Today’s Headlines

  • De Blasio Announces Ferry Contract With Estimated $6.60 Subsidy Per Ride (NYT, Politico, Gothamist)
  • Cuomo and de Blasio Aren’t Talking to Each Other About the City and State Budgets (Politico)
  • State Lawmakers Reject Panderer Cuomo’s Thruway Toll Tax Break (Empire Center)
  • Riders Alliance to AMNY Readers: You’re on Cuomo’s Turf When You Ride the Subway
  • More on Rodriguez’s Car-Free Earth Day Presser: Politico, AMNY, DNA
  • Speeding, Unlicensed Driver Fleeing Police Crashes Car on West Village Sidewalk (DNA)
  • Reminder: Crossing Guards Are a Symptom of Unsafe Streets, Not a Solution (Post)
  • Homicide Indictment for Sober Limo Driver in Suffolk Crash That Killed Four Passengers (NYT)
  • Urban Omnibus Writer Proposes Extending the 3 Line on Existing Elevated Tracks in East New York
  • NYPD Brass Want More Officers Riding Trains (DNA)
  • WNYC Story Helps Explain Why Chris Christie Doesn’t Identify With People Who Rely on Transit

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Alexander Vucelic

    “far more socialism” ? State consumption of GDP is ~40% in US and ~45% in EU. Nil difference

  • “Nil difference”, so public healthcare exists, public transit, social services all far bigger in Europe than in the US, but “Nil difference”. You do realize that the “~40%” figure you’re quoting goes MOSTLY to private individuals either through direct entitlement payment, or through government contracts. And besides, to reduce socialism down to a single number is silly at best. The restriction on firearms would cost almost nothing, but would be considered a very socialist policy.

  • If you don’t support “involuntary” taxation, then you support the turning over of the entire public sphere into private hands. This is Koch brothers territory. I am sure you are smarter than that.

    I am in favour of the public ownership of all of the things you mention — and far more! But you don’t have to be a red like me in order to see that the incentive for private owners is to go where the best paying customers are, rather than to the poorer areas.

    Taxation is a necessary component of a civilised society. Taxes represent the people’s choice, through their representative government, on the uses to which the community’s wealth is put. And sometimes taxes can be used as a means of incentivising behaviour which we want more of (through tax breaks) or less of (through increased taxes). It would be desireable, for example, to give tax breaks to bicyclists and to have gasoline taxes of many times the current rate.

    In general, Americans pay far too little in taxes, and refuse to accept their responsibility to change this state of affairs. And we see the result of this sickness in the form of crumbling infrastructure and withering social programmes. The most horrible expression of this shameful ideological crusade is probably privatised prisons, which are nothing more than concentration camps and torture houses.

    Whenever you hear the excuse that something worthwhile cannot be done because a municipality or a county is “cash-strapped”, this means simply that that population is unwilling to pay sufficient taxes.

    The evil here is not taxation, but an ideological fixation on getting rid of taxes.

  • bolwerk

    Europe has effectively zero socialism outside some leftist communes, and those are rare and I rather doubt ever state-sanctioned. Germany and many countries Americans wrongly think of as socialist are in many ways more market-oriented than the USA: you pay for what you consume, and to a large extent that includes transportation.

    What Europe has in more abundance than the US would properly be called state capitalism. This includes Nordic countries; Norway, for instance, sells oil and shares the proceeds with the citizenry (maybe that stopped working since prices plunged). Rhine capitalists don’t like American-style competitiveness; they see it as unstable.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the state should consume ~7% of GDP as it did in 1912. In 1912, we had police, public schools, a military, roads, telephone, post office, and all the rest. There is no justification for the state to consume 40% of GDP.

    Koch Brothers ? They are crony capitalists statists similar to Soros.

  • Joe R.

    Military, entitlements, and interest on the debt account for most of that increase. You can make a case for some entitlements but the US never should have gone this heavily in debt, nor should we spend more on the military than the next 7 or so highest-spending countries combined.

    That said, for various reasons it probably does cost a bit more to run a modern society with modern infrastructure than it did back then but I agree in principal spending in way too high. Maybe 15% of GDP is closer to what we should be spending.

    On taxes, I favor mostly consumption taxes to pay for the 15%, perhaps an income tax which only hits the wealthy also. The poor through upper middle class (say up to $100K annual income) shouldn’t pay a dime in income taxes, especially that regressive 15.3% Social Security tax which starts on the first dollar of earned income.

  • ahwr

    all created privately and operated profitably until Nationalized

    This just isn’t true at all. Erie Canal was built by NY under Gov Clinton. IRT and BMT were mostly paid for by the city. Heavy government involvement in the railroads and ferries too.

  • ahwr

    No, DOT’s budget doesn’t include any MTA crossings. It does include the city operated untolled east river bridges.

    Why are you ignoring other road related costs? The only item that seems easy to exclude is the ~$100 million annually for the ferry.

  • Joe R.

    The problem here is a combination of the level of taxation and who it hits. Many poor and middle class actually pay more income taxes as a percentage of their income than the wealthy. The wealthy should pay more overall while the poor through middle class, perhaps even low upper middle class, shouldn’t pay anything beyond sales taxes. We should also derive most of our revenue from user fees and consumption taxes, not income taxes. The 15.3% Social Security/Medicaid tax is a particularly regressive income tax which starts from the very first dollar of earned income.

    In one example very close to home, since driving is largely a luxury good with severe negative effects, we should levy heavy user fees on it. That includes higher gas taxes, much more for parking, and higher taxes on the vehicles themselves. A low to medium priced car should carry maybe a 25% sales tax. Luxury cars should have at least a 100% sale tax. We could derive a lot of revenue from all these things.

    We should also spend a lot more on infrastructure but a lot less on everything else. That includes most social programs. I actually favor nationalizing health care but at the same time taking major steps to reduce its cost. Let the government do drug and medical R&D, not for profit companies. And ration expensive procedures which only extend life by weeks or months in late old age. You can better spend that money on preventive medical care for the young, which in many cases will extend life by years or decades. I could go on, but the problem is a bit more complex than you’re making it out to be. Yes, we have a sociopathic obsession with cutting taxes on the wealthy for its own sake in this country which has had devastating results. At the same time though we’re being less than honest if we don’t accept that the poor through lower middle class pay much more than they should in taxes.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Hmm, interesting. So that’s brooklyn/manhattan/williamsburg/queensboro basically, while the MTA takes care of battery/midtown/triboro/whitestone/throgs neck/VNB/Henry Hudson/Gil Hodges/cross bay. I understand that the MTA toll surplus doesn’t bleed into the DOT budget; but I think it’s fair for this discussion to count it towards ‘paying for the roads’ regardless.

    I don’t want t split hairs, we can include the whole 1.6 billion if you like, either way we’re at the correct order of magnitude.

  • Joe R.

    It’s worth noting though quite a few of these profitable transportation services were so only off the backs of the workers. While I do think we’ve gone too far in the other direction with public labor unions, I don’t think those entities are shining examples of how to run for-profit transportation. If we want to cut costs, then do it by increasing labor productivity so we need less labor, not by having third-world working conditions. It’s certainly true the MTA is a bloated mess but I doubt it could be profitable in the strict sense even if we pared everything to the bone. Luxury transportation services can and do make a profit but by definition those only serve a niche which the company chooses. When you serve everyone, it’s hard to make a profit.

  • You’re arguing about details here, the average American doesn’t really understand the difference between communism and socialism let alone specific brands of socialism. What you describe is generally still more socialist than the US, when considering the general broad meaning of socialism as opposed to Marx’s specific definition. And yes, in many ways those countries also have freer markets. That only goes to show how more complex the issue is than one or the other. Socialism is simply the belief or political/economic policies that resources (natural, means of production, capital) should be organized by the community as a whole towards benefiting the whole community. Whether this is done through communism, or state corporations, it would still be considered socialism. But if you prefer a different term, then just say that, it in no way affects the point being made.

  • bolwerk

    Neither the U.S. nor Europe have any form of state-sanctioned socialism that I’m aware of, but Europe is quite seriously more dogmatically capitalist than the USA. Now and then sincerely socialist parties win elections, but they never stay around long enough to implement socialist systems (if they even try). America actually has a much better history curbing the excesses of capitalism than Europe, but then America has probably seen more of those excesses and it does so through fiscal and monetary policy and regulation.

    Either way, the economic policy of the eurozone and UK are both being so incompetently managed by doctrinaire neoliberals that even the GOP would maybe blush.

  • Bahahaha, oh that’s rich. “Neither the US nor Europe have any form of state-sanctioned socialism that I’m aware of”…yeah, they don’t collect ANY taxes in either places. Collecting taxes *IS* socialism. Its a government, collecting resources, to distribute to the greater good. At its most basic level that’s all socialism is. You’re confusing it with communism, as many American’s do.

    As for America curbing capitalism. At one point in history, you were probably right. That point is long gone. Corruption reigns supreme now. Lobbyists run the country. Parts of Europe certainly also have these issues, but many studies have shown the US to have far more corruption than some European countries especially Scandinavian countries.

  • bolwerk

    You don’t seem to know what either is. Collecting taxes is…collecting taxes. It’s how states finance themselves and predates capitalism and and modern concept of socialism by millennia. It’s neither socialist nor capitalist. However, between the two, only capitalism depends on taxation. Capitalist ideology holds that the state exists to secure private property, which makes taxation necessary minimally for the purposes of policing.

    America actually used monetary and fiscal policy as recently as 2008-2009 to fight the Great Recession. This might be incompetence more than deliberate policy, but most of Europe basically had no way to respond except through neoliberal austerity measures.

  • If you’re defining “modern concept of socialism” as “what Marx called socialism” then sure, but a modern (this century) understanding is far broader:

    And you miss the point entirely, you’re arguing semantics of a word, both you and I know what is the topic here, you’re being pedantic for no reason. You aren’t the person who dictates what the word socialism means. Its dictated by our common understanding.

    And yes, America did use fiscal and monetary policy in the 2008 recession. Those acts weren’t necessarily beneficial to the free market.

  • bolwerk

    But you dictate it? Social democrats, which American RWAs would call socialists, often don’t themselves identify as socialists. And socialists who do identify as socialists don’t would call social democrats capitalists. Marxists and anarchists usually point at each other and accuse each other of capitalism. To top it off, many neoliberals call themselves social democrats (see the Blairite wing of the UK Labour Party or the mainstream of the German SPD) but more closely resemble the ideology of Mike Bloomberg. So much for common understanding! Accepting the definition you provided from Google for the sake of argument, it’s not hard to see how even that system basically doesn’t exist in Europe unless you define “the community” as “the state,” and even then it is a rather unusual. But the word that captures it is state capitalism.

    In any case, the communications and transportation systems capitalists depend on for trade, not to mention police power, money creation, and and judiciary enforcement, all by necessity require taxation. It is pointless to deny this unless you want to sophistically extend the word capitalism to be encompassed by socialism too – which I would not object to, if you let me lurk while you troll Libertardians with it!

    Those acts weren’t necessarily beneficial to the free market.

    Whatever that means, there is little denial outside the heterodox economics fringe that the Bush/Obama interventions saved the U.S. economy and I would argue, by extension, the world economy. No socialism involved! Europe as a whole, of course, would do no such thing because they’re too neoliberal. For all the amusing comments from American “liberals” supporting European-style social democracy, their suffering for it is unmistakable.

  • Obviously I don’t dictate it, but in any case, I always took it to be a spectrum, as opposed to a specific thing.

    What I mean by isn’t beneficial to the free market is, that while the government bailed out specific companies and banks, and thus supported the economy, an act which was probably the better option, such a choice isn’t a “free market” option, which would dictate you let failing companies fail. Further, I would argue the size of these companies really makes the traditional idea of the “free market” somewhat invalid. Capitalism isn’t the same as free markets, but many people see them hand in hand, but that’s just another discussion of terminology.

    As for trolling libertarians, yes, it is always fun to point out the rather obvious issues with their beliefs.

  • Andrew

    Hmm, interesting. So that’s brooklyn/manhattan/williamsburg/queensboro basically, while the MTA takes care of battery/midtown/triboro/whitestone/throgs neck/VNB/Henry Hudson/Gil Hodges/cross bay.

    DOT is also responsible for most of the Harlem River bridges and nearly all of the bridges over the city’s smaller bodies of water. None of DOT’s bridges charges a toll.

    With all due respect, if you’re just learning now that the MTA isn’t responsible for all of the city’s bridges, perhaps you need to do a bit more research before making broad pronouncements about road funding.

    I understand that the MTA toll surplus doesn’t bleed into the DOT budget; but I think it’s fair for this discussion to count it towards ‘paying for the roads’ regardless.

    Then you have to also deduct the costs of operating, maintaining, and repairing those bridges from the MTA B&T surplus that you claim goes to transit.

  • Andrew

    Capital costs include far more than just initial construction.

    The vast majority of bridges in the city – the ones that are toll-free – do not collect tolls and have nothing to do with the MTA.

    You’re still ignoring the cost of the space occupied by city streets. It’s a real cost even if you choose to ignore it.

  • reasonableexplanation

    None of DOT’s bridges charges a toll.

    Correct, but they get (or are supposed to get) use fees through gas taxes, no?

    >As for th MTA vs DOT money bit; I know they’re separate pots, but that’s not the fault of the motorist, nor should it be factor when considering whether or not someone pays for their use of the road. If a motorist pays X in gas taxes, Y in tolls to the MTA, and Z in tolls to the port authority, we should be considering whether X+Y+Z pays for their use of the road, even if the port authority keeps the bulk of that money, for example.

    Then you have to also deduct the costs of operating, maintaining, and repairing those bridges from the MTA B&T surplus that you claim goes to transit.

    I do actually; MTA B/T toll revenue is 1.7 billion. 500 million goes to direct maintenance, and 600 million pays for capital debt service. That leaves 600 million that goes into the MTA pot. I think it’s fair to count that towards the total paid by motorists, no?