Federal officials not helping on IRS issue
I am getting extremely upset by the refusal of my elected officials at the federal level to even try to help a taxpayer with a serious problem. I have contacted both U.S. senators — plus my representative (Paul Tonko) concerning my 2014 tax refund.
I have given them all the information that should be required. I even signed some forms for the staff at Tonko’s local Schenectady office. My two U.S. senators haven’t even responded. At least Tonko’s office responded once.
This ongoing fiasco is now months old. The last correspondence from the IRS said that the refund should be in my hands by the end of May. I have called the 800 number to no avail. Currently, I am on hold — it has now been two hours with the IRS “customer” line. At the two-hour mark exactly, the line went to dial tone.
The last time I spoke with one of Rep. Tonko’s staff at the Jay Street office, I was informed that they had sent an email to the IRS. That was eight weeks ago. I asked about follow-up emails and a phone call. Nope. Then I was told they had to wait for the IRS to get back to them. Seriously?
The one email that was sent has probably been shunted off into a spam folder — and I am supposed to be patient with what they are doing?
I thought elected officials were there to represent their constituents. But it seems that a 77-year-old Army veteran isn’t worth bothering with.
Edward F. Wagner
More study needed on pipelines’ impacts
Residents of Schoharie should know that many of us are working very hard to make sure that gas pipelines will not be approved unless they can be shown to be safe.
The county Board of Supervisors has authorized an outreach to every other county in the state, asking each to join us in supporting a comprehensive look at all health and safety impacts, to be conducted by independent, prominent public health professionals.
This effort has been reinforced by the American Medical Association [AMA], which supports the creation of a law requesting regulatory agencies to properly evaluate and guard against the many health risks presented by gas pipelines, compressor stations and related activities. The AMA is clearly dissatisfied with the way in which these reviews are currently conducted.
A group of doctors from around the state is being formed to meet with and educate legislators and high-ranking state officials. These doctors know from their research and private practice that many risks and impacts of pipeline infrastructure are being overlooked by what is basically an amateur staff at regulatory agencies.
One of these research projects has just included the compressor station in the town of Wright, which is slated to be much larger if the Constitution Pipeline is given final permits. Air- and water-quality testing and health interviews with nearby residents will provide much better information than anything the state Department of Environmental Conservation is currently using to guide its decisions.
I am calling now on all of you who are rightly concerned about the way in which pipeline projects are expanding so rapidly and being reviewed too quickly to join those of us who have written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Ask him to place the same kind of moratorium on gas pipelines as he did on fracking and for the same reason: to have time to fully understand the risks; to determine if they can be avoided; and to decide if they outweigh the benefits.
The writer is the town supervisor.
Shift to renewable energy is happening
Re Sept. 6 Viewpoint, “We need to support sound energy sources”: Russell Wege continues to muddy the energy and environment waters. He feels that it is “bad news” when he is told that fossil fuels must be replaced by solar and wind energy.
To support his increasingly isolated view, Mr. Wege creates a straw man of environmentalists imposing energy blackouts by prematurely shutting down existing systems.
In reality, highly skilled engineers around the world are planning and executing a phased transition, in which renewable energy is introduced only as fast and in such ways as makes economic and political sense.
Despite being thoughtful and deliberate, this transition is not slow. Germany is one of the leaders of this process, and it is on course for renewable energy to supply 60 percent of its nation’s needs by 2050.
In contrast to Mr. Wege’s naïve desire to build new, environmentally friendly fossil-fuel infrastructure, the actual practice in places like Iceland, Norway, Japan and Germany (and Austin, Texas) is to satisfy all demands for repair or expansion of fossil fuel systems with smooth, rapid transition to renewable ones.
The motivation for this transition — the “must” in “must be replaced” — is the gross destructive impact of fossil fuels on the environment, on people’s health and on our international economic, social and political standing.
The pope understands this. The leaders of nearly every nation on Earth are meeting soon in Paris because they get it. Researchers at leading universities get it.
But Mr. Wege, sadly, does not.
We all will pay price of gambling addiction
The U.S. International Gambling Report Series (IGRS) recommends the shuttering of all U.S. casinos that undermine economic growth and cost taxpayers at least $3 for every $1 in collected taxes as a result of increased gambling addictions, bankruptcies and crime.
According to the IGRS, addicted gamblers double in areas with casinos, personal bankruptcies soar 18 to 42 percent and crime jumps 10 percent. Similar conclusions were reported in the 1999 U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) ordered by the federal government. The two-year study looked at the impacts of gambling on the United States and its citizens.
The NGISC report found, among other things, that the average annual cost per problem gambler, including missed work, health treatment, welfare, food stamps, unemployment and gambling treatment, is about $715 per year, and $1200 per pathological “addicted” gambler. Lifetime costs defined as infrequent costs like divorce, bankruptcy, arrest and incarceration are estimated at $5,130 and $10,550 per gambler.
Furthermore, testimony before the NGISC indicated that in 1997 the bankruptcy costs due to legalized gambling translated into $40 per household. By year 2000, bankruptcy costs per household jumped to $220.
A university of Illinois study examined the relationship between casinos and crime using county-level data from around the country. The study concluded that casinos increase crime in their host counties, and that crime spills over into neighboring counties.
The results indicate that at least 8 percent of crime in casino counties in 1996 was attributable to casinos. An updated study reports an average yearly costs of $75 per adult (2004 dollar).
And as far as jobs go, researchers concluded that for every job that the casino creates, one is lost in the 35-mile radius around the casino.
The 2014 census has the Schenectady County population at 155,735, with 121,473 adults and 58,059 households. With the arrival of the casino, it is expected that 2 to 3 percent of county adults will have gambling problems in any given year, plus an additional 1 percent becoming pathological gamblers.
Adjusted for inflation, the increase in crime costs because of the casino will average $11.51 million per year in Schenectady County. The lifetime average costs for problem gamblers will be $40.68 million, in addition to the yearly costs for gambling addictions, bankruptcy and crime of $34.41 million (2015 dollars).
The Schenectady mayor declared that if the county and city collect 100 percent of the projected taxes, we will get $14.9 million a year from the casino and harbor projects combined. The mayor shrugged off calls to sign a binding agreement with the casino developer to secure mitigation funds for the casino’s adverse impacts.
We all know now who is picking up the tab for the casino project.
Mohammed A. Hafez
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