Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friendly Fire

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 14, 2010

Among the many horrors and tragedies of war, the most horrific and most tragic consequences of battle are the casualties created by misplaced “friendly fire”. The idea that artillery designed for and aimed toward the enemy could actually strengthen the foe’s position by injuring or killing those “on your side of the line” is hard to comprehend.

Even more difficult to comprehend, however, is the idea that the commanders would see the casualties and yet make no attempt to redirect the fire or move the victims from sure harm. While this would certainly call for a court martial of those commanders in a conventional war, in an ideological war, it seems the commanders receive high praise and advancement in their careers.

The ideological war of which I speak and the Friendly Fire to which I refer is the War on Poverty and the Federal Welfare System.
This War on Poverty was declared during the Lyndon Johnson administration in the mid-60’s as the key component of his quest for a Great Society, in which social programs and government bureaucracies would create a utopia with a more equitable distribution of this nation’s great wealth. It has been over 46 years and over $15 trillion since Johnson made his declaration of war and vowed he “would not rest until the war was won”.

Can we rest now? Has the war been won? I think not.

The number of American citizens living in poverty when the first battle cry was issued in 1964 was estimated to be around 39 million, today – despite trillions of taxpayer dollars and conservative as well as liberal ideas for solutions to the problem – we still have over 39 million citizens living below the poverty line.

In fact, it was recently brought to my attention, via a forwarded email from our editor, Karen Frick, that the disparity between the wealthy in our society and the poorest among us still exists and tragic situations are faced daily by those who seem to have “fallen through the cracks” in the many social programs our government has instituted as part of this war.

What then should we do? Should we follow the plan set forth by President Obama who has proposed federal and state spending within the welfare system during Fiscal Year 2010 to reach $888 billion – that is more than Bush spent on the Iraq War in his whole term of office ($622 billion) – and that is only the beginning. Obama has plans to continue the increased spending for the next decade. According to his budget projections, total federal and state matching funding for welfare recipients will exceed $10.3 trillion. That amounts to $250,000/person or $1,000,000/family of four!

I propose that spending more money, establishing more social programs and creating government bureaucracies are not the solutions to poverty. I believe it is time to re-calibrate our weapons and adjust our aim.

Studies have proven that since the War on Poverty began, there has been a steady and precipitous decline in the rate of marriage and stable two-parent families within the black community. According to U.S. Census statistics, the number of children born to unwed mothers within the African-American population was only slightly higher than those of the rest of the population (14% for blacks compared to 3% for whites). However, a sharp curve developed after the War on Poverty was declared and government programs initiated a marriage penalty for those who were placed on the welfare rolls. The current percentage of children born into homes without a father within the black population now exceeds 73%!

Studies have also proved that – with controls adjusted for all other components – that marriage and stable families are associated with lower rates of poverty. (Calculated from data in U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 2006–2008. See Fragile Families and Child Well-being Survey at

I believe the intent behind the War on Poverty was noble in its inception and I do recognize that standards of living have improved for the poorest among us (just ask AT&T, Verizon and Sprint how many cell phone customers pay their accounts with taxpayer money, or survey the number of cable subscribers and high-speed Internet users within the poorest communities), but I am not sure the methods currently in use serve to reduce the overall causes of poverty.

We can best serve the poverty stricken by heeding the advice of Benjamin Franklin who said (I am paraphrasing here) that “We do not help the poor by making them comfortable in their poverty, we help them most by driving them out of it”, and that is done by making them uncomfortable! Or to follow the advice of Patrick Moynihan, quoted recently in a George Will column, who said (again paraphrasing) “The creating of bureaucracies to serve the poor is like feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses” (I’ll let you follow the reasoning there).

In conclusion, we do have an obligation to help our fellow man. We must do what we can to help “the least of these” but we cannot do it by merely spending money (redistribution of wealth). We must address the causes of poverty. For example, we must educate our youth about the consequences of poor choices. The surest preventive to poverty is to stay in school, don’t have babies before you’re married, get a job and show up! Otherwise we will continue to see more casualties from our “friendly fire”.

Under Fire

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, October 14, 2010

In his column, my brother Gordon speaks of “friendly fire” in the war on poverty. As I read his assessment, I found it hard to distinguish who Gordon believes are the casualties in this war. If one goes by common definitions, one would have to assume that he meant the poverty-stricken. However, it is clear that he sees the wealthy as the real victims and levels his own weapon directly at the poor themselves.

Gordon’s stereotypical view of African Americans as a plight of the welfare state is alarming but not surprising when it is compared to the sentiment of conservative pundits such as David Horowitz and Rush Limbaugh, who continually assert that low-income America in general and minorities in particular sponge off the welfare system and taxpayers. Judging from Gordon’s harsh criticism of the family values of an entire class of American citizens and of President Barack Obama, one must assume that he sees any policy from this administration that addresses poverty as an attempt by Obama to pamper his kinfolk by rewarding the stereotypical black welfare mama.

Most disturbing to me was my fellow columnist’s remedy for the wealth gap in the United States. Apparently, all we need to do is show the “least among us” just how much it sucks to be poor. Apparently, these misguided souls have made it their life’s goal to live in sub-par housing, endure the rigors and stigma of assistance programs, and document for official record their economic, personal and lifestyle choices (which are the confidential rights others enjoy unconditionally). Apparently, they only need to be made more uncomfortable than they already are. You’ve got to love compassionate conservatism.

Since Gordon made reference to Jesus’ words and since he is fond of applying biblical texts to his columns, I think it is worth examining the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) question in regard to social justice. In the story of Jesus feeding the multitude, He doesn’t offer family or career planning advice to the throngs of hungry gathered to hear His message. He and his disciples took the small portion donated and redistributed it. I find it interesting that the religious right tends to argue that a disdain for social justice is some sort of Christian value (Glenn Beck calls social justice a liberal conspiracy and an attack on Christianity). However, biblical texts present the teachings of Jesus as progressive values that promote equality, charity and tolerance – especially toward the less fortunate among us.

Gordon mentions an article about the growing wealth gap in the United States, which we both received from the BVW editor. He fails to mention the article’s focus on the disconnect between the wealthiest among us and the poorest. The plight of lower-income America is largely lost on the affluent. In fact, although the current recession has been extreme, the top income earners (especially those in the top ten percent) have weathered the downturn with less impact than in other milder downturns. They have also suffered far less damage financially than those of middle and lower incomes.

Part of the reason for the disconnect is that, during the Bush administration when tax policies disproportionately benefited the wealthiest Americans, unemployment rose steadily. In fact, while many conservatives criticize President Obama’s failure to create more jobs, jobless reporting shows that unemployment nearly doubled from 3.7 percent to 7.1 percent during Bush’s presidency. Meanwhile, income earners in the top ten percent experienced an income growth of 10.3 percent annually.

This brings up a disconnect I find even more troubling. Some in the working class favor extending the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthy at the expense of those of lower income. Judging from the Republicans’ reaction to the sunsetting of tax cuts for the wealthy, and legislation that would penalize corporations that ship American jobs overseas, there seems to be a willingness among conservatives to vote against their own financial interests. Perhaps this reflects the conservative rhetoric that praises feeding the income elite and promises that the crumbs will feed the common man.

At the core of this ideology is an unnatural glorification of the supply-side economic model that has plagued the nation for decades and led to the financial and industrial collapse that propelled the U.S. into one of the most severe recessions that we have encountered. Another part of the equation is the demonizing of the current administration with terms like “communist” and “socialist”. What results is a mistrust of the administration and a predisposition to oppose any action (however beneficial) that the administration takes. Dismissing these policies out of hand is not the way to address the economic problems we face.

Instead we need to examine the factors and policies that created the ever-widening wealth gap. Corporate America’s exorbitant rewarding of executives while it outsources jobs and production away from workers in the United States is one factor. The income imbalance that pays CEOs nearly 300 times the salaries of average workers is another. A devaluation of the middle and working class has left one in seven with income below the poverty level. Attacking the victims of poverty and calling them lazy and ignorant is not only ineffectual, it is demoralizing and insulting.

Smoke and Mirrors

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 30, 2010

Election years are a crazy time in America and, by extension, a crazy time for the American public. Campaign posturing, rhetoric and attacks flood our media and infect our daily conversations. Politicians hit the road, glad-handing and clawing for position. Promises are made and mud is slung. The same types of things happen each time there is an election of consequence, and as we gear up for this coming November, the cycle is repeating.

However, this year has a new dynamic. An influencing element has been added to the mix. The Tea Party movement has reached critical mass and has been credited with wins in primary races and with a general shakeup of the political landscape. Former Alaska Governor and GOP cover girl Sarah Palin is basking in praise and adoration, and Radio and Fox News personality Glenn Beck is riding a wave of self-proclaimed success.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Tea Partiers, though. Following the victory of movement favorite Christine O’Donnell in the Republican primary for Senate (Delaware), a few in the GOP leadership were critical of the influence of the Tea Party in the primaries because they felt the prospects endangered candidates who could win in the general election. Even Karl Rove spent much of his appearance on the conservative Sean Hannity show criticizing O’Donnell and bringing into question her qualifications and background.

Of course, the conservative punditry was quick to spank Rove and others who deviated from the radical right wing’s agenda. Radio host Rush Limbaugh spent what seemed like hours (of course, I often have that misperception of time whenever I force myself to tune into his show) spouting off about how Rove was a turncoat. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer received a similar bashing for calling into question Sarah Palin’s endorsement of O’Donnell.

Republicans have long realized that the Tea Party and those who wield power in the conservative realm are a force to be reckoned with. Therefore, it didn’t take long for a political ploy to take shape. The result was the recent announcement of the GOP’s “Pledge to America” document.

This 21-page piece was formulated as a way to reclaim favor among the extreme and radical right by spewing rhetoric and making claims they cannot back up. Not only are the promises to reduce the deficit, spending and taxation unattainable. The arguments they are making are misleading.

The focal points of the Pledge are a repeal of healthcare reform and making George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent. The former is an interesting approach since the public cannot even visualize the impact of repealing policy which has only begun to take effect, and which has yet to impact the public. The latter is a technique which has largely proven successful for the Republicans because voters can often to be trusted to get behind tax cuts in almost any form.

However, it is unclear how much support can really be garnered in the current economic climate. According to recent reports, nearly 1 in 7 Americans is now below the poverty level. Sparing the wealthiest in the top two percent may not be all that attractive to the remaining 98 percent who are feeling the real strain of the recession. The tired conservative claim that Bush tax cuts built jobs is hard to swallow when the policies of the Bush administration and the failure for wealth to trickle down from supply-side surpluses has landed us in the muck of economic decline.

In any event the document is unlikely to move policy very far. It isn’t really intended to. The Pledge to America is merely intended to shift some of the wind from behind the Tea Party to behind the Republic Party’s sails. If it can propel the Republicans to victory in November and gain them a majority in Congress, it will have done its work.

Perhaps this is a good thing, since the proposals laid out in the document are potentially threatening to our livelihoods. Health care protections that prevent denial of coverage for children would be removed under the plan. Social Security and Medicare reforms would potentially privatize the systems and put benefits at risk for those who most need them. Concessions made to the wealthy will do little to provide economic relief to any but the wealthiest themselves, and will serve only to further widen the wealth gap.

Thankfully, the Pledge to America is like the explosive pyrotechnics used by illusionists to hide the real “magic” being performed. An explosive puff of smoke and cleverly concealed mirrors hide the mechanism behind the works. Meanwhile Republicans are baiting the voters with promises of economic prosperity and preparing for the switch that would leave most of us underserved and unrepresented.

“Is There Not A Cause?”

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 30, 2010

“Is there not a cause?” Those familiar with the Biblical story of David versus Goliath, recorded in 1 Samuel, chapter 17 will recognize this rhetorical question David asked of his brothers in verse 29. Just before he went to a nearby brook and picked five smooth stones to arm himself against the mighty giant, David had to remind the naysayers that there are things worth fighting for, despite the odds, and even when all others may run away from the battle, a true champion believes in his cause and goes forward.

Many, including my fellow columnist, are acting like David’s brothers. They cast a doubtful eye toward the recently released Pledge to America, in which the Republicans outlined their objectives for their next term as the majority party in Washington, and say the goals are – in Keith’s words – “unattainable”.

Well, the leaders of the GOP have chosen their own five smooth stones and they may indeed be less successful than our shepherd hero, but we should at least give them a fair hearing.

The pledge begins with a preamble outlining the cause and reminding us of the unique origin and mission of our great nation. They claim that America is more than just another nation on the world stage; it is an idea and an inspiration to the rest of the world, and as such it is worth our best efforts to keep it viable and secure.

Before I go on to describe the good points I believe are in this short document, I must take a few minutes to dispel a few myths in Keith’s article.

First of all, there is the well-worn myth that the “Bush tax cuts benefit only the wealthiest of Americans”, and they should rightfully be allowed to melt away in January 2011 like last winter’s snow and drip into the nearest storm drain.

The facts are, according to a report filed on with figures drawn from a Congressional Budget Office document published in 2007, that the richest 20% of all tax filers saw their tax burden rise from 81.2% of total tax revenues in 2000 to over 85.3% in the year 2007. During that same period, the lowest 20% saw their tax refunds almost doubled.

To repeal the Bush tax cuts would, according to another study published by The Tax Foundation (a non-partisan organization of tax experts), raise the tax burden of “the typical middle income family with a median income of $63,000 by about $1540.” The burden would also be borne by those who have enjoyed the child tax credit as well as those who will see the return of the marriage penalty should the Bush tax cuts be repealed.

That is why I am relieved to read that one of the five stones chosen by the Republicans will make these cuts permanent and prevent the increased tax burden should they be repealed as scheduled in January 2011.

Keith also repeats the myth that the Bush tax cuts did not produce jobs and that the economy suffered from a lack of tax revenue. The facts, again, prove otherwise. According to information found at, CBO documents bear out the reality that the tax revenues increased and the economy did rebound from the devastating effects of 9/11, precisely because of Bush’s tax policies.

Another stone in the sling of the Republicans involves a repeal of the unpopular and unwieldy Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) passed by the slimmest majority and the most reprehensible political maneuvering in our history. This bill has, despite Keith’s assertion to the contrary, already “impact(ed) the public”.

For example, several large insurance companies have recently stopped offering child-only policies precisely because PPACA allows parents to wait until their child gets sick before paying the premiums for the coverage. Therefore, these companies dropped the policies on the exact day the new rules went into effect. It is no wonder the Democrats are not bragging about this accomplishment when they present their legislative resumes to their constituents, and it should be no wonder that a responsible and responsive Congress should repeal it before it does more damage to our nation’s health care and economy.
The Pledge outlines the need for this repeal and gives some valid and workable reforms in pages 14 – 16, should you decide to download and read the document for yourself. (It can be found at as well as other sites.)

I am also encouraged by the common sense approach to national security displayed in the Pledge. They rightly claim that Iran’s and North Korea’s leaders present a concrete threat to our safety and world peace and we cannot afford to leave our missile defense unfunded.

There are many more good proposals contained within this document and even if you discount it as mere political posturing, they have taken the bold step of putting it in writing that we can all see and remind them of should they fail to follow through. This is in sharp contrast to those who put their promises on ethereal teleprompters.

Solution to Campaign Finance Pollution

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 16, 2010

As we head toward another election season we are once again reminded of the bittersweet essence of the uniquely American system of choosing our legislators. We see the political signs popping up in our neighbors’ yards and along our highways, and we hear the incessant commercials on our radios and televisions.

For me, it brings about a series of mixed emotions. I am proud to be a citizen of a country where we still have the right to vote and I enjoy the suspense and drama of watching the competition played out before our eyes and ears. However, I am also embarrassed by the patronizing and the petty sniping that has become a common element in almost all of the campaigning.
It seems that we reach new heights – or should I say new lows – each election cycle. Advertisements and billboards scream out negative messages and/or unattainable promises. The atmosphere seems to become clouded with an air of darkness and we soon long for the election to be over if only to have our airwaves and scenery cleansed of the political pollution.

It is obvious that this pollution does not come without a price. Advertising and transportation to speaking events does not come cheaply. Costs of running a successful campaign continue to mount as a recent Star-Gazette article noted the rising cost of our local Primary battles. For example, the Democratic (NYS) Senate primary race in the Buffalo district has seen over $400,000 spent in the past two months alone. It is a ridiculous amount but it pales next to the over $900,000 spent in a three-way Democratic primary in 2004 – this was for a NYS Assembly seat, not the Governor’s mansion!

We can see clearly that this is not a poor man’s game and the cost of running a campaign excludes many more qualified candidates while retaining the most corrupt and/or the most persuasive salesperson.

You may ask if there is any solution to this pollution. Well, many attempts have been made over the years. We erected a bureaucracy called the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to monitor and regulate the flow of money and the tone of the messages. We have designed legislation to restrict or stifle undue influence. Yet the problem continues. Loopholes are found and stretched to accommodate larger and larger amounts of money to be poured into the cesspool and the pollution spreads.

Recent attempts to regulate the amount of money available to politicians (the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 – AKA McCain-Feingold) have done nothing more than applied pressure on one side of the balloon. It led to the swelling known as “the 527’s”. These are the unregulated groups who can spend freely to deliver messages that can greatly influence public opinion but remain outside the realm of the FEC’s regulatory arms. A brief search on or will reveal to you how much money has been spent by these organizations in recent campaigns. It will amaze you.

What then, should we do? Should we add even more power to the FEC to control these groups as well? I, for one, do not agree with any attempt to regulate free expression in any form; even though I know that the majority of 527 money goes to speech I do not agree with. For example, of the over $400 MILLION spent in 2008 by 527’s, over 70% of it was spent by left-leaning organizations such as (which dropped its 527 status after 2008) and others like the Soros-linked America Coming Together.

What solution is left to us if we follow the Supreme Court’s interpretation that political speech is protected by our Constitution as well as the money used to produce that speech?

It is a fact that the two most corrupting and corruptible influences in our society are money and power. They are like twin snakes that like to slither around our political process like verminous night creatures, enjoying the dark corners and the back rooms of society.

The solution, according to at least a few thinkers who are much more astute than your humble columnist, is simply to limit the corruption by limiting the power.

In other words, if we were to truly cut the size and reach of the government’s power to regulate and finance the many areas of our lives, we would cut the need to influence that government’s decision-making process.

Imagine a world in which politicians are limited in their power as well as in their length of “service” (i.e. term limits). They would no longer have the pull to bring the lobbyist to their door with bags of money. If they lose the “power of incumbency” they would not be as attractive to those who wish to tempt them.

Another solution to the pollution would be to allow the “sunlight” of public disclosure. I believe that every donation should be publicized and every action committed in response to that donation should be disclosed.

These are simple solutions but I do believe that they would be much more effective than further regulation and/or limitations on free speech.

After the Election Campaign

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, September 16, 2010

My brother Gordon and I seldom agree on political matters. The nature of our personalities and beliefs often separates us so far from each other that any common ground seems almost unfathomable. However, occasionally we agree on a premise or two.

Gordon and I both recognize the corruption that is polluting the political process in the United States. Both of us see it as a negative influence. Still, we have differing views on the breadth of the problem and the course of a solution.

He sees the campaign financing as merely free political speech, but the reach of ambitious funding goes further. The talons of corporate influence are sharp and long, and they rip the liberties of the whole to shreds while they pierce the Constitutional protections provided by the nation’s founders.

While my brother focused on the influence of money on campaigns and elections, I see the aftermath of the elections as the bigger and more important issue. The financial favors that propel candidates into office come due as politicians begin to take their positions as legislators and leaders. Committees become pet projects of corporate investors and the interests of those companies soon overshadow those of the constituents they are sworn to serve.

Gordon sees the remedy for this corporate lobbying in a reduction of power in government. His perspective is that if legislators are relatively powerless they will cease to be prized by those who seek to influence their votes.

However, a neutering of government (while it may eliminate the desire to lobby Congress) will only leave corporate interests unchecked at the expense of the interests of the rest of us. This is a dangerous prospect.

A glaring example of weakened governmental power is featured prominently in the headlines nearly every day. As reports of contaminated water supplies, livestock death and disease, and deadly natural gas pipeline ruptures surface, the debate over the controversial hydro-fracturing extraction process continues in our own hometowns. Yet, the dialog is stymied because the industry is free to conceal vital information about the safety and health risks of the fracking. They are allowed to do this primarily because the natural gas exploration industry is exempt from mandatory disclosure of the chemicals and solutions they are injecting into our land. Local leaders can’t seem to do enough to cater to the industry and seem to be eager to approve exploration without allowing sufficient investigation into the potential risks. Weakening governmental controls further would leave fewer safeguards against contamination of our water and the endangering of our lives.

Reform is necessary in our government, but an impotent regulatory body isn’t the answer. Restricting committee membership would do a lot to curb corruption and the pollution of the legislative process by lopsided lobby interests. Congressmen and senators who are beholden to corporate donors should not be allowed to serve on committees upon which the interests of those corporations depend. Representatives of districts containing military installations or military contractors should not serve on committees charged with defense-related decisions or funding allocation. These conflicts of interest are glaring and seem obviously problematic, yet little is done to prevent this influence.

Gordon is also right that the McCain-Feingold act did little to address the ills of campaign financing. There is little political will to right the capsized boat of electoral politics. The machinery has too much momentum and there are too few politicians who are trying to wean themselves off the corporate teat. The fact is that unless there is a loud enough outcry at the grassroots level there will never be meaningful change in the bankrolling of politicians and the corruption that results.

Part of the problem plaguing the campaign environment is the strength and influence of the two-party system. Fundraising standards and pressure to meet quotas require candidates to whore themselves out to corporate interests. The Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee are perverting the election process and destroying democracy in attempts to fulfill political agendas and control power at all costs. Candidates are often caught in the middle and constituents left unrepresented.

A three (or more) party system is not on the near horizon. Too much has been invested in maintaining the current broken power struggle to allow candidates much success outside of the two major parties. But hope of real reform and meaningful change rests in breaking out of the stranglehold the two-party system has over politics and policy.

As we get ready to plunge into the nasty heat of the 2010 election season, we would do well to remember that the real harvest of the fruits sown by campaign financiers will take place long after the ballots of November have faded into history’s memory.

Bumper Sticker Reactions

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 26, 2010

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Republicans used the real fear and legitimate rage felt by many Americans to strengthen the executive branch, maintain power and build support for radical policies. As a nation, we were shaken by such an atrocity and allowed ourselves to be ruled by our emotions – and the strongest of these was a sense of vulnerability that many had never felt before with regard to the United States’ superpower status. Conservatives took advantage of that emotion and it became more than a policy wedge. It became a campaign platform.

In the nine years since 9/11 some healing has taken place. Rage over the attacks has lost its stinging relevance and people have begun to think about other issues that affect their daily lives. The economic strategies of the past have left us with a weakened financial system, a severe wealth imbalance, a deep recession and struggling industry. The political power has also shifted and Democrats occupy the White House and a narrow majority in Congress.

Fortunately, in a year of mid-term elections and a buildup to a presidential election in 2012, Republicans were recently handed a gift. A few weeks ago the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted against protecting a building on Park Place, two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center. This will help pave the way for the construction of a 13-story Islamic community center.

Immediately, the public relations machine kicked into gear. The day after the August 3 decision, Rush Limbaugh began his radio program with a declaration that the terrorists have won. Republican political operative Newt Gingrich made statements calling the proposed mosque and community center an “assertion of Islamic triumphalism”. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani referred to it as a desecration. Sarah Palin called on her twitter followers to “refudiate” the planned mosque (later replacing her made-up word with “refute”). The already enraged Tea Party movement adopted the “Ground Zero mosque” as a banner and waved it to whip up fury at the grassroots level. Sobbing and enraged callers flooded talk radio’s phone lines with impassioned protest. Opposition to an Islamic center within walking distance of Ground Zero quickly became a climate of renewed anti-Islamic sentiment.

The Dove World Outreach Center (an organization with an agenda antithetical to its name) is planning a massive burning of Korans to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. Republican congressional candidate Allen West (a Tea Party player in Florida’s 22nd District) describes Islam as “very vile and very vicious enemy that we have allowed to come in this country because we ride around with bumper stickers that say co-exist.”

The bumper sticker (featuring symbols like an Islamic crescent, peace sign, male/female sign, star of david, Wiccan pentacle, yin-yang sign, and Christian cros that replace the letters making up “C-O-E-X-I-S-T” ) “incenses” West because he believes anyone who would drive a car bearing it “represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.” Apparently, those liberties don’t include the freedom of religion that was part of the appeal for the nation’s founders, who were escaping the persecution they had suffered in the Old World.

Judging from recent polls showing that a majority of Americans oppose the mosque, West’s sentiment is shared by many. Fan pages and comments on Facebook and other social networking sites invite people to voice their opposition. The mosque has become a media hot button with newspaper, television, radio, and blogs alight with commentary.

I believe the core of the opposition is a blurring of lines. The words “Islam” and “terrorism” have become synonymous. Even my fellow columnist has contributed to this attitude. Gordon has described Islam as a creed that calls for the extermination of those who don’t share the Muslim belief. In reality, Islam is nothing more menacing than any other religion. It is undeniable that there are Islamic extremists who have perpetrated acts of violence in the name of Allah. However, a look at history reveals similar acts in the name of Christianity, with its crusades, inquisitions and witch hunts. Blanket condemnation of any religious persuasion based on the acts of extremists is wrong-headed.

In the specific example of the mosque, the rush to judgment ignores some important facts. The project’s founder, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has dedicated much of his career to interfaith activities and has sought to build bridges between Islam and the West. He has been an imam in the area for decades, and has been vociferous in condemning the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and terrorism in general. In fact, a memorial to victims of the attacks is included in the plans for the community center.

There is room for reasoned dialog on the location of this mosque and the significance of the building (not part of the World Trade Center) that currently stands there. However, the impulse is to react to bumper sticker sentiment. This sticker, though, reads “intolerance!” in boldface, and precludes peaceful coexistence. It defies the legacy of religious tolerance inspired by the nation’s founding fathers.

In the interest of Tolerance

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 26, 2010

Imagine, if you will, that you are a descendant of a proud Iroquois tribe. You carry your ethnic heritage with justifiable pride and you regularly visit the ancient burial grounds to pay your respects and memorialize those who have walked this earth before you. Each year you lay a flower and say a prayer over their final resting place. This year, however, you arrive at that sacred place to find the noise and stench of diesel engines breaking the usual silence and sweet aroma of the forest site. You watch as bulldozer blades rip the topsoil from the whitened bones of your ancestors, exposing and scattering the ribs and vertebrae as if they were nothing more than dirt. Would you be willing to allow the construction to go on – in the interest of tolerance?

Now imagine, if you will, that you are the child of a woman who was one of those airplane passengers who perished that fateful September morning in 2001. You have heard the voices recorded from the cockpit on that awful day and you know that the last words your mother heard before the plane crashed through the walls and glass of the World Trade Center were: “Allah Akbar!” Now, you are walking to the place where your mother’s incinerated remains flew through the air and settled upon the sidewalks and gutters. Your intent is to pay your respects to her on her birthday. You are in the midst of a silent prayer, when through the window of a nearby building you hear those words again said in unison by hundreds of praying Muslims: “Allah Akbar!” – “All praise to Allah!” Would you be willing to accept the premise that the existence of that mosque at this place was an effort to “build bridges between Islam and the West”? Would you accept it being there – in the interest of tolerance?

I contend that there are certain areas and certain sites that retain more than just material significance; they should be, and are sanctified, by what took place there or by what they represent. Therefore they should be treated differently than other pieces of real estate. For example, we would not want to see a McDonald’s golden arch or a Wal-Mart parking lot near the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. We would not want to see a Japanese flag flying over the memorial dock in Pearl Harbor where the buried destroyer still cries tears of oil for those who perished in that brutal attack that forced us into World War II.

Those who are planning the erection of the mosque near Ground Zero deliberately chose the site because of its moral significance to us and its morale-boosting relevance to Anti-American Islamists in Saudi Arabia and other nations who call themselves the Muslim Brotherhood, whose stated goal is: “to eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within.” Despite the spoken claim that they chose this spot to open dialogue between those who follow Islam and those who have other beliefs, a careful reading of their own scriptures proves that they accept no compromising position when it comes to their beliefs.

It is also a known fact that within the Muslim faith it is their practice to erect mosques at or near the point of important victories. Hence, there are mosques that overlook monumental sites like the place where the second Jewish temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in the eighth century and on the grounds of the destroyed Christian Church of St. Vincent in Cordoba, Spain.

My brother echoes the words of President Obama and others who say this is an issue of religious freedom and he makes the claim that we who make up the vast majority who oppose this mosque are intolerant. He fails to mention, however, the same poll showed that the majority of those who oppose this mosque at this site have no opposition to a mosque within two blocks of their home. The facts are that there are several mosques scattered all throughout NYC and none are facing opposition or protest.

Another thing Keith and others who share in the support of this building fail to mention is that another church, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed when the towers collapsed, has been denied permission to rebuild in its original footprint adjacent to Ground Zero by the same committee that has approved the construction of this mosque.

Furthermore, I find it very ironic that construction of a highway project or a hospital can be shelved for years while researchers and analysts study the populations of some irrelevant insect or endangered rodent to determine if the continuation of the project would “offend” the little critter or harm the habitat in any way, yet we Americans who value the sanctity of innocent life must be tolerant of any offense or any harm done to us or our memories.

Controlling the Message

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, August 12, 2010

The term “Political Correctness” or “PC” is an emotionally charged and contentious one. Regardless of whether one falls to the left or the right of issues, one will often react harshly to being referred to as PC or as trying to be politically correct. Seldom is the phrase used without being intended as an insult or carrying a negative connotation. This is just as it was planned when the term was coined.

Labeling something or someone as politically correct effectively manages the debate, disarms those who disagree and marginalizes the issue itself.

My brother Gordon gives the definition of politically correct as changing society’s behaviors and language to minimize offense. I think this a worthwhile endeavor.

We had few hard and fast rules in our household as my wife and I raised our children. The one central commandment was simple: respect others. It was a variation on the Golden Rule and it served us well. Virtually every offense a child commits out of spite or carelessness is a violation of the respect that humans ought to have for each other. If we are good parents we teach our children to “minimize offense” (however we define that) and be good world citizens. When children begin their first social interactions in churches, preschool or in their kindergarten classrooms, respect for others is expected of them (and has been long, long before the advent of political correctness). There is absolutely nothing wrong with minimizing the offense we inflict on others, in our lives and in the world.

But Gordon’s definition of PC wasn’t the only one I found as I prepared for this week’s column. offers one defining it as “relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.” Now, this seems pretty close to what Gordon mentioned when he spoke about driving with a focus on the rear view mirror. For many, it is more than painful to look at the transgressions of our past, it is an admission of guilt of which they would choose to absolve themselves. The difference between historical context and driving a car is that the open road seldom doubles back upon itself. However, those who refuse to listen to history are doomed to repeat it. The shift in attitudes toward ethnic groups in America, for instance, was necessary in order for us to move along the path toward honoring the promise of equality of which our forefathers spoke. Our treatment of certain immigrants during our history is shameful by today’s standards. Our legacy of slavery and discrimination against black Americans is worthy of our regret. However, our instinct is often to wave a hand of dismissal and expect those we have wronged to “get over it”.

A second definition of political correctness on reads: “Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.” This is the overcorrecting to which my brother refers. Of course, terms that quantify are relative. Is it overreacting to be appalled and demand an apology when an elected official uses “the ‘N’ word” (or other derogatory ethnic term)? When Rush Limbaugh coins the term “feminazi” to describe a strong activist woman, should we just defend it as free speech and ignore the consequence of his language?

The problem is that political correctness isn’t simply about minimizing offense in the sense of preventing someone’s feelings from being hurt. We aren’t just overly sensitive to slurs and epithets. Actions and language have consequence. During the dark days of slavery, slurs were used to present blacks as something less than humans in order to allow slave owners to buy and sell people as if they were mere property. After the abolishment of slavery, the terminology remained as a barrier to equality. As long as we maintained the distinction between whites and “coloreds” it was easy for us to relegate them to the back of the bus or force them to use the bathroom down the hall. Referring to our enemy in Vietnam as “gooks” allowed us to sleep at night as we sent our troops to destroy their villages and slaughter them in huge numbers.

Today, in a nation that many decry as too PC, we still use language as a powerful weapon to subjugate others and control the debate. Our politicians and media personalities use the term “illegals” (as well as other derogatory terms) to denote primarily Mexican immigrants as a way to remove the human attribute from the discussion. It’s easier to talk about stripping rights and freedoms from people, if one sees the situation in generic terms. The pejorative labels we have attached to lesbians and gays have allowed us to easily deny basic human rights to an entire group of Americans. That language and attitude allowed ridiculous laws to be written and enforced for decades (many “sodomy” laws are still on the books). Sadly, the fact that a moral judgment is attached to this terminology makes it even more dangerous.

The PC label is highly effective at controlling messages. Many will use it to drive a wedge of division between “us” and “others.” Many others will shy away from the label and spurn it to the point of accepting language or behavior contrary to their sensibilities. We must recognize that the matter at hand isn’t simply minimizing offense. We need to have the foresight to look down the road at the real consequence of our language and actions.

In Defense of Public Education

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 29, 2010

In the last edition of this column, my brother Gordon and I discussed New York State’s budget and taxation and ended up talking about (among other things) public education. Because column space (and the tolerance of readers) is limited, so broad a topic as the budget itself (even without exploring taxes and their implications) is nearly impossible to cover well in this forum. There are simply too many issues to consider and too much to examine. Therefore we felt a narrowed focus on one aspect – education spending – was worthy of a follow up.

Gordon’s previous essay was in part an indictment of public education and an encouragement to the governor and state legislature to cut spending in that area. As one who has home-schooled his children and currently teaches at a private school, Gordon’s perspective on education is different than my own. I can appreciate that. Unfortunately, among some, that perspective amounts to a desire to weaken the current public system.

There are activist groups out there claiming to be committed to educational reform. One such group, the conservative Center for Education Reform, seems more intent on dismantling the current system. According to its Mandate for Change document, “If we fail to fix our failing schools, however, if we fail to replace our public education system, which as a whole is itself monumentally broken, we, the people, may soon find that we are fundamentally unequipped to govern ourselves let alone to provide governance to others we thought in greater need.”

I firmly believe that a well-informed, well-educated electorate is the key to a healthy democratic republic. However, I doubt the motivation behind the Mandate and disagree with the methods the group wishes to apply. Interestingly, this group seemingly rejects the conservative trend toward smaller government by asking Congress and the Obama administration to promote its agenda by asserting federal influence into states’ educational policies. Their five-fold strategy focuses on two components designed to restructure the current system: charter schools and school choice.

Charter schools are institutions that receive local, state and federal funding but lack the oversight of local school boards and districts. Advocates insist that charter schools improve educational quality, but a 2009 review by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that charter schools underperformed traditional public schools in many areas. Recently an Elmira group’s charter application was denied by the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute on the grounds that its instructional program, plans for assessing student achievement, professional development program, and trustee competency failed to meet standards. Still these schools siphon needed funds away from public districts and the SUNY Institute has announced plans to expand the program to more than double the current number of charter schools in the state. Federal incentives and a growing trend toward Wall Street investment in charter schools promise to exacerbate the problem.

“School choice” has often been code terminology to refer to an attack on the public education system. The premise is that public schools are too broken to provide adequate education so parents must be given the choice to seek other alternatives. This is a right every parent now enjoys. However, advocates of “choice” (many who see themselves as proponents of the free market) want to divert public moneys toward private schools in the form of vouchers or direct funding of private institutions. Again these programs cut into the resources of public schools.

I happen to believe in the public school system. A product of the system, I saw the dedication of teachers whose effort and inspiration were invaluable assets to my intellectual growth. As a parent, I shared the frustration of staff and faculty who were overworked and underpaid and struggling to provide a quality learning environment under sometimes overwhelming restraints. The system isn’t perfect, but it has value, and many of the professionals who choose public education as a vocation over higher salaries and greater opportunity are committed to making a difference.

Should we concern ourselves with the cost of public education? Absolutely. We should demand that taxpayer dollars are well spent. We should strive to ensure that money allocated toward providing safe facilities, supplies, equipment, books and instruction is spent wisely. We should require that efficiency be a prerequisite in the stewardship of public funds. We should hold districts and boards accountable for the level of education our children receive. We should look at the role of teachers’ unions in budget negotiations. We should reward teachers who perform well, while trying to eliminate poor teachers. These are all reasonable considerations.

What we should not do is react emotionally without taking into account the big picture that is public education. For millions of children, public education will continue to be the only choice for education; the only hope for a better life. Enacting policies that undermine and bankrupt the system is a disservice to these children.

Keeping the Goal in Sight

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 29, 2010

Within the great scheme of nature’s design, one aspect has proven to be the driving force that compels organisms and organizations to greater achievements and superior performance. That aspect is Competition.

Competition for limited resources forces individuals and industries to sharpen their skills or suffer the consequences. For those of us who are enjoying the luxuries of newer, faster, better, and less expensive products like cell phones, computers, TV’s, cars, MP3 players, etc. we can thank competition within the marketplace. For those of us who follow or participate in sports and marvel at the achievements we see in others or experience within ourselves, we can thank competition.

Competition tends to bring us increased quality and lower prices, lack of competition and monopolies tend to stifle innovation and hinder progress. This should go without saying, but I feel it must be said in light of my fellow columnist’s defense of the status quo when it comes to public education and its funding.

First of all, I must clarify a few things in Keith’s column. I did not express, nor do I have, a desire for a “weakening of the current public system.” On the contrary, I want to see an improvement of the system, because, while I do and did choose to educate my children at home (well, my wife did most of the educating – I merely assisted) and I have spent some very beneficial years teaching in a private school, I still have a stake in improving the quality of public education. The health of our society depends upon an educated citizenry and I do believe public education is within the charge of our constitution’s mandate to “promote the general welfare” of our nation.

Furthermore, I did not “indict” the public school as a failure. For I am also a product of the public school system and I believe there are many dedicated teachers who make daily sacrifices for the sake of their students.

I do agree with Keith’s conclusions in his final paragraphs where he states that we should hold boards and districts accountable and we should demand that taxpayers’ dollars be well spent. It is in that agreement that I want to make the following suggestions.

Keith mentions that charter schools and voucher programs – otherwise known as school choice – would diminish the quality of public schools. However, as stated above, competition tends to improve quality and this is true in the area of education as well.
A study published by National Bureau of Economic Research bears this out. Following the introduction of charter schools in North Carolina, a survey of test scores for grades three through eight was done, and to their surprise the researchers found that “charter school competition raised the composite test scores in district schools…the gain was roughly two to five times greater than the gain from decreasing the student/faculty ratio by one.”

Not only has the quality of public education been raised by charter schools, another study done by the New York Charter School Association has found that per student spending within school districts actually increased after the introduction of charter schools. In Albany’s district, per student spending increased by 31% while enrollment decreased by 5%. Buffalo’s school district increased its per student funding by 8% while enrollment fell by 13%. The conclusion of the report was that without charter schools the districts would have suffered a drop in per student spending.

As far as the performance of students from charter schools, Keith refers to one study from Stanford that shows an underperformance in many areas. However, what Keith did not say is that in 44 studies that have been reviewed, 18 reports were found to be nothing more than “snapshots” of performance at one or more points in time. The remaining 26 studies followed trends over long periods of time and found overall gains were larger than non-charter schools.
So, if the goal is to have an educated citizen for the least amount of money, then it would make sense that we should welcome a little competition in the field.

Keith also suggests that we should look at the role of teachers’ unions in budget negotiations. I couldn’t agree more. According to a published report by the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Education Association is listed as one of the top ten “Heavy Hitters” in lobbying and political contributions. The report states they have given over $30,000,000 to politicians (93% to Democrats) in the past two decades in the effort to limit school choice and retain the status quo –despite rising costs and failing performance.

In conclusion, let me say that competition for resources is not the only driving force that nature’s designer has endowed us with. He has also shown us that when a common goal is desired competition and cooperation can work together to improve the chances of achieving that goal. We should encourage both in the area of public education. I propose we eliminate the hindrances to school choice and promote cooperation and competition between public, charter, private and even home-centered schools.

Seeing Red

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 15, 2010

These days we are seeing a lot more red. We are seeing more red-tinted mercury in our thermometers as we experience the effects of a midsummer heat wave. We are seeing more red ink in our budgets as we experience the effects of a lingering recession; the decreasing income cannot stretch to cover the increasing outgo.

When an institution finds itself in such dire straits, whether it is a family unit or a corporation or a governmental body, the only solutions available to getting out of the red and into the black are to either increase the incoming funds or decrease the outgoing.

When it comes to the governmental bodies, the first impulse is usually to increase the incoming funds, otherwise known as taxes, because it is usually much more difficult to decrease the outgo as more and more people become dependent upon the services or products supplied by their favorite government program.

The practice of increasing taxes within a state can be counterproductive, however, when we live in an era in which migration to another state is not as difficult as staying and paying. As mayor Bloomberg pointed out recently and as statistics bear out, increased taxes benefit other states as people move out.

“I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to Connecticut,” Bloomberg said in an interview. “I can’t imagine why every hedge fund wouldn’t pick up and move…they could go anyplace. We’ve lost a lot of business to Connecticut and this would send more of them.”

This fact is borne out in a recent Research Bulletin published by the Empire Center for New York State Policy. They cite statistics which show an exodus of New Yorkers to other states. Between 2000 and 2008, we have suffered a net loss of 8% of our population, or 1.5 million taxpayers. While we have had some people moving into our state (in search of our social programs, obviously, because we have very little to offer them in manufacturing jobs), the sad fact is that the new residents tend to have average incomes that are much less than those moving out. The same report details that the average difference in income is greater than 13%, meaning that we have lost over $4.3 billion in taxpayer income.

If increased taxes will lead to even more taxpayer migration, we must turn toward cutting the outgo.
One area that Governor Patterson has rightly perceived as bloated and top heavy is in the area of school aid. To justify his proposed 5% reduction in school aid (from $21.6 billion in 2009-2010 to $20.5 billion in 2010-2011), the governor listed some interesting facts and figures.

For example, we are spending over $17,000/student/year in New York State. To put that into perspective, the national average cost/student is slightly over $10,000 – a difference of 70%. Now, I, for one, do not believe our students are 70% more difficult or challenging to educate than the average student in the rest of our nation. Why the disparity? Well, I believe a great hint as to why it costs more here can be found in investigating the salaries and fringe benefits of our district employees. According to the governor, the cost/student for salaries and benefits of district employees in NYS alone (over $7,300 for salaries and another $2,900 for benefits) exceeds the total cost/student in most states.

But wait, there’s more!

If you really want to see red, take a look at the generous pension package some of our “servants” are enjoying at our expense. A common practice among some of our district supervisors and others has been to stack up their sick and vacation days and cash them in during the last three years of their employment, allowing them to retire on a pension that reflects the increased salary for those final years.

An example of this technique of stealing from the taxpayers was reported by Buffalo News in late June. It seems Niagara Falls Superintendent, Carmen Granto, was able to retire with a net increase in his income from $129,000/year as an employee to $147,109 as a retiree! And he isn’t even the biggest carp feeding in the bottom of our education stream. School superintendent James Hunderford retired from one district on Long Island with a pension of over $316,000/year and then went to work for another district with a salary of $225,000 to make sure his golden years were truly golden with a combined income of over $540,000!

Seeing red yet?

We have to realize that increased taxes will not get the red out as long as we have public employees taking such advantages. Now, I admit that this is one small portion of our budget, but with total education costs representing over 36% of state spending it is a significant place to start.

And we don’t have to wait for our not-so-speedy lawmakers to do something about this. We can act on the local level by attending school budget meetings and voting.

Let’s all work together to get the red out!

Misplaced Anger

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, July 15, 2010

In my brother Gordon’s column, he simplifies the issue facing New York State, its governor and legislature with regard to its budgetary problems. He argues that there are simply two choices to be made. One can increase income to state coffers by raising taxes or cut spending by slashing program funding. The fact is that most likely a combination of higher taxes and reduced spending will be necessary to make up for current shortfalls and deficits.

I can see Gordon’s point, as can many who are frustrated with the state’s high rate of taxation (especially in comparison with other states). I do, however, call into question some of the conclusions he draws and the presumptions he asserts.

Gordon argues that a mass exodus of tax payers and businesses (most notably of high-incomes) is being replaced with a few freeloading new New Yorkers migrating here to sponge off our generous social programs.

First of all, I find it difficult to believe one can look at the report he references and conclusively determine that the high taxes have been the impetus that has resulted in the flight from New York. Just in the past few weeks there has been news of the closing of one of Southern Tier’s most prominent industrial employers, the Schweizer East facility plant in Horseheads. I have not heard high taxes in the state cited as the cause for the shutdown. In fact, the official line is that the facility fails to meet internal standards and will be torn down to pave the way for a future site and expansion that promises to bring more jobs to the area.

Part of the disparity in population of wealthy and average or below average income residents of the state can be traced to the trend of widening wealth gap throughout the country. Increasingly, the percentage of the population with the highest income and wealth holding is shrinking and the percentage of the population with the lowest incomes (below middle class and below poverty levels) is growing. In past columns I have mentioned the growing wealth gap in the United States and the vast disparity between CEO and executive salaries and the wages of the working class. I won’t rehash that material but it is important to bear this factor in mind.

As manufacturing and skilled labor jobs are moving not just out of the state but out of the country, the void left is being filled with low-paying retail and unskilled labor jobs. What we are finding more and more then, is a majority of the population without resources to adequately provide revenue to the state through taxes. This shifts the burden of necessity to the balance of the state’s residents. Unless we look at the real causes for the wealth-to-poverty ratio and the dynamic of the population – unless we stop focusing merely on high tax rate as the reason for population shifts – we will continue to see the tax burden rise and no amount of spending cuts will sufficiently address budget shortfalls.

Gordon also focuses on the cost of education as a major contributing factor to the bloated state budget. This is not a surprising approach to the issue. There has been a concerted effort within the conservative arena to essentially cripple the public education system. This is not to say that the movement wishes for the public system to be completely dismantled and supplanted with private enterprise solutions. Indeed there are private institutions, charter schools and voucher programs that are siphoning vital funding away from public school districts and bankrupting the system, but the agenda appears to be to hinder public education so the consumers of that system will receive an education of poor quality.

Households with higher incomes will always enjoy greater choice and higher quality when it comes to education (especially at the K-12 level). The No Child Left Behind program that was the banner education policy of the Bush administration was an attempt to further debilitate low income schools by requiring ineffective standardized testing to prove their viability and then withholding funding from the neediest. The result is that public schools are dumbed down by teaching to the test, and forced to cut academic curriculum as well as extra-curricular programs by strapped budgets.

Another tactic among neo-conservatives is to attack public schools as evil institutions seeking to indoctrinate children with liberal propaganda and undermine religious ideals (primarily Christian ideals). Rush Limbaugh (the conservative’s favorite spokesman) constantly refers to public education institutions as “screwels”. Other conservatives like Bill Bennett advocate home-schooling and alternative school solutions, and expend huge amounts of energy and time deriding the public system as inadequate and fatally flawed. The message is that public schools are tools liberals are using to dismantle “American” values.

Gordon’s indictment of schoolteachers and district employees also fails to mention the disparity between the salaries of teachers and the average worker. Teachers are professionals with high academic degrees who are paid less than the average worker’s wage. For example, the Corning-Painted Post district pays its average teacher a meager $39,000 – below that of the average worker. Anyone who has ever known a public school teacher or other district employee would have a hard time believing that his or her salary and benefits represent high-finance corruption that is inflating the state budget to the point Gordon implies. Certainly, some waste exists in our public schools, but slashing education costs (while popular among some, including our governor) will only serve to leave children behind and further tilt the wealth imbalance.

A measured and realistic look at the state budget and the requisite taxation of New Yorkers is necessary before knee-jerk spending cuts are presented as the only solution.