Following the arrest of 35 people in New York City and it’s surrounding counties, Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement: “This combined effort between state government and local law enforcement agencies is proof that New York State is aggressively rooting out unemployment insurance fraud at every turn. When individuals commit unemployment insurance fraud all New Yorkers pay for it. They are not only cheating the system, they are stealing directly from the taxpayers. These practices will not be tolerated. The [“new”] New York is dedicated to upholding a system of utmost fairness and ensuring that those who flout the law are brought to justice.”
Really- “a system of utmost fairness”? To quote alternative rock band Modest Mouse and their song The View “if it takes shit to make bliss then I feel pretty blissfully.”
Still, I for one would like to congratulate Gov. Cuomo and his team of district attorneys, state police, and Department of Labor officials. And if I had the pleasure of meeting with Cuomo face-to-face, I would even extend an over exaggerated pat on the back -at the cue of on looking photographers and maybe some perfectly cued music no less, but only because that is what I believe he is looking for.
According to the governor, 51.2 million dollars has been recovered from fraudulent unemployment cases via the TOP program, aka Treasury Offset Program. TOP is a special union between federal and state governments that allows the state to intercept federal tax returns for delinquent funds.
I am in no way condoning insurance fraud. Only in math do two negatives make a positive. I just can’t help but feel like there is a double standard going on here. The proverbial “they” parades around like they’ve done such a great deed in the name of taxpayers and businesses, emphasis on the businesses. But where did this funding get reallocated to?
Was it redirected into the school system? Did it go to provide new textbooks, better teachers or new curriculum for failing schools in poorer and undereducated areas? Will it go to financial aide for college students or help pave the way to low cost secondary education?
While the end doesn’t justify the means, I can honestly understand why these people took the risk of being caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Is this not an example set by our very own congressman, Paul Tonko. In 2010, YNN reported that Congressman Tonko earns 64,000 dollars in retirement funds from NYS retirement in addition to his $174,000 a year he receives as a U.S. congressman. In response to the controversy Congressman Tonko defended himself by saying, “People who have qualified by their years of service are given an opportunity for that pension.”
So Congressmen can justify “double dipping” but can’t bring themselves to raise the minimum wage, despite the fact that it is nearly impossible to live anywhere, albeit New York City, on $7.75 an hour, before taxes that is. They call themselves victors for the tax payers but I seem to remember some kind of payroll tax initiative that was floating around out there last year which is exactly what the struggle & strained working class needs are additional taxes.
So, Governor Cuomo, if you want to talk about fair, lets talk about limiting the contribution amounts that a candidate can accept, particularly in the race to be CEO of America Inc. In fact, I’m just going to take it there and say: “Off we’re their heads.” That sounds fair to me.