As I pondered the New York State budget this week, I wondered what Albany was proposing to help small businesses grow. More specifically, I was curious about the details of their plan to increase the minimum wage that employers pay to employees. Of course, this was more of a morbid curiosity, because such a plan will have no impact on minimum wage workers at best, and could actually result in negative job growth (that's politician talk for unemployment) and higher prices.
But the minimum wage increase is a topic for another day. Today, I am writing about what I learned while Googling around the pending budget.
What I learned is that our government, funded by our tax dollars, is not very transparent. I did not find the plan being considered by the Assembly and the Senate on the New York State website. Maybe it's because the budget plan was submitted too close to the deadline for approving the budget? Still, it doesn't allow me to review how my tax dollars will be spent and comment to my elected representatives. Not that my input is valued at all by the "Four Men in a Room" who negotiate foregone conclusions in Albany - Senate Co-Leader Republican Dean Skelos, his Democrat counterpart Senator Jeff Klein, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
From what I read, perhaps this week they should be referred to as the "Four Pigs at the Trough."
Regardless, I generally consider how I am spending my money before I spend it. I view my representatives in Albany as my proxies. As such, I would like to have the opportunity to be better informed. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Sy Symm, "An educated voter is not Albany's best constituent."
During my search, I stumbled across a link to New York State's website dedicated to Governor Cuomo's ten-point Women's Equality Act. I support women's equality; I'm dismayed it is even an issue. I recently had a conversation with a well meaning colleague who said he believed in women's rights and that women should be treated just like men in the workplace. I disagreed, stating that women and men have certain differences (I am sure my gynecologist would agree, if I had one) and that men and women should have equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace. Skewing the rules based on what has been created by men and for men is not fair or equal.
Clearly more work needs to be done. So I clicked on the link to see what New York State was doing to make gender equity a reality in New York State.
Before allowing me to view the page, a pop-up appeared asking me to sign an online petition supporting the Women's Equality Act. Of course, I still didn't know what was included in the Act. It was a nice attempt to commit my support to the Governor's plan without giving me the knowledge to make an informed choice. I declined and was directed to the page.
The Women's Equality Act page briefly lists the ten points of his plan with no elaboration. There aren't even any links to click on for more information. One whole page dedicated to women's equality! You've come a long way, baby! You can visit the page yourself, or I'll save you time and list his plan, in it's entirety, here (snarky comments in brackets are my own):
- Protect a Woman's Freedom of Choice;
- Achieve Pay Equity;
- Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces [I'm sure that this one will save Shelly Silver time quietly settling claims against his fellow Assemblymen];
- Allow for Recovery of Attorneys' Fees in Employment and Credit Lending Cases [another one that will surely have Trial Attorney Silver's support];
- Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws;
- End Family Status Discrimination;
- Stop Source-of-Income Discrimination;
- Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence;
- Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All; and
- Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Laws.
For the most part, I think I can support his plan, but I would like more details. Discriminating against a woman just because she is a woman or is a victim of a crime is wrong. Establishing equity in the workplace is long overdue. Unfounded discrimination in the workplace is, simply, ridiculous. Not only does it hurt the victim, it hurts the economy. Employees should be judged on their production or capacity to produce - that's it. Basing decisions on anything other than that implies choosing a less effective employee. Choosing less effective employees is not a sound business model. Conclusion: Unfounded discrimination is stupid and anti-capitalistic.
I am curious about the first point: Protect a Woman's Freedom of Choice. Spoiler Alert - I am not about to launch into a debate about abortion, or at least I am not revealing my personal opinion regarding abortion. It's the lack of specifics regarding this politically charged point that concerns me. I can see why Governor Cuomo wanted me to sign an online petition before I had the opportunity to learn the details of the plan. Because I really wanted to sign the petition, I decided to look into this point more.
I found a website that claims Governor Cuomo intends to use this to legalize late-term and partial birth abortions. A lot of New Yorkers would oppose such a law. In Philadelphia, a doctor is on trial for, among other charges, killing babies moments after their birth by using scissors to sever their spinal cords. Because the child was completely born, it is universally accepted as murder. It begs the question of when precisely does killing become murder? Is it murder if the fetus is killed as it is being born? Is it murder one week before he or she is due? One month? The answers to these questions vary depending on who is answering and where they stand on abortion.
I also found a website that stated that by protecting a woman's freedom of choice, Governor Cuomo planned on amending New York law to match the holding in Roe v. Wade. The decision of that landmark 1973 case was that a person has a right to an abortion until viability of the fetus, which is somewhere around twenty-four to twenty-eight weeks. Who am I to question the judgment of seven men with no formal medical or psychological training?
For those who do question their judgment, some say Roe goes too far and others say it does not go far enough. The website states that the Governor's proposal would only allow abortions past viability if there was a detrimental impact to the mother of carrying the child to birth.
Given the difficult road that his plan has ahead of it, I have to ask what is the Governor's motive for bringing forward this vague ten-point plan? Clearly, he is trying to bolster his resume in advance of a 2016 Presidential run. But by making his first point an undetailed statement supporting a woman's right to choose, is he dooming the other nine points to failure? It would be truly tragic to hold an otherwise noble women's agenda hostage.
I would have more respect for a candidate who could demonstrate many smaller successes, rather than one grand failure. Is the warmth of the political spotlight really better than making a difference one small step at time I suppose that's a question only Candidate Cuomo can answer.
Before signing the petition, I really wanted more information as to what exactly I was signing. I came across an interesting quote from Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade: "It was my pseudonym, Jane Roe, which had been used to create the "right" to abortion out of legal thin air. But Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee (the lawyers who represented McCorvey) never told me that what I was signing would allow women to come up to me 15, 20 years later and say 'Thank you for allowing me to have five or six abortions. Without you, it wouldn't have been possible.' Sarah never mentioned women using abortions as a form of birth control. We talked about truly desperate and needy women, not women already wearing maternity clothes."
It seems that people who sign on to support ideas without being given full knowledge are ultimately disappointed. I don't think I will be supporting Mr. Cuomo's petition.
Comments? Please email me at Peter.R.Livingston@gmail.com. I am also known to make occasional comments on Twitter @PRLivingston.