blame has gone around faster than you can stealthily light a
cigarette in that aforementioned corner bar, without being caught.
The legislature's favorite target is county executive Joel Giambra,
who sprung the wonderful red budget/green budget scenario upon
us in the first place. Of course, Giambra being the "I'll
scratch your ass if you scratch mine" sort of goomba, failed
to cut much of his personal fat and patronage out of either
budget scenario, essentially telling the residents to go to
hell in a hand basket while people like his personal lackey
Victor Getz could keep their cushy overpaid positions. As a
matter of fact, Getz's job was to ferry Joel around for a whopping
$84,000 a year-way more money than most of the teachers in Buffalo's
crumbling schools will ever dream of making. When Getz's prime
job placement started drawing heat, he was moved to another
position, heading a nonexistent department. Now he's gone from
there, too, but you can bet he'll show up again, at yet another
legislature acted correctly in calling Giambra on his bullshit
and denying him his pork-filled green budget the second time
around. But many of the legislators' motivations were shallow,
especially those with suburban constituencies who eat up any
form of anti-tax rhetoric like candy. Although there are some
suburbanites who truly care about the future of this city
and region, in my experience most of them have the same narrow
interests of seeing their taxes kept low as possible and keeping
poor, colored kids out of their sheltered school districts.
never-ending torrent of reader feedback to The Buffalo News
shows that people are finally fuming over the way Erie County
has been run into the ground. Judging by these letters, the
two biggest grievances are the threat of higher taxes and
the excessive pork and waste in the budget. Many think that
firing as many county employees as possible and running government
"like a business" is the key to fixing these problems.
News has printed countless stories about the mudslinging and
bickering, but really has yet to analyze the root causes of
this whole mess (one might argue that the News actually benefits
from the status quo in Buffalo, since they are making plenty
of money and a more vibrant community might spawn another
daily paper). In a nutshell, these are some of the underlying
With the mass explosion of automobile use came a great sense
of mobility. In other words, people with the most choice got
the fuck out of Buffalo and headed for greener, warmer pastures.
Manufacturing jobs, once the bread and butter of this region,
also fled south where the labor was cheaper, then de-unionized,
eventually fleeing to Mexico and overseas. Buffalo was left
with a poor underclass including a strong minority element,
left in a perpetual state of unemployment, wage slavery and
hopelessness. Much of the middle class that remained fled
to the suburbs to avoid those very people. This all, of course,
had a negative effect on the county's tax base. Globalization
has rendered cold, snowy dumps like Buffalo into sore losers
in its grand scheme.
care: We have to admit that many of the fiscal crunches facing
local government everywhere stem from a state and mostly federal
problem. Local municipalities are left between a rock and
a hard place, unable to control a problem far beyond their
reach. The current American health care fiasco is probably
the single largest crisis hammering away at local governments
everywhere. The American population is getting sicker than
ever, thanks to a contaminated food supply and the unchecked
fast food and junk food industries turning us into a collection
of apathetic fat slobs.
mostly unregulated pharmaceutical industry charges whatever
the hell they want for drugs while the federal government
is too intoxicated with lobby cash to dare negotiating reasonable
prices. So obviously, as people get sicker and older and drug
prices jump, health care costs are skyrocketing. Federally
mandated programs like Medicare and Medicaid have large parts
of their bloated costs shuffled onto the backs of state and
county government. That, coupled with retiree pensions, renders
Erie County unable to support itself much longer without some
radical change in plans.
the other hand, caring for the old and infirm is a moral obligation
of any civilized society. Giambra cut property taxes by 30%
without making any adjustments to spending, thereby forcing
a crisis and exploiting it to increase the sales tax. This
is a Republican tactic known as "starving the beast,"
an effort to weaken social programs and move the tax burden
to the poor and middle class. It parallels the Bush plan-and
now Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is proposing a national sales
tax to pick up the slack from Bush's tax cuts, again burdening
those who can least afford it.
For years our city and county governments have been run by
career politicians whose primary purpose on the job was to
preserve their own political careers instead of bring progressive
change to the bodies they govern. Many of these politicians,
like Giambra and Masiello, have large rosters of well-connected
political operatives and friends in the business community,
often high-profile developers. Many civic jobs are given to
their friends and family instead of qualified applicants.
Patronage has always been an active element of any civil government
throughout the ages, but is always worse in an area dominated
by a faltering economy and lack of voter participation to
hold elected officials accountable for their actions.
As stated above, many of the problems Erie County is facing
are out of their control due to federal mismanagement. Giambra
is correct when he rails against the wrecked state of Medicaid,
although he tends to overlook his own history of fiscal mismanagement.
local governments have little control, they must resort to
outlandish actions if they want to see anything change.
the federal government is screwing us over, county politicians
need to grow some balls and stop enforcing frivolous federal
policies: Stop enforcing drug and prostitution laws. Take
out a huge loan and start a single-payer healthcare plan available
to all residents-watch how quick businesses will relocate
to our region at the prospect of no longer having to pay costly
benefit plans. On this single payer plan, we would import
all prescription drugs from Canada until the pharmaceutical
companies play fair and lower their prices.
course, the feds would retaliate and cut off our highway funds.
But, if Buffalo/Erie County is really suffering at the hands
of New York State and the federal government, we should really
make some noise. As one of the USA's hardest-hit regions,
failing as a result of uncaring free trade zealots and supply-side
hacks, I'd rather see WNY become a pioneering squeaky wheel
than simply drop dead like another canary in the rust belt
course, no candidate from either major party will ever rock
the boat to this degree. But maybe we've been through enough
to realize that the answer lies beyond the political orthodoxy.