Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bloomberg Redux

As a postscript to the Barrett deconstruction of Mythic Mike, its good to take a look at Fred Siegel's piece in the Weekly Standard on the mayor-it goes along way towards introducing a modicum of reality to the false propheteering that surrounds Mike Bloomberg: "The folks over at Newsweek have a sly sense of humor. They put New York mayor Michael Bloomberg on the cover of their November 3 issue and let him dispense fiscal advice to the next president. In the article, Bloomberg, who has presided over record levels of spending and debt increases, chastised "Washington" for putting us in a hole by "spending with reckless abandon for years." The lofty Bloomberg told Newsweek's readers, "Programs that don't pass a cost-benefit analysis, that have been driven by politics rather than economics, should be cut."

The Bloomberg fable has nothing that hasn't been adequately explained in the wonderful Hans Christian Anderson tale about the emperor and his new clothes: "Newsweek's offices are in New York City; shouldn't Bloomberg's assertions have raised a few red flags? But on he went. The mayor, who has nearly doubled spending on education with no known return on the investment other than a vastly expanded PR staff and chaos in repeatedly reorganized schools, talked about "our [educational] success in New York." Did Newsweek notice that the additional $9 billion he's spent on education hasn't shown up in any improvements on national tests? The article closed with Bloomberg's heartfelt advice to the next president to "demonstrate that your talk of bipartisanship is not just talk." Here his deeds have generally been as good as his words. He has been willing to spend vast sums to buy support in both parties to achieve the greater glory of Bloomberg. He has the money, resources, and advisers to be his own party and is less bipartisan than he is an alternative political pole, one that offers Michael Bloomberg as the sole program."

What we have is a cult of personality for someone who is lacking in the basic requisites of such cultic-like devotion. And, as we have been noting, the term limits debacle has started to tarnish the phony accolades that his paid retainers have foisted on a no longer so gullible public. As Siegel points out:

"Until a few weeks ago New York had a term-limits law--twice ratified by public referenda--that limited the mayor and the city council to eight years in office. Bloomberg could have held a referendum on overturning them--a referendum he was very likely to win given his 70 percent approval rating. But there were dangers in taking the democratic path. The referendum would have been scheduled for February 2009, and, as Baruch College's Doug Muzzio notes, voters are likely to be hit before then by hikes in their property taxes, water bills, and subway fares. The tough times, though softened for the political class by Bloomberg's deep pockets, might have produced only a narrow victory unbefitting a Great Man. Instead, operating on the basis of ambiguities in the city charter, Bloomberg strong-armed the city council into overturning term-limits: threatening to cut off funds to their districts and stop his "anonymous" donations to the nonprofits they count on to get out the vote if they opposed his plan."

And, just as we chided Barrett for his misplaced praise for first term Mike, Siegel hits on what that term actually started to set in motion: "For the time being Bloomberg, who presided over the great spending spree of the last few years, has been reduced to insisting that only a genius like himself can save Gotham from the fiscal dangers imposed by Wall Street's collapse (and his own maladministration). This seems odd since the man who spoke of New York as "the luxury product" has shown no interest in nurturing small businesses, which are essential for regenerating the economy and have been squeezed hard by his administration's search for revenue. Though Newsweek might not have noticed it, there was a net middle-class out-migration from New York City even in the midst of the late lamented boom."

So it's time to shelve the hagiography and the slavish flaunting of praise on Mike from those who have (or hope to) benefited from his bountiful handouts. As Bloomberg prepares to go to his hackneyed and injurious tax raising policy approach for a second time, the observations of Nicole Gelinas are germane: "Mayor Bloomberg should remind himself: New York’s small-scale industry is likely just as fragile as Wall Street right now. Many businesses likely cannot withstand even marginal fee and tax increases, never mind the big ones on the table. Some people argue that there’s no alternative to raising taxes in this environment, but in this environment, there may be no alternative to not raising taxes."