Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cardwell Leaves a Void

As Azi reported yesterday, the NY Times' Diane Cardwell is leaving Room 9 to go to Stanford. But, as he points out, Cardwell will be missed because of her keen critical eye on the mayor's tenure-and particularly on his penchant for expanding the role of government. Here's one of her most trenchant critiques: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has promoted himself as a model of fiscal restraint, issuing dire warnings about the slowing economy, recently asking agencies to limit hiring, and even listing “fiscal responsibility” as an interest on his MySpace page. At the same time, a review of the city’s budget since 1980 shows that Mr. Bloomberg has been presiding over one of the greatest expansions of city government since the John V. Lindsay administration, fueled by an extraordinary surge in real estate revenues, both from higher property taxes and transfer taxes from sales."

Which is, of course, a point that we've been making for over six years, even going so far as to compare the mayor and his administration to the Lindsay years. This guy has been profligate with the tax payers money, and we haven't gotten any real bang for the buck under his reign. As the Cardwell piece went on to point out: "Spending on schools jumped 14 percent, to $16 billion, driven by a 40 percent increase in teacher salaries favored by Mr. Bloomberg, among other expenses. And although the number of city workers has declined by about 1 percent since Mr. Bloomberg took office, he has been increasing the staff of late, adding nearly 10,000 workers since 2004, bringing the total up to 367,643."

Which is precisely the point of the NY Sun editorial that we commented on earlier. Where have the other editorialists been as the size and scope of government has been enlarged-with no discernible impact on the quality of life? Bloomberg is no reinventor of government; he's more of a renter of government-all for his own aggrandizement.

The Times captures this towards the end of the analysis: “He does look to the revenue side to meet needs,” said Charles Brecher, research director at the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-backed research group and a co-author of “Power Failure,” which studied New York politics and policy from 1960 to the early 1990s. “It’s not that he’s necessarily taken on new roles for government, but he’s put money into education, he’s paying people more, and there has been selected expansion in some services.”

All true, but to what good effect? We'll give the reliable Esther Fuchs the singing finale on all of this: "Ester R. Fuchs, a political science professor at Columbia University who was a special adviser to the mayor in his first term, said that Mr. Bloomberg’s spending pattern represents a new strategy for keeping cities healthy and competitive. “He was never antigovernment,” Ms. Fuchs said. “He actually viewed government as having a role, and by making government both more responsible and efficient, he made people more comfortable with the idea that government could spend the money effectively.”

Our advice? Don't let Dr. Fuchs write the history of this administration; we really don't need hagiography from sycophants.