July, 2016

Global Matters Do Affect Long Island

We New Yorkers have what I call a local view. We occasionally follow the national news. We check the weather, worry about being stuck on the Long Island Expressway or being delayed on the Long Island Rail Road. But events outside this country, which affect us in one way or another, seem to be too distant to try to figure out.

I don’t profess to know all the details about the upheaval in England or Puerto Rico, but both touch us in many different ways. They also teach us lessons about politicians and what they should or shouldn’t do. The vote in England to leave the European Union has hit every local 401k and other retirement accounts in a big way. When a foreign stock market sneezes, we get the flu. And that flu will be a lengthy one for us.

The vote to leave the European Union provides us with many lessons, beyond the loss of our investments. Politics in friendly countries is often a mirror image of what we experience in this country. Last year, the current Prime Minister David Cameron made a major deal with his political enemies that England would have a future vote to decide whether to leave the EU. He truly believed that any attempt to leave the EU would fail. What a difference a year makes.

A handful of leaders in his own Conservative Party decided that the referendum would be a perfect way to build their own careers and take advantage of the country’s unhappiness about immigration and the control exercised by the EU, which is headquartered in Brussels. They turned their backs on their own prime minister and launched a drive to get an exit vote approved. They made bold promises about all the new moneys that would go towards the country’s health program and how an independent England would reap many benefits.

Their campaign against the EU was a carbon copy of the campaign being run by Donald Trump in this country. Both target immigrants and make angry claims that the people in power know nothing and only they can get things done. Trump has vilified the working press, numerous ethnic groups and belittles women, handicapped people and anyone he thinks is vulnerable. The anti-EU crowd did much of the same attacking the stay England supporters with mean-spirited verbal assaults.

The vote has been taken and England will leave the EU. But, to the surprise of even its supporters, the leadership of the movement doesn’t have a clue what to do next. Money for health care? Well maybe that was a mistake, they say. Keeping the country’s financial structure sound? Oh, we didn’t promise that. Keeping immigrants out of the country. Did we promise that, they ask? So much for promises made and broken. So keep a close eye on Trump.

This region has strong ties to the island of Puerto Rico. Besides people who migrated to this country, Puerto Rico is our fifth largest trading partner. People born on that island are considered natural-born U.S. citizens. The U.S. Congress has done nothing meaningful to help the island out of its current financial catastrophe. Hedge fund companies loaned money to the island at astronomical rates and Puerto Rico is now cash poor.

One of the best-kept secrets is that every foreign import that reaches the commonwealth is hit with enormous tariffs and fees that go to the U.S. Merchant Marine. Every item that is shipped in is hit with a 15 to 20 per cent tax. Since 1920, Puerto Rico has been paying a ransom estimated at $75.8 billion to our fleet to get badly needed goods. Is that how you treat your close friend?

So as we go about our daily business, it is good to remember that almost anything that happens to one of our friends, happens to us in one way or another.



2020—Time For A 3rd Party President?

2020—Time For A 3rd Party President?

We have a little over five months until the 2016 election season comes to an end. For many of us, the big day, November 8, cannot come soon enough. We have been bombarded with more federal, state and local election news than at any time in recent memory despite the fact that most of the public isn’t really focused yet on partisan politics.

Because this year’s election is one of the most unique contests in the past 50 years, picking a winner at this point in time is totally impossible. The battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a contrast in style and substance. The upstart campaign of Bernie Sanders has made Mrs. Clinton alter her traditional message. Trump has confused the long-time Republican voter with his constant swing left and right on all major issues.

Rather than trying to handicap the coming months, I am instead focusing on what the two major political parties may look like and the challenges they face in the next four years. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have gotten independent voters more engaged than at any time in recent memory. But, those voters, whose support swings from right to left and back again, will not be the property of any one political party.

Regardless of which candidate wins this year, independent voters will be up for grabs for a long time to come. Trump voters dislike the current crop of politicians and expect more from the government without raising taxes. Sanders’ independent voters do not care how much it costs to give them what they need and will accept tax increases, just so long as they are on the wealthy. This election promises to disappoint most of the independents, which means they could cause chaos for both parties by 2020.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties will have to focus on how to better handle such issues as immigration, gun control, trade agreements and other controversial areas.

Republicans will have to move away from the Trump position on immigration and gun control which will hurt them this year. Democrats will have to find a way to better explain how free trade works and explain how the Sanders demand for expensive programs just can’t happen. Republicans will be forced to the left and Democrats will need a whole new message, that pleases the young and the old.

It is possible that if both parties can’t find a more meaningful message by 2020, an independent candidate will emerge who will take away voters from both parties and win the White House. So keep an eye on the 2016 results and how the next four years will look completely different.



Carnage rises, but NRA unchanged

Carnage rises, but NRA unchanged

By any standard, we are living in unique times. 

The Republican and Democratic parties are under stress. The economy is on a roller coaster due to daily surprises like England’s vote to exit the European Union. 

Demonstrations over racial issues are a moral dilemma. Every institution is questioning its direction, with the exception of the National Rifle Association.    

Somehow, the NRA, as the media calls it, just continues to do its thing, protecting the gun manufacturers, in the name of America’s sportsmen. 

Massacre after massacre occurs with high-powered guns and nothing changes at NRA headquarters. 

Little schoolchildren die in Connecticut, innocent moviegoers die in Colorado, and the NRA spouts the same message “we must protect the Second Amendment.” 

The response to the death of five Dallas police officers and dozens in Orlando, Florida is that America needs more guns, not less.

Does the NRA represent all of America’s gun owners?  

Poll after poll of gun owners shows that they strongly favor laws to stop people with mental disabilities from buying any gun, not just high-powered rifles. 

Other polls show that 86 percent of gun owners favor a law to deny guns to people who are on the no fly list. 

Other polls show that the vast majority of gun owners favor efforts to stop the unlimited sale of guns at gun sales.

Poll after poll and tragic story after story; seem to have no impact on the NRA in its blind quest to protect the manufacturers of guns. 

The people who belong to the NRA could well be your friends and neighbors and for the most part are men and women who like hunting for birds and animals. 

If I had a farm in a desolate part of Nebraska, I would want to have a gun in my house to protect me from some rare predator. 

Why should gun dealers sell high- powered killing machines to someone just because they have the money to buy them? 

Should it always be no questions asked when a stranger walks into the store and buys 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and other incendiary devices? 

What type of gun does a sportsman need to go bird shooting?

In the face of daily atrocities by some angry person, not only does the NRA stand silent, many members of the U.S. Congress continue to be paralyzed and in fear of the NRA. 

Years and years of political contributions have helped buy that silence along with the threat  of being labeled “soft” on the Second Amendment.  

Many of the House members, who come from safe districts, are scared over the possibility of a primary challenge from an NRA sponsored challenger.

The best example of the strangle hold of the NRA over House members, is the No-Fly No-Buy bill. 

The Democrats have proposed that anyone on the no-fly list should not be able to buy a gun of any kind. They went so far as to stage a demonstration on the floor of the House to highlight the issue. 

The Republican response is that the federal government must go to court to stop a purchaser who is on the no-fly list. The obvious answer is a law that puts the burden on the purchaser to go to court and not the taxpayers paying for a charade. 

Once upon a time, the question was raised as to how many needless deaths must occur until America regains its gun sanity? 

Since that time we have seen the slaughter of both young and old, rich or poor, by mindless killers and nothing happens in the Congress. 

The killings in Paris and Bangladesh have become some far off news story, even though many of the killers have the United States as their next target.   

If ever there was an American tragedy it is the weakness of some of the people we elect and the power of the NRA to stop our country from protecting its own.


Long Beach deserves top-notch medical care

It’s been quite a while since the South Shore of Long Island was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy. Many homes have been restored, while others have been abandoned. Local beaches are pristine once again, and will be crowded throughout the summer months.

One of the casualties of the storm was the Long Beach Medical Center, which was overwhelmed by flooding. Regrettably, Long Beach and the surrounding barrier-island communities are still reckoning with the loss of medical services. Negotiations between the local civic group, Beach to Bay, and South Nassau Communities Hospital have dragged on with only minor success. The new emergency facility created by South Nassau is providing the basic services that the community needs and is professionally run. But it’s a far cry from what Long Beach is entitled to.

As the state assemblyman for Long Beach for 23 years and a former member of the medical center board, I am well acquainted with what the old facility offered the city. The hospital was in constant danger of failing for lack of good management, but residents of the barrier island were getting good medical care.

When you have a full-service hospital in your town, one of the benefits is that there are many doctors living locally, whose livelihood depends on the existence of that hospital. When Sandy shut it down, many of those doctors became affiliated with hospitals elsewhere and moved out of town. The lack of local doctors is now being used as an argument that the city should not get extensive medical care. But it’s a simple proposition that if a new and modern facility were built, doctors would come back.

The Long Beach of today is a far cry from the city I knew for so many years. Once considered a senior citizen community, it is now energized by many new and growing young families. They have changed the dynamic of the area, which now boasts many great restaurants and new stores. There’s a feeling of enthusiasm when you meet newly arrived residents and the empty-nesters who now fill the oceanfront high-rise buildings.

Despite the influx of new people, Long Beach still has a large number of nursing home beds, filled most often with many of the people who helped build the city. The last estimate is that there were at least 1,000 occupied beds. Those residents need the assurance of comprehensive medical services located nearby, as opposed to a time-sensitive ride to Oceanside. The proposal to give the city some new services didn’t go far enough for that population.

Following the storm, South Nassau Communities Hospital purchased the assets of the medical center. As the owner of the land, it is entitled to an estimated $130 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that are to be used for medical care. SNCH has proposed modernizing its Oceanside facility, which was not damaged by Sandy, with part of those funds. The Long Beach emergency facility will get a portion of that money as well, but not nearly enough, given the fact that the medical center was the victim of the storm.

Over the next few weeks, FEMA will decide how that money will be distributed. Like all other bureaucracies, the agency knows little about the medical-service disaster that Long Beach has experienced. It relies on applications submitted to it by South Nassau, and there is no formal agency in Long Beach that can fight for a fairer share of the money.

This isn’t a war between Long Beach and a widely respected institution in Oceanside. South Nassau has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and competently serves many people who live nowhere near the ocean. Nonetheless, it is entitled to a portion of the money the government is distributing, because it has spent a lot of its own money to provide medical services in Long Beach.

In the end, even if South Nassau gets access to all of the federal money, conscience and justice demands that it keep faith with the people of Long Beach by giving them the support that matches what the city is entitled to. Hopefully, that isn’t asking too much.



Crowded field threatens GOP’s chances

They say that “two is company and three is a crowd.”

The male star of the Broadway show South Pacific sang about an enchanted evening when he spotted his true love “across a crowded room.”

Nobody really likes a packed room, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it is going to be for the 15-plus announced Republican candidates for president to fit onto one platform starting this August.

Anyone who follows presidential politics recalls the mob scene at each of the 2012 Republican presidential debates when eight potential candidates tried to respond to the questions posed by some media personality. There’s nothing more boring than watching a bunch of grown men trying to score points at the expense of the other panelists.

By all accounts, leaders of the national Republican Party agreed that the last series of Republican debates hurt their eventual candidate, Mitt Romney, who became a target for all of the other contestants.

It’s tough enough to go one-on-one in a debate but to find yourself being attacked by a swarm of other candidates is an exercise in futility.

The eventual loser, Mitt Romney, has stated on numerous occasions that he felt the party’s debate system was seriously flawed and it was one, among many reasons, that he eventually lost to President Obama. He described the debates as “chaotic and often out of control.”

Most people would agree that debates with a large number of candidates leads to someone being embarrassed by some pressured answer. It’s hard to forget Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s famous discussion of his three-point platform for the future and forgetting the third point.

Opponents of Mitt Romney managed to blur his business record, his accomplishments as a governor of Massachusetts and smear him for his offshore holdings.

By the time Romney got to face President Obama he was a wounded candidate with few prospects of healing.

Having too many announced candidates also leads to tons of television money being spent knocking the other opponent with slick commercials and below-the-belt tactics. As the crowd gets bigger there is less a possibility that any one person will emerge unscarred.

Sensing disaster in the making Republican National Chair Rance Preibus has pledged that the number of debaters will not exceed 10.O.K., that eliminates at least six at this time and possibly another four or five when Chris Christie, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal come forward to save America.

But doesn’t that resemble something like the 2012 debacle?

The next dilemma for the Grand Old Party is how do you narrow down the field to the sacred number of 10? Which poll do you use that is a legitimate way to narrow the field? You can be sure that the polls taken in New Hampshire show a lot different results than the polls taken in the Deep South.

Iowa is a very important state to both parties so how do you ignore the Iowa polls? There is only one announced female candidate Carley Fiorina. Even if she has the lowest polls numbers howdo you leave her out of a debate?                   The Republican Party dilemma should make the Democratic Party as happy as can be but maybe that’s just not the case.

Right now, the only declared opponent for Hillary Clinton is the feisty independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He will be joined by someone named Martin O’Malley,also a very liberal candidate.

Mrs. Clinton would no doubt like to plant her flag firmly in the middle of the political battlefield but the very left wing Sanders and O’Malley aren’t  going to let her escape so easily from their  way out positions.

For the average voter the next 14 months promises to be like watching one of those rugby games on television.

No one is quite sure who has the ball and where it is going. I can hardly wait until the field of people who want to lead America is down to the simple number of two.

I, too, can’t stand crowds, especially when politics is involved.