Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Being Thankful

I’ll be taking some time off this week, but before I do, I want to take note of some things we can all be thankful for.
Start with a familiar question: Are you better off now than you were last year at this time?
Before you answer, think about context. If your criteria for being better off is hitting a lottery jackpot, then you’re probably going to answer in the negative. But if you consider the calamities that were avoided, you’ll probably answer in the affirmative.
Case in point: If getting a raise is the deciding factor, then the average state worker will say he or she is not better off. But if retaining a good job in struggling economy when so many others are out of work is the test, then you’ll be thankful indeed.
Context is everything.
As regular readers know, this blog offers pointed commentary on policy issues, particularly with regard to matters of ethics and accountability. Given my focus and edgy tone at times, people might assume that I’d answer the question negatively.
Not so. I actually think we’re much better off overall than we were this time last year.
Sure, I’d like to see the Cuomo administration move faster on establishing a new state ethics panel. I want the goo-goos to be more independent and aggressive. I want to see more openness and accountability throughout state government.
But remember where we were a year ago. Think of how far we’ve come. State government is actually functioning again. There is a renewed sense of discipline and competence in the governor’s office. Excessive partisanship has been toned down, and the leaders of state government are actually working together on problems.
This is a major improvement from just a year ago.
Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get soft and cuddly. For example, I’m certainly not going to relent in my belief that Barry G. and the others who ran ethics enforcement into the ground in New York should be tarred and feathered.
No, I will continue to be skeptical – skeptical, but not cynical – about state government.
But for a moment at least, I think we can all pause and be thankful for the progress that has been achieved. In this regard, I commend the governor and the leaders for their efforts, and I wish (almost) everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

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