Monday, August 24, 2009

Schizophrenic Double Talk

You really gotta love the editorialists at the NY Daily News-their love, or simply obeisance to-Mike Bloomberg gives their opinings the confusing air of folks afflicted by split personalities. The latest manifestation was in yesterday's comments on the city's rising labor costs: "New York's unions have done well in the almost eight years Michael Bloomberg has been mayor. He has agreed to salary hikes that outpaced inflation, in many cases by wide margins.As the city recovered from the economic blow of 9/11 and then enjoyed boom times, Bloomberg shared surging tax revenues with the workforce. No one did better than the teachers. Historic pay hikes, meant to equalize salaries with suburban peers and to compensate for contract reforms, boosted incomes 43%, almost double the rise in the consumer price index."

So far so good, right? The News seems to get the fact that Grasshopper Bloomberg was frivolously giving away the store-while the underpinning of New York's economy, not to mention its competitiveness-was rapidly becoming unglued. But now, says the paper-given the dire economic circumstances that even a carefree mayor can recognize-Bloomberg needs to exercise restraint, particularly with the teachers: "Now, Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers are on the verge of fresh negotiations. New UFT President Michael Mulgrew expects a two-year deal with dual 4% hikes. Bloomberg must say no. The mayor and Mulgrew must jointly recognize that New York's economic circumstances - along with the wallets of the public - are vastly shrunken compared with 2007, the year in which Bloomberg and labor set a bargaining pattern of 4% raises."

Let's put aside for just a moment the fact that this 4% raise is a quid pro quo for the UFT's crucial support for Bloomberg's signature issue of mayoral control-something that the News shamelessly shilled for. Where was the paper when all of these contracts were being negotiated; and the city tax payers were being saddled by a bloated work force whose salaries and pensions are simply unsustainable?

And to say that, "The standard that seemed acceptable almost three years ago is off the charts now. It's simply not affordable," is to give Mike Bloomberg a free pass for his lack of foresight. Has the News forgotten how the city was able to balance its books, post 9/11? While the mayor was treating the tax payers like some kind of piƱata-and distributing the candy within to the public sector workers-the foundation of the local economy, particularly in the city's retail shopping areas, was crumbling.

As a result, when the economic tsunami did hit, the city's ability to weather the downturn was impaired-perhaps irreparably; and NY's unemployment rate has hit a 12 year high. But not to worry, as the News reported last week: "Educational and health services employment increased 25,500 to 722,000, a 3.7% gain for the year." So, while private sector employment craters, jobs that depend on a public subsidy continue to grow.

And the Daily News appears on the verge of actually getting it: "In retrospect, Bloomberg was too generous in beefing up the checks of workers who also enjoy, and will continue to enjoy, health and pension benefits that are light years beyond those afforded to the general public.
The mayor agreed to four years of 4% hikes, each time lifting pay more than the inflation rate. He held to the practice as recently as last month, granting twin 4% raises to 6,000 managers and nonunion employees. His record played a key role in the disastrous arbitrators' ruling that awarded hikes totaling more than 11% over three years to transit workers."

Which brings us back to the confusion over at 33rd Street and 10th Avenue. Bloomberg's eight year aggrandizement of the public sector is in essence now a chickens coming home to roost situation. But the News, unable-or perhaps unwilling-to connect the dots in a definitive way-by belling the Bloomberg cat-goes on to tell its readers: "Bloomberg has taken justifiable pride in his fiscal stewardship, as well as in his willingness to tell hard truths regardless of political consequences. Drawing the line as he runs for reelection will be tough, but that's the kind of mayor New York needs."

So, after basically painting the mayor as a generous profligate, he suddenly gets transformed into someone who can take, "justifiable pride," in his fiscal stewardship? Thought experiment: Imagine if the city's mayor was just a run of the mill non-billionaire Democrat. Would the NY Daily News conclude an editorial, like the one we have just commented on above, in the same laudatory way? The News, and the other tabloid with its incestuous touting of a fellow mogul, should stop covering for Bloomberg's ineptitude and draw appropriately conclusions from the data that even they can see.