Monday, September 29, 2008

News Flackery

We have a suggestion for the good folks over at the NY Daily News editorial board: Just eliminate the middle man! Take today's paean to Mayor Mike, a missive that appears to have been taken without editorial interruption directly from a city hall press release: "Perhaps the most notable aspect of Mayor Bloomberg's latest budgetary belt-tightening is that there was so little howling and squealing in this city of howlers and squealers. The Armageddon chorus let pass the chance to declare that the apocalypse is now."

The reason? Well, it's none other than the mayor's demonstrated acumen: "Today, New York takes pretty much for granted that City Hall can hold the line on expenses without noticeably diminishing services. Bloomberg has done it before, so, hey, he'll do it again, seems the attitude." What a load!

Number one, no one really knows how much will need to be cut, and where the scalpel's blade will do the most damage-it's a little too early for that. But not for the paper's effusiveness that borders on blind sycophancy: "Such confidence is well-placed, given Bloomberg's track record in stretching dollars while maintaining services that are critical to the quality of life. But the accomplishment should not be taken for granted."

But what's fascinating here, is what the Daily News doesn't discuss-the mayor's call for a property tax hike. Shouldn't there at least be some discussion of what will likely be the most contentious aspect of the mayor's budget modifications?

Oh, the possibility is mentioned-en passant, as it were: "Between March 2007 and March 2008, Bloomberg ordered commissioners to make three successively larger reductions in projected expenses. More than $1 billion came off the top in each of two fiscal years. Crime went down, reading scores continued to go up and New Yorkers got $400 property tax rebates, along with a 7% cut in property levies. Now, as the Wall Street financial crisis has only begun to batter the city, that tax cut is in jeopardy."

So where does Mister Zuckerman stand on tax cuts in the middle of an economic downturn? And why does it take a calamity to actually look to significantly rein in government spending? Perhaps the praise here should be a bit more faint.

Not, however, when your wet suit is clouding your critical judgment. So, instead, we get the following: "The mayor believes the city can hit the targets without perceptibly undermining service delivery. Like many others, we have reason to expect he'll make good on his intentions - adding to an enviable record he could bring to a run for reelection in 2009. Which, of course, assumes New York comes to its senses and extends mayoral term limits from eight to 12 years, allowing Bloomberg to seek office once more, as he should, and enabling voters to decide whether to rely on him or go with someone new in the extraordinarily tough times that are about to slam us."

This could have all been accomplished, of course, if the mayor had decided to be straight forward and had simply put the proposition before the voters. Having failed to have such foresight, just as his fiscal prescience wasn't in place to forewarn us on the current collapse, it is not judicious for either Bloomberg, or his fellow editorial plutocrats, to look for a backroom deal to engineer a third term.