Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dishonest to the End

It is finally election day, which means one thing to us-when game six starts tomorrow, we will not have to reach for the remote whenever another insufferable Bloomberg attack on Bill Thompson pollutes the airwaves. But in the final day of campaigning yesterday, Bloomberg added real insult to injury by doing a city wide sweep of small businesses in a final demonstration that he simply has no sense of shame. In fact, both candidates finally took a look at the city's economy-what should be the most pressing campaign issue; after all, it was the single justification for changing the term limits law in the first place.

As the NY Times reports: "On the eve of Tuesday’s election, the top two mayoral candidates put aside their bitter arguments over term limits, campaign spending and the city’s schools to try to reassure voters about a more pressing worry: the economy. The Thompson theme reminded us of what coulda-shoulda been: "With the unemployment rate at a 16-year high, tens of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and the city’s budget deficit topping $5 billion, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg offered strikingly different messages to an unsettled electorate. Mr. Thompson, the Democrat, described two New Yorks. One, he said, was for people like Mr. Bloomberg: the superrich Manhattanites and Wall Street titans. The other was for hardworking wage-earners and small business owners who, he said, were being endlessly taxed and driven out of the city."

Now there's a theme that has resonance; and its late appearance is sad-but not as sad as the Bloomberg magical mystery tour: "Mr. Bloomberg, during a tour of the five boroughs, dropped in on small businesses and greeted commuters, stressing his financial acumen and background as a businessman. He acknowledged the troubled economy — “it has big problems” — but did not seem eager to dwell on it, instead emphasizing the stories of small businesses that have thrived: “We’re trying to help small businesses that need loans, give them advice on how to structure a loan application, or how to deal with city government, trying to reduce taxes.”

There he goes again! How to structure a loan application is right up there among the most compelling solutions for the economic difficulties being faced by New York small businesses-and notice how, "reduce taxes," is used as a throwaway line-delivered almost sotto voce. It allows Bloomberg to once again avoid his own record and culpability. Loan applications indeed!

In fact, as the Times reminds us, the emphasis on economic turmoil should have been central in this campaign from the McDuck vault, but never was, as Bloomberg successfully changed the subject-never so much as with his disgraceful last two month effort to demonize Thompson, in spite of the fact that he had a double digit lead and had out spent the challenger 16-1: " With a return to the economic theme, Mr. Bloomberg seemed to quietly remind New Yorkers of his reason for seeking a third term: that his financial expertise was required to guide the city through an extraordinary time. It is an argument that he offered with less and less frequency as the campaign wore on, in part to distance himself from his unpopular flip-flop on term limits."

There is the smoking gun of Bloomberg disingenuousness. With enough money to sell ice to Eskimos, the mayor couldn't bring himself to level with the folks and campaign on why he was The Man in these troubled economic times. His whole campaign was a concerted effort to change the subject, and the gap between his supporters and those of the comptroller underscores just how self aggrandizing and basically pusillanimous Bloomberg really is: "Despite the mayor’s healthy lead in the polls, the surveys show a big divide among voters along income lines. A Marist poll released on Friday showed that among registered voters, wealthier respondents overwhelmingly support Mr. Bloomberg, while the race is essentially tied among those who make less...In some neighborhoods, resentment over Mr. Bloomberg’s spending on the race has intensified the sense of economic imbalance. The mayor is on track to spend more than $100 million to be re-elected, and some residents say his nonstop advertisements and mailings serve as reminders of how distant he is from their lives."

So we head into today's election with only one real uncertainty-will Bloomberg's record spending give him a double digit margin or not? Make that two questions, because we also simply have no clue how the mayor, who spent and taxed us into this hole, will respond to the serious crisis ahead. The campaign didn't offer us even a small clue. Perhaps, as circumstances worsen we can all look forward to getting one of those Bloomberg loan applications.