Monday, February 02, 2009

Doom and Gloomberg

We watched the mayor's budget presentation last week, and were amused by his discussion of the sales tax versus the income tax-waxing knowledgably about the difference between regressive taxes and more progressive ones. In a nutshell, he opted for a sales tax hike-definitely regressive-because, apparently, he was going to give Albany the honors on the income tax hike; something he obviously expects.

To us, this is all about the chickens coming home to roost-a mayor who, when flush with Wall Street cash, hired more public employees and expanded government. Now, however, he's forced to resort to dire measures-threatening police and fire reductions-all because of his seven years of misfeasance. Yet, he wants us to see him as the tough leader, willing to make the tough decisions.

This, as the NY Post editorialized on Saturday, is sheer nonsense. Bloomberg's toughness, apparently doesn't apply to the city's workforce: "Mayor Bloomberg sent out an odd message yesterday as he presented his budget plans: City employees are . . . special - and must be cushioned from the economic blows now wreaking havoc with most everyone else's lives. Hizzoner didn't use those exact words, of course. But his $63 billion tax-and-spend plan for the coming fiscal year goes out of its way not to ask major sacrifices of municipal employees."

But the same isn't true for New York's tax payers and neighborhood retailers. As the Post observed: "His $58.8 billion spending plan for 2010 also calls for boosting the sales tax from 8.375 to 8.625 percent, reinstituting the tax on all clothing purchases and piggybacking on Albany's plan to expand the sales tax to iPod downloads, theaters, cable-TV bills and other services. If approved by the City Council and the state - and approval is by no means certain - the sales-tax hike would raise $894 million."

The mayor, however, doesn't stop there. As the NY Times has indicated: "The increase in the New York City sales tax that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed on Friday may tack no more than a quarter onto a $100 dinner tab. But it is just the latest addition to a long list of proposed tax, fee and transit fare increases that the city and state governments have sprung on New Yorkers in the past few months. While any of those proposed increases might seem insignificant alone, added together they could take a serious bite out of the average taxpayer’s earnings."

And what does Bloomberg think the impact of his taxes and fees will be? In an economic environment where, according to the Small Business Congress, almost 7,000 store owners are facing evictions, this budget is more than just tone deaf to the city's struggling businesses. It is an invitation to a shopping exodus-with the malls of Bergen County waiting with open arms.

And just to add injury to insult to injury, Bloomberg wants to raise $84 million by taxing plastic bags and even more money by hiking the parking meter rates. As the Post tells us: "Also on the table: a 5-cent tax on plastic bags to bring in $84 million and an increase in parking-meter rates..." Still another knife in the back to struggling stores.

In this context, all of the discussion over what kind of taxes to increase is quite Kafkaesque-all of these taxes are bad for the city's economy, And we agree with Steve Kagann, who told the Times: "Raising any taxes, he says, would hurt the economy, blaming steady tax increases during the 1970s for exacerbating the loss of jobs in New York State. “To raise taxes at this time, during a recession, guarantees that jobs are going to be lost in greater numbers than they would under normal circumstances,” Mr. Kagann said."

All of which underscores just how much of a disaster the Bloomberg tenure has been. Having no real understanding of government when he entered, and burdened with a troglodyte liberal philosophy that was imbued with a counterproductive ethic of "helping," he failed to approach governing with any of his supposed business acumen.

The result, as the Times points out, is the following: "It is far from clear whether all, or any, of the proposed increases will be enacted. But the depth of the fiscal crises facing Albany, City Hall and the transportation authority has left elected officials with two main choices: slash spending or raise taxes. Increasingly, it appears that they will have to do both."

This is the Mike Bloomberg legacy: lost opportunities covered up by Bloombucks spinning. Will the people begin to see through the Myth of Mike? Let's hope so.