Alfonse D'Amato

New Yorkers facing incoming fire from all sides


New Yorkers got a double threat last week. We learned that North Korea now has a missile capable of threatening New York, and we learned that some of our leaders in Washington seem to see New York as a tempting target, too.

First, on North Korea, the latest missile launch seriously escalated the danger from that rogue state. The missile was apparently shot from a mobile launcher that concealed its firing until the very last minute. That could make the detection and pre-emptive interception of such missiles extremely difficult, putting South Korea, Japan and the U.S. homeland at high risk for a lightning nuclear strike by North Korea.

If Kim Jung-un’s missiles can indeed hit the U.S. with such speed, the U.S. might be left with only the options of trying to intercept an incoming missile in the air (akin to hitting a bullet with a bullet, according to experts) or launching a retaliatory nuclear strike against North Korea. The result could be devastation on both sides.

The only deterrent to such an exchange might be the risk of total destruction of North Korea by an overwhelming U.S. response. In the case of a war, there would be no “mutually assured destruction” like that which kept the U.S. and the Soviet Union from resorting to nuclear war for 50 years. The U.S. would suffer terribly for sure, but North Korea could be wiped out of existence.

That was the message U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley gave to the United Nations in stark terms last week: “The dictator of North Korea made a choice yesterday that brings the world closer to war, not farther from it,” Haley said. “We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday. And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

While the U.S. can and should continue to ratchet up sanctions against North Korea in an effort to change its dangerous behavior, it may be that the only way to prevent this impending conflict is for China — North Korea’s closest ally and protector — to finally step up and act. We should send an unequivocal message to China that the last best chance for peace on the Korean peninsula rests with the Chinese government. It must impose its own severe sanctions on North Korea, including cutting off the lifeline of trade that sends oil and other sustenance to Kim Jung-un’s regime. Otherwise the march toward war may be unstoppable.

Here at home, the danger is not just from this potential conflict pitting the U.S. government against North Korea. The tax bills that are now before Congress take aim at New York and other states by eliminating or severely limiting deductions for state and local taxes, home mortgage interest, medical expenses and student loan costs.

Taken together, these changes would hit particularly hard here. Many New Yorkers who have put up with our high state and local taxes might see this as the last straw, and finally make the difficult but logical decision to leave New York for a state with a more hospitable climate, in terms of both taxes and weather. The Sunbelt has been growing at the expense of the Northeast for years, but Washington’s singling out states like New York with punitive tax measures like the ones now before Congress would only hasten the flight south and west.

That would be bad for New York, and if the state falters, it would be bad for the nation. New York is America’s financial center. We generate more dollars for the federal government than we get back. Firing a tax missile in our direction from D.C. might not just damage us. It could damage all of America.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column?