Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Everybody Likes Robin Hood

Many Democratic candidates advocate for a more graduated system calling for higher incomes to bear a higher tax burden. Republicans often label this as socialistic, wealth redistribution, summing it up as, "stealing from the rich to give to the poor."

Does anyone remember where that phrase comes from? It's the premise for Robin Hood, the outlaw from Sherwood Forest who tried to combat the inequities imposed by the Sheriff of Nottingham. At that time, the Sheriff forced the peasants to carry the entire tax burden all for his personal and professional benefit, as he lived a lavish life aimed at overthrowing the absent King Richard with Prince John.

From what I remember, Robin Hood, the one who stole from the rich to give to the poor, is the hero of the story. We cheer for him to right the wrongs of society.

I can guess the Conservative Republican response. They will say that the story focuses on over taxation. It is a condemnation of high taxes, and we should use it as a lesson that advocates tax cuts. That just is not the case.

Robin Hood is a tale about the unfair distribution of taxes. The wealthy and powerful gave too much (all) of the burden to the lowest class. Those people were left with a difficult choice, pay the taxes and forgo necessities, like food, or suffer the punishment for not paying the taxes.

The current process of tax breaks, itemized deductions, and loopholes allow politicians to reinvent a disproportionate tax burden for the all-to-shrinking middle class who are too rich for government subsidy and too poor for investment-based loopholes.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Good for the Nation, but not good for NNY

When seeking the highest office in the land, you have to expect a primary. Many Democrats in NNY supported Senator Clinton as our own representative from New York. She has supported the region despite its red tint during her terms. Even as many people call for her withdrawal from the race, she still has strong support in NNY from people who understand that the primary process is still going (and people who remember when a convention actually meant something.) The Democrat's nominee will be stronger because of the chance to hone a message before the general election.

In the 118th Assembly district, a registered Democrat (though it won't be "official" until after this general election) is seeking a spot in a Democratic primary and must be given special dispensation from the Jefferson and St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee Chairs.

Sean Hennessey, JCDC Chair, stated, even before the petitioning period begins, that he supports Jefferson County candidate Addie Jenne Russell and would not approve Tim Currier's attempt for inclusion.

Mrs. Russell seems like a great candidate. I was completely impressed with her knowledge and ability to answer direct questions. I think, based on first impressions and second-hand knowledge, that she would be a very good, if not great Assemblywoman. This is not an indictment of her at all. That being said, I shouldn't (and neither should anyone else) have a singular say in this.

Isn't it a disservice to the 118th to unequivocally say no so early? You have no reason to say no other than that you can. I could understand it if Tim Currier couldn't garner support in Jefferson County during the petitioning process. That seems like evidence enough for the JCDC Chair to say for the best of the whole 118th and Jefferson County, I refuse to let Tim Currier on the line for a primary.

From what I hear, some in St. Lawrence County will see this move as disenfranchising. It will leave a bad taste in the collective mouths of many people in strong Democratic areas of the 118th where Tim Currier is known.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Democrat enough?

To respect the ground rules that I set for myself, I want to restate them. First, my purpose is to connect state and national issues to a local perspective. Second, I'm not making any specific political endorsements.

State and national campaigns are simmering for St. Lawrence County residents. Currently, the 118th Assembly seat remains vacant. Three candidates have stepped up to the plate seeking the Democratic party line, Macomb Town Counclilwoman Laureen O’Toole, Jefferson County Legislator Addie Russell, and Massena Police Chief Tim Currier.

I don’t know a lot about Councilwoman O’Toole and many Democrats in Jefferson County have come out in support of Legislator Russell, including Tim Kelly and Ted Ford amongst others, because of her strong credentials as an elected official and campaign worker with the Democratic Party.

The most interesting candidate remains to be Chief Tim Currier. This is where I get to look at a national analogy. Most recent national candidates work through party lines, endorsements, and primaries to come out with the nomination. If a candidate is running outside of the two major political parties, then they try to keep their independent status, the way that Ross Perot did or they align themselves with a minor party seeking exposure as Ralph Nader did.

Some people find that declaring their political affiliation would hurt their professional life. Some businessmen feel that the divisions of politics could hurt their desire to have a wide customer base. Other people hold positions where they have to work with politicians and need to be seen as above the influence of party in their professions.

General Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. It was a very public role. The name recognition set him up for a strong political career. Many people mentioned him for high national office, Senate, Vice-Presidency, even the Presidency. But because of his role as Chair of the Joint Staff and his necessity to work with elected officials regardless of political affiliation, Powell had no specific party affiliation himself. He has since declared himself to be a Republican and served as Secretary of State.

There are some similarities between General Powell and Chief Currier. The one glaring difference is in the political party, but the similarities seem most pressing. Both held positions where their career best interests required them to be labeled as apolitical. Powell worked with presidents from both main parties. Currier has worked with mayors from both. Not only did they need to do this for professional relationships, but they needed to do it to appear above any sense of favoritism in enforcement. Both made a transition and declared based on that transition. If I remember correctly, Republicans were happy to have General Powell join their ranks. Because of his moderate views on using military force while being heading the Joint Chiefs, many Democrats hoped he would join their party in the 1990’s.

I don’t remember anyone asking, “Is he Republican enough?” They saw him as well-known, fitting most of their values, able to be elected, and ultimately, a declared Republican. Chief Currier is known in part of the district (as is the case with most candidate), states that he hold the values of the Democratic Party, and has declared himself a Democrat officially. That will become official after the general election, and there’s the rub.

The last word lies with the two county committee chairs. Sean Hennessey has a very good, very viable candidate coming from his county, and allowing her to face a primary opponent who is seen as an outsider could be disastrous.

While seeking office once, I was informed that my opponent may have had a problem with his petitions. It wasn’t anything big like people signing more than once, names of celebrities or names taken from headstones. It had more to do with old forms and an incorrect date on the page. I was told that someone could challenge the petitions. That would effectively keep my opponent off of the Republican line if the challenge were upheld. I stated that I didn’t want to them challenged. I didn’t want to feel that my position was gained through legal semantics or a technicality. Elections gave the most people the best voice.

My advice to all of the democratic candidates, particularly Mr. Currier. Raise your profiles. Get out and speak out. Prove who you are as a person and a candidate. During the petition period, get as many signatures as you can from all across the district. If you can show your appeal to the entire 118th in the next few weeks it will go a long way in legitimizing your candidacy. I wish everyone the best. May we have the best representation we can when all is said and do

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An Open Letter to Rick Wagoner, CEO GM

An Open Letter to General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner:

Let me point out, right up front, that I understand your position to build the largest amount of profit for the corporation and the highest stock prices for your investors. Many factors go into accomplishing these goals, including closing facilities and job attrition. You have the legal right to make the corporate decision to move jobs from one facility to another in the United States or ultimately through a next step to a foreign based facility based on national free trade agreements and your national labor contracts. While you are allowed to do this, let me point out that you are missing a wonderful specific opportunity in St. Lawrence County, NY, and you are feeding into a destructive economic model that undercuts American people.

The General Motors facility in Massena, NY has slowly been winding down production, but while it is still under your control, I wanted to explain to you how its unique geographic placement, your past development of a truly American auto imprint, and your corporate move toward green technology could make the Massena plant a jewel for you.

Massena, NY and St. Lawrence County are both well-known for their renewable energy production. The St. Lawrence River was harnessed over fifty years ago to supply clean, renewable hydroelectric power for many businesses and residents in the northeast. Wind power facilities have risen in neighboring counties and new proposals are being addressed in St. Lawrence County and throughout northern New York. The abundance of open land could also mesh with emerging solar power generating facilities. In short, St. Lawrence County could be the battery of the United States. As we build clean, renewable energy sources, General Motors has advanced great technologies for alternative fuels in autos. The E-Flex drive system being implemented with the Chevy Volt creates a functional and marketable electric vehicle that could mesh completely with the culture of renewable energy in St. Lawrence County. Tying the Massena plant into alternative fuels technologies with vehicles built in the United States could be equivalent to the emergence of the Saturn Motor Company with its base in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

In addition, this move could alleviate a new economic model that is destroying the spirit of the United States. Our free trade policies open up global marketplaces. Success comes with getting the cheapest goods into the U.S. market for us to purchase. Everything looks at Americans as consumers. But we don’t get value as people through the things that we use, we get value as people through things we produce. Our manufacturing sector has eroded over the last few decades. We have moved to an information society, but we should not abandon our production roots. Protecting technology developed in the United States has always been a strength for us, economically, militarily, and culturally. As that technology is now developed and outsourced, we lose our strength. New technologies, green technologies can create a revitalized manufacturing base. The advancements that General Motors has begun could be a large brick in this new foundation. Instead of being seen as a slipping global power, we could find a way to reemerge as a global power in protecting the national importance in development, production, and establishment of emerging technologies. Our focus on technology limiting oil use for residential and personal transportation energy consumption would be a great first step toward energy independence. The synergy between General Motors and northern New York could symbolize that shift in thought.

Mr. Wagoner, you and others who make weighty decisions for General Motors obviously attained your position through intelligence, keen insight, and hard work. I hope you give these proposals additional thought. I thank you for your time.



Friday, May 23, 2008

Big Issues, Little Towns

Presidential politics builds big audiences for issues discussions. But presidential candidates regularly reply to national issues, while the people who vote deal with their own local and personal implications.

I live in St. Lawrence County, NY, and I am proud to call myself a centrist Democrat. The perception of the Democratic Party has changed in the past decades. The ideals have not changed, though. As the party has embraced more people, the ideals have grown and sometimes have put people inside the party at odds. In presidential election years, the media likes to point out blue states on the coasts with large urban populations voting for the Democratic contender, and red states in the middle of the country with large rural areas voting for the Republican candidate. These stereotypes focus purely on electors and too simply summarize a complex issue. I hope these writings bridge gaps between issues as they are seen in Washington, Albany, and St. Lawrence County.

Too often we cling to our colors, our labels, and our expectations. We remain stuck in the things that are not working because we are too afraid of relinquishing the power of our position. Hold fast to the core of what you hold dear, and, at times, allow the person you disagree with to work on a solution with you.

Some of the issues I plan on addressing are the state of the economy, especially the escalating oil prices, health care, the loss of population and jobs in St. Lawrence County, the "War on Terror," and taxation, with a specification on land tax issues.

At no time will I endorse any candidates with this blog. I hope that I can help voters decide.