Happy Easter, Catholics.



It’s Easter Sunday and I want to honor Nydia Velaquez and her fellow Catholics with a little statistical round-up.



There are 68,503,456 Catholics in the United States (22% of the U.S. population),
and 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide. *

6 Cardinals currently lead U.S. archdioceses, none of whom are in NY. **

There are 41,489 priests and 60,715 religious sisters in the US. ***

The country’s 1,341 Catholic high schools educate 674,000 students. ****

There are 3 Catholic high Schools in Nydia’s district. *****

In 2009, 41% of births were aborted in NYC. The national rate is 19% of births.*******

Nydia Velazquez was rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record. ********

*United States Council on Catholic Bishops

**United States Council on Catholic Bishops

*** Kenedy “Official Catholic”  Directory

**** Kenedy “Official Catholic”  Directory

*****Google Maps

****** “God So Loved” hoodie, $36, CatholicToTheMax.com: (from website) “Shout out the truth of God’s abundant love and mercy for all His children by wearing this hoodie and starting great conversation!”

*******Wall Street Journal


To Healthcare and Happiness Pt. 3

Besides the giddy thrill that must come from beating your opponent’s signature achievement into a bloody pulp, freshman Rep. Michael Grimm’s assault on the healthcare bill carries implications for his reelection chances.

By virtue of his narrow victory and experience as an FBI agent, Grimm landed on the money magnet Financial Services Committee, which oversees Wall Street.  By far, the Financial Service Committee’s largest source of campaign contributions from political action committees (PACs) and individual donations came from the financial, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector of the workforce.

It just so happens that many of the behemoth banks and investment houses cried during the height of the debate that the healthcare bill would damage their ability to rake in record-breaking profits almost annually.

In most cases, the top industries in this sector favored Democrats in the 2010 election cycle, but most likely because they held majorities in both chambers of Congress and The White House.  With Republicans in control of the House–and according to some, The White House, just saying—that largess will likely shift to Republicans such as Grimm.

Grimm already has some traction with that sector.  Of the top five industries donating to Grimm’s campaign, three of them—real estate, insurance, and securities and investment—fell under the FIRE sector.  And it doesn’t hurt that Staten Island’s second largest segment of the workforce came from that sector.

Some may point out that Grimm’s opponent, Michael McMahon, received far more money from vocal opponents of the health care bill, such as Goldman Sachs.  In fact, Goldman represented McMahon’s largest contributor, but that largess likely served as enticement for McMahon to vote against the bill.  It’s reasonable that Goldman’s charity may shift to Grimm in the next election cycle.

For a first-year congressman such as Grimm, having Wall Street just a Ferry ride away can be a blessing.


Nydia (V) is more progressive than Mike (B)

When 700 working parents took to the steps of city hall last Wednesday, chanting, cheering and demanding that their children not be cut from city childcare, they weren’t thinking of NYC’s $3.2 billion budgetary shortfall.

But, Mayor Bloomberg is.

The City’s budget for fiscal 2012 is due July 1st, and the Mayor’s plan is reduce the gap, which has increased by $800 million over the last two years. To accomplish this goal, he is forced to make cuts from all budgets and close the deficits of individual agencies. One such deficit is a whopping $95 million for the city’s Administration for Children Services.

“At the end of February, ACS sent letters to the families of 16, 462 children saying they would be terminated from childcare,” says Gregory Brender, policy expert at United Neighborhood Houses, who also says there are currently 100,00 children who receive services.”These are families almost all of whom the parents have jobs, a few are in school and working at the same time, so they both need care in order to educate their children but also in order to have somewhere safe for them at work during the day.”

ACS (and its boss, Mayor Bloomberg) site a few reasons they must shave almost all of the agency’s deficit ($91 million) from early childhood education, one of which has to do with the federal budget. As of Fiscal Year 2012, the stimulus act, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will expire. That means less teachers will be paid for with federal funding, and with 3 and 4 year olds (the age range of most children being cut) there is a small teacher to student ration. The younger the child the more the personal attention that is needed.

The biggest concern, says Brender and early childhood specialist, is that the cost of socializing these young children and teaching them fundamental information they will need to succeed in public school, will ultimately be passed down the line. In other words, we either invest now, or pay later.

For a politically progressive and government heavy administration, (banning smoking in public areas, labeling calories on menus, and creating controversial bike-paths throughout the five boros) the Mayor’s positions on education seem off kilter.

First, the Mayor hires a corporate CEO to be City Schools Chancellor, only to have her step down 5 months later in response to public outcry. Now, he is failing to invest in the pre-primary school aged children in yet another move that will short the city’s young, for all intents and purposes.

Nydia Velazquez, also a progressive New York politician, would never short education. She has stood up for investing in kids at every turn (most recently on the house floor fighting against head start funding cuts) and in face of federal budget cuts, Velazquez will always side with those spending.


To Healthcare and Happiness Pt. 2

Wikimedia Commons

In the lead up to the vote on the healthcare bill, former Rep. Michael McMahon faced a belligerent crowd of 800 in the auditorium of a Staten Island high school.

Compared to other lawmakers, the freshman democrat escaped the most vicious threats.  The Jerry Springer moment came when one indignant audience member with a microphone vowed to disrupt his reelection chances.  Uninterested in the torch-and-pitchfork vote, McMahon said he would not respond to threats.

McMahon eventually voted “no” on the bill.  He said it would hurt the hospital system on Staten Island and Medicare benefits for seniors, but he still lost—by three points.

McMahon’s eventual victor, Republican Michael Grimm, offered a counter argument during the campaign.  The bill would hurt the hospital system on Staten Island and Medicare benefits for seniors.  See what he did there?

All of this hints at a pretty simple calculus for winning the seat on Staten Island and part of working class Brooklyn in the last election.  Mention your Democratic opponent’s name in the same sentence as Nancy Pelosi with little regard to the context.  Because it appears that McMahon recognized the vital importance of the healthcare sector on Staten Island, which represents a third of its workforce, but it didn’t help him at the polls.

Sure, McMahon voted “no” on the heath care bill.  But he didn’t vote hard enough. He didn’t go that extra step of extorting lawmakers with compromising 8 x 10 glossies to vote “no.” Worst of all, Pelosi gave him a pass, according to the campaign storyline.

But what really separated Grimm from McMahon was Grimm’s willingness to repeal the bill.  In repealing the bill, Grimm would save us from the reprehensible character in Joker makeup threatening to destroy the hospitals on Staten Island.

Two of the three hospitals on Staten Island could lose federal funding.  Staten Island University Hospital may lose almost $23 million for a medical education program.  Richmond University Medical Center expects significant losses as a result of the bill.

McMahon would later justify voting “no” on these grounds during a congressional debate at Wagner College, but Grimm slammed him for admitting he would not vote to repeal the bill. Grimm would—and did.  With much of the district disgruntled with not just the healthcare bill, but what it symbolized, this put Grimm a neck’s length ahead of McMahon.

Meanwhile, the medical community didn’t seem too insistent on repeal in the first place. Health professionals seemed pleased enough with McMahon’s efforts, contributing $77,000 to his campaign.  Grimm received $31,500.  But the repeal effort continues, however fruitlessly.

Since the repeal effort now faces an unreceptive Democratic majority in the Senate, and a veto by President Obama, Grimm and other Republicans have called an audible.  Dissect and Dismember has overtaken Repeal and Replace as they attempt to dismantle the bill piecemeal style.


The 5th District’s Changing Dynamic

Add Gary Ackerman to the list of New York politicians upset about the census.

According to last month’s census count, New York City only has 8,175,133 people, a growth of only 2.1 percent and far different from the initial projections of 8.3 million, and Queens, one of the most populous counties in the country, grew by only 0.1 percent. The release caused quite a stir in New York City, to say the least, and the Mayor has announced that the city is formally challenging the results.

“Everything we know about these neighborhoods tells a different story,” Mike Bloomberg said. “People who have tried to find apartments in these neighborhoods can confirm there just isn’t an abundance of vacancies.”

Ackerman’s district – New York’s 5th – gained only 44,782 people. According to Social Explorer’s Andrew Beveridge, the current district population of 699,143 is a 2.59 percent deviation of the ideal district population size of 717,707. What that means is Ackerman’s is one of many seats in New York City that could be in danger of going away.

The redistricting of New York after the latest census could come as quite a blow to New York Democrats in general, who make up the vast majority of the state’s congressional seats. And with his many years in Congress, the presumed undercount may be the only way that Ackerman has even a chance of being bumped from his seat.

But Ackerman isn’t the only politician facing redistricting problems. As a matter of fact, New York’s 5th ranks as one of the least affected in the city. Peter King and Greg Meeks appear to be hit hardest on that front, as their districts deviate close to 9 percent from the ideal population size.

What could affect Ackerman, however, are his district’s shifting demographics. Ackerman’s district has seen great growth in its Asian and Hispanic population. Overall, the 5th District has dropped from 44 percent non-Hispanic white to 36 percent white. Asians, meanwhile, make up 33 percent of the district, and Hispanics 26 percent. Even in parts of historically white Port Washington and Manorhaven, the Hispanic population has increased by between 15 and 30 percent. This change means that his largely white and Jewish base isn’t as prevalent as it once was, and it’s a change he’s already working to address directly. When asked about the census, Ackerman called the Queens results “bizarre,” and blamed them on a faulty count – particularly in the borough’s more diverse areas.

“I know of no neighborhood where there are fewer people than there were in the last census,” he said. “But I know of scores of neighborhoods where the population has increased in multiples, particularly within the ethnic and minority communities in Queens.”

These census results – accurate or not – indicate that Ackerman will have to start appealing to a broader base of New Yorkers going forward.

Nydia Takes Care of Her (very different) People

Nydia Velazquez is committed to serving both the the poorest and richest members of society, it seems.

A look a the congresswoman’s voting record proves that Ms Velazquez takes care of the most vulnerable citizens -the very old, very sick, very young, very new to America – while a glimpse at the congresswoman’s donor list shows just who’s taking care of Ms Velazquez.

According to OpenSecrets, Nydia raised $838,912 in the 2010 election, none of which came from her own pocket. Top donors (both individual and PAC support) by industry for Ms Velazquez were Securities and Investment, Health Professionals and Commercial Banks.

Understanding how a liberal-minded, minority-identity politician like Ms Velazquez can be conscious of the interests of the richest and the poorest segments of society at the same time has been challenging for me.  But I think I now get how committee participation has helped smooth out the kinks which come from the pressures of these different interests.

The Senate just passed a bill that amends the Small Business Act (the Act) to reauthorize through FY2019 the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs of the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Nydia Velazquez and current Small Business Committee Chair (and republican) Sam Graves are both thrilled with the passage of the SBIR/STTR re authorization bill because it puts money- and opportunity- into the hands of small businesses (many of whom, Nydia hopes will be minority or women run as that has been her push and focus). The initial authorization ended in 2003 when an administrative judge said that the research firms benefiting from the grants failed to qualify as a small businesses as defined by the landmark Small Business Act of 1958.

Wait a minute; that doesn’t seem like a Ms Velazquez move to give small biz funding to already established (wealthy) business, does it?

It turns out, the firms that were in question in 2003, and want to now regain funding were venture capitalists. And venture capitalists are part of the Investment and Securities industry, and specifically contributed just under 15,000 to Velaquez’s last campaign.

It’s starting to make sense now.

Before the bill left the House, there was a proposed amendment that limited VC firms to receiving only 25% of the possible grants. At the Small Business Committee hearing on March 23 reviewing the bill, Ms Velazquez made it very clear that limiting the amount allocated for venture capitalists was not a good idea:

(To expert witness Dr Audretsch of Indiana University, ) “Under the current eligibility rules it is possible for a business with 222 employees and a net worth of $43m like Dr. Squillante’s company (another expert witness present at the hearing) to receive and SBIR grant. However a company with 5 employees and only $1m in net worth could be ineligible for these type of grants because it is majority owned by a venture capital company. So my question to you is does this seem like a fair and equitable system?

Later in a closing remark outlining her position that VC firms shouldn’t be exempted from parts of the funding Ms Velazquez said:

We all want to get this reauthorization done. But if we’re gonna authorize this for 10 – 14 years, we gotta do it right and it has to be in a way that works, and works for the small firms otherwise we cannot abdicate our responsibility in this committee. Thank you.

Of the congresswoman’s VC advocacy,  Rick Shindell of SBIR Insider Newsletter wrote “The word compromise does not seem to exist in Velazquez’s lexicon, as she again demonstrated in the hearing, displaying no interest in the Senate’s 25% VC compromise worked out with BIO, NVCA, SBTC and others.”

Nydia doesn’t take no as an answer when it comes to her base. Rich or poor.