Saturday, November 22, 2008


UP FRONT News November 17, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."


By Tom Weiss

In 1977 New York City was paralyzed by the historic "fiscal crisis" where the City went broke, blamed it on the poor (welfare, medicaid) and the middle class, and instituted an effectively genocidal policy called "planned shrinkage." That was a euphemism coined by Roger Starr, one of the very politically connected power brokers at The New York Times.

Planned shrinkage was - and is - the label for a policy of balancing budget deficits on the backs of the poor and middle class. It is based on the fallacy that it is public services (health care to the poor, welfare, education, mass transit, libraries, parks, etc., etc.) that are responsible for the deficits in the first place.

The same fiction lies at the root of the bailing out of the corporations, essentially ignoring the forclosure victims, and the local domino effect that has people like New York State Governor David Paterson and New York City Mayor Michael Blooomberg warning of draconian cuts in public services and the self-indulgent grossly overpaid executives at the Metropolitan Transit Authority talking about a fare hike. This is high-level mass pickpocketing, definitely a mass misdemeanor.

In 1977, as a direct result of drastic cuts that resulted in a serious nursing shortage at the NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation-operated Queens Hospital Center, several patients died because of inadequate nursing care. I was a social worker at QHC and also the elected social work representative on the QHC Community Advisory Board as well as an elected shop steward in Local 768 of District Council 37. It was an attending physician, who came to my office and, pledging me to maintain his anonymity, told me that a bunch of patients had died as a direct consequence of the budget cut-caused nursing shortage.

I immediately wrote up the necessary memoranda to the QHC Executive Director political appointee Leroy Carmichael and to Dr. Canute Bernard, the politically appointed Chairman of the QHC Community Advisory Board. The Board had ignored my warnings about imminent medical disaster as a result of the budget cuts. I had talked with lots of nurses.

I was already in trouble with the fundamentally corrupt hospital administration because of my complaints about serious abuses against psychiatric patients on the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"-style inpatient unit run by a recurrently sadistic shrink named Alfred Ettinger. The story of a Soviet-style series of human rights violatons against me by the City of New York (Mayors Abe Beame and Ed Koch) was well chronicled on the front page of the Queens Edition of Newsday on March 1, 1978.

The Beame people, followed by Ed Koch and the QHC Administration, totally covered up everything, while publicly questioning my mental fitness. The matter, however, made the mainstream media not too long after my meeting at the World Trade Center with Madeleine Penachio, the Patient Advocate for the New York State Department of Health. She investigated and then sent me a letter confirming that my complaints about the budget cut-caused patient deaths at Queens Hospital Center had been "substantiated." Mr. Whelan, the Department of Health Commissioner, issued a press release and within political moments I was being interviewed by Jeff Kamen on Channel 11 News.

I knew that a Channel 11 story would not be sufficient to save lives at QHC, since Ed Koch and his people (including the corrupt administration at QHC, which was run by Queens Borough President Donald Manes, whose subsequent exposure in an ocean of scandal resulted in his suicide, which he accomplished by plunging a dagger into his chest in the kitchen of his Jamaica Estates mansion) were claiming that I was unfit and that everything at QHC was just fine.

And so I went to New York State Assemblyman Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who was the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Oversight and Investigation, which had major oversight responsibility for City and State government agencies. Mr. Schumer had me meet with his Chief Counsel, the at the time heavily bearded Dan Feldman, who later became an assemblyman himself.

Several days after my long meeting with Mr. Feldman, in which I gave him a wealth of documents, he called me and said, "We're going to go with this." That meant that Mr. Schumer would call a press conference. He said they were looking for the right time for maximum exposure. Several days later there were major headlines when someone pulled the plugs on several respirators at NYC-operated Elmhurst Hospital and three patients died. That was the right time.

On February 21, 1978 Mr. Schumer had his press conference, denouncing the City of New York for not only the patient deaths but also for the coverup - but he didn't invite me. And, as far as I am aware from the many news accounts (page one in the Daily News on February 22, 1978) he didn't mention me. (That is interesting because among the reporters I had talked to at some length by telephone about what had happened at QHC was Bob Herbert, then with the Daily News and now a major columnist with The Times.)

Newsday took care of that omission by Mr. Schumer and the other media when its editor in Queens at the time, the very formidable Dennis Duggan, sent his reporter Joseph Treen to do a story on me. Mr. Treen visited me at my loft home in Tribeca, spent a lot of time with me and his essentially accurate story appeared on March 1, 1978, one day before my birthday. Ed Koch responded as he often does when confronted with embarassing facts; he lied, - about me and about QHC. In fact Koch was personally involved in the coverup, as I had met with his close political advisor Herman Badillo, who later told me that he had given all my information personally to Mr. Koch. Newsday (as did other papers such as the Queens Tribune, Our Town, et. al.) followed the story and my subsequent political battles in Queens for years. Indeed, on March 19, 1981 a very good story under the headline "Remember Tom Weiss? He's Back" by columnist Kenneth Gross appeared in Newsday. Newsday, now under very different ownership than it was in 1978, has a history of going after whistleblowing system challenges that other mainstream media shy away from. (The New York Post, then essentially a mouthpiece for Koch, killed the story. So did the Village Voice.) Newsday, with its history of establishment-exposing journalism, is the opposite of for example the Staten Island Advance which, with Political Editor Tom Wrobleski as censor-in-chief, is essentially a mouthpiece for the political establishment.

It took Mr. Schumer's press conference and some correspondence between me and President Jimmy Carter (the reply to me came from his wife) before some emergency federal money was pumped into budget cut-decimated QHC.

It was during my years at Queens Hospital Center that I met Rev. Dr. Timothy P. Mitchell, Pastor of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, in Flushing, Queens. I think Rev. Mitchell had Queens Hospital Center in mind when at a union rally next to City Hall he denounced "planned shrinkage" as "genocide", a reality since many if not most of the patients utilizing QHC as their provider were black.

Gov. Paterson's and Mayor Bloomberg's threatened cuts are potentially genocidal in nature. They will hurt health care for the poor, they will increase the incidence of hunger and they will worsen the housing crisis They will cost lives. Gov. Paterson needs to think again about his opposition to a tax increase for the mega-rich.

The major reason for the financial crisis stems from government policies that encourage and reward greed. The federal government is in the process of having the taxpayers (even poor tax-oppressed Joe the Unlicensed Plumber) pay out billions to reimburse corporations and stockholders plundered by their own CEOs. Think Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers. And that doesn't even include the gazillions in Iraq War blood money profits made at Halliburton of Big Dick Cheney fame.

The governments of New York State and New York City, aside from overpaying themselves, (City Council President Christine Quinn, "The Marie Antoinette of City Hall", is a classic example of that) have over the years given away gazillions in the form of tax abatements to real estate developers and sports team owners who give us what we least need, luxury housing, gentrification, and luxury box-riddled ballparks. And along with the ballpark ripoff (the new Yankee Stadium) we get the perverse glorification of obscenely overpaid athletes like the narcisstic ballplayer/landlord Alex Rodriguez, who, Madonna and Kabbalah notwithstanding, strikes out in the clutch.

Until the plunderers, who include the golden parachuted CEOs, the real estate tycoons, and the "celebrity" economic parasites (without fans buying psychotically priced hot dogs at Yankee Stadium, et. al. A-Rod would be nothing) pay back their fair share, there is no justification for any cuts ar all.

Some months ago, Quinn and Bloomberg essentially snuck something called Intro. 458 through the New York City Council. Intro 458, allowed the Council to substantially raise its own salaries and those of a number of already overpaid Bloomberg aides. The City Councilman who most vociferously protested that ripoff and not only voted against it but, after it predictably passed, refused to accept the extra money, was Tony Avella, the very indepen- dent minded Democrat from Queens and now longshot candidate for Mayor.

The City Council could set a very good budget-cutting example by repealing Intro 458 and thereby giving the money back. It could be used to perhaps help out some hard-pressed food pantries.

"Planned shrinkage" for the non-poor.
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