Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mike: Take a Hike!

It certainly comes as no surprise to us that Mayor Mike's reverting to bad form on taxation policy; we've argued for a long time that Bloomberg=John Vliet Lindsay, just with a lot more money. As the NY Times reports: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Wednesday that he would immediately halt a popular $400 property tax rebate and that he might need to raise the city’s personal income tax by up to 15 percent to help plug a budget shortfall expected to hit $4 billion in the next two years."

Brother, here we go again. We're partying like its 2002 and the mayor, who has squandered real opportunities over the past seven years to rein in city spending, is back to his old tricks: "Should there be an unexpected upturn in the city’s finances, Mr. Bloomberg said, he might reconsider issuing the rebate checks. But, he said, it is far more likely that the city’s economic outlook would continue to deteriorate, forcing even more cuts, and tax increases, by early next year."

So the great fiscal genius who has to change the law to get an undeserved third term, is reprising the 1970s because he lacked the capacity to tackle real government reform-coasting instead on a Wall Street windfall that we're not going to see again any time soon. As the NY Daily News points out: "His solution includes:

- Not only slashing 3,000 jobs but canceling the January Police Academy class.

- Chopping school-based budgets by 1.3% - $359 million - over the next two years.

- Rescinding the 7% property tax rate cut this year, pumping $576 million into the city's coffers.

- Erasing the $400 rebate, a savings of $256 million.

- Increasing fees and fines to generate $123 million."

When your not either prudent or creative, this is what you have to fall back on-harsh tax and cut policies. As one observer notes: "He's being consistent with past patterns, trying to get a head start on worsening problems," said Doug Turetsky of the Independent Budget Office,..." Well, that's half right-at least Bloomberg gets credit for consistency.

But Mayor Mike has a new ingenious tax to proffer-a tax on plastic bags (what about the city's vaunted plastic bag recycling program?). As the Times tells us: "And in a move intended to both conserve resources and pad the coffers, Mr. Bloomberg said the city planned to charge customers a nickel for each plastic bag they use at every store, whether it be a bodega, a Barnes & Noble or a Balducci’s. Aides said they were working out details of the proposal."

That's just what we need, another tax on neighborhood stores. It's not bad enough that the city hasn't done a thing to help grow the retail sector-and has instead taxed and regulated the stores to death-now it wants to add more expenses in the middle of a recession. Just how does Bloomberg think he's going to nurture economic growth?

And the Times likens the mayor's budget briefing to a grim shareholders meeting: "The briefing had all the hallmarks of a full budget address, complemented by a detailed breakdown of cuts and revenue projections, even though Mr. Bloomberg is not supposed to deliver such a speech for two months. And as Mr. Bloomberg talked, with the confidence and vocabulary of someone for whom finance is obviously not a second language, the 90-minute briefing could have been mistaken for a grim shareholders’ meeting, complete with laser pointer and slide show presentation." If, accurate, shouldn't we be looking for a new CEO-someone who is better informed about the company's fortunes than the current head?

All of which makes a mockery of the assertion that Mike Bloomberg's necessary for these tough times. To us, he's exhibited a significant and fatal lack of prescience; as well as a deficit of understanding on how to make government operate more efficiently. His current budget gambit is the best argument for his timely retirement.