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We’re All In This Together

BENNETT: The Question Of Out-Of-Towners

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

The Question Of

Out-Of-Towners

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

FOR: First is the idea that all have the right to remove their family from a place of apparent danger to a place seen to be safer. Second is the economic idea that second-home owners have the absolute right to relocate to those homes, which they own and pay taxes on.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Presumably that is also true if a city resident can afford to rent a seasonal home here, or borrow one from friends or family who are not using it.

It’s hard to argue with the humanity of the first idea. It’s why the U.S. offers refuge to people fleeing failed states to the south. It’s why Europe offers refuge to people fleeing the Syrian war and other such catastrophes.

Yet nations never do this as well as is possible, and they almost never welcome the poor as graciously as the well-to-do. But that’s a different story.

The second idea also seems reasonable. If you have a right to flee and have the economic resources, you are entitled to utilize your resources to their maximum, and do or go where you desire. If you have been smart enough, or lucky enough, or born into the right family, who’s to say “no” to you leaving everyone else to their fate?

AGAINST: What is the greater good? What happens when your flight brings threats to those who live where you are fleeing? What if you leave the physical location of your troubles but unknowingly bring the underlying conditions of those troubles with you?

If you live in New York City and other downstate areas, you live in the eye of the COVID-19 storm. What if you flee the storm but bring the weather? It is going to happen. It is unavoidable.

What about the fact that every health expert says containment is only way to defeat the virus? In a closed population it runs its course, and the severity of the course depends on how well the population follows the rules. If they do it well the virus runs out of opportunity faster and with less damage.

The CDC and the governor’s directive is, “Don’t travel unnecessarily and if you have to go out, keep your distance. Don’t spread the virus.”

Traveling unnecessarily might be taking the subway uptown to visit a friend, or driving out to Coney Island to find some sun and fresh breezes. Urban residents are being clearly directed not to do so. Is packing up their cars and driving three hours to here ignoring the directive?

News stories tell of an influx of people in The Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and other vacation destinations for the wealthy.

Those communities are not prepared for the crowds. They typically staff up in May, not now – hiring more people at everything from grocery stores to medical facilities, and increasing inventory of consumable goods, be they food or medical goods.

The communities are now feeling overwhelmed. Year-’round residents are now going to have to compete with short-term residents – or even just visitors – for common needs such as food, on up to vital needs such as tests, hospital beds and respirators.

There are reports of wealthy visitors arriving and immediately going into grocery stores to buy thousands of dollars of staples at a time. And those actions also raise the issue of the 14-day self-isolation that travelers to a new location are supposed to observe, but many do not. All of these actions are cause for real concern.

A friend says that it is wrong to discriminate against people because of where they are from. But what if it’s not because of where they are from, but because of what they may bring with them?

Since the virus only travels through people it’s inevitable that they will bring more of the virus up here. On the other hand, we are not going to the city – for any reason – and bringing the virus back.

Should we do our best to welcome and help urban dwellers who rightfully fear the chaos and uncertainty in the city? If so, are there measures to take to better protect ourselves? Or should we implore the residents to please not leave the city – to not bring us a bigger share of chaos and uncertainty, which we are ill-equipped to handle?

BENNETT: Otsego County’s Allocation Of Testing Kits? 3.
We’re all In This Together

Otsego County’s Allocation

Of COVID-19 Testing Kits? 3.

Reports about the coronavirus offer hugely differing opinions. That the facts are in dispute isn’t surprising, since this is a novel virus that health systems around the world are fighting for the first time.

Still, some facts are agreed on.

As of March 1, the World Health Organization reported 87,000 confirmed cases, 2,989 deaths, and cases in 60 countries. 80,000 cases are confirmed in China with the death toll approaching 2,800. Still, the growth rate of new cases in China has slowed, likely due to highly restrictive quarantines the government has in place. The next most effected countries are South Korea (3,736 cases), Italy (1,128), Iran (593), Japan (239), Singapore (106), France (100) and the U.S. (62). This was on March 1, but by now the numbers will have grown.

China is in internal travel lockdown. Germany says it faces a coronavirus epidemic.
Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and France are taking massive preventative measures, including closing public spaces, some travel restrictions, and checks of people on the move.

The first coronavirus case was reported to the WHO in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31, 2019. The WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30, 2020. At that time there were already known cases outside of China – Germany, Japan, Viet Nam, and the U.S. One month later, the first American death occurred in Washington State. There the virus has spread undetected in about six weeks and hundreds of new cases are expected. A first case has been confirmed in both New York City and Rhode Island, with health officials bracing for more.

Which brings up our national preparedness for the pandemic.

To head the government’s response Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence, who has no expertise in the area, and who as Governor of Indiana worsened an AIDs epidemic for political and fiscal reasons. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II, a lawyer, lobbyist, and also of Indiana, seems to be a typical Trump toady, saying of Trump’s appointment of Pence, “that’s genius.”

Trump has also muzzled Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, because Fauci publicly contradicted Trump’s downplaying of the situation. Fauci must now clear public statements through Pence, an act that replicates the public health disaster of official censorship in China, when early in the epidemic the state silenced doctors after they discussed the outbreak with colleagues. This not only enabled the virus to spread, it also took the life of Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors to speak out, who subsequently died from the virus.

Trump recently said that the virus “could get worse or better in the days and weeks ahead, but that nobody knows.” That’s not true. It will get worse and the U.S. is unprepared. Ignore for now budget cuts Trump proposed at the CDC. Ignore the firings of staff of the National Security Council pandemic team. Ignore the total chaos in our national response. Ignore that Trump’s entire administration is reminiscent of the Inquisition that tried and convicted Galileo for speaking scientific truth.

But don’t ignore this: The U.S. has made and sent out 15,000 coronavirus testing kits to cover the entire nation. That’s one kit for every 22,000 people in the U.S. Which means if an outbreak started now in Otsego County we’d have access to three kits.

Some 60,000 more kits are supposedly being made, meaning an upgrade to one kit for every 4,600 people. Even so, the odds of seeing a single kit here are unlikely. The kits are going to fifteen key cities where testing is now officially approved by the government. Since these are port-of-entry cities the risks there are obvious, but what about everyone else?

Why has this administration done almost nothing for two critical months? The answer is that it’s willfully ignorant of science and contemptuous of our citizenry. It only became concerned when the stock market started tanking. The one thing it can relate to is losing its own and its big donor money.

Should we be afraid? It appears to depend on which we value more: life or money.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang

creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Meredith.

BENNETT: Acquittal Emboldens Trump, For Now

COLUMN

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Acquittal Emboldens Trump, For Now

Larry Bennett

No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. Donald J. Trump has dodged the impeachment bullet just as he dodged the Mueller Report.

He may feel emboldened to continue to ask others to dig up on his opponents; to continue to look the other way as Russian trolls do dirty work for him; to continue to require Republican politicians to
swear fealty and kiss his pinkie ring. He will continue to rant-tweet.

But he can’t dodge the election.

The American public is appalled by his lying and coarseness. His approval rating is 40 percent while his disapproval rate is 52 percent. His reelection support is 40 percent versus an unnamed Democrat getting 50 percent.

Even though Trump denies it happened, 50 percent of Americans believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and 73 percent believe Russian interference affected the outcome. Meanwhile, 47 percent of the public believes Trump lied about trying to strong-arm Ukraine to aid his reelection.

Just 31 percent of Americans like him as a person or say he is trustworthy, while 44 percent believe he is racist. All in all, 54 percent of the American public believes Trump is unfit to be president.

These numbers, from The Economist/YouGov Poll of Dec 28-31, 2019, show Trump is vulnerable.
Yes, the Electoral College is tilted in his favor. Yes, the Republican Party engages in voter suppression in dozens of states. Yes, Trump has tons of money to advertise and buy supporters. Yes, the path to victory over him will be difficult, but it can be navigated.

But first, one other set of numbers has to be addressed; numbers from the YouGov Poll – confirmed by the Census Bureau.

In the 2016 presidential election, 39 percent of registered voters didn’t vote. That means two of every five registered voters stayed home. Of the 250 million registered American voters, 139 million voted while 111 million did not. Two common reasons cited are, “politicians are all corrupt,” and, “my one vote won’t matter anyway.” Back to that later.

By party affiliation, the U.S. is 28 percent Democrat and 28 per cent Republican. 41 percent are independents – and those split in half when asked how they lean. The playing field appears relatively level, while in fact it is tilted a bit to Democrats.

Only one state has more registered Republicans than Democrats – Wyoming, the least populous American state, with three Electoral College votes.

This is the path to every successful election campaign – get out your voters. Everything else in play, from advertising dollars to policy proposals, count for nothing if your voters stay home.
Democrats are not doing the work needed to win in the right places, but Republicans are. Clinton received more popular votes in 2016, but Republicans turned out more votes where they mattered.

What can you or I do? What can Democrats across the nation do?

We can each identify one Democratic or sympathetic independent voter and get them to the polls.
Start working on it now. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members if they voted in 2016. You probably have a clue who they would have voted for. Talk to them now. Talk to them frequently. Find out whom they might like and why. Encourage them to participate in primaries.

Pick them up and drive them to the polling station. Buy them a cup of coffee afterwards. If you’re a resident of safe states like New York or California, work on friends and relatives in swing states like Pennsylvania or Arizona. Vote early by mail at home and go there to take them to the polls. It’s worth the effort.

One more thing. Don’t waste your time attacking Trump. Devote your time and energy to helping one person become motivated to vote for someone and something positive. Get one Chicken Little to cross the road and head to the polls.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes,
lives in East Meredith.

BENNETT: President Loudest Climate Denier

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

President Loudest Climate Denier

Larry Bennett

The definition of ignorance is “a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.” Climate change deniers can’t hide behind a lack of knowledge, so they claim the knowledge is false and the facts are fake.
They could also claim the earth is flat, yet a satellite would still persist in orbiting it. Facts seem to work that way.

The most important issue humanity faces is already changing the futures of all living things. The destruction of our entire planetary environment through accelerating climate change is a well-known fact that cannot be intelligently denied or ignored.

Denial is among the worst decision any human being could ever make. Pulling a trigger and murdering someone is a horrific decision, but pulling a trigger on all of the living world is immeasurably worse.
Pulling the trigger is exactly what climate deniers are doing, and they are led by the loudest and most ignorant denier of all – President Trump.

Thousands of scientists and climate experts agree we have a crisis, and that failing to address the crisis spells disaster. The overwhelming consensus is rejected by Trump, and many
others, whose understanding of science is third-grade level at best, or, perhaps more importantly, whose
wealth is dependent on denying the facts.

It can be understood why the fossil-fuel industries won’t face the facts. The only way to fight climate change is through reducing CO2 – along with other gases such as methane – that are released into the atmosphere during extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels. To cut these emissions threatens the livelihoods of 900,000 U.S. citizens employed in the industry.

Yet the October 2019 New Scientist magazine had an article citing studies showing 9.5 million jobs, or 4 percent of the working age population, are in the green economy, which is defined as covering everything from renewable energy to environmental consultancy.

Ten times as many people at work in the green economy as opposed to roughly one million in fossil fuel is not a fact Trump will tweet. Or acknowledge. He is resolutely engaged in taking our nation back to a mythically greater time while also cluelessly edging the world closer to the abyss.

Trump’s lack of knowledge is not news to anyone. What he falsely claims to know while exhibiting a
total lack of knowledge is legion. (Wind power causing cancer and gas emissions, anyone?) In fact, the louder and more frequently he says something is true, the more certain you can be it isn’t.
The puzzling thing is why presumably intelligent people support his denier beliefs: US senators and
congressmen, governors and other state officers, business people, down to everyday citizens.

It’s simple to assume politicians are trying to avoid being ridiculed by Trump or avoiding primaries from the hard right. But that overlooks the economic incentives, such as fossil fuel industry donations to politicians and grants to state and local governments, all designed to influence legislation.

On the national level one answer is found in the almost $½ billion donated by the combined fossil fuel industries to Congressional Republicans since 2016. That buys vast amounts of influence – or perhaps more accurately, votes.

While money rolls into Republican coffers, the ice caps melt, oceans rise, temperatures rise, extreme climate events grow, and life in the seas, on land, and in the air dies off. It is outrageous that our elected representatives sell out our entire world with lies and falsehoods adds insult to injury.

Finally, I don’t understand how Republican deniers imagine they can escape climate change. Their first world lives and money will buy little respite from bigger storms and enormous wildfires, from repeated rising oceans and coastal flooding, from growing food supply issues, or other problems.

It seems their votes have been corporatized in the worst possible way – to focus on immediate returns and not think about tomorrow.

BENNETT: On Arms, Will Enough Ever Be Enough

We’re All In This Together

On Arms, Will Enough

Ever Be Enough?

Larry Bennett

The 2020 proposed U.S. military budget is $737 billion. When is enough, enough?

This is 37 percent of the $1.7 trillion military spending for all the world. It is more than the next 13 nations combined (numbers in billions): China ($224), Saudi Arabia ($70), India ($55), Germany ($49), UK ($49), Japan ($47), Russia ($44), France ($40), South Korea ($38), Brazil ($29), Italy ($29), Australia ($26) and Canada ($21). Only two of those nations are adversaries.

The $737 billion is but one part of the entire U.S. budget of $4.75 trillion – comprising discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and interest payments – but defense discretionary spending is 15 percent of the entire budget and half of all discretionary spending. There is an additional amount of mandatory VA and military benefits spending of some $200 billion. That’s almost $1 trillion, over 20 percent of the total budget.

Here’s what we have for our money:

• We have rough parity in deployed nuclear weapons: 2,200 for us and our allies, vs. 1,780 cumulative for Russia, China and North Korea. Few doubt ours are the most technically advanced and capable, though with nuclear weapons that seems a useless distinction. If only 5 percent of them were exploded, then the entire human race ¬– not just the combatants – would suffer horrible consequences.

• We have 13,000 U.S. aircraft vs. Russia and China’s combined 7,000. Other western and allied nations add 12,000 more to our side, so we have 25,000 vs. 7,000. Again, there is little doubt ours are the most capable.

• We have 10 nuclear-powered supercarriers, two more being built, and more planned. The Russians and Chinese each have one. Ours are supported by a massive fleet of offensive and other vessels. Russia’s fleet has heavily deteriorated since the demise of the USSR, and China’s fleet is a fledgling.

• We have 70+ submarines, all nuclear powered, classified as either ballistic missile, guided missile or attack submarines. Each of the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile subs can deliver up to 192 nuclear warheads.

The firepower is unimaginable, and in fact half of all U.S. nuclear weapons are on
these 14 virtually undetectable submarines. No other submarine force is remotely as lethal as ours.

• We have the world’s third largest land force with 1.3 million active troops and another 865,000 in reserve. We also have a global presence unlike any other nation, with about 200,000 active troops deployed in more than 170 countries. China’s land forces are around 2 million, but again ours are advanced and capable. We fall behind in the number of tanks, having 6,200 while China has 13,000 and Russia 21,000. But many of those Russian and Chinese tanks are there to deter each other.

The U.S. competitively spent the USSR into economic collapse in the ‘80s. Russia no longer poses a substantial conventional threat to Western Europe and NATO. Its weak economy is highly dependent on resource extraction, not manufacturing.

In dealings with China, the U.S. has focused on economic competition, not military competition. We have a mixed record but it is advantageous to both nations to maintain peaceful competition and not sink into a cold war, let alone a hot war.

Then there is North Korea, which could be utterly destroyed by one Ohio-class submarine. Other threats include Iran, but it has huge internal struggles, no patron nation, and hard choices to make. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are quagmires we can’t fix, and they pose no direct threat to the U.S. Finally, those nations bordering Israel pose no unsurmountable threat to Israel, at least by conventional means.

It seems physical terrorism and cyber terrorism are the biggest existential threats to the U.S., yet we spend enormous resources elsewhere. Our trillion-dollar defense spending offers unassailable military security but skimps on other forms of security. That missing security can be realized by reallocating hundreds of military billions to expanded healthcare, to better education, to improved infrastructure, and to fighting climate change.

We already have enough weaponry to fight off the entire world. Enough is enough.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

BENNETT: Disunity Is As American As Cherry Vs. Apple Pie

COLUMN

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Disunity Is As American

As Cherry Vs. Apple Pie

Frederick Yohn’s 1901 “Battle of Oriskany,” fought 35 miles north of Oneonta, depicts what some consider the first between all-American combatants, Loyalists and Iroquois on one side and Patriots and Oneidas on the other. The commander, General Herkimer, died of his wounds. Yohn’s painting was used on a 1977 U.S. stamp.

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The press says we live in an era of unprecedented political division. The amplification of every tweet may make it seem so, but there is a different view of the severity of our polarization.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

The American Revolution saw Loyalists interested in compromises to prevent war, but colonists seeking independence who were not. Anyone trying to effect compromise or be neutral was suspected of Loyalist sympathies and often subject to violence.

The Revolution was the first American civil war, with suspicions dividing neighbors, families and friends. Loyalists were harassed, attacked, imprisoned and even executed. Many Loyalists fled the country.

Then came the contentious 1796 presidential election.

The Federalists were led by John Adams, and the Democratic-Republicans by Thomas Jefferson. In a multi-candidate presidential field, they were first and second in electoral votes.

Though deeply divided by personal beliefs and political association, Adams became president and Jefferson vice president. Jefferson was frozen out of executive decisions as Adams oversaw an undeclared naval war with France, one that Jefferson bitterly opposed.

Under Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts passed and were used to silence Democratic-Republicans. Federalist opponents were arrested, tried before partisan judges, convicted of sedition and imprisoned.

In 1856, on the Senate floor, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks caned an anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Conflicts were flaring across the nation, culminating in John Brown’s 1859 raid at Harper’s Ferry –
an unsuccessful attempt to start a slave rebellion.

In November 1860, Lincoln was elected president. Decades of polarization over slavery came to a head. In April 1861, Fort Sumter fell to the Confederacy and Civil War ravaged the nation until April 1865.

Over 750,000 Americans died while many millions became casualties – through injury, disease, losing their livelihoods, land and property.

WWI created heavy political polarization. In 1917 American labor unions, socialists and pacifist groups opposed the war. But the U.S. was dragged in and conscription began, was opposed by anti-war movements, and set off deadly
draft riots.

Thousands were prosecuted under the 1918 Sedition Act; conscientious objectors, many of them Christian pacifists, were punished and a number died in Alcatraz Prison, then a military facility. Around 300,000 men refused to register, report for duty, or deserted.

In September 1939, as America wrestled with isolationism, WWII came to Poland. There were bitter political battles between internationalists like FDR, and isolationists like Charles Lindbergh – the voice of the 800,000-member America First Committee, which was given to pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Two years of political polarization were only broken by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The battle for civil rights, from the 1950s through the ’70s, resulted in hundreds of citizen deaths, thousands of protests, many thousands of arrests, and the assassinations of American leaders, both black and white.

The Vietnam War then divided all, including the Democratic Party – which imploded in the summer of 1968 when Chicago police beat anti-war protesters. Humphrey won the nomination and lost to Nixon, who continued the war for six years until forced to resign in 1974.

While 58,000 Americans and upwards of 2 million Vietnamese died, anti-war protests roiled the entire nation for over 10 years; 570,000 men were classified draft offenders and 200,000 were formally accused; 8,750 were convicted and 3,250 went to jail. Estimates of those who left for Canada and other countries range upwards of 50,000.

We have endured periods of intense political division and polarization, often worse than now, and frequently leading to horrendous outcomes. We have fought actual internal wars with lethal weapons, arrests, and imprisonment. But – Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding – today’s divisions are not about life-threatening forced conscription or American war deaths.

Our political polarization today is mainly a war of words and as Winston Churchill said, “Better to jaw-jaw than war-war.” Perhaps we can all work on being better at “jaw-jaw” and quit seeing fellow citizens as mortal enemies.
Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director.

BENNETT: In Land Of Plenty, Many Are Needy

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

In Land Of Plenty,

Many Are Needy

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

This column is titled, “We are all in this together,” but it doesn’t always appear to be so.

Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Meredith.

The U.S. economy is the world’s largest – our GDP will exceed $21 trillion in 2019. Our GDP represents 20 percent of total global output, is larger than China’s GDP, and is projected to grow 2.5 percent in 2019. Our GDP per person is seven times the world average while we have 1/20th of the population. We are the richest nation on earth, and you’d think we would all be doing well. But – according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – we have the second highest poverty rate of the OECD nations and the worst income inequality rate. How can this be?

In 1960, an average American couple with two kids lived on a single income. With saving and planning they bought a modest home. Unless they were big city residents they owned a serviceable automobile. They saved for their kids’ educations. While it is true that many African Americans, Native Americans, and others were often excluded from these opportunities, it was still the case for many Americans.
Early 1960s corporate-CEO-to-employee pay ratio was an average of 20:1. In 2018 it was almost 300:1. Since 2006, corporate profits grew 30 percent while household income grew only 4 percent.

According to one Federal Reserve Bank study, the share of the national income that workers receive has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, even as worker productivity has gone up six-fold. Workers fuel the success of the companies but executives reap the rewards at increasing levels of inequality. This money grab deprives company workers of a fair share in what they help create.

What does this mean in Otsego and Delaware counties? We are a microcosm of the nation: What we see here is happening everywhere. At least one Fortune 500 company operates here; in fact, Walmart has been #1 on the Fortune 500 list for six years running. Their CEO was paid $22.8 million in 2018. That’s 1,188 times the $19,177 median wage of employees. In just two hours of one week he made more than those employees made in a year. An average Walmart has 280 employees who are paid around $20,000 each.

With a payroll of $5.6 million a store typically brings in around $46.7 million in revenues. The majority of these Walmart revenues leave our area and go to Walmart’s corporate coffers: to highly compensated executives, to pay dividends to stock holders and Walton family members, and to support a $500 million private art collection and museum.

This flood of money makes the Walton family the richest in America, with assets of over $160 billion in 2018.

Yet the average Walmart employee makes around $20,000 per year. The corporate starting wage is $11 per hour. Fifty percent of employees are approved only to work part-time, which curtails benefits and opportunities for raises and advancement. Employees are cheap to hire and fire. They are intentionally disposable. It is also known that a significant number of Walmart employees depend on food stamps to feed their families.

If this is how the wealthiest company in America treats its employees everywhere, including here, what model does that set for other employers? I do not mean to pillory Walmart alone. This is the model under which American businesses currently operate.

From the largest to the smallest businesses, many working people are treated poorly, and this keeps or pushes many into poverty. As a business problem, a political problem, and a social problem it is crucial to fill this vast income gap. As a nation, if we expect those who struggle to be able to escape poverty, income inequality must be addressed.

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