Report on economic outlook lacked context, nuance

Posted 11 April 2015 at 12:00 am


Tom Rivers’ 04/09/15 article on New York’s persistently high tax environment (Click here to see “Study puts NY dead last in economic outlook”), I have no doubt was motivated by his concern for our community’s increasingly crushing tax burden. He has been consistent in his concern about this, as has been evidenced, for instance, by his advocacy in spurring local governments to insist on a more fair formula for distribution of State monies to communities of Albion’s size (yet unrealized).

However, I am concerned about his using ALEC’s report as his sole authority in this article. Though he identified them as a conservative organization, in fact, they are much more than that. They are a most powerful right-wing political lobby, primarily funded by multibillion dollar, mega companies like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries.

They promote and write anti-tax policy bills for lawmakers, with the underlying notion that all taxes are bad. These policies support the shrinking government to drown it in a bathtub mentality of Grover Norquist, a frequent ALEC speaker. This is having a paralyzing effect on our government’s ability to devise appropriate tax and spending policies (crumbling infrastructure, anyone?). Also, I must point out, that the quoted assemblyman, David Di Pietro, is a Republican, though not identified as such. In this regard, it is no surprise that his views align with ALEC’s.

I understand that the Hub usually attempts to address issues on their own merits without politicizing them, but presenting this data without explaining its partisan bias inadvertently does just that. Having said this, other more objective findings, such as the Congressional Quarterly, also rate NYS near last in this category (No. 49). I am in agreement, our taxes are too high and reform is needed. So, what am I complaining about?

My objection is that a more honest and discerning discussion needs to be had about not only whether and how much to tax, but of whom and for what priorities. ALEC’s nihilist approach currently in vogue with conservative politicians does not allow for this, but instead encourages cookie-cutter tax policies that favor the rich and weaken the rest of us.

In fact, it is tax policy like theirs that is contributing to the widening wealth gap recently acknowledged by both sides of the political spectrum as a threat to our future prosperity and stability. We deserve a more nuanced discussion of this complex issue than ALEC’s biased findings provide.

Pat Cammarata