All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.
1. Retired local food blogger Jeremy Horwitz posed a simple question on Twitter which led to a robust discussion amongst several local bloggers.
If you’re reading this website, you’ve probably had this conversation dozens of times over dinner or a few porch beers with friends. Maybe you’ve argued the finer points of BuffaFAIL on various social media outlets while you’ve slacked off at work.
Hell, I wrote hundreds of variations on this theme while writing at WNYMedia. But, I rarely write about it anymore. Why, you ask? I grew tired writing about the horrible, transactional political crumb hoarding that makes for news in this region. The same people having the same arguments every year. It’s fucking ponderous, man.
However, the bigger picture is that Buffalo and WNY are the way they are because you don’t really want it to be any different. And lacking any massive influx of new people with fresh perspectives, it’s going to stay the same.
If you really wanted to create change, you would. However, you’re comfortable in your middling job with your below-national-market salary. You leave your desk at 4:59PM every day to race home through minimal traffic and get back to your life at your affordable house that barely appreciates in value. You complain about the “outrageous” taxes, but you vote for a higher school budget every year and you protest like a 60’s hippie whenever a government official tries to cut spending or reduce/regionalize your public services.
Many of you hate when they tear down old buildings, but also hate the way the new ones look. Oh, and you demand that your input be incorporated into the plans. Many of you wish businesses would invest in their facilities, but threaten to sue if you don’t personally approve of said improvements. The rest of you complain about these types of planning busybodies, but you couldn’t be bothered to get off your ass to stop them. You’re “busy”.
You loathe the local political class, but you rarely vote. And if you do go out to vote? It’s to vote the same bums back into office or promote them to a higher one. You don’t get involved in your town or city political committee. You don’t donate to unproven candidates and you sure as shit don’t go out to petition or canvass for an underdog candidate. You want to magically will them into office with your supportive Facebook posts.
There are dozens of other reasons that inform why the status quo is what it is, but why beat a dead horse?
Buffalo is the way it is because this is the way you want it. It’s your fault. Until you own that, nothing much is going to change.
If none of the above describe your attitude, you’re probably reading this from outside WNY or planning to do so as soon as possible.
For the small percentage of people who don’t fit into the above, haven’t moved and aren’t currently planning an escape? You’re a special and unique little snowflake in this town. Try to remain sane as you swim upstream against the ferocious power of the status quo. But here’s a bit of unsolicited advice, stop trying to “save” Buffalo. It doesn’t want to be saved. This city is like an alcoholic, abusive boyfriend. The more you try to save him, the more he drags you down with him. I know, we don’t “know” how sweet he can be when you’re alone together, right? If you just try hard enough, he’ll change.
As in real life, you can’t save someone or something that doesn’t want to be saved. Make yourself a personal and professional success…and maybe Buffalo will follow your lead.
2. An under-reported reason as to why unemployment rates have stayed a bit higher than expected is the massive reductions in government jobs, both at the federal and state level.
It’s true that during Obama’s tenure, government employment at all levels dropped by 1.2 percent in 2011, one of the largest declines in history. The federal government lost a proportional share of these jobs: about 13 percent of government workers are employees of the federal government, and about 13 percent of overall public sector job losses in 2011 happened there. But what’s critical to understand is that the drop-off in employment in state and local government wasn’t spread evenly across states, and this trend had almost nothing to do with Obama or his policies.
Some states have experienced much deeper cuts in government employment than others.
Of the eleven states in which Republicans came into power in 2010 – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – five were among the seven states that lost more than 2.5 percent of their workforce from December 2010 to December 2011. The remaining 42 states lost an average 0.5 percent (there is no data for Mississippi).
3. I’ve been meaning to write about this one for about a week. Suburban poverty rates are rapidly climbing.
The Brookings Institution reported two years ago that “by 2008 suburbs were home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country.” In the previous eight years, major metropolitan suburbs had seen poverty rates climb by 25 percent, almost five times faster than cities. Nationwide, 55 percent of the poor living in the nation’s metropolitan regions lived in suburbs.
To add insult to injury, a new measure to calculate poverty — introduced by the Census Bureau just last year — darkens an already bleak picture: nationally, 51 million households had incomes less than 50 percent above the official poverty line, and nearly half of these households were in suburbs.
We see a lot of similar changes in our inner-ring suburbs. Rising poverty rates and increasing numbers of vacant properties were documented in LISC-Buffalo’s research paper, Blueprint Buffalo – Regional Strategies and Local Tools for Reclaiming Vacant Properties published in 2006. The study and action plan are still incredibly valuable and with the approval of a regional land bank, perhaps we can begin to address problems of disinvestment.
4. The truth of Comrade Obama’s unrelenting war of terror against those wholesome American oil companies laid bare!
Oh, when will this socialist America-hater stop the madness?!
5. Conservative judicial activists run amok!
Five years ago, Jeffrey Rosen wrote a startling essay in the New York Times Magazine, describing a radical turn of events that is being borne out before our eyes. In the piece, Rosen described the rise of a new strand of conservative and libertarian judicial activists who believed the Constitution required small-government policies. Advocates of this theory believed judicial intervention was legally justified, of course, but also that it was necessary to win policy victories that conservatives could not obtain through Congress.
During the oral arguments over PPACA (Obamacare) in the Supreme Court, this kind of conservative activism has been on full display.
The spectacle before the Supreme Court this week is Republican justices seizing the chance to overturn the decisions of democratically-elected bodies. At times the deliberations of the Republican justices are impossible to distinguish from the deliberations of Republican senators.
Scalia himself offers the most blatant case. His famed thunderings against meddlesome judges are nowhere to be found. He is gleefully reversing his previous interpretation of the Commerce Clause, now that it is being deployed against big government liberals rather than pot smokers. He is railing against Obamacare like an angry Fox News-watching grandfather.
Personally, I favor broad interpretations of law and the Constitution by SCOTUS. The Constitution is a living, breathing document not an inflexible checklist. However, Scalia and the right wing abhor judicial activism, or so we thought.
6. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities has completed their analysis of the budget put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan and the House Republicans.
Even as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget would impose trillions of dollars in spending cuts, 62 percent of which would come from low-income programs,  it would enact new tax cuts that would provide huge windfalls to households at the top of the income scale. People earning more than $1 million a year would receive $265,000 apiece in new tax cuts, on average, on top of the $129,000 they would receive from the Ryan budget’s extension of President Bush’s tax cuts.
All of its new tax cuts are both expensive and tilted toward high-income households. It would cut the top individual tax rate to 25 percent, the lowest level since the Hoover Administration more than 80 years ago. It would cut the corporate rate to 25 percent and eliminate both the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Affordable Care Act’s increase in the Medicare tax for high-income people.
Seems fair…if your name is Donald Trump.
Fact Of The Day: There is a company called “Shitter” which will print your tweets onto toilet paper, so you can wipe your ass with the Charmin-y softness of your own banality.
Quote Of The Day: “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate” ~ Bertrand Russell
Video Of The Day (Movie Monologues Week): Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross
Cartoon Of The Day (Bugs Bunny Week): Bugs and Thugs
Song Of The Day: “Makes No Sense At All” – Hüsker Dü
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