How Washington fails New York: In the coronavirus crisis, a horrible historic pattern repeats itself
New Yorkers cannot rely on the federal government. It keeps letting us down when we need it most, even though we pay $35 billion more in taxes than we receive back in services every year. It is the worst balance of payments of any state in the union.
From the infamous 1975 Daily News headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” to the catastrophic failure to protect our borders on 9/11, to today, when President Trump and his advisers flail about in response to the virus ravaging our city and state, Washington politicians fail to preserve and protect us as they are sworn to do.
New York has persevered and prospered despite the feckless feds, but at great cost in treasure and lives. Why do we tolerate it? Our nation’s founders put it eloquently in the Declaration of Independence. “All experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Enough is enough. Recently, federal funds released to help states respond to the COVID-19 crisis followed a formula that allocated $379,000 per virus case to Nebraska, versus just $12,000 per case to New York. It is time for New Yorkers to exercise the “right” and “duty” America’s founders won for us to provide “new guards for [our] future security.”
Am I calling for a well-armed militia to march on Washington? Hardly; America has moved on since 1776. But New Yorkers of means need to recognize we can and should alter the way we work with cynical politicians who have subjected us to a long train of abuses.
In 2016, Democratic presidential candidates received $215 million in contributions from New Yorkers, Republicans nearly $80 million. In the 2018 congressional mid-term elections, candidates for federal offices received more than $144 million from New Yorkers, nearly 60% from zip codes in Manhattan.
Our governor, congressional delegation and other elected officials should set out our state’s political priorities with clarity and conviction to the individuals and corporate lobbying arms financing politicians. Then we must insist that those whose wealth is rooted in New York have a responsibility to it and should contribute only to elected officials who support the things important to us.
A few examples of where federal funds should match crying local need.
All New Yorkers, and much of the nation, have a stake in federal funding for the Gateway Project to ensure train travel between New Jersey and Manhattan. Since it is a critical link for the entire Northeast, many consider it the most important infrastructure project in America. It remains stuck behind a vindictive political red light.
Our region’s woeful rail freight system, indirectly responsible for creating our country’s worst truck congestion and the climate-damaging pollution it spews, also has a legitimate claim on federal dollars.
Silicon Valley and Route 128 outside Boston have become the tech ecosystems they are in great measure because of billions in federal research dollars. New York’s competitive corridor, stretching from Albany to Buffalo through Syracuse and Rochester, has most of the crucial elements to become a global tech center. The one thing lacking is the critical mass of investment that leads to self-sustaining development.
The decades-long diminishment of federal responsibility for affordable housing is among the reasons the New York City Housing Authority has a $32 billion backlog of repairs while some 400,000 residents live in squalor.
As we struggle to get out of the coronavirus crisis, New York needs another lockdown: on our own checkbooks. Contributing money to the leaders of a national government that views our state as a cashbox to plunder while ignoring our legitimate claims is an act of fools.
New Yorkers should stop feeding the beast that bites us and direct our largesse only to elected officials prepared to treat us fairly.
This post originally published as an op-ed with the New York Daily News on 5/22/20