Column: Why politicians get a bad rap

Column: Why politicians get a bad rap

Politicians have a nasty habit of reacting to bad news, many times of their own creation, as opposed to proactively solving problems before they happen.

In fact, elected officials often quickly change positions when they realize they are on the wrong side of public opinion.

As such, to avoid being criticized at election time, politicians become champions of the cause of the moment. That’s a major reason why the public has a poor and cynical opinion of legislators.
So many shocking issues quickly come and go out of the news cycle, it’s hard to keep up. Television ratings jump on bad news, which explains why we are constantly bombarded with it.

Remember the non-stop coverage of the devastating hurricanes last fall, and the atrocious civil war in Syria?

How about the chorus of calls for New York State ethics reforms after the indictments of Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos and Ed Mangano not so long ago?

We all remember these former headlines, but as time passes they fade away.

Politically, nothing changes, and the media searches for the next tragic headlines to keep us engaged.
Here is a list of topics that are back in the public eye, or they eventually will be, as the problems they pose becomes so large they can’t be ignored.

Gun Violence – The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., has touched a nerve and this may be the tipping point for meaningful federal and state changes to gun laws.

It’s fascinating to watch those opposed to any change try and drag this out, as they have done in the past, to mitigate any new law.

This recent quote in the New York Post is a good example: “Long Island Republican rookie Sen. Elaine Phillips — who won her seat by 2 percentage points in 2016 — twice fled from a reporter attempting to ask her position on gun control Tuesday.”

The Deficit – The National Debt is about to blow through $21 trillion, and the deficit, once a hot topic, is all but forgotten. Interest rates rising back to their historic averages will cause this, in a few years, to be all we talk about.

The federal deficit will continue to grow, at the expense of tax cuts today, and painful budget cuts will have to be made in the future to stop the American economy from a deep and prolonged recession. I am sure there will be a future political outcry for a balanced budget.

Subprime Mortgage Crisis – A not so distant 10 years ago, the country was on the brink of financial collapse. According to a recent Federal Reserve report, American household debt hit a record $13.1 trillion during the 4th quarter of 2017.

As the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms get whittled away by the Trump Administration, and Wall Street starts taking on more risk and greater leverage to feed the bottom line, we are doomed to repeat the past.

Presently, there isn’t much political concern; but, rest assured, there will be hearings and finger pointing when it happens again.

Infrastructure – The New York Metro area network of roads, tunnels, bridges and public transit are deteriorating right before our eyes.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cancelled the much needed Hudson River Tunnel for NJ Transit in 2010 and is now trying to be a champion of the $30 Billion Gateway Program, considered of the nation’s most important infrastructure project. Is hypocrite a strong enough word to call him as the NY Metro regions suffers in ever increasing transit delays? How about past efforts by state Senate Republicans to stop Long Island’s third track as they now fight for sound bites about LIRR breakdowns? Leading from behind is safer but doesn’t do our infrastructure any good.

Ethics Reform – This was once a hot topic in the local press, when the three musketeers of corruption, Silver, Skelos and Mangano were all indicted. It’s back in the local news with Newsday’s extraordinary expose on Oheka Castle owner and political power broker, Gary Melius. No new New York State laws have been enacted to stop crooked politicians as the conga line of indictments keep coming.

Look no further than former top-adviser to Gov. Cuomo, Joe Percoco’s corruption trial and former Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker recently getting nabbed for accepting a bribe.

When will New York State finally legislate meaningful ethics reform to help regain the public’s trust? I have no doubt ethics reform will become a hot topic as Election Day approaches, but I fear nothing will get done as time passes.
Other issues, currently taking a back seat in the public’s consciousness, that desperately need urgent attention, are the protection of Long Island’s groundwater and a national push to mitigate climate change.

Unfortunately, politicians won’t react to these problems en masse until it’s too late. For the public to regain trust in elected officials, they need to stop leading from behind.

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