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Nassau County votes “No” for the same reasons the Democrats were pummeled this summer

August 2, 2011

It’s August 2nd now, and the referendum question of whether the county of Nassau on Long Island should allow a general obligation bond to pass to help finance a new arena for the Islanders, along with a convention center and minor league baseball has been answered, roughly 58% to 42%: “No.”

With any election, there were numerous factors at play. Still somewhat fresh off Chicago’s municipal elections this past spring, I spent too much time considering such factors. Turn-out was reported to be low. That’s generally a positive for a “yes” vote. But there were severe delays on the Long Island Rail Road. And because of overtime pay problem, cops couldn’t stay on a polling locations to keep polls open later than 9pm. And there was an inherent flaw in the fact only Nassau was polled, when there are several other counties on LI that support and attend games–but it was Nassau that would be paying, so it’s fair in that sense.

But it is tough to argue with these issues when the result was so stark and so definitive. This was not a 51-49 kind of decision. The people spoke.

Really, I think it was awful timing with the debt ceiling vote on the table and the August 2nd deadline to raise it on the line in Congress. I think the sentiment against unnecessary government spending is extremely strong right now. The debate over the necessary spending cuts or tax increases for the wealthy exacerbated local tensions–like that of the Coliseum’s successor. And Charles Wang had to counter a national wave of public emotion and consternation about government spending and tax increases of any sort, for any reason.

If this vote had taken place a few months ago, I’d go out on a limb and wonder if the result would be different.

That said, the fact remains that Charles Wang is an extremely rich man looking for government subsidization of a project he conceivably could pay for. He is also responsible for the team’s very poor management in recent years. Bad contracts, woeful drafts (though the latest crops have been good) and generally horrid attendance. That blame lies with him. And you can’t accuse the voters of Nassau for being short-sighted when they’re regarding the body of Wang’s work as the Islanders’ owner in a negative light.

I don’t know if I am well-versed enough to discuss not the merits of the Islanders remaining on LI and of the construction of a new arena, but of the problems tax-wise for the county and how the bond issues will work out. I’ve read the propaganda from both sides. Any construction and growth, even in a time of recession, is a positive. Even in one of the most taxed counties in the country, it’s still positive. We so often conflate tax increases with economic growth (or rather, with a lack thereof) in the US, and it simply doesn’t bear fruit from an economic perspective to do so.

Government spending, as we (hopefully know) didn’t drive us into recession. A subprime mortgage crisis the spiraled out of control did. Mortgage default swaps, questionable lending practices and all around Wall Street shenanigan-ery did. Our current deficit was caused by Bush era tax cuts. FULL-STOP. Tack on the spending for two wars, still ongoing, and you have a problem.

Fast-forward to the Islanders’ dilemma. Looking at a county’s choice on a federal-scale just isn’t appropriate. Taxes on a federal level have never been lower. If the necessary steps to create job growth on LI involve a slight increase of $13 per annum that will eventually be paid back after several years, where is the problem?

The Islanders lost that vote last night not because they lack a strong fanbase or because their campaign to inform others about the vote was a failure.

They lost for the same reasons the Democrats couldn’t raise the debt ceiling on a simple bill that declared “raised it” without any spending cuts or tax increases initially. You know, the same sort of bill Ronald Reagan passed a dozen or so times.

That reason is that 90% of Americans don’t understand basic economics.

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