By Bob Gaydos
NEWS ITEM — President Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
FOLLOW-UP NEWS ITEM — Virtually every American politician, every political commentator, every TV talking head and late-night comedian scoffs at the award as “undeserved,” “premature,” “ridiculous” or some other negative characterization.
Maybe it’s just me, but this has to be the only country on the planet where it is a bad thing for our president — a man lauded, admired and elected for his publicly stated intention to end the angry, short-sighted, self-serving, polarizing approach to domestic politics and international diplomacy — is ridiculed for being honored by an international body for actually putting those political promises into practice.
It’s not as if he asked for the award. In fact, he was appropriately surprised and humbled by it. What, he should give it back, as some idiotic pundits proposed? Like they would return it if they got it. It’s the Nobel Bleepin’ Peace Prize, for Pete’s sake, not an indictment for War Crimes from the World Court.
The Nobel judges said the prize recognized Obama’s efforts to restore constructive dialogue and cooperation among nations of the world, to seek peaceful solutions to mutual problems and to encourage all nations to assume some responsibility for lessening tensions worldwide. For acting, in effect, the way the leader of the free world should act.
Some said the prize was for not being George W. Bush. Hey, works for me. Wasn’t that what the U.S. election was all about? So thank you, Nobel judges, for agreeing with our choice and honoring it. And a fist bump for you, Mr. President.
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OK, this one I know is not just me. Starting on April 1, 2010, New Yorkers obtaining or renewing their vehicle registration will be required to purchase new license plates, whether they need them or not, for $25. That’s a $10 increase. If they want to keep their old numbers, it will cost an additional $20.
Say what? You say your current license plates are just fine, are still intact and reflective and you’ve only had them a couple of years? Gov. Paterson doesn’t care. He sees a $129 million windfall in this money grab and apparently doesn’t care how he tries to overcome the state’s budget deficit. There is no doubt the state is a financial mess, but there is absolutely no justification for this new fee, which will obviously impact upstate residents more than city dwellers. The state has been on a 15-year plan for replacing license plates, but even that is relaxed as the plates have held up. Requiring new plates for every vehicle in the state may sound like an easy way to make some cash on the backs of struggling taxpayers, but it will surely be a major inconvenience and will inevitably require more costly paper work as registration and insurance documents have to be changed.
In fact, St. Lawrence County Clerk Patricia Ritchie called it an outrage to ask families and businesses to pay more for new license plates they don’t need or want when they are being battered by the ongoing recession. She has launched an online petition drive (http://www.nonewplates.com.) to fight the fee, which the Legislature passed, clearly without much thought. Ritchie said more than 5,000 people signed the petition in the first week. Thousands more (including this writer) have since joined.
Morgan Hook, a puffed-up gubernatorial spokesman, told AP, “Is (Ritchie) calling for a $129 million tax hike? Is she calling for $129 million more in cuts to school aid? Because that’s really what this petition drive is all about. This is the type of irresponsibility that led to the crisis we face today.” He said she should suggest other ways to make up the money.
State Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I – Oneonta) and Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R/C/I – Schoharie) did just that recently in leading a rally against the fees. Among their suggestions:
- Consolidating redundant or underutilized agencies, such as merging the Thruway Authority into the Department of Transportation. Their plan would protect rank-and-file employees, but target high cost administrative appointment positions, many of which are patronage “no show” jobs. They say this would save between $266 million and $1 billion;
- All state agencies should immediately enact a 5 percent reduction in non-personnel spending, such as travel, postage and transportation. This would supposedly save taxpayers an estimated $138 million. A 10 percent reduction would save $212 million;
- Suspending any new leases or purchases of vehicles, except for safety purposes, would save taxpayers $10 million;
- Enforcing a state law to collect cigarette taxes on Native American reservations would bring in a new revenue source worth $500 million;
- Tackling Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse, estimated to be 10 percent of total Medicaid spending, could save taxpayers hundreds of millions.
Will those things work? Don’t know, but they and other ideas are worth pursuing more than charging motorists for new license plates they don’t need. As for those supposedly worn-out license plates, police can always enforce the law on that, maybe at the same time they pull over all those drivers using cell phones.
Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.