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Fred Siegel
Upstate: Rage or Resignation? « Back to Story

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Please explain the "natural gas boom" remark. I don't mean the pun aspect; how important is this gas reserve, in economic terms, to the NY population as a whole. I'll bet 1 in 1000 will get anything at all out of it.
At the end of World War II, who would have dreamed that the United States of America would spend the next half century systematically destroying its own manufacturing base?
My son and I looked at colleges in New York and were shocked at how run down it looked. same with other areas - Poughkeepsie, is memorable as being especially bad. Beautiful scenery, but absolutely awful looking otherwise.
We like to talk about how the loss of manufacturing has ruined communities here in New York State and across the country, but nobody seems to want to do anything about it. Instead, we have a service economy that is a nice word for a giant tax-gobbling parasite that sits atop a dwindling tax base, crushing the life out of it. As a resident of the little City of Newburgh where the first Edison power plant was built and the architects of Central Park built Downing Park, I cannot but lament how the loss of skilled jobs has contributed to this historic city's decline into a den of gang violence so out-of-control that this past May the F.B.I. and local law enforcement conducted a sweeping raid of the leaders of the Crips and Bloods. You simply cannot offer welfare and Section 8 housing to marooned communities of single parents and expect them to magically join the middle class by dumping them into semi-abandoned bedroom communities. Governor-Elect Cuomo had better hold on to his own seat before he wakes up one day and finds his own grizzled self staring at a Bingo board somewhere in Florida.
@John: I left New York State at the age of 49 (and did not retire or move to Florida) primarily because the environment there was becoming increasingly toxic to entrepreneurs (and to business in general, at least outside of the 5 boroughs).

My sister and her husband are in their mid-40s, and are planning their exodus even now (they're also neither retiring nor moving to Florida) for much the same reasons.

I know, that's only two cases, and I'm sure that a fair chunk of the people who have left New York in the last 40 years have in fact retired and moved to Florida, but I read an article recently that cited figures on the (steadily increasing) numbers of families and businesses that have left the state in the last 40 years (sorry I cant find a link at the moment): the article claimed that, if those families and businesses had stayed in New York, the state could now be enjoying a budget surplus, even if taxes, fees, and all the other little cuts that the State takes had remained at the level they were in the 60s.

And I have no trouble believing that; my father was able to single-handedly support a family as a state worker back then, and had enough left over to invest so that my mother could survive him by 13 years and still never have to take a job at McDonald's to pay her bills (and she left a considerable inheritance for me and my three siblings when she died).
I take exception to this description: "The area between the Catskills and Binghamton, itself an asphalt ghost town, is filled with broken-down towns inhabited by worn-down people."

For the last 26 years, my husband and I have lived in the area between the Catskills and Binghamton. Yes, there are some "worn-down" people here, just as there are in any area, but I think most of those living here would object very strongly to that description. As for the "broken-down towns," again, there are pockets of poverty in our region just as there are anywhere else, but most of the houses here are well-maintained, middle-class homes.

My husband and I are both college graduates and we could have chosen to live in many areas of the country, but we picked the Southern Tier of NY because of its natural beauty, its safe and friendly communities, and its modest but charming older homes.

As far as we are concerned, the Marcellus Shale is not a "bright spot" at all--rather, it will mean the industrialization and pollution of our beautiful and beloved adopted home.
some time back there was an article about Western NY and how CA was heading that direction. These last elections have solidified the bearing and accelerated the boat...
One reason that the NY Southern Tier "resembles Appalachia" is that it is part of Appalachia.
Are the impacts of the demise of upstate's manufacturing economy a harbinger of things to come for nation as a whole? We shipped our manufacturing overseas - so now we have a service economy? Exactly what are we servicing?

Our intellectual capital adds value to raw materials - i.e design concepts + raw materials= product ( like the I Pod).

When items like the Ipod are manufactured overseas, process, technology and our competitive edge are transferred to the host county - China in the case of the Ipod example.

As we disassemble our manufacturing base and share our technological and intellectual capital world wide, how long before places like Boston, San Francisco, New York and other places begin to resemble Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton and Utica?

"There is a potential bright spot: the Southern Tier, like northern Pennsylvania, sits atop the Marcellus Shale, a vast source of natural gas. "

May be a bright spot for the southern tier until the gas companies ruin the water supply - for the southern tier and metro New York.
Hello from Buffalo, New York. I am a physician and well aware that the property tax in Erie County is quite high. I would like to see New York State's pension obligations and employment rolls pared so that our fiscal future is solidified. That said, I am also gay. Professor Siegel's implicit thesis, that gay New Yorkers should vote for explicitly degrading and hateful candidates like Paladino and the lion's share of the upstate Republican Party, on account of small-government principle, simply requires a degree of masochism I have yet to achieve.
One aspect of the evolution of upstate that you didn't mention is the "Vermontification" of many areas--particularly in the Finger Lakes and North Country. Much of these regions are filling up with hippie types that want to keep the area rustic so that they can continue to get their trust fund stipends, while the locals go without jobs.

We have a cottage in a place where the hot issue is wind energy development. The "locals" claim that the energy would only serve the cities downstate. Um, yeah. The wind is here, and the need for power is there. Why is that so hard to understand?

The surrounding area is characterized by a great deal of poverty, but that is of no concern to these "gentry liberals" (as Joel Kotkin called them). As someone who grew up in relative deprivation myself, I find this attitude as appalling as it is condescending.
While the author attributes the decline of Upstate to the St. Lawrence Seaway and obsolescence of manufacturing, he forgets the one significant change to New York State government in the 1960s that did Upstate in: the Court-mandated reapportionment of the state legislature according to "one-man one-vote" principles. Previously the State Senate (similar to the US Senate) was more weighted to geography rather than population, ensuring that Upstate would have practically a veto power over legislation that would be harmful to Upstate interests. With the Assembly weighted toward Downstate interests, New York State policy was crafted so that Both parts of the State flourished. Upstate's economy was still strong enough coming out of that era that it was able to assist New York City during its 1970s fiscal crisis.

Since reapportionment, the problems presented by a pure democracy have slowly materialized. Simply put, state policies reflected a Downstate perspective in many subtle ways that slowly chipped away at Upstate's viability as a place to do business. The legislative balance between the two regions has been lost.

The result is a New York State that as a whole is economically much weaker and vulnerable. If New York City were to again face a financial crisis, there is no strong Upstate to help out.

"One-man, one-vote" was an error by the US Supreme Court. We now have 40 years of evidence that demonstrates (1) why that is not "equal protection" of laws, and (2) why New York's founding fathers designed the state legislature as they did.

WMCA v Lomenzo needs to be revisited, and our legislature needs to go back to its original design. Maybe then will New York again deserve to be called the "Empire State."
I wonder whether this mirrors the anti-development pattern of Detroit and Michigan.
Just a quick thought, the article implies that NYers are "resigning as New Yorkers" due to the high taxes and bad governance. But as we all know, a lot of older NYers leave for the warmer weather of Florida upon retirement. I think a much more useful statistic would be the ranking of States whose under 50 aged population is leaving.
Thanks, John.
BYorker, you are correct that Upstate is now supported by public dollars, however that is because state policies have killed off the manufacturing jobs and other businesses which used to thrive here. When you destroy private sector jobs, public sector support tries to fill in the gap. Unfortunately, that never works out very well which is why we've lost 1 million in population and 300,000 private sector jobs and are still in decline. If the NYC interests would be content to confine themselves to NYC and leave us alone, we might figure out how to start the rebuilding process all by ourselves. It worked pretty well for 200 years.
For 200 years, the detente between NYC and Upstate existed because state legislation pushed by NYC interests but unwanted Upstate would be drafted to apply only to "cities with populations over 1,000,000" which limited its application to NYC. That compromise is now gone, and NYC has imposed taxes, regulations and job killing rules on Upstate without limit. The DEC is a good example of an agency which used to be run primarily for the benefit of Upstate but is now regarded as a NYC-run outfit which is anti-jobs, anti-business, and generally anti-Upstate. It did not help that under Pataki and the GOP state senators, union influence reached new highs and GOP resistance to these measures collapsed.
I believe your learned analysis failed to consider that upstate NY is principally supported by public employment and public works. Reconciling this with your statement that Upstate NY is a beacon of libertarianism is a little difficult.
Well, don't flee to CA. We are about to adopt the simple majority vote for the state budget, and presumably for state taxes -- as you now have in NY. Given that demographically, CA is more Democrat than NY, our downward slide will only accelerate.

Our domestic outmigration pattern is similar to NY. As we like to say in CA, our state is the engine of prosperity -- for the rest of the nation.