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Wake-up call

Revenue hunger games


Were it not for my close relative securing a problematic pension for the mother of my high school math teacher, I would have failed his class and missed graduation. A quid pro quo can work wonders. It allows legitimacy to reinvent itself. It is a chameleon that lends itself to many disguises and creative adaptations.  

But even a person for whom two plus two is a brainteaser knows that the city's mountain of revenue shortfall cannot be offset by a molehill of savings. Adding the few pennies that licensing fees from lifting the cap on street vendors will inject into the revenue stream, plus what would have been spared expenses from cutting the fifth firefighter from engine companies (with the tradeoff of more fatalities), would have amounted to bupkis. 

The aggregate of ten thousand such pittances would have filled the treasury's hole like a toy shovel of dirt into the Grand Canyon. I'm not capable of managing the receipts from an overnight lemonade stand in the back alley of a ghost town, but I know that even with the city's masters of fiscal abracadabra, the originally proposed reduction in the number of trash cans would not make a dent in the city's insolvency.

There are "elephants in the room.” And they leave copious poop. Politicians "pivot" around it.

Finance is magic and politicians can pay top dollar to artful conjurers in the bean counting industry. They can roll back cuts in essential services, but sometimes they must rob Peter to pay Paul. That shouldn't be a problem if Peter has been getting what was never his due in the first place.

On the condition of anonymity, an insider blamed the city's hierarchy of priorities on AI (artificial intelligence). It's more like NS (natural stupidity).

In 2022, the MTA lost $690 million in bus and subway fare evasion, according to The New York Times. That's more than the city's projected estimate of cost savings from its desired modifications of  health plans for public employee retirees. The MTA assembled a "group of scholars, urban policy experts and transit advocates" to understand and stop the problem.  One of them, Roger Maldonado, who used to be the president of the New York City Bar Association, acknowledged the urgency of collecting fares, "but it is equally important to the M.T.A. to not be viewed as a vehicle to send more and more persons into the criminal justice process without the need to do so.”  

Seeking, apparently at literally all costs, "recommendations for solutions that would address that evasion without going into the criminal process,” he seems to agree with Harold Stolper, an economist at Columbia University, that "economic need is one of the main drivers of fare evasion, so policing fare evasion is policing poverty, to a large extent.”

Are taxpayers being savages for daring to ask what is being done to recoup the fortune surrendered to turnstile jumpers? What disincentives are we providing to violators? We've noticed lately the expediency of "accountability" being viewed "in context.” And the "Game of Context" can be played by distracting the focus, and then mixing and matching incompatible problems and solutions.  

Enter congestion pricing. Instead of punishing recidivist fare-thieves, motorists will moan and groan, but foot the bill without social disruption. That's environmental friendliness.

Shoplifting is another "elephant in the room.” Laxatives are being locked up and made accessible as though they were Enigma machines. Many district attorneys are making judgment calls that are ideologically driven rather than statutorily based. Countless stores are being driven out of business. Prices are spiking as stores struggle to recover receipts forfeited to the looters. This aggravates the existing deprivations that taunt underserved communities.  

And then we have the mutant elephant in the room: unchecked migration spawning uncheckable debt partly due to botched logistics. Yet they are human and should be treated humanely. This inviolable tenet of morality supersedes synthetic constitutional restraints. Temporal law must be bound to divine human rights.

But no matter where we stand on the contentious hydra-headed issue, the $12 billion price tag for hospitality will trigger sacrifices of service and benefit-shrinkage for many needy consumers of every category and status. And realistically, charity must have its limits, no less so for the asylum-seekers than for documented Americans.  

Even when we are bankrupted, the government finds new and deeper pockets to rifle through.

Migrants should be allowed to work (and their children welcomed in public school) but their wages should be on the books and taxed, and their income should be deducted from whatever compensation they would otherwise be receiving.  Should there be a tax on income that does not enter the American economy, but instead is sent by the migrants to relatives abroad? 

It is essential that all workers enjoy the same fruits of labor and presence in this land, regardless of bureaucratic classification. And their participation in unions should be bold as brass.  Otherwise, employers will sandbag and blackmail them. 

Speaking of documentation,  retaliation against such workers for asserting their rights is archived in innumerable narratives.

The New York State Workers Compensation Board, in an understanding with the Department of Homeland Security, will temporarily protect undocumented workers from prosecution and deportation during labor disputes, including where there have been workplace accidents. This has been hailed by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health and the Worker Justice Center of New York.

Migrants who stay in this country and are absorbed into the workforce will likely be at first content not to stand out, but given the harsh and corrupt circumstances from which they fled, they will be receptive to union activism. Hard knocks have schooled them against complacency.

Abiding by the legal parameters for redressing wrongs against its members, does not constitute complacency, but it often requires vigilance and battle-readiness. And sometimes inordinate patience and suppression of rage, because "the process" may become part of the problem.

Starbucks is a case in point. 

The coffee company has cultivated an image of progressivism as a marketing ploy. It was lip service. An oral pantomime. Their actions refute their corporate persona. A ruling by the National Labor Relations Board requiring that Starbucks rehire employees who were fired for their union activity didn't sit well, so the company appealed to the Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case.  

 If they side with the macchiato moguls, it will be a warning to labor. A prophecy of workplace "Hunger Games.”

The word "hero" has been jargonized by overuse and misapplication, but Joseph Zadroga embodied its original resonance. His achievement of securing health care for first responders, unionized workers, who toiled in the toxic hell of the World Trade Center and in many cases became mortally afflicted, was a triumph of the human spirit. It was a protracted battle, sometimes against infuriating resistance.

Zadroga died in a freak accident recently. It was a cruel and ironic fate. He was a conqueror.

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