Friday, February 26, 2010

Independent Path

The Politicker has an interesting article on the course being charted by the Independence Party-and the party leader Frank McKay takes aim at the charge that he's in the tank for landlords: "Mr. MacKay bristles at the notion that his party is synonymous with any one particular industry in the business community, which is what his counterpart in the labor-backed Working Families Party, Dan Cantor, is saying. Mr. Cantor even has a nickname for Mr. MacKay’s organization: “The Landlord Party.” Mr. MacKay doesn’t appreciate it."

McKay demurs: "When he talks about landlords, he’s probably referring to our relationship with business groups,” Mr. MacKay said. “There are business groups all over the state that are coming to us,” he said. “The LIA is a group that we’re working with and talking with, constantly. Certainly they don’t have anything to do with landlords,” he said, referring to the Long Island Association, a business membership organization. “We’re the party of business,” continued Mr. MacKay. “We’re proud to say we’re the party of small business. Half the jobs in New York State are created by small business, and we would love to be known as the party of small business,” he said."

This is, in our view, just the right direction for the Independents to be taking-but they need to do more work identifying those small businesses and organizations that would lend credibility to the party's big tent pretensions. If they do, however,they could become potent political force; and in the process it would behoove them to take direct aim at the WFP's real constituency, the public sector unions.

Public sector unions are symbolic of the biggest issue that will be facing the voters in the fall-the size, scope and cost of the government at all levels. As one astute observer points out, the public sector is the "fourth rail" of today's politics: "Entitlement programs or, more specifically, reforming them before they bankrupt the nation, is considered the Third Rail of Politics. We now have, however, a Fourth Rail, just as pernicious, doing just as much damage to our national financial well-being and perhaps threatening our liberty even more than Social Security and Medicare. That Fourth Rail is the growth of the public sector work force, i.e. employees of federal, state, and local governments, and the massive money- and power-hungry unions which represent them."

And, while unemployment is epidemic in the private sector, the situation among public employees is much less dire-to say the least: "The growth of federal (civilian, not military) compensation is even more pronounced, as another Edwards study shows. In 2000, the average federal civilian worker made two-thirds more than the average private sector worker. By 2008, the federal worker was making double -- yes double -- the private sector worker."

And the pension and benefit obligations are sinking us rapidly: "According to a new study by the Pew Center on the States, "A $1 trillion gap… exists between the $3.35 trillion in pension, health care and other retirement benefits states have promised their current and retired workers as of fiscal year 2008 and the $2.35 trillion they have on hand to pay for them." So, the growth of government head-count and compensation is not only costing taxpayers over a hundred billion dollars a year now, but it's also burdening our children with massive future liabilities."

But as pernicious is the public sector union's defense of big government-as if every demand to roll back the cost is a threat to your safety as well as to your child's educational future: "It remains the standard tactic of liberals, government workers, and other leeches off your earnings to demonize anyone who wants to reduce the cost and intrusiveness of government by saying that teachers and policemen will lose their jobs."

Of course, the expansion of the educational bureaucracy and rising teacher salaries hasn't exactly lead to Nirvana, has it? And the folks are beginning to catch on-a fact that could become the wind at the sails of a newly invigorated Independence Party: "It is time for citizens to force government at all levels to live within our means. The good news is that much of the problem is at the state and local level, where small numbers of citizens can have bigger impact than on the federal level. Cutting back the metastasizing public sector is the Fourth Rail of politics. It is time for a few well-grounded politicians and citizens to step on that rail before we turn into France -- or even worse, into Greece."

And New York State already has its own Greek tragedy in play-a situation that can only advance the fortunes of the Independents. As McKay tells it: “We’re getting a dialogue together with businesses, and we’re attracting more voters who are concerned with business and economic issues, and fiscal responsibility,” said Mr. MacKay. “And they’re looking at both major parties and not seeing that, but it’s a dialogue.”

With independents playing a bigger role on all levels of American politics, the NYS Independence Party is well placed to play a major role come November. If it stays its current course, it will be a boon for the beleaguered tax payers and small businesses of New York