Friday, August 21, 2009

Wolf Tickets for the Plutocracy

It's really so nice to see how eloquent Howard Wolfson is in defense of, well, what he used to see as indefensible-the attributes of the moneyed class in the personage of Sir Michael Bloomberg. That he can do so with a straight face reminds us of the observation of the sociologist Orrin Klapp who, when commenting on the way in which the revolutionary nature of the counter culture was being marketed, remarked how smoothly it was being transformed into the, "over the counter culture."

So it goes with Wolfson, who seamlessly moves from Democratic principles to Bloomberg principal-the latest foray embodying this transformation being his hearty touting of the ridiculous notion that Mike Bloomberg can somehow be a defender of a newly invigorated campaign finance law; but we digress. First let's examine the satiric campaign initiative for what it is-a humorous interlude meant simply to amuse; and certainly not to be treated with any degree of seriousness.

The NY Daily News' Erin Einhorn gives us the dope-and turns a wonderful phrase that fully captures the fable-like nature of the entire episode: "Like Goliath outlawing slings, Mayor Bloomberg on Wednesday proposed new campaign finance rules that would apply to nearly every candidate - except himself. As a billionaire who bankrolls his own campaigns, Bloomberg doesn't accept contributions and so wouldn't be held to his newly proposed restrictions."

So how does Mikey level the playing field? Well, he simply doesn't; totally avoiding how his own spending-not to mention the over turning of multiple referenda-corrupts the democratic process as much, or even more than, the impact of the nefarious special interests. Here's his scheme: "Bloomberg's proposals include a ban on public matching dollars for funds raised by lobbyists or by people who do business with the city, as well as earlier disclosure of some contributions."

As Gertrude Stein said of Oakland: "There's not much there, there." But it did provoke the following witticism from the Thompson campaign: "They have no credibility doing that," said Eduardo Castell, the campaign manager for William Thompson, Bloomberg's likely Democrat challenger in November. "For Michael Bloomberg, who is going to be spending - it could be as much as $200 million - on this campaign, who does not participate in the campaign finance system, who we don't know if he discloses all the money that he is spending, who plays by his own rules, for him to be talking about campaign finance reform in the middle of a campaign is like Michael Vick talking about animal cruelty."

Which prompts the ideologically peripatetic Wolfson to rejoin: "Mike Bloomberg doesn't take a dime in special interest money," Wolfson said. "No one will ever have to wonder whether contributions influence his decisions....He works only for the taxpayers."

Wolfson, whose paymaster has succeeded in generating a huge memory loss for the formerly astute and populist consultant, now is transformed into the defender of vast wealth and unlimited campaign spending-forgetting his past while looking forward to a post election sojourn at an unnamed Bermuda getaway. And Wolfson manages to maintain a straight face while avoiding just how much Mike Bloomberg has in his tenure bitch slapped tax payers while aggrandizing the public sector work force.

Memo to Howard the Duck: suborning the electoral process is as easily done-and is more effective because of its stealth nature-by paying off the special interests with millions of one's own dollars; as it is by one's accepting of the largess of the special interest bogeymen. See UFT.

When we compile all of this private and public sector spending up-and add on the tens of millions being spent to blow smoke up our collective asses-we have the most aggressive challenge to true democratic principle and practice that we have seen in our lifetime; and we haven't even mentioned yet the collusion of the local press. And, of course, the man of who stands squarely for the tax payer like no other politician can, crafted a, "reform," that managed to exclude labor, an interest that isn't special enough for Mike Bloomberg.

As the News points out: "Dick Dadey, a good government advocate with Citizens Union, also praised the proposals but lamented that they stopped short of limiting the influence of unions in government. New rules implemented last year by Bloomberg and the City Council applied strict limits on contributions from lobbyists and people who do business with the city, but unions were largely exempted from those rules. "He's in the midst of an election with significant union support," Dadey said, "and you don't bite the hand that's helping you."

So here's a guy with unlimited wealth and supposedly beholden to no one, who shucks and ducks when it comes to the most politically significant interest in municipal politics. Why? As Dadey says, because it ain't good for Mike. Even the NY Post is astonished at the Bloomberg hubris: "Mike Bloomberg is an amazement. He spent more than $160 million to become and remain mayor -- not counting the off-the-official-books millions dispatched to strategically situated charities and such. And it's likely he'll have tossed another $100-plus million into the pot before Election Day. But now he's lecturing New York on the need for campaign-finance reform. Simply breathtaking."

Which underscores just how silly this whole proposal-and Wolfson's woof tickets in its defense-really is. Mike Bloomberg's decision making calculus is solipsistic-it begins and ends with his world view; a philosophy of expansive government and a benign outlook on the burdens that this expansion poses for the beleaguered tax payers and small businesses. For these are the folks who are, to borrow from Leona Helmsley, the inconsequential, "little people."

We have had eight years of this kind of noblesse oblige governance, and the city unemployment rate-and its overall costly environment for business-dramatize just what a disaster Mike Bloomberg's standing-up-for-the-tax payer regime has been. That Howard could advance this concept with a straight face-and do so on the heels of a campaign finance reform proposal that would do nothing to level a playing field that Mike Bloomberg has obliterated-means that he will retire forever our Dr. Wernher von Braun award.

This award owes its pedigree to the lyrics of the satirist Tom Lehrer who, when singing about the good doctor's move from Nazi rocket maker to American bomb impresario, remarked that Braun was, "a man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience." As Lehrer went on to say about the former Nazi scientist, "Don't say that he's hypocritical, Say rather that he's apolitical, "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down, That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun"

So it is with the formerly principled Wolfson. His assumption of the Bloomberg alter ego persona renders him a true citizen of the over-the-counter culture. His selling out for a lucrative fee, however, could well prove to be rather expensive for the hapless little people who he used to so adeptly pretend to champion.