Debt deal sacrifices the common good
So this is how it ends. Not with a bang or even a whimper. Instead, U.S. pre-eminence as a political, economic and moral leader ends ignominiously in a string of epithets, talk radio rants and voodoo economics that sacrifice the common good in service of spurious political dogma. The world watched with ambivalence (and doubtless a little schadenfreude), as our country's political dysfunction took center stage during the overheated debt ceiling debates. Ill-conceived and unfunded wars, tax breaks for the ultra rich, unconstrained Wall Street cowboys and predatory bankers brought us to the brink, but it took the political fringe to shove us over.
And there's no end in sight. The entrenched belief is that maybe this time, if we just make sure their taxes stay very low, the billionaires' and multimillionaires' largess will, you know, trickle down to help the rest of us. It hasn't worked in the last 10 years, but maybe this time, right? So we sacrifice future generations' health, security and financial well-being by cutting education, infrastructure upgrades, research and development funding, environmental protection and the laundry list of other vital government initiatives all in service of super wealthy. To paraphrase Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. But I guess that doesn't matter anymore.
Leaders lack courage to do what's needed
So we got an extension for the national debt, but what did we really get? What we got is a vague promise to reduce expenditures for 10 years, with the idea of cutting the annual deficit in half (not eliminating it). This will call for another 10 years before the budget is balanced, requiring among other things at least three or more raises in the debt limit. Twenty years is not good enough, even if the current promise is kept.
By now everybody, except a few politicians in Washington who have obviously not passed third-grade arithmetic, has figured out that cutting expenditures alone will never balance the budget. The money we have borrowed from other programs since the first threat of reneging on the debt will also have to be paid back.
What we need is some politician to have the guts to say, "we will balance the budget and start paying back the national debt," and we will do whatever it takes to do it in three or four years. It will take everybody. There has been some talk about many ways to achieve this without destroying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is time to be honest with the American people.
We simply can't keep hiking federal spending
Finally the debate on the debt ceiling is over for now, and a bill raising it has been passed. Nearly as interesting as the debate itself has been the pattern of coverage in the national mainstream media. Tea party activists are reported as obstructionists and as having no grasp of reality where national finances are concerned. This despite the fact that they were just doing what they were elected to do. Voters who swept the tea party candidates into office last year wanted their representatives to slow the growth of the federal government and to bring some sense of rationality to federal spending. We can't keep insanely increasing federal spending as we have been. This, of course, is not understood by the left.
I've also found the descriptions of those who oppose the administration disturbing. For instance, when the congresswoman from Arizona was shot, there was a national call led by the White House for an end to harmful rhetoric on the part of conservatives, with specific references to anything that may have seemed to advocate violence. However, this desire for civility in debate apparently does not extend to the White House. In his recent speech to the nation, President Obama likened the Republican efforts to bring the national debt under control as holding a gun to our heads, and last Monday the vice president said tea party members had acted like terrorists. An interesting choice of words from an administration that refuses to refer to actual terrorists as terrorists. Apparently the administration doesn't feel it should abide by the same rules it would have the rest of us follow, but that is hardly a surprise.
Collins' elitist attitude hurts the average man
Chris Collins' supposed vision is that Erie County will be a world-class community where people want to live, businesses want to locate and tourists want to visit. That is truly a positive and uplifting message. However, I am wondering how we will attain that goal for all Erie County residents when, time and again, Collins has proven himself to be an elitist. "All" is the key word here.
The Lancaster fiasco spoke volumes of the kind of man Collins truly is. As the son of a man who spent four and a half years overseas during World War II, I take offense to Collins' belief that he had a right to go before veterans in the Lancaster Fourth of July parade, and attempted to defend his action with some ridiculous excuse.
Collins has proven that his "all" are the residents of Erie County who do not need to depend on county services for a decent quality of life. Unfortunately, the world is made up of "haves and have nots." Obviously, Collins' world is one of "haves." It has become more and more evident that he is a narcissistic bully (albeit a very wealthy one) who does not seem to have any respect at all for the working middle class, public servants, veterans, women, the disadvantaged or the handicapped population of Erie County.
Collins must not know how foolish he sounds
You've got to be kidding me. Erie County Executive Chris Collins is complaining about a union contributing to Mark Poloncarz, and claiming that Poloncarz must have some type of agenda? Has anyone ever driven by the Rath Building and noted the trucks parked outside? Have they then gone online and coincidentally noted that they belong to major contributors to Collins? What about checking on the contributions from deparment heads and commissioners?
Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Does Collins really take taxpayers for idiots? Does he even realize how foolish his remark sounded? Poor guy, he really is struggling. He needs to stop his narcissistic behavior and focus on the taxpayer. Wait, it's too late for that. I can hardly wait for Election Day!
Executive has a duty to protect public health
I'm not someone who believes in having government solve everyone's problems. I think we all could stand to be a bit more self-sufficient. However, I do believe there are some things for which government is truly intended and best suited.
When it comes to public health concerns, we should be able to trust in our government to do all it can to protect us. The elimination of the rodent control program by County Executive Chris Collins violates this trust.
Rats serve as carriers for very serious diseases. Hantavirus, human plague, infectious jaundice, salmonellosis, rat-bite fever and trichinosis are all illnesses associated with exposure to rodents and rodent habitat.
There's a world of difference between citizens taking care of the occasional mouse, and being expected to combat a growing rat population on their own. Shame on Collins for failing those he was elected to serve and protect.
Bishop saving money but losing his flock
Congratulations are again in order for Bishop Edward U. Kmiec and the Diocese of Buffalo for yet another "victory." They have convinced the Vatican that Lockport's vibrant and growing St. Mary's Church is not needed and should be padlocked. But, to soften the blow on mystified parishioners, who still await an explanation for the closing, the church will become an "oratory," available only on special occasions and then subject to begging by its former worshippers who would like to use their own church.
So, the church will be idle instead of alive with liturgy, song and prayer. Brilliant.
This edict from the bishop, one rubber-stamped by a clueless Vatican "supreme tribunal," will disperse 1,200 of St. Mary's faithful, some of whom have been now sent packing twice, put a dedicated staff out of work and banish an acclaimed music ministry and a pastor who means so much to so many. The bishop says not to worry, all has been "resolved."
He also said that he hopes that St. Mary's parishioners will take their faith and their talents and put them to use in the Lockport Catholic community. After this charade of a Journey in Faith and Grace, his ill-advised mergers and the destruction of a viable parish, I don't think so. Not locally, or perhaps not even a Catholic destination.
Kmiec just doesn't get it. It's not about bricks and mortar, it's the entire package, spiritual and physical and much, much more. The bishop's legacy will be all about church-closing, his fragmenting of a worshipping community and the loss of many from the Catholic faith. He saved the building and lost the flock.
Abandoning bridge plan is the best idea in years
It's interesting how things have a way of coming full circle. I refer now to the Peace Bridge. Ten years ago, we were begging for employees to open all the lanes on both sides of the bridge so that traffic would flow. More people would have had jobs, gasoline would have been saved without so much idling, human frustration would have been lessened and the beautiful old surrounding neighborhood would have been spared much pollution.
Then someone came along with the bright idea for a signature bridge. To me, that means a stand-alone bridge, just like a person's one-of-a-kind signature on a check, saying: Look at me, I am a singular, proud bridge. Not a bridge sitting alongside another bridge from 100 years earlier and of a hugely different design. I could even understand building a twin for our steadfast and meaningful Peace Bridge.
So, after much expense, waste of time and community frustration, it comes down to what we already have and that is the Peace Bridge, a signature bridge in its own right, standing all by itself signifying the peace between two countries. Both ends have ample toll and immigration booths. All we need now are employees to keep these booths fully opened. Move the trucks farther down river and quit trying to fix what is basically not broken.
This current decision makes me very happy. Maybe we can get on with putting the neighborhood and bridge entrance back to its original beauty and save millions of dollars for other more useful pursuits.
Food trucks will enhance the Buffalo experience
Once again, I see an opportunity for Buffalo to advance and improve being impaired by selfish, small-minded special interest groups. I speak of the controversy surrounding the operation of food trucks within the city.
Food trucks have been blossoming within large and dynamic cities across the country, and are enthusiastically welcomed by the populace. They provide a welcome variety and change of pace for the lunch crowd, as well as an opportunity to eat informally in an outdoor setting.
In a country where capitalism, free market and open competition have been the norm, how can a small group of special interests stand against these entrepreneurs? To restrict them to certain distances from restaurants is absolutely ridiculous. In the most desirable locations in town for their operation, restaurants are numerous enough to preclude them for blocks.
From another perspective, do we have laws limiting restaurants from establishing businesses in the vicinity of other restaurants? I think it's time for Buffalo leaders to take their place among the leadership of progressive cities, and realize that the presence of these businesses will do much to enhance the Buffalo experience.
Mark E. Lazeration