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The Wealth Gap Is .75 Miles Wide

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TWO REPRESENTATIVES, ONE BAD ECONOMY

Representatives Carolyn Maloney and José Serrano on the impact of the recession, New York’s unemployment problem, and what would happen if they switched jobs. By Alex French

What’s the most mportant issue in your district?
Carolyn Maloney (Democrat, Fourteenth District): The economy and jobs.

José Serrano (Democrat, Sixteenth District):Whatever is happening nationwide always manifests itself much more dramatically in the South Bronx. Always has. When people are talking about 5 percent unemployment, we may be talking about 10 percent unemployment.

You differed on your votes for TARP.
Maloney: My friends who work on Wall Street were calling me all day long, practically screaming—they could see us going off the cliff. The TARP vote, in my opinion, evaded a great depression and instead gave us a great recession. If I had it to do over again, I would. It was probably the least popular vote that I ever took.

Serrano: I’m the only New Yorker who voted no. I felt, as I do now, that we had to be careful not to be bailing out the people who were responsible for the mess in the first place. I knew the people who live in the South Bronx weren’t going to get any kind of bailout.

How have budget cuts affected your agenda?
Maloney: I like infrastructure projects. I have the two largest construction projects in the entire country: the Second Avenue subway and the East Side connector. They were the only ones of their kind not to get hit with the budget ax.

Serrano: It’s a constant battle here to try not to cut programs dramatically. I could talk to you about that for about ten hours. In my district, I was able to get a lot of federal dollars for programs that trained and provided services for people and, at the same time, created a lot of jobs. Unfortunately, earmark became a bad word.

Your districts are right next to one another, but far apart economically. Whose fault is this disparity?
Maloney: A lot of the proposals now being put forth by the Republican majority will clearly make these disparities worse, not better. They’re talking about ending Medicare as we know it.

Serrano: Whose fault is it? This is not about blame. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go in that direction. It’s about getting people to understand that there are folks who need a boost. They’re willing to work, but we need to provide the opportunities.

If you swapped districts, how would your job change?
Maloney: I think it would be pretty similar. I’d wake up every morning and instruct my office to respond quickly and effectively to the individual concerns of my constituents.

Serrano:There are overcrowded schools, environmental issues, effects of the war. I don’t think it would be that different.


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