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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Would Jesus Say NYC Mayor's Plan To Help Poor Pre-K Kids Is Offensive?

Mayor de Blasio with his beautiful family - the loving picture of a new America.
The newly elected New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, says he’s sticking to his plan to fund universal pre-K educational programs with a tax on city residents making more than $500,000, while the governor gives out a competing message at a separate event, proposing wide-ranging tax breaks for businesses.  When New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio first proposed taxing the rich so every child in the city could attend all-day preschool, it was October and he had support from fewer than 10 percent of Democrats in polls.
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, endorsed the idea in a July 2012 speech, saying: “Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10 percent or higher. Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return.”
But not everyone agrees, as many wealthy New Yorkers call de Blasio’s tax plan offensive.  Some New Yorkers have complained that his first agenda is to tax the rich to help poor children.
Doesn't look like Buzzy misses a meal. 
E.E. “Buzzy” Geduld, who runs the hedge fund Cougar Capital LLC in the city and is a trustee of Manhattan’s Dalton School (The Dalton School is an independent, co-educational day school (K-12), where annual tuition tops $40,000), said de Blasio’s plan “is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard” and “not a smart thing to do.”  [According to the US Census Bureau, the 2011 Median Income of US households was $50,054 per annum. Table H-9 Race of Head of Household by Median and Mean Income, US Census Bureau, retrieved 2013-05-29].  Ironic that the average American could never afford to send even a single child to such a school; yet, those that easily afford it would deny education to the poor.
Convent of the Sacred Heart - Where's the heart moms?
And what of those good Christian schools?  The Convent of the Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic all-girl school in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Teaching grades from pre-kindergarten through twelve, it is located on Manhattan's Upper East Side at East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue.  Tuition and Payment for the 2011-2012 School Year: Pre-Kindergarten: $19,290; Junior Kindergarten: $25,390; Kindergarten: $36,760; and Grades 1 – 12 : $37,395.  Certainly the parents of the privileged at The Convent of the Sacred Heart support de Blasio’s plan??
Perhaps we should review Luke 6:20-26:
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
But what of the less fortunate?  De Blasio speaks of a New York as a “Tale of Two Cities,” where almost half of New York residents are poor or struggling.  About 46 percent of four-person New York families had incomes of no more than about $46,000, or roughly 150 percent of the city’s poverty level in 2011, according to an April report from the Center for Economic Opportunity, an agency Mayor Michael Bloomberg created in 2006 to measure and develop programs for the poor. It said 21 percent lived below the poverty line of about $31,000 for a family of four in 2011.
From 2000 to 2010, the median income of the city’s eight wealthiest neighborhoods jumped 55 percent, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. During the same period, median income fell 3 percent in middle-income areas and 0.2 percent in the poorest neighborhoods, according to U.S. Census data.  So pity the rich.  It must be so hard.  The city's richest 1 percent took home 39 percent of all earnings in 2012, up from 12 percent in 1980, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group in New York.
So de Blasio has called upon some of the city’s wealthiest individuals, to provide about $532 million for universal all-day pre-kindergarten and after-hours middle-school programs.  According to a study conducted by WealthInsight, New York City is home to 70 billionaires, the most in the world; including former Mayor Bloomberg.  New York is also home to 389,000 multi-millionaires, defined as individuals with over $30m each.
De Blasio’s plan would raise the marginal tax rate on incomes above $500,000 to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent. For the 27,300 city taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million, the average increase would be $973 a year, according to the Independent Budget Office, a municipal agency.
In New York City I’ve spent more than that on a bottle of wine at dinner.  Perhaps it’s disgusting I can indulge so, but I support this tax 100%.
For those making $1 million to $5 million, the average extra bite would rise to $7,793, the budget office said.  At incomes of $5 million to $10 million, it would climb to $33,518, and for those earning more than $10 million, it would mean paying $182,893 more.
Sounds like a lot?  Let’s compare.  The Gulfstream G650, the favorite of the New York’s wealthy, costs a cool $64.5 million (2013).  But like everything else, you have to maintain that toy.  According to Daniel Kearns, Aircraft Broker, the annual fixed costs of this toy are: Pilots - $231,750.00; Crew Training - $69,380.80; Hangar - $80,000.00; Insurance - $60,000.00; Aircraft Miscellaneous - $28,500.00; for a “modest” total of $444,630.80 per year.  Then you have to add the variable costs (these are hourly) of about $3,263.51 per hour (i.e., fuel, maintenance).  All for a modest cost ranging from $770,981.80 (100 Hours flying) to $3,708,140.80 (1000 Hours flying).
And then a must for any New Yorker of wealth is a summer home in New York’s Hamptons, the resort towns on the Long Island coast; which according to Douglas Elliman Real Estate the average price has reached a neat $2.13 million. (That of course only buys in the slums of Hampton adjacent areas.  The median price for all luxury transactions, the top 10 percent of all sales by price, climbed 17 percent from a year earlier to $7 million, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.
Then you have to have a car.  The must have for the “socially” conscience elite is the Mercedes-Benz G-Class Wagon.  The 2013 G63 AMG 4dr 4x4 has a base price of $134,300.  Add a few options and you’re just under $200,000. Then you have to park it.  The scarcity of parking has made it a must-have for wealthy apartment buyers, who view a space much as they do a fireplace or a walk-in closet. A spot can cost well over $200,000, or, if rented, more than $2,000 a month for one space. That is just the first car.
And of course one needs nannies for the children.  Luckily, they come relatively cheaply.  Live-in nannies, make an average of $713 a week, which comes to $37,076 a year. Even in posh Park Slope, home of high-priced strollers and children’s clothes that cost more than your average businessman’s suit, earn $16.41 an hour. For those working 50 hours a week, that comes to just $42,666 a year.
Wider Opportunities for Women has calculated how much it takes a family to meet its basic needs without relying on government subsidies, finding that it takes a single parent of a preschooler $41,872 a year to just hit the low mark. Add in another adult and another child and the number jumps up to $59,027.
Remember, about 46 percent of four-person New York families had incomes of no more than about $46,000 and 21 percent lived below the poverty line of about $31,000 for a family of four in 2011.
So exactly what is offensive?
Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and the poor has never been more severe. Wealth disparity is at its highest level in a century. This ever increasing divide of the haves and have-nothings is cause for concern in that America was built upon a healthy middle class.  More disturbing is that I see a growth of a more shameful divide.  More and more privileged people I know are lacking ability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be nearly impossible; but I think there is still hope for addressing the divide in empathy.

So how does society address this lack of appreciation and understanding for those less fortunate?  Many people look to their religion and church for guidance.  For example, in Christianity one only need look to the Scriptures for guidance. 
The Scriptures say that governmental authority is to protect the poor in particular. The biblical prophets are consistent and adamant in their condemnation of injustice to the poor, and frequently follow their statements by requiring the king (the government) to act justly. That prophetic expectation did not apply only to the kings of Israel but was also extended to the kings of neighboring lands and peoples.  Psalm 72 begins with a prayer for kings or political leaders: "Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice? May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor."

Big Surprise - A Pope in his G-Wagon
So Christians should be wholly supportive of this plan.  Right???  But based upon the comments of so may privileged New Yorkers, it doesn't appear that Church or Temple is working. 

The government should be there to support the poor.  And woe to the rich who say this is “offensive.”  Luke 18:25 : “I'd say it's easier to thread a camel through a needle's eye than get a rich person into God's kingdom."
What would Jesus say if he walked in our society today?
I’m an atheist, but my guess is the Jesus written about in the bible would tell these hypocrites they will be burning in hell for eternity based on that vengeful father of Jesus that some call God.  And even though I don't believe in a deity, I do believe in helping the less fortunate.  The best of societies are the ones where those who have the most reach out and help those that are struggling and in need.