Today’s Headlines

  • Motorist Who Hit 11-Year-Old Richard Granville Didn’t Have a Valid License (ABC)
  • News to State Senate: Give NYC’s Speed Cameras Back Now
  • Paul White Talks With Errol Louis About Recent Cyclist Injuries and Deaths (NY1)
  • News Still Shaming Madison Lyden for Not Wearing Helmet to Protect Her From Giant Truck
  • Molinaro Goes After Cuomo on MTA Neglect (PoliticoPost)
  • State AG Candidates Can’t Wait to Meddle in NYC Transportation Policy (Politico)
  • Soundview Ferry Service Starts Today (NY1)
  • Subway Conductors May Be Getting Body Cameras (GothamistNY1)
  • Buried Lede: NYPD Is Enforcing the Jefferson Avenue Bike Lane (Post)
  • Box Truck Driver Kills Man in East Williamsburg Parking Lot (NewsPost)
  • Dump Truck Driver Critically Injures Man on Northern Blvd. and Flees (ABC)
  • Shutting the Brooklyn Bridge to Transport a Prisoner Is So NYPD (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    So an Upstate Republican is concerned about NYC infrastructure? Or does he just think too much maintenance money is being spent on the New York City subway?

    Where does he think all the money that wasn’t spent on the subway went? Hint — it isn’t that taxes are relatively low here.

    “Since the MTA is in what he repeatedly called a “death spiral,” the governor should more effectively use his emergency-order authority to focus the MTA’s attention on what matters, much as former Gov. George Pataki did after Sept. 11, he said.”

    Pataki? Really? Of all the guilty parties, he is the guiltiest. He’s the reason that I’m only someone ticked rather than enraged at Cuomo.

    What might have mattered was electing Golisano in 1994 instead of Pataki, and Suozzi in 2006 instead of Spitzer.

  • William Lawson

    I am sick to the back teeth of the victim blaming of dead cyclists. Her not wearing a helmet was as much of a contributing factor to her death as it would have been if she’d been pushed down some stairs. When a car overturns and the driver dies of head injuries from the top being crushed, how many journalists write “and the fact that he was not wearing a helmet was almost certainly a contributing factor?”

    I’ve had it with people trying to tell me that cycling is “just different” when I point out other everyday activities which regularly lead to head injuries. You’re probably as likely to slip on ice and crack your head as you are to do it in a bike crash. Almost as many people die from stair falls as they do in car crashes. People fall off step ladders and roofs all the time, and they die. A huge number of these deaths could have been prevented if the victim had been wearing a helmet, but the collective mainstream attitude is to make an arbitrary distinction between cycling and other potentially dangerous activities and to conclude that cycling alone is dangerous enough to warrant compulsory helmet wearing.

    And here’s the thing about these “collective mainstream attitudes.” When you make logical arguments to refute them, people call you a “nut job” and a “fanatic.” There’s a psychology paper in here somewhere.

  • Maggie
  • Larry Littlefield

    “Over the last five years, Martin J. Golden, a Brooklyn Republican state senator, has pushed for a tax subsidy in support of video game production in New York State, similar to the existing program that sets aside $420 million for movie and television production. That effort has turned into a long game of “Mother May I?” with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.”

    I don’t know what’s worse. Handing out lots of tax breaks in a place with the highest overall tax burden in the country, leading to even higher taxes on everyone else.

    Or handing out lots of tax breaks and subsidies in the low tax so-called Red States, where revenues are inadequate as it is.

    What I do know is that 20 percent of private business establishments turn over every year, and one-third of your jobs are in establishments that did not exist five years prior. In the face of that, what business does the government have picking out individual businesses for special treatment?

    It’s a joke. But there is worse.

    The exemption of all public employee retirement income from New York State and New York City personal income taxes. The 421a property tax exemption for new development — now up to 45 years! The differential treatment of 1-4 family homes in NYC property taxes (which benefits me).

    And the vastly lower taxation of investment and retirement income relative to work income at the federal level.

  • sbauman

    I suggest that cameras be used to eliminate conductors on NYCT subways. They’ve been eliminated on virtually every other system in the world. They’re an anachronism from before multiple unit door control (pre 1925).

  • Joe R.

    The sad part is it was an otherwise good editorial until I got to the line “That Lyden wore no helmet did not help her chances of survival.” Then my blood started boiling. Newsflash—a piece of styrofoam won’t protect you when you’re hit by an f-ing 50,000 pound truck.

    I’m of the same mind as you. I don’t know why we single out cycling for helmet use when other every day activities, like walking, carry an even higher risk of head injury. As we’ve seen with discussions here, even some cyclists have the attitude that it’s a mortal sin to mount a bike without a helmet. In the face of idiocy like that, it’s no surprise whether or not the victim was wearing a helmet always seems to come up when there’s a dead cyclist. Here’s a nice stat—over 90% of cyclist deaths involve collision with a motor vehicle. Given the huge disparity in masses, it’s highly likely a helmet would not significantly affect the outcome in virtually all those incidents. Of the remaining <10% of deaths where helmets at least may have the potential to make a difference, it's far from established that they would given that bicycle helmets by design are only capable of protecting a rider falling off a stationary or near-stationary bicycle.

    The Netherlands realized this decades ago. As a result, helmet use while cycling there is close to zero. Despite that, their per capita cyclist death/injury rates are far lower than ours. And no, I don't wear a bike helmet myself. I grew up in a time when they didn't even exist. I got along fine cycling before the helmet craze. If something isn't broken, no need to fix it.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s what gets me even more about these tax breaks—100% of them go to companies. Where is the tax break for individual proprietors like me? Hey, if I’m in the same business the state or city chooses to give a big tax break to if the entity running it is a corporation, why can’t individuals in the same business get a similar break?

    Or failing that, how about not taxing the little guy so much. Start with dropping my FICA tax rate to the same 7.65% I would pay if I worked for someone else, not double that. And end stupid extra taxes like the NYC Unincorporated Business Tax. Thankfully, I was only actually affected by that once so far given that they increased the filing threshold to over $100K, but it annoyed me to go through all the extra paperwork. While we’re at it, NYC needs to treat S corporations like pass-through entities just like the federal government. Right now they’re subject to double taxation (i.e. both individual and general corporation taxes).

    There should be no special tax breaks for businesses. If you want to help business, lower the general tax rates for every type of business.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Just saw a copy of the WSJ. It says NYCT will be implementing maintenance and future BRT line cuts to offset falling revenues.

    It may not be much (yet) and it may be necessary, but doesn’t it nonetheless give us an indication of where we stand?

    “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to stop expanding a bus rapid-transit service, reduce bus fare-evasion patrols and cut dozens of positions for subway car cleaning as it seeks $562 million in cost reductions during the next few years.”

    “According to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, some MTA board members are concerned that the authority is taking such cost-savings measures even as it hires more than 1,000 workers under a plan launched last year to improve subway service, known as the Subway Action Plan.”

    That’s $562 million over several years. The killer is, with such a high share of the costs fixed and from the past, seemingly substantial cuts in service and maintenance yield relatively little in savings.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You can thank the Freelancers’ Guild for pushing them to raise the threshold on the UBT. It’s still too low.

    Back in the day, when the UBT was enacted, the self-employed were relatively rich. Partners in high-end law, accounting, and financial firms. Tax the bourgeoisie!

    Now it’s Uber Drivers, food cart operators, delivery people and the like.

  • fdtutf

    What? The Stockholm subway, to take one example, opened with two-person crews in 1950 and didn’t fully transition to one-person operation until the late 1980s.

    The Tube didn’t eliminate all of its guards until very recently. I’m not sure they’ve eliminated all of them, in fact.

  • ohhleary

    OMG. Guess Marty Golden learned nothing from Rhode Island.

  • kevd

    Your fica rate is the same as if you worked for someone else.
    The employer pays 7.65% and the employee pays 7.65%.
    Being self-employed means you are both the employer and the employee and therefore pay both.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Before the Greenspan/Regan deal of the early 1980s to “save Social Security,” the self-employed got a break. They didn’t pay half, but they paid less than the employer and employee share combined.

  • Joe R.

    The problem here is that being self-employed means you’re not eligible for some of the benefits covered by the FICA tax, such as Social Security disability. The self-employed are also generally a more responsible group which has better health and lower medical costs in old age. That means less Medicare spending. And of course there is a societal benefit to being your own employer. When all is said and done, a good case can be made that the self-employed should either pay only 7.65%, or be able to opt out of Social Security altogether. To some extent you can do the latter by setting yourself up as an S-corp and having the company pass its profits through. The problem with that (in NYC) is that an S-corp ends up paying general corporation tax. This wipes out most of the tax savings from avoiding the FICA tax (and also decreases your eventual Social Security benefit). In most of the country an S-corp is a good strategy for avoiding some or all FICA taxes but not in NYC.

    As to why would you want to avoid FICA taxes given that doing so will make you ineligible for Medicare and Social Security consider that the trust funds will go broke either before or while we’re collecting. Because of this I’m rethinking my strategy of waiting until I’m 70 before applying for Social Security. If the trust fund goes broke in 2034 as projected I’ll only get two years of benefits. If I start collecting at 62 I’ll get ten years of greatly reduced benefits. Those who are 46 or younger now will never see a dime in Social Security. By all metrics I would have been better off investing that money, even if I only got a return of 5%.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s an interesting history of self-employment FICA taxes:

    Compare to employee tax rates:

    The self-employed payed about 1.4 to 1.5 times as much as employees did until 1984. Then someone got the bright idea for the self-employed to pay more, perhaps because at the time most self-employed were fairly well off. The rate rose from 1.39 times the employee rate in 1983 to twice the employee rate in 1990. On top of that, the employee rates themselves rose dramatically from 1950s through the 1990s. In 1951 a self-employed person would only have paid 2.25% in FICA taxes. In 1990 they were paying 15.3%.

    Even worse is the fact this is the most regressive tax going whether you’re an employee or self-employed. It starts from the first dollar of income. The standard deduction (and now defunct personal exemption) should apply to FICA tax as well. That would at least reduce the hit somewhat. You can make up for it by raising the cap subject to FICA taxes. Or even better subject investment income over a certain amount to the FICA tax.

  • Andrew

    The London Underground hasn’t had guards since early 2000, when the 1959 Tube Stock was retired:

  • fdtutf

    (1) Sad.
    (2) 2000 is significantly later than 1925, so that supports my point.

    Thanks for the info.

  • Andrew

    I think his point was that MUDC eliminated the need for conductors from a technological perspective, not that all rolling stock procured since the advent of MUDC was designed with OPTO in mind. NYCT still runs equipment with corner cabs that are incompatible with OPTO, but the shift from OPTO-incompatibility in the R42 design to OPTO-compatibility in the R44 design was simply a change in the cab layout, nothing technological.

  • fdtutf

    To say that two-person operation is an anachronism from before 1925 is simply erroneous. It isn’t.

    Nor is your assertion that multiple-unit control eliminated the need for conductors correct; the technology that permits a train operator to adequately spot the doors at stations on curves is much newer.

  • kevd

    Sorry I haven’t gotten through all of that. It’s a bit long…
    I don’t want to say that the self-employed aren’t screwed in a bunch of ways. I was self-employed for a while and I am familiar. I just don’t think paying both the employer and employee portion of FICA and Medicare is one of those ways.
    “The self-employed are also generally a more responsible group which has better health and lower medical costs in old age.”
    Ummm. Sure. Maybe.
    A little statistical evidence might help that rather broad claim. I certainly was no more responsible when I was self-employed than I am now.

  • Joe R.

    There is starting to be some research in that area:

    And then of course you have anecdotal stuff like this:

    I base what I said off my own personal experience and that of others I know who are in business for themselves. I recall I hated working for other people, to the point I would be screaming at my alarm clock on Monday morning and mumbling “I hate my life” like Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending. Besides the generally low pay (I even did day laborer jobs for $20 a day not long after graduating because I couldn’t find anything else), the work always sucked. It was boring, repetitive. I had zero say in the hours I worked. Being a night person, I liken getting up at 6 or 7 for a day job to a day person having to get up at 2 AM. You can do it, but you never get used to it. You’re tired all the time. I had no life during the work week. Weekends were mostly spent recharging my batteries for the coming week.

    Working at home for myself was nothing short of a revelation. Once I could set my own hours, which generally meant I was seldom up before noon, I felt world’s better. I had some say in how much I was paid (at least to the extent that I could convince potential customers I was worth what I was asking). I generally had more interesting work. And I could work my job around my life, instead of the other way around. It was pretty much the same with everyone else I know who is self-employed.

    All of the above lowering of stress obviously keeps you healthier. I also have an added incentive to stay healthy in that I can’t afford health insurance. Not that I would abuse myself if I was insured, but I absolutely can’t start engaging in things I know will have long-term negative effects, like excessive drinking, eating until I’m morbidly obese, not exercising, etc. I probably wouldn’t do those things anything, but not having health insurance pretty much makes them a nonstarter.

    The downside of self-employment is variable, and in some cases, nonexistent, income. Still, that’s less stressful relative to the steady income of a job but having to deal with all the crap. The primary source of stress in my life now is taking care of my mother. At least being self-employed I can still earn some money should people need me. If I had a regular job I would have had to quit.

  • kevd

    oh good lord, Joe.
    concise writing is your friend on this type of forum.
    You don’t actually expect anyone to read all that, do you?

    My own recent anecdotal evidence suggests that working for a big corporation can be •way• more aggravating than self-employment. Even when hours were shitty, I was happier (and compensated more per additional hour worked) when I was an independent contractor.

  • Joe R.

    Brevity was never one of my strong points. I’m the person who used to write 10 page reports in school when the teachers said to keep it brief. If they didn’t, I might go well into 20 or 30 pages. To be fair I’m not the only one here who writes long posts. Larry and Ferdinand come to mind.

    At least we’re in agreement that working for yourself is less stressful than working for someone else.

    One factor that wouldn’t be accounted for in a study from Sweden is health insurance. All Swedes have it. Many self-employed in the US have poor insurance or none at all.

    That might skew the results but when you’re young especially not too many people give health insurance any thought. My guess is lack of health insurance is mainly a source of stress for those with lots of medical bills. Then again, don’t forget the really poor self-employed can often qualify for Medicaid. So yes, it’s a factor, but I think a minor one.

    Also, social security is not a retirement investment. That’s what IRAs and 401Ks are for. Social Security is an agreement that no senior citizen should have to live below a basic level. A more appropriate solution is raising or eliminating the cap on social security taxes, not letting even more high earners off the hook. You’re falling for some crazy right wing horse-shit there.

    I’ve said many times raise the cap on Social Security taxes, and also levy FICA taxes on non-work income like capital gains over a certain amount. Sure, Social Security is partly an income redistribution program and that’s fine. My objection though is taking FICA taxes from people who could use that money for necessary expenses. That’s why I think the first $25K should be exempt from ALL income and payroll taxes, whether you’re self-employed or not.

    Apropos of nothing, but for the amount we spend on defense we can easily provide national health insurance and save Social Security with money left over. No need for any new taxes. That’s the reason none of the proposals for national health insurance ever get anywhere. I still remember when President Clinton floated the idea. All I saw was yet another deduction from my already meager paycheck. If there must be new taxes to pay for national health care, then the wealthy, not the middle class or poor, are the ones who should be hit with a tax increase.

  • kevd

    I think (as usual) we’re broadly in agreement. Especially “raise the cap on Social Security taxes, and also levy FICA taxes on non-work income like capital gains”

    We already pay more of our GDP towards health care than any other industrialized nation (about 17% – germany, switzerland & france are in the mid 11% and the next three western nations). And all those other western nations have have far better access and mostly better outcomes. Medicare of all or Medicare buy-in would be an over all money saver. The problem is not the money it would cost, but the money certain people would no longer get to pocket.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly. By every metric nationalizing health care would provide better outcomes AND save a ton of money. Of course, those who run insurance companies wouldn’t be too happy.

    A secondary benefit is once the government pays for health care, there is an incentive for finding low-cost treatments for diseases. Hence you would have lots of government-funded research, combined with a real push to get people to live healthier lifestyles. The active transport we all espouse here dovetails nicely with that goal.

    Not so under the US for-profit system. For example, cancer is big business. I’ll bet if a cure or vaccine for cancer existed, you’ll have a lot of people trying to make sure it never sees the light of day.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “One factor that wouldn’t be accounted for in a study from Sweden is health insurance. All Swedes have it.”

    All Canadians have it, and their self employment rate is higher than ours.

    Meanwhile, U.S. new business formation is down, and we’re ending up with dominant oligopolies creating oligarchy.

    We’re beholden to employers for a health are system that is 75%-plus financed by government. It’s going to kill our capitalist economy.

  • kevd

    That was the word I was looking for!

  • Brevity was never one of my strong points.

    While it’s not good to be needlessly logorreic, one should feel free to use as many words as is necessary in order to express clearly the details and nuances of one’s point,

    Concision is not a virtue.

  • kevd

    an effective social safety net underpins entrepreneurial drive and the dynamic economies of Scandinavia.