A Time for Ideas
By Peter Hort, Candidate for United States Congress in District
October 25, 2004
New Yorkers used to accept crime as a fact of life. Our leaders said: What can we really do? Then Mayor Rudy Giuliani came along and asked us to raise our standards and try new ideas. It worked. A decade later major crime is at a 40-year low and still going down.
Once again, we have real problems facing this city and this nation. But instead of solutions, New Yorkers have gotten partisanship and blame. Government seems more interested in pleasing special interests than serving the people.
We could throw up our hands and declare defeat. But it would be better to experiment with fresh new ideas to confront the difficult issues of education, tax reform, social spending, protecting the middle class, and alternative energy policies.
I believe that good teachers are the key to a good education. For most of New York's history, we nurtured generations of scholars with great teachers relying on minimal equipment and inadequate facilities. Good teachers stimulate the love of learning and inspire our children. In a time of tight municipal budgets there is no room to offer the salaries that will retain and attract good teachers. To address this, I propose making public school teacher salaries federal tax-free, thereby giving them an effective 30 percent raise. This will show our teachers that they are appreciated and valued. I support linking school-aged child tax credits to participating in parent/teacher conferences.
REAL TAX REFORM
Sixty percent of American corporations didn't pay ANY taxes from 1996 to 2000, according to the April 6, 2004 Wall Street Journal. Our tax code, which is built upon supporting an overblown government beholden to special interests, is inefficient and unmanageable. I will work to simplify taxes and close special interest loopholes. It has almost become tradition in Congress for many of our representatives to exchange favors and loopholes for political support and contributions. Just have a look at the political action committees that have given to Congressman Jerrold Nadler, my opponent in this yearís Congressional election. Most are entities that do business with the federal government. After generations of such deal making, we have ended up with a tax code that is nothing more than a cesspool of legalized corruption and special interest legislation.
We need a fair system that does not burden any one group. When consumers have more money in their pockets, the spending that results drives our economy and creates jobs. Working-class Americans should be able to keep more of their money, rather than have the federal government waste our resources on pork barrel projects. Consumer spending is the strongest leg of this economy.
CHARITABLE GIVING ≠ A NEW APPROACH TO SOCIAL SPENDING
I believe the federal tax code can be used to the benefit of American charities, and not just special interests, by creating real incentives for all Americans to consider charitable giving. And every American ≠ regardless of income ≠ should be able to participate.
Under my plan all taxpayers would be given a dollar-for-dollar credit for any amount-up to $25-they donate to qualified charities (with or without itemizing deductions); and taxpayers could deduct-subject to a $500 limit-two times the amount of their donations to qualified charities.
This is a simple and affordable proposal that would allow every American to direct tax dollars to qualified charities of their choice, resulting in a much-needed influx of funds for organizations that sorely need them. It also recognizes that the judgment of the American people is sounder than fickle political favors. And it makes use of reasonable caps, so that charities ≠ and not the super wealthy ≠ stand to gain the most.
My plan would foster a renewed sense of community. Donors would have a tangible investment in their community. This alone would have meaningful, long-lasting effects. But by enhancing direct charitable contributions, it would also permit taxpayers to circumvent the Washington bureaucracy and the waste so prevalent there, so that a greater percentage of our donations actually reaches the charities we select.
PROTECTING THE MIDDLE CLASS
Protecting the middle class is critical to New York and America's future. One of the greatest challenges facing New York's middle class is securing affordable housing. In our urban areas, where the middle class residents who make up the backbone of any local economy are squeezed out, this problem is particularly evident. Cities in this country are increasingly becoming places for only the rich and poor.
New York is a prime example. This cityís residents pay a larger percentage of their income on housing than almost anyone else in the nation. I will champion an urban Homestead Act, allowing rent to be tax deductible and Section 8 housing vouchers to be used towards mortgage payments. I will also fight for new federal money available for middle class housing.
I want to give parents paid leave through Social Security or disability. I also support cutting the capital gains tax for the first $20,000 of profit per year thereby encouraging people to invest and save for the purchase of a home, to start a business, or pay for a child's education. This will not be a windfall to the super wealthy but will help the middle class
AN ENERGY POLICY THAT IMPROVES SECURITY AND PRESERVES THE ENVIRONMENT
Energy policy based on energy independence is no longer just an idea. It is a requirement. The key to our energy policy must be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by developing clean, renewable energy sources.
While fossil fuels will continue to be our major source of energy for the foreseeable future, now is the time to invest intensively in developing new energy technologies. Electric utilities will be encouraged in this direction by being required to produce a small, but growing, amount of power from clean renewable sources. For example, electrical utilities would be required to produce 2 percent of their energy from clean renewable sources. Then, in 3 years, increase the requirement to 5 percent, and so on. This would enlarge the market for clean renewable energy research and development.
Recently, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority invested in a program that harnessed tides or river currents to generate power. These "tidal turbines" are located off the east shore of Roosevelt Island. They are slow enough to avoid harming local aquatic life and they would pose no threat to surface navigation. Tidal electricity is entirely pollution-free. It produces no smoke and no fossil fuels are consumed, there is no harm to the environment and for New Yorkers, itís local energy. Since the electricity would not be traveling far, it would not burden an already overstretched transmission grid. The question here is not whether there is enough energy, it's how soon can we tap into it.
PEOPLE NOT PARTIES
There are many issues challenging our city that require innovative and cost-effective solutions, not ideological pandering. We need issue-oriented officials who will find creative solutions to our cityís most persistent challenges. Itís time to put party affiliations and political action committee interests aside and begin an open exchange of ideas ≠ because it is this exchange that drives democracy.
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