The Long Island Association’s (LIA) resident economic guru, Pearl Kamer, announced recently (to great fanfare) that the recession on Long Island is officially over! What a relief, right?
Boy, did that recession suck.
And it couldn’t end quickly enough, but now that it has, we should busy ourselves at once by throwing a tickertape parade down Route 110.
Of course, if by “over” she means continuing job losses, brain drain, high taxes, mandated MTA bailouts, imploding local and state government budgets, zero growth and development, empty malls, a declining manufacturing base, mounting foreclosures, increasing energy costs and a retail implosion, then I’m all in. Perhaps her exuberance sets the stage for the departure of LIA head Matt Crosson. After all, we wouldn’t want him to leave on a down note. Matt’s from Connecticut and you know how sensitive they can be.
Kamer’s assessment keeps in line with the out-of-touch, do-nothing-and-complain philosophy of the LIA, the largest business organization in the region, which counts some of LI’s key executives as members. The group is supposed to advocate for LI locally and upstate, but the LIA hasn’t inspired one piece of legislation or brought together key interests for the purpose of promoting growth on this island in years. “No Records” is emblazoned in red under the heading of Legislative Action on its own website. Even the letter under the “Innovate Long Island” heading was written in 2006. Because, you know, the world hasn’t changed at all since then.
Instead, the LIA’s largest initiative of the past two years was to fly local business leaders to China. One can only assume that it was to visit the people to whom these captains of industry doled out our jobs.
The LIA’s general inertia and habit of paying outrageous sums to bring former U.S. presidents, retired generals and cable television pundits to speak to throngs of businesspeople too busy thumbing the trackballs on their BlackBerries to care about what is transpiring on the large screens at the Crest Hollow are hardly motivating factors that lend credence to their in-house economist.
The public doesn’t need delusional prognostications blown over it like pixie dust; it needs to be stirred at its core. The few who legislate us into oblivion need to hear us speak loudly and clearly that the taxpayers will no longer subsidize incompetence. While it’s an easy target, the LIA is merely a surface indicator of the largely inefficient mosaic of public authorities that conspire to restrain our economy and prohibit growth and free enterprise. Even if Kamer is correct and the recession is over, or close to it, this is hardly the time to rest on our laurels and breathe a sigh of relief.
The LIA calls itself the “voice of Long Island.” Its stated mission is “to make Long Island an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and do business.” A truly representative organization of businesses and families would be railing against incumbents in Albany. It would organize against the county unions and let them know that raises are not a guaranteed right. It would tell the MTA to keep its damn hands off our money. It would excoriate political leaders for stacking public authorities with patronage jobs. But it doesn’t, hasn’t and won’t.
We are used to the images of protests on the steps of city hall and streets jammed with angry demonstrators in metropolitan settings. Yet, in suburban life our cries are heard but once a year behind the muted curtains of the voting booth. Tom Suozzi prophetically stated that the only way to fix the tax problem on Long Island was through an uprising. Prophetic indeed, as he fell victim to the crushing wave of emotion that swelled in every taxpayer’s home in Nassau County. The residents of Nassau voted with their wallets and condemned the Democratic incumbents who rode a similar wave into office just a few short years ago and squandered the opportunity to make lasting changes in the way the county does business.
This kind of silent revolution cannot begin and end at the polls, however. Nor can we expect a membership organization such as the LIA to advocate for real change. We, as individuals, business owners and civic leaders must be the alchemists of change and transmute the elements of our discontent into the golden solidarity of reform.
In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau writes “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” The governing bodies that bleed New York and Long Island dry are not tyrannical but they are unendurable in their inefficiency. If we are to believe that civil disobedience is a uniquely human right in a free society, we must, therefore, resoundingly reject any further encroachments on our freedom and ability to prosper. Or as Thoreau suggests, “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”