Saturday, February 09, 2008

Post's ProFundity

The NY Post, picking up from our earlier rant (thanks for the link Liz), editorializes today about the mayor's hypocritical and misinformed attack on the fundraising being done by the city's real estate industry. The Post focuses a good deal of its attention on the fact that the campaign finance bill exempts labor: "The legislation - which ultimately passed - exempts unions.
How'd that happen? Well, City Council members live off union money. And union in-kind help.
It's one thing for them to curb businesses - but unions are special. As in special-interest.
And Mayor Mike went along with that. But now he's attacking real-estate firms for doing just what he lets unions do. Is there's something wrong with this picture? Uh, yes."

Now we've made this point in the past: "Anyone who lobbies in the city knows full well that labor has a tremendous influence over the course of legislation. And as someone who represents both businesses and labor I have had this factor work to my favor at times, while at other moments it has been an obstacle.The fact remains that labor is an interest just like any other, and to place it in a sacrosanct position is to skew the legislative process; to the disadvantage of smaller, minority-owned businesses. The bill is flawed and should be either amended to include everyone, or it should be defeated."

So the mayor signs off on this travesty because, well, because it isn't about him and he's so above all of these minor details. But the Post makes the good point that if you prohibit this kind of fundraising, who'll be able to run? "What's his advice for pols who lack his vast wealth? Well, Mayor Mike said last summer: "I suggest that before anyone goes into [political] office, first go out and become a billionaire." He was joking, of course. But the comment was still telling. At the time, he and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn were pushing a bill to curb donations from folks with business before the city. His advice does seem to be the only option for candidates deprived of all the donations Hizzoner would ban."

And this from someone who simply stepped in and not only bought the office the first time, but reneged on his pledge not to repeat the travesty, by spending more for his re-election; a cool total of $122 million. As Errol Louis said at the time: "In an earlier age, the city's monied elites would have blanched as the open purchase of the city's highest office by a rich man. The disengagement of those elites from civic life...has opened the door for this purchase of public office to go unremarked and unlamented."

What this all means is that Mike Bloomberg, essentially a progressive autocrat, finds the vital interplay of democratic interests to be distasteful; particularly when more intelligent and well meaning elites are in a better position to provide enlightened leadership-embodied, of course, in his own less than humble self.

What gives his humbleness the better perspective, temperament and insight? Nothing less than the factor of his great wealth that, in his solipsistic view, inulates him from the ultimate evil of "being bought by the special interests." But, as Juan Gonzales pointed out a while ago: "Our mayor claims he is a leader who can't be bought. Of course not-he's the one doing the buying."

The response from the mayor is that he is only beholden to the people and not to the "special interests." This simply begs the question of how the will of the people is translated into policy that somehow reflects it (remember the nettlesome issues raised by Rousseau in his discussion of the "general will").The answer of course is that it is the mayor, and he alone, who will, unencumbered by unseemly obligations, decide where the public interest lies. Once again we refer everyone to Marx's observation about Plato's concept of the philosopher king: "Who will educate the educator?"