Remember back last fall, when all of the wise heads said that we absolutely needed to bail out the banks-along with the corrupt enterprise known as AIG? Even the maverick went along with the charade. And where did it get us? Railing away at bonuses with faux outrage.
But now, as we digress into analogy, we find the local wise men and women hectoring us about the essentialness of bailing out the MTA-with nary a word about the authority's history of malfeasance and political corruption. And the chorus is being led by newspapers that are exhibiting their own financial chops while swimming in oceans of red ink. Folks, it's pot and kettle time.
Leading the way, as usual, is Morticia of 33rd Street: "A scribbler on a napkin could have crafted a more coherent plan for preserving mass transportation in New York than the slapdash dodge offered yesterday by state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Challenged to ensure the survival of affordable, reliable transportation for millions of riders, Smith and his Democrats delivered half measures that were, at best, half baked."
This judgment hearkens us back to the old joke about the thermos being the greatest invention the world has ever seen. Why? Because when you put something hot into it, it stays hot; and when the liquid is cold, the thermos stays cold. To which the fool, explaining its greatness proclaims: "How does it know?"
So when the News tells us-"The flaws in Smith's prescription were as fundamental as can be - starting with the fact that his numbers didn't add up. This would be laughable except that, left unchecked, he and his colleagues would subject subway, bus and commuter line passengers to enormous fare hikes and declining service."-our response is the wondrous musing of the fool: "How does it know?"
Well, it knows because that's what all of the best and the brightest are telling everyone is true; and if the senate's numbers don't add up, then who's doing the vetting of the MTA figures? Tim Geithner? But the stopped clock on 33rd Street got one thing right: "Mired in deficits, the MTA will be forced to impose backbreaking fare hikes and service cuts, and to abandon track, station and signal maintenance, unless the Legislature provides funding."
This is the old story of the business that is losing money on every doo dad that it makes. When asked how it will be able to turn a profit on all of its sales, the boss replies: "Volume." So it goes with the MTA. Record ridership concomitant with record deficits. But, heh, why would these folks lie to us about their numbers?
The real scandal here is the willingness of all of these lemmings to go along with pouring money down the MTA sinkhole-while calling those who oppose the Ponzi scheme bad names. The NY Post stands accused: "Still, it's clear that Smith has absolutely no control over his conference.
Yesterday's travesty was engineered by the same loathsome Senate foursome who withheld their support from Smith as majority leader until he bought them off with plum committee chairmanships. That's not leadership. That's a commercial transaction."
Not a peep about how this agency's been ripping off the folks for years. Even Nicole Gelinas, someone who feels that the senate plan doesn't add up, gets the MTA debacle: " It's heartening, then, that Gov. Paterson seemed to want no part of this "compromise" yesterday - and that the MTA bigwigs stood with him. But it's worrisome that Smith may have made the most astute political calculations...But it should be yet another reminder for the MTA that a big reason why Smith et. al. can get away with their games is that the public truly doubts the MTA can be trusted with any new money."
So let's all take a deep breathe; and even we will cease and desist from woofing opprobrium for at least the short term if all other will agree to do the same. We will be waiting, however, to see if the other branches of government will be ready to overhaul the MTA as part of any bailout. That must be the sine quo non of any going forward.