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Opinion

SBU professor in high demand

Students are shown on the Stony Brook University

Students are shown on the Stony Brook University campus on March 1, 2018.

Daily Point

Rising interest rate

If you haven’t heard about modern monetary theory yet, you probably will as the Democratic presidential primary heats up.

Generally, MMT rejects the idea of the federal government being like an ordinary household that can run out of money. There are inflationary constraints, but MMT argues that a government like the United States is able to spend more.

This idea helps power the Green New Deal and other big but expensive Democratic priorities. And one of the leading proponents of it is Setauket resident Stephanie Kelton.

Kelton, an academic who was chief economist to the Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee and an economic adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign, became a professor at Stony Brook University in 2017.

Kelton has advised politicians and made the case for MMT for years. A talk at Harvard University about paying for the Green New Deal is upcoming. Earlier this year, she says she talked policy with staff of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been pondering a presidential run.

Her path to Long Island started with her husband, Paul Kelton, who she says was initially recruited as an endowed chair in American history at Stony Brook. In an article on Stony Brook’s website, Michael A. Bernstein, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, called the Keltons’ arrival “one of those serendipitous moments when we could undertake a dual recruitment that worked dramatically for the institution as a whole.”

With left-leaning Democrats eager to embrace her ideas and some Republicans becoming less outspoken about the dangers of high federal debt, Kelton is in high demand. Asked whether she’d take a job in D.C. in a new administration, Kelton said it would have to be the right one, given the difficulty of leaving community and family (her kids are age 13 and 11).

For now, she says she’s happy teaching courses in economics and political science. “I get to do two things that I love.”

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

It’s not easy going green

After a very successful state budget session — plastic bag ban, program to recycle food waste, $500 million for water infrastructure, congestion pricing, and a fully funded and non-raided Environmental Protection Fund — environmentalists have turned their attention to the rest of the legislative session.

And the first issue out of the box is likely to be climate change.

The goal is to reduce emissions, the vehicle is the Climate and Community Protection Act, and the debate is over how to get there — by mandating that the state’s electric grid be entirely powered by renewable sources, or that it be carbon-neutral. But that’s a quibble compared to past fights, with Democrats in control of both chambers and two Long Islanders and climate change fighters — Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemb. Steve Englebright — leading the respective environmental conservation committees.

“It’s a new world where the Senate, Assembly and governor all agree that this has to be a priority issue,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito told The Point. “Everyone has a unified goal of getting the most effective bill possible. We’re just tweaking out the details of how to do that.”

Environmentalists also are working with municipalities around the state on adopting a five-cent fee on paper bags to complement the plastic bag ban, while pushing to ban the probable carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in common household products  and working to ban an entire class of industrial chemicals called PFAS from food packaging. PFAS are also found in firefighting foam and Teflon products, and have been detected in numerous wells on Long Island.

Going green means your work is never done.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

A small sting

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Reference Point

Moses for par

Master builder Robert Moses had as much or more influence on the development of Long Island as any single individual, considering his role in creating the region’s highways, bridges and parks.

But it’s always interesting to consider some of his ideas that did not come to fruition.

Like his proposal in 1957 to have towns buy private golf clubs for future use as park lands. Moses’ theory was that the suburbs were growing too quickly and lacked recreation areas. So towns could purchase the courses and lease the land back to the clubs for 10 or 15 years, “until the need for park space became acute,” wrote Newsday’s editorial board on April 5 of that year.

The board disparaged the plan.

“Moses is right in bemoaning the lack of adequate park space, but he has hit upon the wrong remedy,” the board wrote. “It is tough enough now for Long Islanders to find a place to play golf, and as more people move here, more and more people will be playing golf.”

Well ........

Nowadays, the general consensus is that Long Island has too many golf courses given declining interest among young adults who have many entertainment options and less leisure time.

Famed golfer and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus told a Wednesday luncheon of the Long Island Association that millennials don’t like to play golf because it takes too long and warned that the industry must adapt — perhaps by designing shorter courses — or face retrenchment.

Attendance at parks, meanwhile, continues to climb. Then there’s the other reality: Towns would never win a modern bidding war with private developers for golf course real estate.

Sixty-two years ago, Newsday’s board opined, “The usually sharp Mr. Moses is way over par on this round.”

Turns out he might have birdied this one after all.

Michael Dobie

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