Home Health Care Workers Need to Be Cared For Too

Those who take care of our most vulnerable need and deserve a living wage

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We all knew the approval of a gradual rise to a $15 minimum wage in New York state would be a double-edged sword. And now one industry is certainly feeling the sharp pains.

A shortage of home health care service workers has been a problem in the state for some time. And with a rapidly aging Baby Boomer generation, there are more people to take care of, and less people to take care of them.

New York employs about 326,000 people to help disabled or elderly citizens eat, bath, dress, change adult diapers and perform other various housekeeping tasks in order to keep patients in the comfort of their own homes instead of in hospitals or nursing homes. But it’s predicted that the state will require about 451,000 workers by as soon as 2024.

Already the lowest-paid workers in New York’s health care system, home health aides make an average $11 an hour, although it is much lower in upstate regions. By contrast, the statewide minimum wage is currently $9.70. For fast-food workers upstate, it is $10.75 — and that will increase $1 every year over the next few years.

So yes, by as soon as next year, someone working at McDonald’s will make more an hour than the average home health care worker — or anyone else working minimum wage for that matter.

And that is why there is so much concern in the industry right now.

Indeed, last year, a Home Care Pulse Benchmarking Study found that more than a quarter of home care providers nationwide saw increasing minimum wages to be the top threat for the industry. And $15 wage proposals are gaining momentum in other states.

Since Medicare and Medicaid shoulder much of the burden of home care services, significant wage increases are unlikely anytime soon since both programs are facing tremendous financial pressure. In fact, adjusted for inflation, home care workers on average are actually earning less than they were a decade ago, according to P.H.I., a nonprofit research and consulting group.

With low wages, a big responsibility, little or no benefits, late and weekend shifts, hours of mandatory extensive training, a high rate of injury and until recently, no entitlement to overtime pay, home health care workers might be more inclined to leave for a different industry with less demands, including fast-food, either to make paying their bills easier or out of sheer necessity to sustain themselves and their families. The annual turnover rate for home care workers is already an estimated astounding 40 to 60 percent.

The New York government has an important objective ahead — provide more financial incentives for home health aides to first enter the field and then keep those jobs competitive enough so they remain in it.

A coalition of agencies that serve the developmentally disabled has pursued just that, using the hashtag #bFair2DirectCare to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include in his executive budget $45 million each year for the next six years to help boost wages for home health workers. The governor has yet to include the money in his budget, even though the funding has the support of the chairmen of the mental health committees in each chamber of the Legislature.

Cuomo spent the last few years marching for a wage raise for all of the state’s fast-food workers. It’s hard to understand why he can’t seem to do the same for some 326,000 people whose work is to keep our most vulnerable alive and comfortable.

If the governor wants an eventual $15 wage for everyone, like he has said he does, he should start with those people. The workers and their employers need and deserve the $45 million that should be included in this year’s budget that would raise their wages. Heck, Cuomo has proposed half that amount to upgrade the state’s ski areas.

There is little argument otherwise because there is no alternative. If the current trends continue, it will leave our elderly and disabled further neglected, which in some cases will force their relatives to take over caring for them — if they even have any family that can.

Doing nothing will also put further strains on the nonprofits that employ home health care service workers, which might force some to ultimately go out of business. That would be especially disastrous for rural areas upstate, like in the Adirondacks, where communities can be very far in between.

And it’s not like this problem is going to go away. There are some projections that say nearly one in five New Yorkers will be 65 years of age or older by 2025. Who is going to take care of them? An already dire situation is only bound to worsen in the coming decades if little is done.

And it’s not just a problem in New York. Home health aide shortages are being seen from Massachusetts to Wisconsin to Iowa.

Indeed, The Des Moines Register identified in a December article a very simple reason why we need to address this now: Because it will impact everyone.

At some point, “it’s highly likely that you, a family member or friend will need the services of a paid caregiver, a direct care worker, to assist in the activities of daily living,” the newspaper reads.

Let’s hope our state lawmakers can also comprehend that we will all suffer if we don’t take care of those who regularly take care of us.

Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and daily copy editor/page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

BREAKING: Many News Alerts Aren’t Newsworthy

Media overuse notifications on new developments

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It was in the fall of 2012 when I purchased my first smartphone. Perhaps what I was most excited about, as a college student journalist, was the ability to receive breaking news alerts on my phone from all the major news outlets. I could find out about major developments right as they were happening. My first one? An alert from NBC, saying a video had been leaked of Mitt Romney saying 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes.

Four and a half years and two phones later, I was getting ready to go to work recently and heard my phone buzz in the next room. The tone it sounded let me know it was a news alert from CNN. I rushed over to see what it said.

“CNN Breaking News: Beyonce pregnant with twins.”

Now, nothing against Beyonce. Seriously, I wish her the best. But was that really worth a breaking news alert? From a media source that wasn’t TMZ?

It’s one of the most aggravating developments I see in modern media. Too much of the content outlets consider as breaking news is neither breaking nor newsworthy.

A consequence of the digital revolution, smartphones now make it easier for news sources to sell their content as breaking to get consumers’ attention, since they can make anyone who has their app installed on their phone stop whatever they’re doing to look at their notifications and see it. They don’t need to be watching TV or reading a newspaper. And we’re on our phones all the time.

Indeed, the amount of people using news notifications has tripled over the last three years in many countries, the Reuters Institute found. A third of Americans subscribe to them. Not surprisingly, news organizations have been steadily increasing the amount of alerts they push out. The average number of alerts per day is around 10. And there’s substantial evidence that more alerts lead to more frequent usage of specific news apps, which leads to more revenue. Sure, that’s a basic business model.

But when every single thing that happens becomes worthy of news alerts, it makes a lot of sense that people, like me, become more annoyed than informed and may ultimately choose to uninstall a certain news app. And Reuters says a quarter of smartphone users do just that.

What’s even worse is when stories that actually warrant an alert don’t get one. On my phone, I have apps for The Associated Press, CNN, NBC, NBC Nightly News, Politico, The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, The Hill, BBC News, The Huffington Post and various TV stations and newspapers in my local area. All of them are equipped to send out breaking news alerts. Many of them sent out alerts about Beyonce’s pregnancy. But only one, the Times, sent out one when House Republicans voted privately to gut an ethics office that had been created as an independent watchdog on lawmakers. The others did eventually — the next day.

But it’s not just about smartphones. Internet news websites love to put “BREAKING” in all caps in front of their stories and cable news stations religiously use the words “breaking news” on their screen banners. Then each network has their own little graphics montage that lasts a few seconds, usually accompanied by dramatic music and a deep voice that is profoundly overused.

Just the other day, on CNN, I watched an anchor say “and we have some breaking news to get to you. Let’s go to that breaking news right now.” Then instead of just saying it, I saw the five-second graphic showing the letters “CNN” fly around, with a voice saying “this is CNN breaking news.” Then I instantly saw another breaking news graphic wipe across the screen, before the shot returned to the anchor, who then again said “and we’re following the breaking news.” Then finally after all that, we were told what was so damn important. Guess what? It wasn’t.

And it’s almost amusing when they try to create breaking new out of nothing. They’ll use “breaking” to describe the beginning of a press conference — even though everyone knew long before when it would start. Scheduled events aren’t breaking. Even more ridiculous, I distinctively remember when Pope Francis visited the U.S. in 2015 a TV headline reading “Breaking news: Pope’s Mass ends.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

And even if the news was breaking at one point, outlets love to milk it as long as they can. A story that broke in the afternoon will still have the “breaking news” banner and reporters will still call it that long into the evening. On Fox News, I recently saw them use their “Fox News Alert” graphic to tell us that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced he would recluse himself from any investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia — which had happened a full 24 hours prior. They might as well just say “we have breaking news…there’s nothing new to report on.”

News organizations aren’t oblivious about this either. In 2014, NBC’s Chuck Todd criticized CNN on Twitter about it, saying “wait, so when did finding NOTHING get characterized as ‘breaking news’?” Funny enough, a CNN producer hit back at Todd, tweeting a picture of a shot of MSNBC with a “breaking news” banner with words next to it saying “no trace has been found of the plane or the 239 people aboard.”

So yeah, they were literally reporting that nothing new had happened.

The simple truth is, some stories are just not as important as others. Suffocating us with news that is sensationalized just makes our press look foolish and overeager for an audience in my eyes. It just gives us a reason to ignore it.

And don’t even get me started on the use of the phrase “exclusive interview.”

Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and daily copy editor/page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Flint, Michigan Was Not an Isolated Incident

It’s time for New York’s watershed moment
when it comes to water infrastructure

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Remember when everyone was talking nonstop about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan?

Remember when presidential candidates campaigned there a year ago during the primaries, outraged that its residents were being poisoned by lead-tainted water? Remember when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders even had a debate there?

Well, now the candidates have gone. The elections are over. And now, no one is talking about Flint nonstop.

That doesn’t mean the crisis has passed.

In the city 70 miles from Detroit, an estimated 100,000 people, many of them children, were exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water. Concerns about lead poisoning were brought about several times to city and state government officials and they essentially ignored them.

As a result, the water has created battles — both for litigation and for life. Lee-Anne Walters’ twin 5-year-old boys, who drank water tainted with lead, have been experiencing development problems, particularly with their memories.

They can’t remember their colors or their ABCs.

Their mother told CNN that the boys, barely old enough to comprehend the joys of life, have already asked her questions like “Are we going to die? Can the doctor fix us? Is there medicine?”

While the water lead levels in Flint are now within safety limits, the city’s mayor announced last week it will be another two years until officials can recommend residents drink their tap water without filters.

Two years.

What does that say about us? In the most advanced country on Earth, with all of the great accomplishments we’ve made in our history, something as simple as the safety of water — the stuff we drink, cook with and bathe in — is in some places on par with third world countries.

Still more frightening is that we know that while complex, the situation in Flint underscores an umbrella of clean water and water systems issues nationwide.

It’s happening in other cities. It’s happening right here in New York.

In January, state health and education departments for the first time released statewide data with results of lead tests in school water, mandated by a new state law. About 14 percent of water outlets in schools outside of New York City had more than 15 parts per billion of lead in them, which is the federal safety limit.

Water safety in New York state became an explosive issue following the events that have come out of the village of Hoosick Falls and town of Petersburgh, both about 30 miles northeast of Albany. In 2014, a former village trustee discovered in the water system elevated levels of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOAs), a toxic chemical used in the manufacture of household products since the 1940s. Ingested in water by seeping into the soil from nearby factories, it is believed to cause serious health issues like cancer. Like in Flint, the government essentially ignored the findings. Documents found that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration actively dismissed the EPA’s dire warnings about the water toxicity and waited more than a year to take action to protect residents despite knowing that PFOA levels exceeded safety measures. An investigation of the government’s handling of those incidents is ongoing.

While not related to lead, the situation in Hoosick Falls just adds another problem for our water — contamination not just from old pipes but from the soil.

After Flint got the nation’s attention and after Hoosick Falls became an embarrassment for the state, sincere efforts are finally on the table for a mass overhaul of our water infrastructure in New York, and not just because of unsafe drinking water.

It’s something we simply cannot wait any longer to do. Many pipes that run through our state date back to the 1930s or older. Indeed, in nearby Philadelphia, some pipes are still being used that were put in the ground before the Civil War.

In January, Gov. Cuomo proposed the $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act as part of his executive budget. The proposal includes installing advanced treatment and filtration systems, replacement of lead service lines in low-income communities, upgrading aging wastewater treatment plants and new measures to help prevent contaminants from getting into ground water, and a more rapid cleanup process in case they do.

Senate Republicans announced last week they want to spend up to $8 billion on clean water projects.

And while that’s encouraging, it doesn’t really require much thought to realize that amount is not going to be enough, given the state of our systems as they are. State officials estimate it would actually cost around $80 billion over the next few years. Syracuse officials alone estimate they’ll need $726 million to fix 550 miles of pipes, and the city has about 15,000 lead pipes.

Plus, this is coming from the same government that sat on their hands in Hoosick Falls. And this is the same governor who turned down Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s request two years ago for aid in fixing old water infrastructure, the same governor who told syracuse.com to “show us how you become economically stronger and create jobs. Then you fix your own pipes.”

We simply don’t have time for that kind of talk. There’s a reason infrastructure has become a hallmark issue at the national level. It’s needed now and local governments can’t burden the costs.

The Legislature should do what is necessary to pass reforms for water infrastructure upgrades this year. Let New York set an example for how to amend a problem stretching across many states.

If we further delay or get drowned in a battle over costs, we are going to become a nation of Flint, Michigans, and at that time, we’ll be paying for it in more than just dollars.

Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and daily copy editor/page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Is Donald Trump the New Andrew Jackson?

The current administration has similarities to the
rise of “Old Hickory” 200 years ago

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President Donald Trump is seen in the Oval Office with a portrait of former president Andrew Jackson in the background.

It isn’t abnormal for American presidents to compare themselves and their agendas to that of those who held the office before them, or at the very least, consider one of them as their role model for how to run the office.

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy and the Roosevelts are religiously quoted and referenced by candidates in stump speeches and the like.

But not in a very long time has the nation’s seventh president been so idolized by a current administration.

Even before Donald Trump’s surprising election last year, there were many who likened his extremely unconventional candidacy to that of Andrew Jackson, who prior to Trump, was the ultimate outsider president who captured the hearts of the common man in a populist uprising that helped him capture the White House.

But it’s not just journalists or historians that make that comparison. The president does too.

Trump never Jacksonized himself on the campaign trail, but since taking office he has welcomed and embraced the label of a new version of “Old Hickory.” Trump has placed the portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office. Following Trump’s inauguration speech, his chief strategist Steve Bannon said “I don’t think we’ve had a speech like that since Andrew Jackson came to the White House.” And last week, Trump even paid homage to Jackson by visiting his old homestead and grave in Nashville.

With Trump’s presidency so young, it’s obviously too early to tell if it mirrors to that of Jackson’s. What has generated the pairing has really been Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, which does have some fascinating similarities.

The election of 1828 is considered by many historians to be the dirtiest presidential campaign in our history. While it’s annoyingly common for people nowadays to say each election is the worst, 2016 may be the most on par with 1828 since 1828 itself.

And that may be because it occurred in a similar political atmosphere. That was the year Jackson challenged incumbent John Quincy Adams. Like Hillary Clinton, Adams had an impressive resume of public service. He had been a congressman, U.S. senator and diplomat. Also like Clinton, Adams had most recently been secretary of state and a direct relative to a former president.

Like Trump, Jackson was popular, bombastic, had a temper and was as outside the political class as much as he was condemned by it. Thomas Jefferson had called him “a dangerous man.” But Jackson represented a movemen that feared the government had been taken over by the elite and he was there to return it to the people.

Like Clinton, Adams represented the establishment, the old politics. Jackson and Trump were the populists who rode on a message that Washington was out of touch with rural America — a message that ultimately won. 

Jackson transformed the role of newspapers in elections as an avenue to get that message out to the public, much like Trump mastered the realm of social media.

But to win, a populist who carries that message has to already have name recognition. While Jackson and Trump were brought up differently — Trump was born to a well-off family in Queens, Jackson to a poor mother in a log cabin — they both found their niches that led them to celebrity. Jackson was a war hero, Trump a billionaire businessman. Jackson became a national figure due to the 1814 Battle of New Orleans, Trump had The Apprentice. 

Their approach to politics is also similar — that it’s tilted against them. Jackson had first run for president in 1824 and won the popular vote against John Quincy Adams and two other candidates, but didn’t win enough Electoral College votes. So the House of Representatives selected the president and picked Adams. Jackson screamed bloody murder, calling it “a corrupt bargain” and an insult to the clear choice of the people. Trump was known for repeatedly calling the electoral system “a rigged system” and still repeats theories of voter fraud, though no evidence has been brought forward.

There is good reason to wonder why any modern president would want to be compared to Jackson in any way, as his legacy has been darkened over recent decades. He was after all, a slave-owner, a duelist and heavy drinker — all things Trump is not. But Jackson is also remembered for pushing through the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which took Native Americans off their land and forced them west, all the while ignoring a Supreme Court ruling that allowed them to stay. The journey killed thousands, and now every child in school learns about the “Trail of tears,” no doubt one of the saddest and most embarrassing chapters in American history.

There is also good reason to believe that if Trump wants to make comparisons to former presidents, he’s got the wrong Andrew.

Yes, while he is comfortable with being the new Andrew Jackson, many are speculating he is more like Andrew Johnson.

Johnson was Abraham Lincoln’s immediate successor upon his assassination in April 1865. Unlike Lincoln, Johnson was a Southerner, a former slave-owner and didn’t exactly embrace the federal government’s new role in freeing and then protecting rights of former slaves. And like Trump, Johnson was stubborn, didn’t take criticism well and created conspiracies about those out to get him. He also thought of Jackson as his hero. 

Johnson was also the first president to be impeached — something some people envision in Trump’s future.

Whether Jackson or Johnson is more correct, or whether Trump stands most on his own ground, is yet to be determined. It takes a long time after presidents are long gone from office for their legacies to settle in. Their terms have consequences, both during and after. 

But there is one comparison between Trump and Andrew Jackson that is absolute. And it always will be. They both changed the American presidency forever.

Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and daily copy editor/page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

The More Partisan We Are, the Less We Become

Years of government gridlock has made us Millennials
care less about pure ideology

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When I registered to vote at age 18, I immediately registered as an independent. I didn’t have to think twice about it. Intensely following political news for four years prior to that hadn’t changed my mind one bit. Neither has it since.

And I doubt that will ever change. I’m too straight down the middle to belong to any party and I cannot subscribe to the faith that one party or one platform has all of the answers. Indeed, in this past November election, I voted for four Republicans, three Democrats and one independent on the ballot. I’ve taken multiple online quizzes to see where I stand politically, based on my responses to questions on issues. Each time, I’m placed in the exact middle of the political spectrum. One quiz once even classified me as an “absolute independent moderate Democratic Republican.”

I don’t think you can get more moderate than that.

And even though we live in heated times where it seems we are running farther from the middle, there seems to be a growing number of young people who feel the same way as I do.

A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that nearly half of Millennials (those born between 1982 and the early 2000s) are politically independent. That’s the highest number of any generation Pew has found in its years of polling. While that poll is now three years old and its accuracy can be reasonably argued, there is a strong sense that young people today feel politically dissatisfied with both major parties that largely goes unnoticed.

The reason for that dissatisfaction isn’t at all surprising. Millennials are facing many tremendous hardships that are unfortunately being branded by older generations as simple laziness. While that may be true in some cases, we are paying a lot more for college and getting paid less at the job we get afterward — if we can find a job, that is. We can barely afford rent, let alone health insurance once we turn 26.

For years, we have looked at our government, hoping for sincere efforts in addressing the issues we face. And instead, we got Ted Cruz reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on the floor of the Senate.

Yes, as long as we’ve been old enough to vote, all we young people have known has been a government in gridlock and hyper partisan politics. Republicans blame Democrats for this and Democrats blame Republicans for that. We’ve grown up with candidates saying the same old campaign cliche crap.

“He is for the donors. I’m for the people!” “We’re going to return power to you!” “Wall Street thrives while Main Street suffers!”

We’re tired of that. We want things to get done. Tell us what you are going to do, not what you think your opponent is going to do.

But after years of bickering, some of us have lost faith. And who can blame them? We’re afraid that all we’ll ever know is one side in the minority obstructing the other until they gain power. Then the other side will obstruct them and the cycle will just go on and on and on.

The contentious presidential election of 2016 underscored our discontent. A recent Associated Press/NORC poll found that less than one-third of teenagers surveyed were favorable to President Trump. Hillary Clinton fared only slightly better. Our two major party presidential nominees were both Baby Boomers, historically unlikeable and both people who claimed to fight the system that many of us feel they were a part of. In the end, it was the same thing we’ve seen for a long time — two campaigns with little or no message who spent months at a time relentlessly attacking the other.

That is why so many young people resonated with Bernie Sanders. Himself an independent, he intensely focused on issues young people cared about without all of the mumbo jumbo.

And while most Millennials are liberal Democrats or mostly vote Democratic, the rise of Sanders made many young people look at the party closely and really begin to question their commitment to average working class Americans. I can’t tell you how many young friends and acquaintances of mine wrote in Sanders’ name in November or immediately changed their party registration to independent when former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee over Rep. Keith Ellison.

And while the age of Trump might quash some of that defection, there are still going to be a sufficient number of people who feel the party left them — not the other way around. And the same could be said on the Republican side as well.

We are the voters of the future. It gives me much satisfaction that so many people are reconsidering their loyalty and doing what I do — voting for the best person, not the best party.

It’s funny really. In their efforts to paint each other as a bad guy as a way to recruit Millennials, both Democrats and Republicans are doing the exact opposite.

They overlooked one important thing. Ideology by itself just isn’t as important to us. A fair government that can cooperate and has our best interest at heart is all we require. Maybe they should start doing that. But should both major parties want to keep politics all about stopping the other at all costs, I have no doubt they are going to create more absolute independent moderate Democratic Republicans like me in their wake.

Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and daily copy editor/page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

We Need Attorneys Like Preet Bharara

Federal prosecutor has done a lot of good for the nation and for New York

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Preet Bharara, now former U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is seen in New York.

It’s not best to change horses midstream.

If you’re going to run in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t leave your prized stallion in the stable.

Only when the well runs dry do we know the value of water.

Any one of these classic and cliche expressions can accurately illustrate the Trump administration’s sudden request for the resignation of Preet Bharara, the now former U.S. district attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Bharara was among 46 federal attorneys appointed by former President Obama who the Justice Department ordered to resign on Friday, several of them apparently asked to clear out their desk by the end of the day.

Bharara refused to resign, implying if President Trump wanted to get rid of him, he’d have to fire him. The president did so on Saturday afternoon.

Now, that’s not altogether abnormal. Presidents have the right to fire district attorneys at their discretion and pretty much always do of those from former administrations. Bill Clinton asked all 93 attorneys to resign the day he assumed office in 1993.

But in regards to Bharara, the Westchester County Democrat met with then President-elect Trump back in November and told reporters that both Trump and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions had asked him to stay on, and he wholeheartedly agreed to do so.

So, why was he suddenly being ousted less than four months later? Many have speculated that it’s because of comments by Fox News commentator Sean Hannity the day before about the need to “purge” the federal government of Obama appointees because they were “saboteurs.”

Does that describe the man who presides over New York’s Southern District?

Bharara, the Indian-born prosecutor appointed in 2009 after being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, has been a high-profile, charismatic and well-respected individual over his tenure. He has been a crusader against political corruption, a sheriff to Wall Street and archenemy of terrorist organizations.

He is remembered for his cracking down of insider trading in the hedge fund industry, bringing down Raj Rajaratnam, a hedge fund billionaire, and Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs director, for conspiracy and securities fraud. He created the Civil Frauds Unit, which landed nearly $500 million in settlements, including multi-million dollar deals with CitiMortgage and Deutsche Bank for their reckless lending practices that led to the financial crisis. Bharara won a guilty plea from Peter Madoff for his role in his brother Bernie’s infamous Ponzi scheme.His prosecutions of more than 100 Wall Street executives landed him on the cover of a 2012 issue of TIME with the headline “This man is busting Wall St.” and a 2016 article in The New Yorker titled “The Man Who Terrifies Wall Street.”

In 2014, Bharara charged Toyota with wire fraud for lying to customers about safety issues with their cars. Toyota paid a $1.2 billion fine, the largest ever by a car manufacturer.

Bharara successfully prosecuted terrorists like Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantánamo detainee to be tried in the civilian system and Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani immigrant who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in 2010. He created the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit, which prosecutes those who engage in transnational acts of terrorism and narcotics trafficking.

But Bharara’s signature achievement is undoubtedly weeding out corruption and abuse of power of government officials, both Democrats and Republicans. That started when he was still assistant attorney, when he played a role in the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s investigation into, ironically, the firings of U.S. attorneys, which led to the resignation of George W. Bush’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, in 2007.

Over the last few years, Bharara’s office has prosecuted nearly 30 public officials for corruption, most notably New York state legislators, including the leaders of both chambers, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, just weeks apart from each other. He investigated Gov. Andrew Cuomo for shutting down an ethics commission he created, announcing a year later no criminal charges would be filed.

Most recently, his office was preparing to try several aides of Cuomo accused of bribery and bid-rigging and also wrapping up investigations into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fundraising, and if Fox News structured settlements of sexual harassment — all of which some worry may be at risk due to his departure.

But just as important, Bharara didn’t just prosecute crooked politicians. He has made New York corruption a central issue and has taken his mission straight to the problem, using his wit and speaking abilities to address Albany about the need for concrete ethics reform in New York state, essentially blaming the Legislature for corruption and then not doing anything about it.

“You think no one knew Sheldon Silver was corrupt before he was put in handcuffs? Not a chance,” he said. “Good people knew, and yet they didn’t do anything.”

Yeah, he sounds like a “saboteur” alright, doesn’t he?

A saboteur we need.

We need attorneys like Preet Bharara, someone who has stood up against the rich and powerful time and again and won, someone who isn’t afraid to stand up to his own party or even his own heritage. We need someone who has earned the respect of those in the opposite party like Republican New York Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who even objected to Bharara’s dismissal, tweeting “Definitely not a wise move at all.” We need someone even a Republican president and Republican attorney general had previously asked to stay.

But that, as they say, is that. Bharara told The New York Times in 2014 that if there is a “credible whiff that justice has been politicized, there’s nothing worse than that.”

He has been the victim of just that.

To reiterate, it was well within Trump’s jurisdiction to fire Preet Bharara. The president didn’t do anything wrong. But that doesn’t mean what he did was right.

Luke Parsnow is the Monday Editor and copy editor at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Yes, the Democrats’ Tea Party Is In the Making

Eight years ago, no one saw it coming. Why does no one see it now?

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When we saw large crowds flooding town hall meetings with Republican members of Congress a few weeks ago, it appeared that although it’s 2017, America wants to party like it’s 2009.

That was the year when we saw the same thing. Following President Obama’s stimulus bill, the fallout of the bank bailouts and the Affordable Care Act being tabled on Capitol Hill, Democrats were bombarded with an angry conservative grassroots movement we came to know as the Tea Party. They opposed the Washington establishment, government spending, erosion of Christian America, Obama’s health care plan and of course, Obama himself.

That movement was dismissed by Democrats at all levels. What was thought to be an inauthentic stunt turned into a political revolution as the Tea Party helped Republicans retake control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Since then, its crusaders have hijacked the Republican Party, steered it farther right and created a political climate that led to a bombastic billionaire businessman to capture the GOP nomination for president and then the White House.

In the age of Trump, with more noisy town halls following a contentious primary race for their presidential nominee, many are wondering if we are seeing the rise of the Tea Party again — the Democratic Party’s version.

Republicans are quick to brush off that notion, seeing the recent protests as nothing but the efforts of big progressive organizations seeking attention, fueling the “paid protester” prospect. President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said that such protests are “not these organic uprisings that we have seen over the last several decades. The Tea Party was a very organic movement. This has become a very paid, Astroturf-type movement.”

Interestingly enough, back in 2009, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the exact same word — Astroturf — to describe the Tea Party movement, saying “this initiative is funded by the high end — we call it Astroturf.”

Now, it is wrong to believe the energy of these town halls and growth of progressive activism alone will result in a sudden Democratic resurgence of 2010 proportions by as soon as 2018. Progressives don’t have the time or the organization the Tea Party had at this point eight years ago. That’s why the movement is largely being ignored by Republicans.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is charting the same pattern the Tea Party was on.

It doesn’t start with money or unconventional political candidates. It starts with anger. Progressives nationwide have become more and more frustrated with the federal government over the last few years, starting with a rebuttal of the Bush administration in 2008. It has continued with anger over religious overreach, suppression of the gay and transgender communities, women’s rights on abortion, climate change deniers, power of corporations and influence of big money in politics. But what has given that anger real traction is economic inequality, especially minimum wage, rising student debt and fury at big banks, which really came to life during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011.

But it’s not just about anger. A populist movement needs to have leaders who first understand that anger and then provide a message that addresses that anger that gains followers. The Tea Party had Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Sen. Ted Cruz. Now the progressives have Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Keith Ellison and movie maker Michael Moore. They were able to galvanize voters and got progressives not only national attention but enormous momentum in 2016 when Sanders was able to win 45 percent of Democrats in the race for the party’s presidential nomination.

Which leads into the next portion of the pattern to power — rocking the party establishment. After all, Tea Partiers weren’t just upset at Obama or the Democrats, but also George W. Bush and mainstream Republicans, if not more so. While most progressives embraced Obama, they feel he became the system he went in saying he would change, at the same time making the Democratic Party out to be one for corporate elites and not working class Americans. They vastly opposed Obama’s policy in the Middle East, his role with banks and cheer-leading for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

And then they felt ignored and then shunned when the Democratic National Committee rigged the primary race against Sanders, a candidate who many polls found had a better chance of defeating Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. Then they felt shut out again when their choice to lead the DNC, Rep. Ellison, was bested by Tom Perez, who they feel represents more of the same old-same old that has overseen the party while it has been decimated at every level of government over the last few years.

After being thwarted by the establishment and possessing a drive to oppose Trump at all costs, there is now an effort in the progressive movement to not just transform the Democratic Party, but take it over, just like the Tea Party did to the GOP. Just like in 2010 when mainstream Republican incumbents were challenged by conservatives, progressives are threatening primary challenges to Democrats in future elections, particularly ones who don’t fully obstruct the Trump agenda.

#We Will Replace You is an organization founded by the left who are doing just that. Their statement: “Do everything you can to resist Trump, or we will replace you with someone who will.”

This comes at a time when many Senate Democrats are vulnerable in the 2018 midterms and have been playing the middle ground in hopes it will maximize their chances of re-election, like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state Trump won by 40 points. Manchin has voted for all of Trump’s cabinet picks except four and is already painted as a foe to #We Will Replace You.

The organization’s minimum requirements to avoid a primary challenge from the left include voting against every Trump administration nominee, preventing the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, showing a will to slow down the legislative process and pushing to oust Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist. Those qualifications are outright ridiculous since Bernie Sanders doesn’t even match them all. So they probably serve as a guideline more than anything. Still, the threat has been made.

But the DNC isn’t keen on the idea that embracing progressivism is going to help win Senate seats in West Virginia, Missouri or Indiana. And primary challenges might distract Democratic candidates from holding onto their seats and dampen turnout.

But if Democrats hotly contest the prospect of primary challenges, it will further anger progressives. And if the left backs down and Democrats don’t make any gains or lose more seats in 2018, it will further anger progressives.

So you see, that’s why the Democratic Tea Party is prone to occur.

That is why it is inconceivable that Republicans don’t see the progressive movement as a credible threat in the near future. That is why it is ridiculous that Democrats continue to sing of party unity. The history is telling. The signs are directing. Yes, progressives aren’t the Tea Party yet. But the water is beginning to boil.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Rep. Katko, You Can’t Fight Town Hall

 

Central New York’s congressman should be there for his constituents when they ask him to be

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Usually when elections are over, political interest quiets down a little. That is not the case this year, as several Republican members of Congress found out when they returned to their home districts last week to both large and ruckus crowds demanding answers — and demanding a chance to get answers.

Rep. John Katko was no exception. He was one of several upstate Republicans pressured to address their constituents face to face by holding town hall meetings during recess to hear out their concerns and answer the questions from those they represent in Washington. Rep. John Reed of the 23rd Congressional District, which covers the western Finger Lakes and the Southerntier, recently faced a group of progressives angry at the Trump White House and frustrated by actions in Congress, particularly when it comes to the Affordable Care Act.

Katko, as well as Rep. Claudia Tenney from the 22nd district and Rep. Elise Stefanik of the 21st, all refused to hold any kind of town hall meeting last week. Stefanik eventually agreed to meet with small groups, but denied press access “to allow for candid and constructive conversations.”

But Katko held firm, saying the demand to meet is nothing short of an opportunity for political theater, fueled by The CNY Solidarity Coalition, a left-leaning group leading the charge, and others.

And while he is probably partially correct in assuming that, there are most certainly people — both from that group and not — who are genuinely concerned about what’s going on in Washington and don’t feel the congressman has been as transparent to the public as a whole as he could be.

In that sense, Katko is doing himself a great disservice by not delivering.

When he first ran in 2014, he criticized incumbent Dan Maffei for not holding open meetings. While Katko has hosted telephone town halls, which connect thousands of people across the district, he has yet to meet with the public in any forum resembling a town hall — complete with press coverage and unfiltered questions not pre-screened by his staff.

So, what’s he waiting for?

Katko shouldn’t be objecting to any opportunity to being available and transparent with the people of central New York, especially in a time when so many people feel that the government has been neither. He should embrace the fact so many people are politically involved and want to be reassured he is working for them. A town hall would both benefit him and those he represents.

It would give him a chance to defend and explain his most recent actions in Congress. He voted for a bill that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion services and legislation undoing a rule set in place by President Obama aimed at keeping pollutants out of water in areas near coal-mining sites.

He can also answer for his somewhat wishy-washy response to President Trump’s controversial travel ban. Since he chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security, it is a topic he is unquestionably involved in.

“In this heightened threat environment, we must be ever vigilant to ensure all individuals entering this country are properly vetted,” Katko told CNY Central. “I believe the President’s intent was to accomplish that goal. However, I have concerns with this executive order, including the fact that it could potentially deny entrance to our country to lawful, permanent residents and dual citizens.”

A town hall could allow Katko to go into deeper specifics about where he stands on the order and the president’s immigration policy in general.

But it’s not just about being on the defensive. Town halls could also help Katko tout his record as one of the most independent Republicans in Congress. If the push for communication is being pushed by progressives who may not know him well or maybe didn’t vote for him, why not remind them that Katko ran on a campaign promise not to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan?

Why not remind them that he was one of nine Republicans who broke party lines and voted against the January House bill to begin the process of undoing the healthcare package? Why not tell them he is a Republican who acknowledges that humans contribute to climate change and that he co-authored a bill with an Arizona Democrat that would give employees the option of establishing their own paid parental leave account?

He could also reiterate his emphasis on addressing local issues like the Interstate 81 project and the region’s heroin epidemic, not just focusing on what the man in the White House is doing.

Yes, these town halls are a great opportunity. But fundamentally, it never should be about opportunity. It’s a responsibility. It’s about being there for those Mr. Katko speaks for. And this time it’s the people themselves who are asking for it.

If they don’t feel that he is communicating enough with them, he should take note and reach out to them to improve that communication. And just as much, those who request these town halls, if their requests are as sincere as they claim, have the responsibility to take them seriously and prevent any meeting from turning into nothing but noise. That will not help anyone.

But it’s ultimately up to Katko. Maybe the next time he returns to the district, he won’t dismiss the demands for a town hall so quickly. Public servants have a duty to be present more often than just election years. That’s all the people are asking for. They are listening to what’s going on in Washington. They want to listen to what Rep. Katko has to say about it. They’ve met him halfway. Now they’re asking a question many others are asking their congressman: Where is he?

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88