Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bloomberg's Left Critique

With Mike Bloomberg preoccupied with getting more representation in the US Senate for the Upper East Side, it is a good time for some to evaluate just how well he is doing himself; under the premise that perhaps he should get his own house in order before lobbying for someone else. This time, the critique of the mayor comes from the left (via Liz): "In this moment of jubilation for Democrats and progressives--even Indiana and North Carolina have gone blue--one open wound remains: the voters of New York City, who, for nearly sixteen consecutive years, have ceded Gracie Mansion to deeply anti-progressive men. As Michael Bloomberg's bid for a third term proceeds virtually unimpeded, that winning streak seems set to expand to twenty. New York City, wild child of American metropolises, bastion of political liberalism? Well, deep in its heart, maybe. But not among its leadership, not in a long time."

Interesting thought here-Mike Bloomberg as the anti-progressive: "Bloomberg would have it that he is a center-left technocrat, a liberal even, from the uppermost upper crust. It's part of the mythology that made him victorious in 2001...But, as is often the case with opportunistic politicians, Bloomberg's rhetoric bears little relationship to his record. Beyond the confines of his tireless propaganda machine, there is one salient fact: the Bloomberg Administration cannot point to one major success and credibly claim it as its own. The technocracy he promised has, in practice, more closely resembled autocracy. The center that he claims to occupy has often given way to the right."

Well, we would agree about the disparity between the Bloomberg record and his rhetoric-that gap is a chasm; and Porter is correct about the top-like spinning of the Bloomberg propaganda apparatus. But in our view, Bloomberg's failures are not those of someone who has governed from the right-to argue this, is to obfuscate why Bloomberg is such a failure at governing.

In fact Mike Bloomberg, as Mark Green would argue, has governed from the left; with a social policy on health and welfare in particular that has expanded the reach of government paternalism. What he hasn't done, is effectively deal with a government structure that is way too large and inefficient. And it is this chicken that is coming home to roost as the city's budget implodes.

Still, Porter has it right about the mayor's exaggerated tenure: "And yet. Despite this assemblage of failures and embarrassments, Bloomberg backers will argue that the Mayor has three trump cards: the economy, the crime rate, and education. Indeed, the crime rate in New York City has been at historic lows throughout Bloomberg's administration. But there's little evidence that anything Bloomberg has done is responsible. Criminologist Franklin Zimring, in his book The Great American Crime Decline, argues that Rudy Giuliani's crime prevention measures during the 1990's--COMPSTAT and the commitment to efficiency it represented, additional police on the beat, and a more aggressive policing philosophy--were responsible for the historic drop in crime that Bloomberg merely inherited."

And, as far as the economy is concerned, Bloomberg has done little to merit a term extension: "As for the economy, whatever success Bloomberg has enjoyed can be attributed to others--and the success is overshadowed by failure. The city's economy, as measured by overall growth, boomed between 2001 and 2007 because the financial services sector boomed. At the same time, Bloomberg did nothing to combat the decline of New York's middle class. Income disparity has spiked so much in recent years that, in 2006, a Brookings research,er Alan Berube, could declare that, in New York, "the middle class is missing." New York has the smallest proportion of middle-income families among all major American cities."

We could say the same thing about his small business record as well. As much as we disagree with Porter's perspective as to the Bloomberg shortcomings, he does make a strong and cogent deconstruction of the Bloomberg myth-and deserves the final word: "As his try for a third term begins, it's worth considering whether or not the legacy of Mike Bloomberg will be proof, once and for all, that money can buy anything--including respect for a record that, if it exists at all, is largely unaccomplished.'