Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bad, But Other Would Be Worse

If you read the NY Post editorial on the fiscal acumen of one Michael Bloomberg, you might be led to believe that the paper, deeply disillusioned with the mayor, was about to throw him under a city bus: "Truth is, he frittered away boom-year revenues from Wall Street on spending bumps that left the city in worse shape than necessary. Indeed, city spending grew nearly 50 percent on his watch. When revenues have gotten tight, he's too often resorted to tax hikes -- notably, an 18.5 percent property-tax hit in 2002 and a sales-tax increase this year. And he's handed out unjustifiably generous wage hikes to unions. Teachers, for instance, got a 43 percent jump under Mike. His other recent raises were the basis for outrageous, unaffordable 11 percent, three-year hikes for transit workers."

And is this the guy who is not beholden to any special interests, and who only makes apolitical decisions? Kinda devalues the entire concept when you examine his love affair with the municipal unions. But the Post, having ginned up the third term mania, is stuck with the defense of the indispensable-arguing that others would be worse: "It may be years before the final verdict is in, but one thing's already clear: Gotham's finances would be a lot worse if Michael Bloomberg hadn't been around...Then again, Hizzoner stands head and shoulders above most other New York pols largely because everybody else is, fiscally speaking, a midget."

Well, perhaps that's so-but has the vertically challenged mayor performed well enough on this front to deserve the kind of redeemer status that the Post has anointed him with? And the unanswered nature of this question leads the Post in this worried direction: "Still, Mike is surely less beholden to the unions and other special interests than most other pols. The key question: Which Bloomberg will dominate over the next four years if he's re-elected? Despite recent gains, Wall Street isn't likely ever again to spin off enough cash to support New York's profligacy. (Institutional market changes and vindictive Dems in Washington will see to that.) Mike the clear-eyed manager could put the city on a firm fiscal footing. Mike the big spender . . . ?"

On balance, however, the big spending Bloomberg has been the most dominant persona over the past eight years, and as the Siegels have pointed out: "Under Mayor Bloomberg, city expenditures grew 40% faster than the rate of inflation even as he imposed record property-tax increases and the city's coffers overflowed with revenues culled from the booming stock and real-estate markets. To keep the politically powerful public-sector happy, Mr. Bloomberg bestowed raises two to three times the rate of inflation on the city's unionized workers. To keep politically wired developers happy, Mr. Bloomberg showered subsidies on economically dubious megaprojects..."

And NYC is in worse shape-particularly its small businesses-because of Bloomberg's profligacy: "The result is that New York, even as it's losing the luster of Wall Street, taxes small businesses the way California taxes millionaires."

That the Bloomberg record is mixed for his acolytes, underscores just what a scam this entire third term sleight-of-hand really has been. There simply isn't any rationale for overturning the will of the voters for this pig-in-a-poke third term, one that the even NY Post has trepidations about. When the paper speculates about, "which Mike," will be there for the next four years, it knows that the Bloomberg voters will be letting the pot ride on the hopes of an inside straight.

As the paper worries: "Mike the big spender . . . ? Well, that's too scary to contemplate." Our feeling? We're all going to be in for a case of Post traumatic shock.