I Spitz in Your General Direction

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Hunh. I just heard something about New York mulling a sales tax for Amazon.com sales, and it appears the state (mainly Gov. Eliot Spitzer) has pulled anchor already.

Yesterday, just hours after The New York Sun reported on the new revenue collection scheme, the Spitzer administration announced that it was burying it for the time being — at least until after the Christmas shopping season. The move saved New York City shoppers from having to pay an additional 8.375% on many Amazon.com goods.

"Governor Spitzer believes that now is not the right time to be increasing sales taxes on New Yorkers," Mr. Spitzer's budget director, Paul Francis, said in a statement. "He has directed the Department of Tax and Finance to pull back its interpretation that would require some Internet retailers that do not collect sales tax to do so."

It's been a hell of a year in New York politics: Spitzer won the governorship by a landslide, bragged that he was a "fucking steamroller," flagrantly abused power to attack the GOP state Senate leader, then fought, and lost, a pitched battle on drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. His political capital is torched; Ira Stoll and Jacob Gershman explain why people should have seen it coming. But they winnow in on Spitzer's credentials as a "New Democrat," which seem less important than his messiah complex. Spitzer's tumble (it's not a "fall"–the next election is in 2010) reminds me of the latter, pre-9/11 days of Rudy Giuliani, when he picked enormous fights to build his national conservative credentials and convinced most of the city that he was a crazy person.

Empire state conservatives and libertarians have been warning us for years of Spitzer's thuggery, of course. I'm chagrined for giving him the benefit of the doubt. Lesson learned.

NEXT: First Case of Virtual Burglary

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  1. Chagrined, Weigel? Anybody who didn’t have their internal thug alert going off like Mariah Carey’s high notes upon their very first viewing of Spitzer on TV/quoted in an interview should have their head examined.

    The guy is pure malignant narcissism. I used to think Chuck Schumer was awful and then I saw Spitzer and realized Chuck just got pushed to the minor leagues of ego politics. If you think the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a camera, try getting between Spitzer and anything.

    I was glad I got out of NYC after I realized what Mayor Mike was. And then I got out of NY State just before Spitzer came to power, and man, am I thankful. He makes the bumbling, useless Pataki look like Thomas Jefferson.

  2. Eliot Spitzer is the only reason this lifelong Republican voted for a single GOP candidate in ’06.

    This is the guy who was behind the unconstitutional compact between states regarding tobacco lawsuits. He’s the guy who incessantly harassed pro-life people for existing within a mile of an abortion clinic. Need I go on?

  3. Off topic but I found this statement in the article an interesting look into the political culture of the American northeast.

    The Republican candidate, John Faso, was a seasoned politician who had served as his party’s leader in the State Assembly from 1998 to 2002 and had fended off a primary challenge from William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts.

    I don’t think it would be possible in any other region of the country for the ex-governor of state A to run for state office in state B. I think that the fact that the northeast is basically cluster of physically small states explains the regions very weak appreciation of the virtues of Federalism.

    The physical compactness of the states in the region mean that it is common for people to live in one state and work in another, a rare circumstance for the rest of America. In the normal course of a day an individual will cross two or more state lines thus moving between two or more political jurisdictions.

    To such a person. giving each state strong individual powers must seem as inefficient and ridiculous as the rest of America would consider granting sovereignty to individual cities. I think this partially explains why so many in the northeast seem so enamored with empowering the Federal government as compared to most of the rest of America.

    I think our experiences in our immediate physical and political environments stamps us more strongly than we would like to admit.

  4. Are people still evacuating NYS in droves?
    I can’t imagine why.

  5. ….which says a lot about how much better a useless government tool is compared to a megalomaniacal one hell bent on imposing their value system on the rest of us.

  6. Referring to Episiarch’s comments, as I totally slept at the switch here.

  7. Shannon Love,

    New York isn’t a physically small state, and Weld didn’t get the nomination. The quality of your analysis remains, er, consistent.

  8. Shannon,
    It’s pretty normal for people to live in different states from where they work in the Midwest as well. The midwest isn’t as compact as the Northeast, but it’s pretty common for people to travel between multiple states over the course of a day.

  9. The physical compactness of the states in the region mean that it is common for people to live in one state and work in another, a rare circumstance for the rest of America.

    I doubt there are many people who live in New York and work in Massachusetts, unless the Berkshire economy is experiencing a boom that I’m not aware of. Furthermore, any part of America where you have a large metropolis near a state line (Portland OR, Chicago, St Louis, Memphis come to mind immediately) is going to have people living and working in different states. That’s not restricted to the Northeast.

    Anyway, didn’t Thomas Jefferson say that Connecticut was the ideal size for a state?

  10. Shannon,

    States in New England (remember that NY, which is pretty damn big, is not in New England) may be small (except for Maine) but they are very different in character. And also, even in huge states, there are tons of people who live near the borders of those states and cross over for various reasons.

    I would have to say that your theory does not hold up, and I live in Connecticut.

  11. God, I hate Spitzer. I am delighted to see him flame out.

    I found that any time he stuck his nose into an issue I knew anything about, he was wrong, wrong, wrong. This made me assume that he was probably wrong when he went on crusades against industries I didn’t know a lot about, too.

    His grandstanding as attorney general turned him into an absurd cardboard cutout Ayn Rand novel villain.

    As a matter of fact, the state of national politics today should make it plain to just about everyone that there should be a total ban on literary criticism of Rand that is based on the idea that her villains were too thinly developed. The sheer number of moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash a-holes out there today has transformed Ms. Rand into a naturalist. Retroactively.

  12. Shannon Love,

    For most New Englanders outside of big cities their primary allegiance is probably to their towns if involvement in town-meetings, etc. is any indication of such things.

    Anyway, visit Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine over the course of a vacation and you will see distinct loyalties by the folks their to the states that they live in.

  13. @shannon: I disagree. It is possible for a governor to resign, emigrate and successfully going into politics again: Take Sam Houston.

  14. Fluffy, it would be fun to put a real name next to each of the “fictional” characters Rand is accused of overdrawing.

  15. Episiarch,

    I’m not the first person to mention this, but it is interesting to note that it is a pain in the butt to travel across NY, VT, NH and ME. The states are linked to southern and northern points via the interstate system and not generally together east to west. To me that says a lot about how New England works.

  16. Episiarch,

    I always throw the Adirondacks into New England, BTW.

  17. crimethink,

    New York isn’t a physically small state,

    No, but it is utterly dominated by New York city which is compact and sits in close proximity to Rhode Island, Connecticut and even Massachusetts. The political character of the city differs significantly from that of the rest of the state.

    I don’t have a link at hand but my premise is based on a transportation study of commuters I read some time ago which showed that significantly (IIRC by a factor of five) more people in the northeast commuted across state lines as compared to other regions of the country.

    …and Weld didn’t get the nomination.

    I think it revealing that he even tried. I can’t think of any other recent examples (say last 50 years) in other regions of the country where a candidate has even attempted such a transition.

    Furthermore, any part of America where you have a large metropolis near a state line…

    Its relative. The political impact depends on the percentage of people in the states overall population who routinely commute across state lines. Besides, most of the cities you mention tend to vote against Federalism do they not?

    To falsify my hypothesis we would need to find a jurisdiction in which a heavy percentage of the population routinely crossed state lines but which historically, say post WWII or post 1965, has voted consistently for Federalism.

    I don’t think we can find one.

  18. There are good east-west routes in Southern New England – Rt. 2 just south of Massachusetts’ northern border, I-90 throug the center of the state to Albany, and I-95 through Connecticut.

    But up north, it’s a mess. There’s 101 in NH just north of the border, and beyond that, you’re pretty much in country lane territory.

  19. I’m not the first person to mention this, but it is interesting to note that it is a pain in the butt to travel across NY, VT, NH and ME.

    Absolutely true. I once drove from Toronto to Augusta, Maine. It took me 26 hours with a 3-hour sleep stop in Burlingon. Once I got off the 400-series into NY, there were absolutely no East-West roads, so I had to make a Charlie Brown t-shirt zigzag path through NY, VT, NH, and ME. Brutal drive, that would have been quite easy with direct highways.

    To me that says a lot about how New England works.

    Somewhat. It says New Englanders tend to stay within New England, I guess.

  20. There are good east-west routes in Southern New England – Rt. 2 just south of Massachusetts’ northern border, I-90 throug the center of the state to Albany, and I-95 through Connecticut.

    Don’t forget 84, joe.

  21. werner,

    It is possible for a governor to resign, emigrate and successfully going into politics again: Take Sam Houston.

    An example in this century, after the time of mass westward migration would be more compelling. Sam Houston could get elected in Texas even though he was not born there only in a milieu in which virtually no anglo adults of age to be governor were themselves born in the state.

    I will go so far as to say that no governor, or even major state elected executive official, has been elected outside the Northeast past the generation that immigrated in when the state was a territory.

  22. Gotta join the pile on Shannon here. It seems that a lot of (no, not all, but a lot of) major cities are located near state borders. I guess it makes perfect sense that if different states have different rules and systems then cities near borders will enjoy benefits as conduits for commerce. Not to mention the major cities built near rivers, which serve as obvious border demarcations.

    To add to crimethink’s list, Las Vegas is right near the CA border, for the obvious reason that a city built to help Californians enjoy the rules of a different state will be as close to CA as possible. And then there’s Philadelphia, right near Delaware and New Jersey. And what’s that major NC city right near the SC border?

    The list goes on, and on. Border cities are conduits for commerce, so a sizable fraction of the US population (in and out of New England) lives near a state border.

  23. joe,

    Every interestate in northern New England runs north to south in some fashion (NW to NE in the case of Vermont).

    Shannon Love,

    I don’t have a link at hand but my premise is based on a transportation study of commuters I read some time ago which showed that significantly (IIRC by a factor of five) more people in the northeast commuted across state lines as compared to other regions of the country.

    And it is likely the case that for the states of VT, NH and ME that doesn’t hold true. The Northeast and New England in particular are fairly diverse group of states.

    I think it revealing that he even tried. I can’t think of any other recent examples (say last 50 years) in other regions of the country where a candidate has even attempted such a transition.

    Hmm, who did Obama run against again? And in what state?

    To falsify my hypothesis we would need to find a jurisdiction in which a heavy percentage of the population routinely crossed state lines but which historically, say post WWII or post 1965, has voted consistently for Federalism.

    No part of the country consistently votes for federalism. None. Not a single state in the U.S. Furthermore, on particular issues some states go hog wild over federal intrusion, money, etc. which is why so many rural, so-called “red states” take in so many federal tax dollars and employ more federal employees at a per capita level higher than many so-called “blue states.”

    Episiarch,

    I once drove from Toronto to Augusta, Maine.

  24. Episiarch,

    I once drove from Toronto to Augusta, Maine.

    Err, I meant to write: “Ouch.”

    joe,

    Or let me put the point more bluntly; to get from Burlington to the Maine coast you have to drive SE down to West Lebanon, NH, then get on another interstate and drive some more SE, then get on a highway at Manchester or Concord and then drive over to 95 and go NE into Maine.

  25. And what’s that major NC city right near the SC border?

    Wilmington.

  26. And what’s that major NC city right near the SC border?

    Charlotte. Still gets little press or national attention, but it’s on track to be one of the country’s biggest cities within the next decade.

    And relevant to the thread, its proximity to South Carolina is absolutely critical to its economic success. Though they do like their federalism (and individualism, and freedom, and all that other important stuff) down there a heck of a lot more than any place up in Yankee land.

  27. thoreau,

    The list goes on, and on. Border cities are conduits for commerce, so a sizable fraction of the US population (in and out of New England) lives near a state border

    I agree but again I am talking about the relative number of cross border commuters vs the states total population. Do wish to argue that Rhode Island has a higher percentage of cross state commuters than Alaska and historically has shown less support for strong Federalism. Coincidence, or an extreme example of the effect I argue for?

    Even though many major cities exist by water and many state lines are drawn along water, that doesn’t mean that a high percentage of the populations cross state line routinely. Even today water presents a transportation barrier. People in St. Louis for example, commute primarily on their side of the Mississippi. Its historical effects were even stronger.

    Without numbers its had to prove my point but I think the effect very real given just a cursory examination of the factors involved.

  28. Somewhat. It says New Englanders tend to stay within New England, I guess.

    To me it just says those areas are rather thinly-populated; VT and NH less so than northern NY, as any east-west expressway from VT is going to dump you in the middle of the Adirondacks–where no one lives.

  29. Rhywun,

    Well, an east to west interstate between major populations centers would be no different than the east to west routes out West between major population centers.

  30. Shannon Love,

    You’ve really not shown that New England is anymore less or more federalist than the rest of the U.S. From my POV, anecdotally New England doesn’t appear to be any different than the rest of this matter.

  31. Rhywun,

    Most southern New Englanders do their vacationing in northern New England, like getting camps in NH or ME. Northern New Englanders go to southern NE to hit large cities, get jobs, etc. This is mainly from geography and distance. However, the fact that all of NE in bordered to the west by sparsely-populated upstate NY does work with your idea.

  32. Eliot Spitzer may be the only politician in America who is a bigger authoritarian tool than John McCain.

    Proving the authoritarian tooldom knows no partisan boundaries.

  33. The only good thing about Spitzer is that he isn’t Mark Green. Now there is a sanctimonious, messianic sack of cow pies.

  34. Well, an east to west interstate between major populations centers would be no different than the east to west routes out West between major population centers.

    True, but there’s nothing up there I’d call a “major” population center. The question is, do the existing roads handle the traffic well? I’ve been thru the Adirondacks many times and I’d have to say that they do just fine.

  35. Rhywun,

    Burlington and its surrounding environs probably has 200,000 people in it. It ain’t NYC certainly, but it rivals many western population centers.

    The question is, do the existing roads handle the traffic well?

    No, not really. I’m pretty sure many of the long-haul truckers would perfer it if they could travel across an interstate instead of U.S. Rt. 4.

  36. Syloson of Samos,

    You’ve really not shown that New England is anymore less or more federalist than the rest of the U.S.

    I rather thought it obvious. Given that during the post-WWII era Republicans generally championed states rights and Democrats generally opposed them, (at least rhetorically) and the fact that New England votes generally blue, it would seem that New Englanders have a least a theoretical weaker appreciation of Federalism than do other parts of the country.

    I think you could get a better picture by comparing the extreme cases of Rhode Island vs Alaska, Hawaii or Texas.

  37. I once drove from Toronto to Augusta, Maine.

    You’d’ve probably made better time if you had started out going west on the QEW out of TO and then taken the NY State Thruway, Mass Tpk and I-95 to Augusta.

  38. The only good thing about Spitzer is that he isn’t Mark Green.

    they do have a separated at birth kinda thing going on.

    man you know what takes a long time? driving through pennsylvania. that fucking thing never ends!

  39. Shannon-

    Um, until the 1960’s the Republicans were a solidly New England party. They were the opponents of the centralizing New Deal, while the Democrats (from the South) were the proponents of the centralizing New Deal.

    Now, the Democrats were of course federalists (or self-styled federalists) on a different set of issues from WWII to the 1960’s. However, on economics and commerce, the New England Republicans were enemies of the New Deal and hence might be categorized as federalists (or nominally federalist, or federalist sympathizers, or however you want to characterize it).

    So, I’m not sure that your characterization of post-WWII Republicans as federalists (however accurate or inaccurate it may be) really supports the point you want to make about regional politics. The two parties were, at least until the 1960’s, nominal federalists on some issues and nominal centralizers on other issues, and the issues depended on the regions represented by the parties at a particular point in time.

  40. To go further on the off topic discussion, I would think the primary reasons there are no direct freeways from, say, Burlington to Bangor, are:
    1) A much more mountainous terrain than Conn and Mass and the valleys run basically north/south (like the Hudson and Connecticut river valleys). So the freeways are built to run with the mountain valleys than try to cross them.

    2) It wasn’t until the latter part of the tweniteth century that it became common for anyone but poor folks to live in the mountains anywhere in North America. Freeways tend to connect population centers, and the richer ones first. Hence more freeways connecting New York and Boston (there are about ten different ways to do this trip) than Montpelier and Augusta.

  41. You’d’ve probably made better time if you had started out going west on the QEW out of TO and then taken the NY State Thruway, Mass Tpk and I-95 to Augusta.

    Well I know that now. At least it was an interesting drive.

  42. thoreau,

    So, I’m not sure that your characterization of post-WWII Republicans as federalists (however accurate or inaccurate it may be) really supports the point you want to make about regional politics.

    You have a point. Prior to the 60’s Republicans, especially in the Northeast, were isolationist and anti-military. That party alliance shifted in the 60’s.

    I think however that regional political tendencies remain even when the parties switch out. The northeast was isolationist and anti-military when it was a Republican bastion and now it is isolationist and anti-military when solidly Democrat.

    I think the same dynamic applies to Federalism. When the Republicans represented centralism and the Democrats represented Federalism people in the northeast went Republican. When the parties switched ideas. the people followed the ideas.

    I think this pattern rather goes to prove my contention that regional environment shapes political views. The ideas and regions stay consistent over time even if the parties change.

  43. I think the same dynamic applies to Federalism. When the Republicans represented centralism and the Democrats represented Federalism people in the northeast went Republican. When the parties switched ideas. the people followed the ideas.

    Shannon,

    You missed this part of thoreau’s comment.

    Um, until the 1960’s the Republicans were a solidly New England party. They were the opponents of the centralizing New Deal, while the Democrats (from the South) were the proponents of the centralizing New Deal.

  44. To falsify my hypothesis we would need to find a jurisdiction in which a heavy percentage of the population routinely crossed state lines but which historically, say post WWII or post 1965, has voted consistently for Federalism.

    You’re assuming the burden is on me to prove you wrong, which is not the case. As SoS points out, few if any regions of the country have voted consistently for Federalism since WW2. You’re not even offering a hypothesis; a hypothesis is at least testable, whereas what you’re putting out there is conjecture without a scrap of evidence.

    Do wish to argue that Rhode Island has a higher percentage of cross state commuters than Alaska and historically has shown less support for strong Federalism. Coincidence, or an extreme example of the effect I argue for?

    LOL! You might want to look into a correlation between state size and dogsled race popularity too.

  45. shannon-

    To falsify my hypothesis we would need to find a jurisdiction in which a heavy percentage of the population routinely crossed state lines but which historically, say post WWII or post 1965, has voted consistently for Federalism.

    Perhaps Cincinnati?

  46. “”””The move saved New York City shoppers from having to pay an additional 8.375% on many Amazon.com goods.””””

    That’s not really true. NYS requires you to pay taxes on anything ordered out of state.

    From page 66 of the NYS short tax form 150

    “Deliveries into New York State – You owe state and local
    sales or use tax if you:
    ? purchase property or a service that is delivered to you in
    New York State without payment of New York State and
    local tax to the seller, such as through the Internet, by
    catalog, from television shopping channels, or on an Indian
    reservation.”

    They started that a few years ago.

  47. Sorry, that was from page 66 of the instruction book, not the form its self. It’s line 35 on the tax form.

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