The Press’ Attack on Public Services and Public Employees

By Dave Duncan 

The editors of the Press & Sun-Bulletin are getting shriller on their attacks against public service workers. There are more frequent attacks presented to their readers concerning the cost of public employees and their pensions. The public is taxed to the maximum and can no longer afford to provide the services and the salaries and benefits of public employees, say the editors of the Press. “Much of the burden comes in the form of salaries of public employees.”

Why Can’t We Afford Public Service Employees?

Yet the same editors that attack public service workers pensions, have never raised the issue of the numerous corporations that are rewarded up-front incentives (also known as public donations), and who do not pay their share of sales and property taxes. The Broome County Industrial Development Agency has dedicated almost fifty years to giving hundreds of millions in public donations and sales and property tax breaks to wealthy corporations that have not created the jobs that the public was promised. In some cases there is negative job creation. The EIT debacle in Endicott resulted in over $80 million in public incentives, plus sales and property tax breaks. These public funds were to insure that 2000 former IBM jobs remained. Within months the local, well connected, owners of EIT began laying off workers. Today there are about 400 jobs left from the 2000 promised. Why have the editors of the Press never demanded that the incentives be paid back to the public?  The Press holds to the position that the public and public employees should suck up the slack when subsidized corporations take money but don’t give back.  “The property tax is the killer tax in this state, and it has been for a long time.” This comes from the editors of a billion dollar chain of newspapers and other media which will not pay its fair share. The property taxes would not be such a burden if the Press and other corporations would pay up.

The Press’ Position Explained

The reasons why the Press supports tax breaks for every large corporation and important local developers are:

  1. The Press is the local mouth piece for big capital. If the banks, big corporations and well-connected local developers want a large chunk of public money, the Press supports them.

2. The Press has dipped deeply into the public pot itself.  When the Press built a $30 million+ facility in Johnson City, the Press, through the loathsome Industrial Development Agency, they received a 50% discount on property taxes for 15 years and an exemption from sales taxes on the building material and the millions spent on new printing equipment. The Press was able to consolidate its operations in Ithaca, Elmira and Binghamton.  With the new facility the Press was able to eliminate workers while using public money to do so.  No wonder the local area has a job loss problem that is one of the worst in the U.S.

Thinking Lean—Press Style

The editors are forever preaching that the “public sector doesn’t think lean.” They want the public sector to run on less, so that the Press and its allies in the corporate world are not asked to pay their share. A Press editorial on thinking lean and eking out efficiencies cites Jack Welch, the former General Electric CEO.  Of course GE seldom paid federal taxes and in some years actually got money from the federal government. Lean indeed.  Cut your long term employees, pay their replacements much less, skip paying your taxes and you can call it lean.

It is time to start demanding, from our politicians, that the “big people” pay up so that we can all enjoy a tax break.  Are your representatives in your corner or are they supporting the likes of the Press?

What Is a Public Employee?

 Quite simply it is a worker whose wages are paid in whole or in part through the use of public funds. Does this not make the editors of the Press, the CEO’s of all the corporations that receive tax breaks, incentives or other public dollars, public employees?  After all, a person who receives $75 a month in food stamps to supplement their meager pay, is “on the dole” and their total income must be reported to the Department of Social Services.       

Shouldn’t this same principle apply to all of the CEO’s of any corporation that receives public contracts, or business enticements, tax breaks etc. from the public treasury?  Private means just that. A blend of public and private should mean that the books are open to the public and the CEO’s salary can and should be scrutinized.      

What is the salary of the Editor-in-Chief of the Press& Sun-Bulletin?  Shouldn’t the public have some control of this business?  If you want to be private then keep your hands off public funds.









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