Greed, not Socialism & Marx, ruined Catskills

Writer’s Workshop of Sullivan County

Greed, not Socialism, ruined Sullivan County: 

A simple fact: It was bad business decisions by hotel owners and politicians that destroyed Sullivan County


by Allan Erickson

One of many hotel graveyard created by greed in Sullivan County


While it is hard to glean out the motivational purposes of the recent article entitled “The Socialistic State of Sullivan County,” by Ben Math,  one point is quite obvious – it is always too easy and quite convenient to blame the proliferation of county poverty services on the folks receiving them.


Calling Sullivan County a Marxist state — with a picture of scruffy old Karl himself — might make for a sweet attention-grabbing headline, but again, the truth is really NOT so easy, nor is it as convenient as the author portends.


The simple fact is that once upon a time, Sullivan County was a booming, internationally-known tourist destination.


How Sullivan Count descended from that tall pinnacle of affluence to the trough it is now cannot be summed up in a single headline or a flashy moniker.


Instead of blaming the poor for the state of Sullivan County, let’s examine what really lead to Sullivan County’s downfall and impoverishment.


It came down to generations of owners of the flashy behemoth hotels choosing not to reinvest profits into their businesses.  Instead, they used their very successful business models as their own personal and familial “cash-cows.” And at the time, they had every right to make those business decisions.


Sure, in 2013, arrogance might be a good term to use to describe those hotel owners and their lack of investment in the future of their businesses and Sullivan County.  Again, at the time, the owners had every right to realize reasonable profits from their investment.


But they also owed it to the business, and to the many people that depended on the business, to do everything within their power to ensure long-range profitability and sustainability.


In this, they failed not only themselves, but the people of Sullivan County.


That collapse was documented in a recent segment featured on “CBS Sunday Morning” that highlighted the slide of the Catskills, and pointed out that local hotel owners had no one to blame but themselves when the tourists stopped coming up Route 17.


Sure, there have been, and still are, attempts to bring the gambling panaceas to Sullivan County as an effort to prop up those dying Sullivan County tourism business models.


Whether or not gambling would have saved the big hotels could probably be the topic of someone’s future doctoral thesis, and while there are a few examples in America of casinos and gambling meccas that were wildly successful (Biloxi MS, Foxwoods), there were as many or more operations that did not meet expectations.


And let’s remember this: The political and business leadership f the time in Sullivan County also enjoyed and profited from the Catskill’s wave of vacation popularity. However, they too chose not to use the vision needed to exploit the popularity of the Catskills to branch out into other lines of business investments, and/or did not invest in ways that would protect and fortify the business climate of the county. That too, at the time, was also their choice to make.


Yes, the leaders of Sullivan County of old also made short-sighted and expedient decisions.  Whether locally or nationally, the American people have come to expect as much from their politicians and it is patently obvious that the SC leaders lived up to –or down to… — that potential.


So the economic conditions in Sullivan County are not necessarily the fault of the current residents who are in need of county services.


When pundits get up on their high-horse and wax poetically about the evils of the current county climate in Sullivan, comparing the area to the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, or the old Soviet Union, maybe they should first check to see if their past expedient, self-serving capitalistic behaviors do not bear some of, or most of the fault.


Some of these people seeking services are your friends and neighbors, your classmates, and other residents that did not make it big when hotel owners and politicians “cashed in” on their now decrepit big hotels.



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Bazzo 04/17/13
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