I never thought I’d leave, but his week my family joined the nearly 1.5 million New Yorkers who, over the last dozen years, have chosen to call somewhere else home.
It didn’t need to end this way, but for ours and thousands of other families, it’s become abundantly clear our future is not a priority for New York state.
For decades, New York hasn’t appreciated that it is in competition not just for jobs and capital, but for people as well. Leaders like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg understood that to varying degrees, but as corporate welfare became the norm and the dependency class ballooned, politicians gobbled up the spoils of power leaving the bulk of us with the scraps.
It’s emotional leaving this place where my grandmother came for a better life in 1927 to realize her dream of owning her own business. The place that my father knew back when his Bensonhurst stickball games ran late on summer nights in the ’50s. The place I knew when suburban streets celebrated the arrival of a growing middle and working class.
But those times of boundless opportunity, when someone could come to New York with nothing but the clothes on their back and with hard work could move into the middle class in one generation, have been replaced by the cultural rot produced by the welfare state.
The places that gave New York its special flavor are today mere shadows of their former selves. Even those leafy suburbs that once exemplified the American dream have become victims of overdevelopment, over-taxation and traffic. They’ve been ravaged by teachers’ unions, radical environmental groups and insatiable bureaucracies who combine to form an army against hard-working taxpayers now constantly on the ropes.
Even many of those union members take their Cadillac benefits and live out their retirements somewhere else on our dime.
The state budget has increased by some $100 billion since 2010 and the cancer of public debt is spreading unabated. The top 5% of earners pay 62% of the state income tax. Those who are leaving what the late Herb London aptly called “The Vampire State” are undoubtedly being replaced by those who make less money and require more services.
New York has the highest combined tax burden in the nation, but hapless, accidental Gov. Kathy Hochul believes she’ll attract more companies and jobs by turning New York into an abortion sanctuary. Last year, Democrats in Albany budgeted $2.2 billion to dole out $15,600 payments of taxpayers’ money to illegal immigrants. Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse are in the billions annually.
Then there’s the lack of tolerance. New York once epitomized the diversity and opportunity that were hallmarks of the American experiment. Today, there is open disdain for those who espouse traditional constitutional values and a biblical worldview, or dare to question the latest leftist fad, be it critical race theory, bail reform, the transgender craze, legalizing drugs or the war on natural gas.
Through it all, we’ve also watched Republicans shrink from the fight, too busy fighting among themselves, and equivocating to truly advance reforms.
We leave behind friends, family and favorite places, unmatched food and natural beauty. We also leave armed with the knowledge of what the left can do to the quality of life and individual freedom when it gains a strong foothold.
I will always encourage my children to be proud of being New Yorkers. They can learn so much about America’s formula for greatness from our state’s rich history and its intrepid people. I will encourage them to learn from New York’s failures and excesses as well.
New York has been down before, and I have no doubt that it will have a renaissance. There will be a red wave in November and that may help, but the costs of waiting for Godot are simply too high.
For my family, the bagels just aren’t enough to keep us here.
We now cling to the idea of New York. That romantic notion of the energy of the bustling metropolis that gave rise to titans of industry and gave legal immigrants a chance to make it in America.
I still believe in that bold idea. I still believe that if God has a voice it sounds like Bob Sheppard. I still believe that the lady in the harbor, lifts her lamp beside a golden door.
Though that door is now increasingly an exit, her stoic gaze sends us off with a message, that for those who are willing to work for it — who want more than a handout — the promise of America can still be realized, west of the Hudson River.
• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax Television, an author and a former Bush administration official.