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Feds Should Fund COVID-Ravaged NY; Public Workers Must Help

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By Friday, 05 June 2020 08:37 AM Current | Bio | Archive

On May 18, Newsmax published my article, "Coronavirus Epidemic Suppressed in NY: Cuomo, de Blasio Must Re-Open Now," which argued the COVID-19 epidemic in New York had receded, and which urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to immediately re-open five of the state's 10 regions, including New York City, that were still locked-down.

On Friday, May 29, Gov. Cuomo announced that NYC, the last shuttered region, would finally re-open on June 8, three weeks after I presented unimpeachable evidence the epidemic had waned in the Empire State.

The following table highlights the steep decline in coronavirus fatalities, for three consecutive periods, since April 6:

DEATHS DATES % INCREASE
10,056 to 20,597 April 6 to May 6 100%
20,597 to 22,843 May 6 to May 18 10.9%
22,843 to 24,023 May 18 to June 1 5.2%

(Source: Website of the NYS Department of Health)

Similarly, NYC's death toll went from 15,983 on May 17 to 16,892 on June 2, or an equally encouraging 5.7% increase (Source: NYCDOH).

Recently, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed to President Donald Trump and Congress for billions of dollars in additional aid, to help balance the gigantic budget deficits that the city and state are confronting. Undoubtedly, New York state and city have suffered more than any other localities from the COVID-19 epidemic.

As of June 1, the 24,023 deaths in New York State represent 27.8% of the 86,495 confirmed deaths in the country. Yet New York State's 19,454,000 residents are only 5.9% of the nation's 327,534,000 population.

But President Trump and Congress, before approving a multi-billion-dollar bail-out, should emulate the effective strategies crafted 45 years ago, by Democratic New York Gov. Hugh Carey, to rescue New York City from fiscal bankruptcy.

When President Gerald Ford refused to support a Congressional bill providing $4 billion in loan guarantees, the NY Daily News legendary front-page headline on Oct. 30, 1975 blared:

"FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD."

Instead, Gov. Carey and Al Shanker, president of the local United Federation of Teachers, quickly agreed on a plan whereby the state would provide financial assistance to the city, and the teachers pension fund would buy $150 million in city bonds.

During the 1975 crisis, Democratic Mayor Abraham Beane was stripped of control of the city's finances, and a group of more experienced and knowledgeable New Yorkers, including financier Felix Rohatyn and Simon Rifkind, the distinguished lawyer and former federal judge, assumed responsibility.

Similarly, in 2020 before President Trump and Congress funnel billions of dollars to New York city and state, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio must be sidelined, as their atrocious decision-making during the epidemic, including transferring many COVID-19 positive hospital patients to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, which caused the deaths of more than 11,000 elderly New Yorkers.

To support the city's and state's requests for federal financial assistance, several million New York public workers, either active or retired, must be willing to take a cut in benefits. As a starter, this retired New York City public-school teacher is ready to return to the city the $2,275 that I will receive this year, as a re-imbursement for my monthly 2019 Medicare B payments.

New York City's budget for fiscal year 2019-20, which ends on June 30, is $93 billion, which exceeds the annual budgets of every state except California ($215 billion), New York ($177 billion) and Texas ($108 billion). Major expenses for New York City include $9.95 billion for pensions and — get this Orwellian zinger! — $11.34 billion for "fringe benefits" (i.e., medical, hospital, dental coverage)

As of June 30, 2019, NYC public school teachers, active and retirees, had $93 billion in our pension funds, divided into $58 billion in defined-benefits plans, and $35 billion in voluntary Tax Deferred Annuities, which serve as a second source of retirement income.

The website of the NY State Public Schools Teachers, which represents educators outside New York City, reports its pension fund has $122.5 billion for active and retired teachers. They, too, must be willing to agree, for one or two or three years, to a small reduction in their gold-plated government benefits to help the state through the COVID-19 fiscal crisis.

But, unlike in 1975, all city and state workers, and not just the teachers, must contribute to achieving fiscal stability and fending off the potential layoffs of tens of thousands of government workers, which will occur if federal aid is not forthcoming

With the combined New York city and state budgets in 2020 equaling $270 billion, it should be a no-brainer for the leaders of public workers unions to agree to a 2% reduction in wages and benefits, which would save $5.4 billion.

Such decisive and substantial action would certainly be viewed favorably by President Trump and members of Congress, as they consider a multi-billion-dollar relief package for the city and state.

Mark Schulte is a retired New City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Report's  More Here.

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MarkSchulte
To support the city's and state's requests for federal financial assistance, several million New York public workers, either active or retired, must be willing to take a cut in benefits.
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2020-37-05
Friday, 05 June 2020 08:37 AM
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