can see why.

I’m not saying that these staff members aren’t worthy of raises, I’m sure they are. But there are a lot of worthy people around our state that not only didn’t see raises this year, but may see their jobs disappear completely in the coming months. Shouldn’t Albany be setting the example, rather than being the exception?

We’re already living that sacrifice here in Chenango County. When I look at the unemployment rates, see our dairy farmers struggling, listen to school districts agonizing over how they can maintain staff and services in the light of dwindling aid, hear the undercurrent of worry when people talk about their retirement or paying their bills, watch working families turn to food stamps for the first time to make ends meet ... I know we are living it.

Oh, it’s not all because of the state budget crisis. It’s because of the economy, which has quickly headed south from recession into the depths of depression. While Paterson is soundly focused on closing that deficit, I’m much more concerned with our economy as a whole. And we’re not going to fix that by threatening to cut education and healthcare.

Sure, reining in spending and raising taxes may heal the wounds of the state’s fiscal crisis, but they will only cause the economy as a whole to continue spiraling out of control. Then it won’t be the state we have to worry about going bankrupt, it will be everyone in it.

We’re all interconnected, after all. That gallon of milk you just purchased at the supermarket, pays not just the store. There is the distributor, the processing facility, transportation company and of course the farmer who raises the cows. And there’s the guy he hires to milk those cows, the vet he uses and the other farmer from whom he buys his feed. There’s probably missing a few links in the chain, but you get the idea.

Stop buying milk and what happens? You slowly starve the whole supply chain. The only way to keep all of those interconnected pieces alive, is to buy. The same is true of every other product or service on the market. Therefore, if we stop spending we’ll put even more people out of work and cause more businesses to go under. Which would mean a shrinking (already over-taxed) tax base and a greater need for all those state services being cut. That doesn’t seem like the way to cure a fiscal crisis to me.

At last week’s meeting, Paterson also said he knew that his stance on the budget issue could hurt his future political career. Ya think?

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