I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

So Who Got That "Free Pass" from the Media?

Both Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have recently voiced their discontent that the media has given a "free pass" to Barrack Obama, while focusing intense scrutiny and criticism on Senator Clinton's own record. But how much credence should we assign this claim? If the media were judging Hillary Clinton on her resume, where should their attention have been focused? As Ms. Clinton's only publicly elected office, surely they should have been looking at her list of achievements as the junior Senator of New York, comparing the promises she made in ascending to that office with the results which have since been delivered.

However, at the national level, I never seem to see the pundits and debate hosts asking her about that record. Today I would like to take a look at some of the chief talking points from Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate race, along with her early years in office, and how she has performed since then. There are four significant areas which I believe deserve more attention as we consider our options for the Democratic Presidential nomination and the treatment that Hillary Clinton has received (or failed to attract) during this process.

1. The Brownfields Initiative
2. Industrial redevelopment
3. Job Creation
4. Tax levels in New York

The Brownfields Initiative

One of the highlights of the 2000 Clinton campaign was her focus on how the sagging Upstate New York economy could be bolstered by cleaning up and developing old, polluted industrial sites, long since abandoned by their original owners. (Known commonly as "brownfields") Two years after her initial election, Senator Clinton was still talking about this linchpin of her Upstate development goals.
"We don't have any way to make new land. It is what God gave us and it is our job as stewards of the land to make the best use of it," Clinton told about 200 public officials, developers and real estate agents...

However, much further into her tenure here, even the most vocal proponents of this plan were admitting that it had largely turned into a huge, expensive boondoggle hanging on the backs of the taxpayers. From the Albany Times-Union in July 2007 , representatives from New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, the Fiscal Policy Institute, Sierra Club, NYPIRG, and Environmental Advocates noted:
[T]he history of these efforts has been rife with failures: They’ve frequently failed to provide the promised jobs, or have encouraged sprawl in undeveloped areas while pockets of many cities, especially upstate, remain semi-deserted.

Examples abound, but right here in the greater Binghamton area, we have no less than seven designated brownfields which had been targeted for clean-up and development. While tens of millions of dollars have poured into studies, evaluation and analysis, to date not one of them has generated a dollar of tax income from new owners, though efforts continue to this day to get these projects in motion.

Industrial Redevelopment

Examples abound of areas in New York State where jobs were lost and not recovered, but perhaps one of the most visible is the Griffiss Air Force Base, most of which was lost to a series of military base closures and consolidations in the 80s and 90s. Senator Clinton made quite the issue of this situation and her plans to improve the Upstate economy by developing these lands for industrial use and job growth. One of the key "victories" in this effort was the plan to bring Scienx, a high tech optical imaging firm, into the area, creating more than 500 jobs. (For an area the size of Rome, New York, this would represent a huge boon.) There was even a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the glorious day.
Senator Clinton and Governor Pataki stood side by side at ceremonies in Rome, N.Y., welcoming ScienX, a company that will bring an estimated 500 new jobs to the area.

''I will go anywhere, I will do anything, to help bring jobs to upstate New York,'' said Mrs. Clinton, who introduced the company to Rome. ''For me, this is not about politics but is about jobs and technology, and that's why I'm here, because I've been working on this for quite some time.''

Good news indeed for the cash strapped denizens of the Upstate region. More than 10 million dollars of taxpayer money was flushed into the construction of the building and various tax incentives were offered to ScienX as inducement to get started. The only problem was, the deal was only an option and it never materialized.
On Halloween day in 2002, then Gov. George E, Pataki and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and a host of other dignitaries descended on Griffiss to make a pre-election announcement that the shell building would become the world headquarters of start-up Scienx for the development and production of optical imaging materials that could be used in anticounterfeiting efforts. The creation of more than 500 jobs as the company grew was pledged.

In fact, Scienx never exercised its option to take over the building and the proposal evaporated.

Griffis is in the back yard of my home stomping grounds, which we just visited over the Christmas holiday. The shell building, more than five years later, still stands empty, generating no tax revenue and providing no jobs.

This story, reminiscent of many others around the state, is similar to the brownfields debacle. Griffiss Air Base was polluted to a dangerous degree, and despite more than 135 million dollars of taxpayer money for the cleanup efforts, remains a federal Superfund site to this day.

Job Creation

It has been well documented that Clinton promised during the 2000 campaign that her new initiatives would generate an estimated 200,000 new jobs for New York, particularly in the Upstate region. How did she do on that one? As of 2003 New York had lost an additional 35,000 jobs and by 2007 the net job loss had swelled to 120,000.

While the national media has failed to address this during this campaign cycle, the local Syracuse Post Standard newspaper did manage to ask Clinton about this and she responded saying that there was blame to be laid. However, she placed the blame on the Republican party. One has to wonder - if the state Republican structure was able to stop such progress, could Ms. Clinton really have been unaware at the time of her campaign that we had a Republican governor and a state assembly which has been in GOP control for most of my adult life?

The New York Tax Burden

Another chief talking point of the 2000 Clinton campaign was the fact that New Yorkers were taxed more heavily than nearly any other state in the nation. At the time, the Empire State was rated as the 3rd worst state in the nation for taxation. Under her leadership and the improved economy to come, we were told that this deplorable condition would change.

On this score, at least, Senator Clinton did deliver change. As of 2007, MSN Money's ratings have moved New York State up to 2nd place, with an average Federal, State and Local tax burden of 35.1%.

For the Record

The following is strictly a personal editorial - my conclusions having been a resident of New York throughout Senator Clinton's tenure here and observer of these events, promises and results. Hillary Clinton has not been the personal author of any true "disasters" for the State of New York, but neither has she delivered on her chief campaign promises. In truth, she has been largely invisible in terms of the state's local affairs. (All politics are local, remember?) As I view it, Ms. Clinton spent a large portion of her first term farming relationships and building alliances in Washington, DC keeping an eye to her political future. Since her re-coronation election in 2006, she has done virtually nothing but plan and run her campaign to be president. I will grant that she has done a satisfactory job in showing up for votes in the Senate, though many of those votes have been questionable in judgement, but in terms of serving the people who elected her and delivering on the promises she made, it has been a lukewarm performance at best.

Has Hillary been treated unfairly by the press, while her opponent, Senator Obama, has been given a free pass? To the contrary, it seems to me that the press has been more than active in vetting Mr. Obama, going to the ends of the Earth - in some cases literally, while checking out his schooling on the far side of the planet - to dig up whatever tawdry tidbits were available. Meanwhile, debate after debate is held. Hillary Clinton shows up so often on the Sunday morning chat festivals that I once thought she was the new host of Meet the Press, and yet I never hear these issues of her record being questioned. It would seem that they are specific and applicable to her performance for the people of New York in her only elected office. As someone who bore witness to the free pass Hillary received from the press - not to mention the public- in both of her Senate runs, seeing her and Bill level such a charge at Barack Obama is beyond the pale.

A free pass may have been given, but I believe Bill Clinton was pointing at the wrong candidate.