Friday, May 01, 2009

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Let's give our friend Micah Kellner a real shout out for his depiction of the Bloomberg campaign as something out of the Wizard of Oz: "Assemblyman Micah Kellner, one of four state lawmakers who endorsed Comptroller Bill Thompson for mayor this morning, called his fellow Democrat a "true progressive" and accused Mayor Bloomberg of spending millions of dollars on an image makeover..."The fact that the mayor has to spend millions upon millions to recreate his image, it's very Wizard of Oz. He' already spent, what? $10 million? Is he really a progressive? I don't think so."

More so than you realize, Micah. Because Mike Bloomberg is actually type cast as the little man behind the curtain masquerading as the Wizard-since much of ballyhooed accomplishments are nothing but hot air. So ergo, the need to spend hundreds of millions in two campaigns after he was an incumbent.

When we examine specific policy areas, the achievement gap is cavernous; to wit, the great strides that Bloomberg claims to have made in the mayoral control over the city's public schools ("He thinks he's quite a lover, but there's not much there.") Then there's his fiscal stewardship of the city's finances.

After seven and a half years in office he has done next to nothing about runaway municipal labor costs-salaries, pensions and benefits. In face, he has actually increased employment every year for his entire tenure. Now, faced with a fiscal meltdown, what can he do?

The answer, knee jerk for this fella, is to-once again--raise taxes. As Marcia Kramer reports:
"There will be a bombshell tax increase in the new budget Mayor Michael Bloomberg will unveil on Friday. But there is good news. CBS 2 HD has found out New Yorkers will not – repeat not -- pay higher property taxes. No one, especially a mayor running for re-election, likes to raise taxes. But the economic crisis has left Bloomberg no choice. He's not going to raise nuisance taxes and he's not going to raise property taxes, but he is going to raise the sales tax."

What's this guy been doing for the past seven years? Certainly he hasn't looked for any innovative way to either privatize city services, or to do more with less. Instead, he came into office in 2002 raising taxes, and hasn't stopped for a breath since.

Now he looks at his labor force and, what? He can't quite figure out how to get the same folks he wined and dined to now exist on starvation rations. Go figure. As the NY Times reports: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to abandon his plan to ask public employees to pay more for their health care coverage when he unveils his latest budget proposal on Friday, according to city officials familiar with the plan. Relying on tough talk and grim economic forecasts, the mayor had hoped to convince labor leaders that union members should pay 10 percent of their health care premiums, as part of an overall attempt to save $1 billion in pension and health care costs. Many employees now pay nothing, so a 10 percent contribution could save the city $350 million."

Hard to blame the workers. It's called imprinting. After years of wine and roses, with no attempt to rein in labor costs, it's hard to square this circle now. Instead, we get this: "Administration officials say they will concentrate on including the $350 million in savings in the budget for fiscal year 2011. But that assumes that the mayor wins a third term in November."

Bloomberg reinvented as Popeye's pal Wimpy: "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today." Which brings us, in mixed metaphor fashion, back to Kellner's Oz comparison. There is a sheer fantasy aspect to the entire Bloomberg persona-with the real man receding as the millions in advertising extreme makeover flim flam a gullible public.