Monday, February 02, 2009

The Bloom Is Off The Pose

Michael Goodwin nails down some of the disconcerting policy thinking that's coming out of City Hall these days. He's particularly concerned that Mike Bloomberg, with his tax hikes and fees, is working at cross purposes with the president who's intent on providing middle class tax cuts: "It's the "best of times" if you're in the middle class President Obama is targeting for help. It's the "worst of times" if you're in the middle class Mayor Bloomberg is targeting for tax hikes and layoffs. If that sounds like incoherence, you get my point. Our federal and local governments continue to work at cross purposes when it comes to lifting the economy and helping ordinary Americans. The only thing they're stimulating is confusion."

But what's even more of a concern to us, is the posturing and posing from the world's smartest businessman. Adam Lisberg captures the flim flammery in yesterday's NY Daily News: "The bigger irony, though, is that the budget he presented isn't as tough as he tried to make it seem.
For one thing, it's a little higher than last year, even as tax revenues plunge. The total budget is almost $1.3 billion less than last year, but with state and federal supplements stripped away, city spending rises $123 million from the year before. Bloomberg called that basically flat. If that's true, though, why did he make such a big deal about some tiny but painful cuts - like that $5.1 million for the homeless - that got a page to themselves in his budget book?"

Why, indeed? The reason lies with the fact that Bloomberg is simply posturing-at the same time he's using smoke and mirrors to cover up seven years of payroll padding and tax hiking: "They were the kind of items designed to make hardworking, taxpaying New Yorkers squeal: Save $3.4 million by letting some low-risk prisoners out of jail early. Save $3.3 million by cutting ambulance runs. Raise $16.8 million from higher parking meter rates. Raise $84 million by taxing plastic bags. Finding money to stifle some of those minor squeals should be easy enough, and proposing them in the first place makes Bloomberg look like a man unafraid to make the most difficult choices."

It's all a fraud, of course; designed to misdirect the folks away from the epiphany that deconstructs the idea that Mogul Mike is our fiscal saviour: "No one seems happier bearing bad news than Bloomberg. He started out as a businessman looking for money, not a politician looking for praise - and his time in office has convinced him that New Yorkers love a mayor who doesn't sugarcoat his medicine."

And Bloomberg does this vinegar coating in order to create a tough guy image, one that belies the reality that a great deal of the fiscal mess we're in is caused by the city's chief executive; someone who failed to scale back government in the boom times, even while he was increasing the tax burden on home owners and small businesses. As we have said, the chickens have come home to roost-but it's the tax payers who are the pigeons in all of this.