Economy can bounce back with restoration of fiscal order

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In November, I attended a hearing of the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct, held in a large conference room at 90 Church St. in Manhattan. I am a public member of the board and have served on it since its inception in 1975.

The many windows of the hearing room on the fourth floor face south, overlooking the activity taking place at Ground Zero. At first glance, it appears to be an area of almost chaotic movement. If you look closely, however, you realize that, at last, progress appears to be taking place to re−establish this site as a proper memorial and for commerce.

As I looked, I thought of something else, which is evoked by the horrors of Sept. 11: At no time since the devastation of that day have Americans been asked to make sacrifices to fight the terrorists who seek the destruction of the civilized world.

Instead, we have been encouraged to go about our business and spend money. The war on terror could be done, we were assured, on the cheap.

A useless war in Iraq could be done on the cheap, too. No American had to stay awake nights worrying about how to pay for all this. It could all be done with smoke and mirrors. Let the circuses continue, we were told, and there would be bread for everyone and weapons and intelligence to conquer any problem.

But more taxes? Forget about it. Not wanted. Not needed. This was going to be a free ride.

It is just this philosophy of no pain that led to the greed and malfeasance which gave rise to the subprime mortgage housing bubble. When the bubble exploded over a year ago, it gave us not only a deep recession in our own country, but throughout the world.

We see the results in the foreclosures of properties in Queens, where such events are too frequent in too many neighborhoods. This past fall, the city census tract with the most foreclosure filings was in southeastern Queens, where a New York University report noted that 39 of the roughly 149 properties on one four−block area had been in various stages of foreclosure since 2004.

Boarded−up homes with chains on doors are next to occupied homes. The remaining residents are rightly concerned about lower property values and more crime in the neighborhood.

Gradually, we are beginning to realize once again that you cannot get something for nothing and that you get what you pay for.

After years of fiscal laxity in Albany, we are confronting perhaps the greatest debt situation in the state’s history. Each of us will pay for this with higher fees and taxes and fewer government services.

The city has tightened its belt, too, and the effects will be felt in many ways throughout Queens. It is, sadly, an ongoing story.

Washington can continue to print money and dole it out — wisely, we would hope — but at some point there must be a reckoning.

For too long political leaders of both parties, disastrously led by the recent feckless White House occupant, fed us fantasies about how the world can operate: no sacrifices, no taxes, no pain, spend all you can, rack up all the debt you can. Forget about the consequences. Enjoy the moment.

Our days of wine and roses are over. Let us hope the new leadership in Washington will set an example that all Americans can embrace: respect for the laws of this country and of the world and fiscal leadership which all of us can understand and support.

I believe we are ready for that kind of government on all levels. It will not be easy and it will not be quick, but it can and must be done.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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