Friday, April 03, 2009

Governor Spaulding

Yesterday we commented on Governor Paterson's snarky observation about Rush Limbaugh's Escape From New York; and Clyde Haberman follows up on this in the morning's NY Times, with a discussion of the governor's speech at the Association for a Better New York:

"So if we correctly understood past warnings from the governor and the mayor, we should soon witness a mass exodus of the wealthy to other states, right? Well, maybe not quite, Mr. Paterson told reporters after his speech. He had spoken with rich people. “A lot of them said they’re going to stay,” he said, and “ride out this storm.” One prominent person intends to seek shelter from the storm somewhere else. That would be the radio personality Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh announced that he was giving up on New York because of “these stupid, punitive, massive tax increases.” He will sell his penthouse on Fifth Avenue, he said, and will no longer use the city as a backup whenever hurricanes force him to flee his broadcast studio in Florida.

Now Haberman finds the Limbaugh exit quite funny-alluding to the loosening of the state's drug laws, something that the pill popping Limbaugh should find attractive enough to postpone his leave: "It’s a shame, really. Here’s a fellow who has had a serious pill-popping problem. Now he’s waving New York goodbye just when it is easing its drug laws. The timing could not be more unfortunate."

But, as Haberman observes, the overall tone of the Paterson speech was one of defensiveness; and his Limbaugh remarks fall flat in contrast to the governor's own lame performance: "His breakfast talk was solemn, striking for its defensiveness. But then, he has a lot to be defensive about. He has managed to dry up most of the enormous reservoir of good will that he had a year ago when he was suddenly thrust into office as a result of Eliot Spitzer’s hankering for prostitutes. A Siena College poll puts the governor’s job-approval rating at 19 percent. Any politician with a pulse should be able to do better than that."

Paterson's free fall-starting with his Caroline Kennedy debacle-escalated with his inept governing performance around the state's budget deficit. Talking tough early on, with much earnest rhetoric about the need for fiscal discipline, Paterson soon reverted to playing Charlie McCarthy to Shelly Silver's Edgar Bergen; and the result is a massive spending spree-along with huge tax hikes-in the midst of a unique economic downturn.

But Paterson would have us believe otherwise: "On Thursday he lashed out at his critics, saying they did not know what they were talking about in regard to his $131.8 billion budget deal with the Legislature. News organizations and unnamed interest groups were “either inaccurate or wrong,” he said, in describing the new budget as nearly 9 percent fatter than the last one. If you strip away billions in federal stimulus money, as well as obligatory increases in certain expenses like health care, you would see that the Legislature actually shaved spending a bit, he said."

So many lying eyes! But let's turn from farce to tragedy, and see what the NY Post's Adam Brodsky has to say about the nature of Paterson's rhetorical austerity; in a column aptly named, "Albany Lies:"

"For the first time, the Legislature has exercised significant spending restraint, and if it continues, the end of the financial crisis is near.
Gov. Paterson uttered this multipronged falsehood this week. But if a record $11 billion spending hike is "restraint," don't even ask what "reckless" would look like."

The reality is that the state took the federal stimulus cash, money that was provided in order to enable the states to avoid large tax increases, and taxed the hell out of everyone anyway: "The 2009-10 fiscal plan is among the most irresponsible in memory. That it comes during a severe recession and with the state economy in enormous flux only compounds the damage...The stimulus money, for example, will soon run out. The tax hikes are to sunset in three years (good luck with that). The economy might not recover as quickly as lawmakers hope."

What all this irresponsible profligacy will do to the private sector-you know, the place where jobs are actually created-is hard to gauge; but it certainly's not gonna be pretty: "A new study for the Empire Center for New York State Policy predicts the loss of 15,500 private-sector jobs as a result of the $4 billion income-tax bump alone."

So Paterson's blithe dismissal of Limbaugh's exodus might be simply a case of his own failure to read the handwriting on the wall. And soon, we expect that the governor will be tap dancing to the tune of Captain Spaulding: "Hello, I must be going."