Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More on the Naked Emperor

Greg David, blogging for Crain's, muses over whether the departure of Deputy Mayor Ed Skylar from the Bloomberg administration means that the mayor won't be "reinvigorating" his third term: "The stories about Mr. Skyler's departure to Citigroup will likely focus on how he is the second crucial City Hall aide to leave in recent weeks--the first being government affairs and political jack-of-all-trades Kevin Sheekey. The more important point is that this shows the mayor's stated goal for the third term--reinvigorating his administration--has hit a roadblock."

Well, we believe that the notion that this administration was going to be reinvigorated was purely spin-and rested to begin with on the false assumption that the first two terms had any real vigor at all. The speculation also elides the very real shortcomings of the Bloomberg regime-faults that are so endemic that we would argue that the only way reinvigorating would help is if it were initiated by a new chief executive.

Some of this we argued in our commentary on the Nicole Gelinas editorial on just how this administration has been complicit in creating the city's current fiscal mess. A second look at one of the points Gelinas made about education-Bloomberg's signature issue-is worthwhile: "And it wasn't just benign neglect: Bloomberg made problems worse. Thanks to 43 percent raises for teachers, the Department of Education payroll alone -- now $10.1 billion -- is nearly one-sixth the entire budget. For overseeing this spending, 553 administrators earn more than six figures each -- $70 million."

What the mayor did in this arena-and the actions are representative though writ larger in this one policy area-is to throw huge sums of money at improving education, and in doing so, larded up the public payroll with salaries and pensions to such an extent that we are obligated for years to come with a burden we can ill afford.

Which wouldn't be so disastrous if the money tossing had actually led to real achievement. But we now know that this hasn't been the case; and Diane Ravitch's latest commentary tells the sordid tale: "Education Secretary Arne Duncan says that when states lower their standards, "We are lying to our children." He must be talking about New York State, which has a well-established record of lying to our children about their progress in school. Every year, state officials announce another set of dramatic gains on state tests for the children of New York. And every year, state officials lie to our children."

But it isn't only the state officials-as the Bloombergistas have been using these false positives for years to promote the educational miracle that wasn't. And they have been aided and abetted-co-conspirators is too kind a term-by an editorial claque that has tried to make it appear that Mike Bloomberg has played Moses to NYC's school children Israelites.

The reality, as Ravitch so ably dramatizes, is a far cry from the view presented by editorialist toadies: "But last week, the federal government released scores for the nation and the states, and New York did not fare well. In fact, almost all of New York's reported gains for the past seven years disappeared into thin air. The federal test - the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP - is the gold standard of testing. Congress requires all states to take NAEP tests to audit state claims. The federal audit was an embarrassment for New York."

What did the national test show? That the hyping of mayoral control as the last best hope for the struggling NYC schools was an absolute fraud committed against the parents of school kids and a gullible public: "The reading scores released last week show that 36% of New York's fourth-graders - not 77% - are proficient. And unlike the state scores, which have gone up every year without fail, the state scores on NAEP for fourth-graders have been flat since 2002. The federal test continues to show huge achievement gaps: 45% of white students are proficient, as are 52% of Asians. This contrasts with 18% of black students and 22% of Hispanic students."

This defrauding of the citizenry on the mayor's signature issue underscores just how silly it is to speculate over whether the third Bloomberg term will be reinvigorated-when in fact we'd be far better served if it underwent a political lobotomy. As Ravitch points out: "If students in New York made no gains on the national tests, why did state tests report spectacular progress every year? The people of the state deserve an honest answer."

But New Yorkers deserve to know if all of the money that Bloomberg has thrown at the schools-as well as at their teachers and administrators-has been worth it. Maybe we can resurrect Learn New York, the AstroTurf group funded by the mayor's rich pals, to investigate?

Mike Bloomberg has spent eight years spending us into a fiscal mess because he simply didn't know how to act any differently-as we have said, he's John V. Lindsay with a lot more money. What he does in a third term is any one's guess, but given his track record, we're hoping that whatever he goes about doing, he does so with a distinct lack of vigor. The city will be less harmed in that way.

Pinocchio Pinsky

We were so glad to see that EDC's Seth Pinsky-kinda like Sammy Glick-is a man on the move up-having been cited by Crain's as one of the forty under forty up and comers. But if there's a hall of fame for fibbers, Seth would be in a league of his own.

Here's what Pinsky says about EDC's Willets Point effort: "Also this morning, Pinsky said the city is still negotiating with property owners in Queens so it can move forward with its Willets Point development. Currently, he said, the city has secured 70 percent of the property and is negotiating the relocation of other property owners for the final 30 percent."

This is what's known in polite circles as prevarication-and in the spirit of the NY Daily News we're giving Seth our maiden,"Pinoccho Award." The reality is that EDC has cherry picked the larger property owners, but over 70% of the owners still remain without any deal-and many of those have yet to hear from the agency! There not only aren't any negotiations, there hasn't to our knowledge been any money forthcoming to those property owners who did sell out to the city; and we're still waiting for this pack of thieves to tell NYC's tax payers what the final cost of purchasing all of the WP land will come to.

But the eloquent Pinsky, late of Harvard Law, can't stop himself: "Pinksy said the corporation is waiting out the economic downturn to put the project out to bid, which he projected could happen later this year or early 2011." Hey Seth, can we take the "over" on that prediction? There's still that little problem of ramp construction approval-and despite what EDC's confidence man told the Daily News, that just might take some time.

But criticizing Pinsky really isn't quite fair-after all, he's merely representative of the Bloomberg mindset, just another example of how all the mayor's men from the world of high finance and corporate law have really no clue about the economic needs of the city's street level businesses.

In addition, aside from cluelessness, the agency runs a rigged game that would make Robert DeNiro blush in Casino-something that will will dramatize as the public review of these useless off ramps proceeds. Don't plan any ground breaking any time soon Seth.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

EDC's Confidence Man

The NY Daily News spotlights the efforts of Willets Point United to challenge-and stop-the building of ramps off of the Van Wyck Expressway-ramps, without which, the entire development would be relegated to the dustbin of history: "A group of Willets Point business owners fired another shot last week at the $3 billion plan to redevelop the Iron Triangle, but city officials don't expect to fall behind schedule. The business owners - facing potential eviction when construction begins - charged that the traffic report from the city's Economic Development Corp. is flawed and is reason enough to bring the megadevelopment plan to a halt."

Eh, just what schedule are they referring to? And, by the way, the WP challenge, despite the graveyard passing whistling of EDC, will greatly retard the plans that the city has for the area-if it can even find the money to proceed.

That's because the Ketcham critique will cause the regulatory agencies to pause-and to carefully do their due diligence: "A traffic engineer hired by Willets Point United argued that the city misrepresented congestion on the Van Wyck Expressway created by other nearby projects in its proposal to build on-ramps and off-ramps near the gritty industrial area in the vicinity of Citi Field. "There does not seem to be any area-wide planning going on for this community," said engineer Brian Ketcham. "They haven't done their analysis correctly." The EDC's Access Modification Report, which outlines potential congestion on the Van Wyck, did not properly account for the added traffic from other developments, such as Flushing Commons and Sky View Parc, Ketcham said. "They're trying to whitewash the impact of these projects," he said."

The local council member Julissa Ferreras also sees some issues here-and calls for an open review process that echoes the letter that was sent to NYSDOT by the Natural Resources Defense Council: "There are legitimate questions concerning construction at Willets Point and its impact on local traffic patterns," said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, adding that the review process must be open to public input. "The involvement of the [state] Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration in the Willets Point project assures me that adequate oversight exists," said Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst)."

Insuring that the review authorities do all that is required is why WPU is looking for public hearings on the ramp construction-something that Council member Ferreras has endorsed as well. None of this skepticism, however, erodes the optimism of the EDC's primary confidence man Dave Lombino: "The state Department of Transportation kicked the report back to the EDC a few weeks ago, but agency officials said they are confident it will pass soon. "We received a range of comments from opposition that we're reviewing," said EDC spokesman David Lombino. "We'll be submitting a revised draft to regulators in the upcoming weeks that is responsive to their comments and issues." The EDC does not expect any significant delay in getting the approval from the state and the Federal Highway Administration, Lombino said."

Can't wait to see how EDC consultant URS is gonna find all of the traffic it had disappeared from the original EIS when it submitted its woefully inadequate ramp report-not to mention the cumulative impact of contiguous projects that URS ignored in its original report. And let's not forget that the WP development plans includes the largest-1.2 million sq. ft.-auto dependent mall in NYC; and the traffic problems at the new Rego Center Mall should chill even Lombino's false cheer.

As the Daily News reports, that mall has ground traffic to a halt: "The road to building a retail mecca in Queens is paved with backed-up one-way streets. Rego Center opened its doors a few weeks ago, hoping to lure shoppers with Kohl's, T.J. Maxx and Century 21 department stores. And bargain hunters are coming. But traffic in the already congested area, which includes the Long Island Expressway, Queens Blvd. and Junction Blvd., is also starting to jam up."

And a local civic group is screaming: "There is a bottleneck at all hours," said Robert Holden, of the Juniper Park Civic Association, who lives in nearby Middle Village. "They are going to have to double-deck the Long Island Expressway or the exit." Local officials have been working with the city Transportation Department and developer Vornado Realty Trust to hash out traffic congestion issues."

Now they are? After the fact? What's a matter, didn't they get an accurate traffic analysis before the mall was built. What a shock! But Rego Center is small potatoes compared to what's planned at the Iron Triangle-and no ramp construction will alter this traffic nightmare. We'll give the able Ketcham the last word: "I don't think the ramps work," Ketcham said. "It is fatally flawed. They've got a real problem."

Bloomberg's Disastrous Legacy

There is a must read piece by Nicole Gelinas in today's NY Post that graphically details Mike Bloomberg's complicity in the fiscal mess that now confronts NYC-deconstructing the Myth of Mike that did so much to corrupt the last election cycle, and the fight to overturn term limits that preceded it:

"The inevitable is finally happening: New York's failure to fix spending is endangering decades of progress in public safety and infrastructure. Taxpayers won't stick around for shootings and derailments. It's time for Mayor Bloomberg to do the job New York needs him to do: cut union spending to keep the city livable...The bill for fiscal denial is coming due. For 25 years, an ever-growing Wall Street lulled New York into thinking that it could afford everything. Bloomberg doubled down on this belief. He avoided labor reforms, like pushing public-sector benefits costs in line with what little people get. So cops retire in their 40s and civilian workers in their 50s -- all with great pensions and health benefits."

And what about the educational miracle effected through the vehicle of mayoral control?-the Potemkin Village fraud that, in spite of huge increases in educational spending-particularly teacher salaries-yielded at best modest improvements; although even those are dependent on test scores that don't seem to be decent standards of success by any measure: "And it wasn't just benign neglect: Bloomberg made problems worse. Thanks to 43 percent raises for teachers, the Department of Education payroll alone -- now $10.1 billion -- is nearly one-sixth the entire budget. For overseeing this spending, 553 administrators earn more than six figures each -- $70 million."

The entire Bloomberg image of sober fiscal stewardship is crumbling before our very eyes-even while Wiz Kid Wolfson plots an unlikely foray into presidential politics for the over rated and under examined mayor: "Playing nice with the unions is how we get a $63.6 billion budget -- more than 25 percent higher than when Bloomberg came in (adjusted for inflation). Even now, with services declining, spending is still on the rise, by more than 10 percent over two years."

Can anyone check to see if Morticia is awake over at the Daily News? This guy Bloomberg deserves to retire the paper's Knucklehead Award for his failure to tackle the burgeoning and unaffordable growth of the city's public sector. But now, in Rip Van Winkle fashion, Mike arises from his Big Sleep to discover? Pensions are out of control: "The retirement of a top Fire Department official with an eye-popping $242,000-a-year pension prompted Mayor Bloomberg yesterday to demand that state lawmakers reform a pension system that the cash-strapped city can no longer pay for."

Well Mike, pension reform is necessary, but the best kind of reform of the public pension predicament is to-drum roll please-hire fewer public sector workers. Will someone school the dude on the law of cause and effect? As Gelinas points out: "The mayor has to re-work his budget in the next few weeks. He should stop trying to make more room for impossible benefits and education costs. Sure, Bloomberg has talked about getting givebacks from the unions -- but nobody will listen until he does something. The mayor has gotten us into a mess on education -- and getting out will be ugly. He should slash thousands of teachers starting now, doubling class sizes -- then tell outraged parents: If you want the teachers back, call the union."

The pension explosion-and the Curuther's excess is simply symbolic, even while it is excessive-is the reason why we are broke. And the Post lays out the grim details: "But, meanwhile, the city's pension obligations have grown by some 800 percent over the past decade -- to nearly one-tenth of the entire budget."

So we are about to go back to the future-and that friends is anything but nostalgic for those of us who weathered through the 1970s. But unfortunately we lack a chief executive who is able-as Rudy was for crime and welfare-to challenging the political culture of the city. The little guy simply doesn't have it in him.

So we'll treat Gelinas' last word comments as rueful rather than prophetic: "Yes, Albany controls subway service, and future city pensions -- but that doesn't leave our multibillionaire mayor helpless. The Legislature is up for grabs this fall; Bloomberg should say he'll aggressively support candidates who promise to fix the pension mess and the rules that govern labor agreements. It's going to take dirty work to keep New York clean and safe."

Empty Armory Predictions

Dave Seifman speculated yesterday that the "empty" Kingsbridge Armory could come back to haunt Bronx Beep Ruben Diaz: "Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is in a bind. Last year, he took on the Bloomberg administration and led the successful fight to block development of the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory into a $310 million shopping mall. Hailed as a hero in some quarters, Diaz now has to come up with a suitable use for the shuttered armory if he intends to run for citywide office in 2013, as many suspect he does. "Everywhere he goes, that seems to be the first question people ask him," said one, referring to the armory issue. "He's got a big problem," observed a Bronx elected official. "No one's been able to do anything with this thing, and now he comes along and stops the only development that seemed to have a chance."

Oh, please, no unnamed sources! Who could that guy be who's predicting problems for Ruben three years from now because of, of all things, the empty Kingsbridge Armory? It certainly can't be any of the Bronx council members who all signed on for the CBA and living wage fight. And what about someone who will stand up on principle for what he perceives to be in the interest of the community and neighborhood Mom and Pop businesses?

But seriously, let's not forget that the Speaker-another potential city wide candidate-also signed on to the opposition platform. So, who does that leave, Scott Stringer? The guy who did a 180 on his opposition to the use of eminent domain for Columbia? If the Court of Appeals upholds the Appellate Court ruling in favor of Nick Sprayregen, Stringer's cave will not look too attractive.

Which leaves the task of actually finding something that works for the still vacant Armory: "Recognizing his dilemma, Diaz last week named a task force -- the third in a decade -- to spend six months coming up with yet another development plan. In a conciliatory gesture, he offered a spot on the panel to Seth Pinsky, chairman of the city's Economic Development Corp., who respectfully refused. EDC spent years putting together the shopping-mall deal, only to see it fall apart when Diaz and others demanded that all businesses in the new facility be forced to pay a "living wage" of $10 an hour, plus $1.50 in benefits."

Well, that's one interpretation, but a more cogent one is that EDC had set up a task force with clear guidelines only to sit by passively while Related crafted a proposal-including a supermarket-that contradicted the essence of the original parameters laid out in the biddng guidelines. And let's not forget-as Council member Koppell has pointed out-that it was the mayor and his minions who took their Armory ball and went home rather than negotiate over the living wage issue.

All of which is surely fascinating Bronx scuttlebutt, but will have absolutely zero impact on who the next mayor-or any other city wide official-will be three years hence. Seifman should consult with us before venturing out onto this Bronx limb.

Rangel's "It"

Daily Politics has an interesting post on the gala thrown for Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the House Ethics Committee-no, that can't be Wright: "According to Assemblyman Keith Wright's estimate, somewhere between 500 and 600 people attended a low-dollar fundraiser for Rep. Charlie Rangel yesterday at the Alhambra Ballroom on 126th Street. Wright rejected my characterization of the veteran Harlem Democrat as "embattled," in spite of the fact that he has given up his post as chair of the Ways and Means Committee in the wake of a less-than-glowing House ethics committee report. "It was a great show of support," said Wright. "The man is an icon. The man is an institution. He's delivered...You know, he's still relevant. He's still got it. He's still engaged. He's still got...the it factor, as they say, and obviously people still want him to represent them."

Now we belong to those who really don't want Rangel to step down since we believe that his "it" factor is akin to a game of tag-or perhaps Pin the Tail on the Donkey. This "institution," snoozing away on a DR beach, will be the best poster child for a change in Washington-a gift that will keep on giving.

That so many people could come out to celebrate a former chairman of Ways and Means who flaunted the tax laws and illegally occupied four rent stabilized apartments-spitting in the face of the tax payers and the average voter in his district-says a great deal about the standards, or lack thereof, of the Manhattan Dems. Integrity is no longer expected it appears.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rotten Fruit

We were right in the middle of the debate over a dubious idea to put veggie peddlers in so called underserved neighborhoods-arguing that the city's field of dream theories would get spoiled pretty quickly. Now, as the evidence starts to come in, our prognosticating looks to be prescient. The clarion call for peddler licenses has yielded meager fruit.

As the NY Daily News reports: "It's been two years since Mayor Bloomberg signed a bill creating 1,000 new vegetable stands - but just 326 licenses have been eaten up, according to the Health Department." Now keep in mind that the city initially wanted the law to stipulate the creation of 1500 new licenses, but through our lobbying efforts-and the great support from council member John Liu-the number was knocked down.

It surely isn't a fire sale, though. As we told the News: "City officials deny there is a lack of interest in the so-called Green Carts. Critics, however, argue you can't earn cash selling healthy food in poor areas."If there was a demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in those neighborhoods, you wouldn't need to have a campaign to put these carts there," said Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for the supermarket industry."

And speaking of lack of interest, where is the enthusiasm at the city council for an oversight hearing on all of this-not to mention one of DOH's vaunted, "studies," of this crucial initiative? The facts on the ground tell the real story: "In 2008, lawmakers approved the permits for fruit-filled carts in low-income communities, arguing those who lived there suffered from high obesity rates and were starved for fresh produce. But entrepreneurs aren't biting. As of this month, Manhattan counts 96 Green Carts, Brooklyn has 84, the Bronx boasts 81, Queens has 64 and Staten Island is home to just one, city data show."

And an oversight hearing would indicate just where these carts are vending-and it is our suspicion that where they are plying their wares you will find a vibrant commercial strip with retail food stores also selling the fresh produce; making the vendors duplicative and an example of unfair cannibalization of legitimate businesses.

Yet, in spite of all the evidence, the city tries to put a happy face on the grim stats: "The program is accomplishing its goal in changing the food landscape in low-income neighborhoods in the city," said the city's food policy coordinator, Ben Thomases." If Ben really believes this, the city might-or should-be in the market for a new landscaper.

But all of this chatter about the nanny experimenters down at the DOH elides the inescapable fact that the department fails miserably in its core mission-that of regulating the health of NYC. This failure is most visible in the inability of the department to properly oversee the veggie carts that they permit to flood our streets-particularly in Manhattan where these carts clog the sidewalks, locate themselves where the law forbids, and plop down in front of beleaguered food stores who are forced to forfeit their veggie business to these licensed scavengers.

And in spite of a yearlong crime blotter of illegality, DOH, DCA and the NYPD sit idly by as the illegality flourishes with impunity. The carts in front of stores in Manhattan do, however, prove one thing beyond any doubt: where demand really exists you don't need a government program to manufacture it.

Unhealthy Debate?

If you listen to the shrill whistle coming from Democrats about the tide of anger pouring out from citizens outraged by the ObamaCare legislation, you'd think that we were about to experience a recrudescence of racist Klan violence. Among those leading the hypercharge is one Colby King of the Washington Post who saw glimpses of the racist south in the Tea Part protests: "The angry faces at Tea Party rallies are eerily familiar. They resemble faces of protesters lining the street at the University of Alabama in 1956 as Autherine Lucy, the school's first black student, bravely tried to walk to class. Those same jeering faces could be seen gathered around the Arkansas National Guard troopers who blocked nine black children from entering Little Rock's Central High School in 1957."

The hyperventilation threatens to become a pandemic in liberal media elite circles, with Rich and Krugman, the predictable Heckle and Jeckle pair of columnists at the NY Times, picking up the theme. Rich's fulminations deserve to be highlighted, since he sees Colby King's racism meme and raises him a Nazi allusion: "How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far."

Yikes. The white folks are coming, the white folks are coming! All of this is rather silly, if not predictable. In the aftermath of the passage of a large government expansion measure that was deemed, "historic" by its partisans, you'd think that the victory laps would center around all the good and great things in store for the American people-and not the shrill demonizing of the righteous anger of a good percentage of this country's citizens. Why not just let this piece of history speak for itself-its goodness being self evident and all.

Inconvenient amidst all of this faux panic attack, is the immediate reaction of some of this country's biggest corporations, companies who have taken risk avoidance actions in anticipation of the huge additional burdens they're facing with this health legislation. Lay offs and higher health insurance costs appear to be inevitable, and companies need to anticipate them in their SEC reporting.

As the Wall Street Journal writes: "It's been a banner week for Democrats: ObamaCare passed Congress in its final form on Thursday night, and the returns are already rolling in. Yesterday AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses. This wholesale destruction of wealth and capital came with more than ample warning. Turning over every couch cushion to make their new entitlement look affordable under Beltway accounting rules, Democrats decided to raise taxes on companies that do the public service of offering prescription drug benefits to their retirees instead of dumping them into Medicare. We and others warned this would lead to AT&T-like results, but like so many other ObamaCare objections Democrats waved them off as self-serving or "political."

So, how does the congress respond? "Meanwhile, Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment "appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs." Hey Taxman, their just trying to make you all look bad, so give 'um hell.

And the White House joins the kill the messenger bandwagon: "Perhaps that explains why the Administration is now so touchy. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke took to the White House blog to write that while ObamaCare is great for business, "In the last few days, though, we have seen a couple of companies imply that reform will raise costs for them." In a Thursday interview on CNBC, Mr. Locke said "for them to come out, I think is premature and irresponsible."

Rhetoric, meet reality-a reality that many have predicted; and the fear behind the uprising of populist voices, of which the Tea Party is but one manifestation, is not something manufactured out of whole cloth, or from the manipulative ranting of radio commentators. That focus is purely misdirection-and devolves from the progressive strain of thought that likes to label any popular movement or thought that diverges from their own questionable canon as, "false consciousness."

Errol Louis picks up on this theme in the NY Daily News yesterday: "The die was cast for Republicans when they crawled into bed with right-wing media hucksters hurling slurs like "Socialist," "Fascist," "death panel" and the like at President Obama and
congressional Democrats week after week."

Well, that's not really what happened-and Louis' effort to portray the health care bill as part of the, "sensible center," is quite droll considering that Democrats are heralding the bill as a testimony to the legacy of Teddy Kennedy. Center indeed.

No, the Republican unanimity devolves from the popular disdain for the bill itself-and to depict that anger as undistilled ignorance exposes the critic to a dose of his own accusation. Memo to King, Rich and Louis: there is a genuine grass roots movement in the works that sees the overwhelming expansion of government as a dire threat to the country's basic liberties. But instead of critiquing the assumptions, we get jejune character assassination.

This bill will fundamentally alter the relations between the American government and its citizens-and it will cost us plenty of money that we don't have as well. We in New York have even more to fear, as the distributionist assumptions of the legislation will hurt our cohort of high earners the most.

As Kyle Smith opines in yesterday's NY Post: "How does Obama plan to pay for it? With a few pennies from tanning-booth taxes? No, by shaking down “the rich” and taking a bite from the fruits of capital. But New Yorkers, and the tri-state area in general, have lots of high earners who aren’t necessarily rich. We also derive more of our income from dividends, interest and other so-called “unearned income” (as if you got this money from playing the slots). New Yorkers will be out $5 billion paying for the new payroll and investment taxes, plus another $1.5 billion in “Cadillac taxes” on those with the best insurance."

And the definition of who is rich is definitely a relative concept: "About 10% of the country lives in the tri-state area and we earn about 14% of the national income — so naturally it’s completely fair to stick us with 20% of these new taxes by 2016. (These numbers are from a preliminary estimate by the Manhattan Institute.) Obama has vowed to target his tax hikes at “rich” individuals making over $200,000 a year (and couples making $250,000 a year). That’s rich in Manhattan, Kansas. Here a couple earning $250K is middle class. Eleven of the 50 most expensive ZIP codes for real estate are in Manhattan and nine others are in the
suburbs.Moreover, if you run a small business you technically have a lot of income (if not a lot of profit). Many such business people file as individuals — yet are taxed as though they were Goldman Sachs veeps."

And we haven't even touched the regulatory burdens: "As for ObamaCare’s impact on employers, the Business Council of New York State notes that the law does nothing to control costs, places employers at risk for new taxes and fines and adds costs “by requiring much more reporting to the federal government on the value of their benefits to each employee and revising benefit plans to avoid both fines and excise taxes.” Obama to Mom-and-Pop Bodega Owners: Drop Dead."

In expanding the federal government to control the health economy there will be a myriad of unintended consequences that will tamp down economic incentive-and the corporate writedowns are really only the tip of the iceberg. The Tea Party folks are the least this country has to worry about. But their anger is not based on the manufactured hysteria of radio ranters. To believe that it is will, in our view, prove to be one helluva an example of whistling past the graveyard.

Sugary Regression Analysis

New York State and New York City's health commissioners have an Op-ed in yesterday's NY Daily News about their pet soda tax initiative-and given the prospect for its passage, the piece should serve as an epitaph. But there was one line of argumentation that really tickled our logical fancy, and that was their claim that the tax wasn't regressive,

Here's the side splitting rap: "The argument that the tax is regressive also doesn't hold water because a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is one that no one ever has to pay. Sugary beverages are not essentials in the grocery cart alongside the milk, eggs, bread, vegetables and fruit that are not taxed. Just choose more of the many beverages that don't contain sugar, such as low-fat milk and water, and you won't spend more on beverages."

So, even though the poor choose to drink more soda, and as a result there is a disparate impact on them, the tax on their choice of beverage isn't regressive if they simply choose something else to drink. According to this illogic, then, the only regressive tax possible would be one on goods that are absolutely essential (according to the health czars) for one to consume. What elitism!

People choose to drink soda and the health czars want to tax this choice so they drink something else-not only is this regressive, but it also is a direct assault on people's choices-and the hundreds of thousands of low income New Yorkers who drink soda but are not obese. Unable to convince the folks to make what they believe are better choices, the health fascists now want to penalize their cloudy thinking.

With national health care on the immediate agenda, we can expect that this mindset-so entrenched in the nanny state mentality- to be institutionalized in statute after statute. Now that the health of all Americans is being paid for with public funds and under the guidance of federal bureaucrats,mandating behavior will become an essential feature of all health policy; with the concomitant loss of freedom to the bureaucratic demiurge

Friday, March 26, 2010

Living Wage Lives!

The push for the creation of a city wide living wage law is beginning to gear up-and the Observer has the story: "Facing an increasing pressure from unions and elected officials on issues relating to living wage, the Bloomberg administration is planning to commission its own report and task force on wage policy issues. In recent days, the city's Economic Development Corporation has begun reaching out to various organizations that would sit on the task force, including Good Jobs New York, the building service workers' union SEIU 32BJ, the Center for an Urban Future and the Partnership for New York City."

What's missing from this picture? Why, the RWDSU of course-the main player in the Kingsbridge Armory defeat, and the chief proponent of the concept of a living wage for workers at city subsidized projects. But their exclusion is, as the Marxists say, no accident-and the union's absence speaks volumes about the credibility, or lack thereof, of the entire Bloomberg charade.

We say charade not only because it is a Bloomberg production, but because of the inclusion of folks who are-let's put this delicately-not real big fans of either living wage or retail unions: "I think we have to start dealing with these issues outside of a project-by-project basis," said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City. "As a city we really have to think through these issues and make decisions based on factual evidence."

Real Jack Webb of Wylde, "just the facts!" But with these gamers of the facts can we really expect any productive result? And just why do we need another study when the issue has been examined to a fare-thee-well? Seems like classic rope-a-dope to us.

But it is nice to see the fruits of one's labor get recognized-because none of this would have been possible without the Appelbaum-led fight over the Armory. Still Stuart doesn't deserve the Moses treatment-even though it is the right time of year for that-and he merits inclusion as all of the chosen people make their way to the promised land.

We did like the Observer's characterization of the Kingsbridge battle, though: "The effort seems to be a response to the unions and other groups, which have been pressing for higher mandated wages throughout the city, although particularly on developments that involve city subsidies or land-use approvals. Most recently, the Bloomberg administration suffered a humiliating defeat when its plans for a mall at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx were defeated after a group of local elected officials demanded that all retail tenants pay at least $10 an hour ($11.50 without benefits), a new precedent in the city. The Bloomberg administration and the private developer building the mall refused, leading to the project's defeat at the hands of the City Council."

There is, however, no good reason for the city council to wait on the mayor before addressing this key issue. With Bloomberg, the response to a needed reform appears to be, "Let them eat commissions!"

Computing a Knucklehead Award

Juan Gonzales has done a real public service in exposing the incompetency of the Bloomberg City Time project-and he continues today in the NY Daily News: "The city is paying some 230 "consultants" an average salary of $400,000 a year for a computer project that is seven years behind schedule and vastly over budget.The payments continue despite Mayor Bloomberg's admission the computerized timekeeping and payroll system - called CityTime - is "a disaster."

Begging the mayor's pardon, but it isn't just the project that's a disaster-and the mayor's incompetence here flies in the face of his carefully crated image of managerial acumen. But the whole affair offers a good eye into the Bloomberg way of doing business; when he has a grand idea fixee cost is no object-and the tax payer be stuffed.

In these lean times, however, Bloomberg has no excuse: "People who worked on this aren't stupid and aren't lazy," Bloomberg said. "Some projects are so big and the world changes so fast while you're building them, [you realize] maybe that's not a good way to do anything." That cavalier excuse is unacceptable. Our city is facing its biggest financial crisis in years and Bloomberg has decreed major cuts in jobs and basic services. Last fall, City Hall laid off 510 public school aides to save $12 million. At the same time, the mayor's aides were adding more than $24 million to the operating budget of the office of payroll administration just to help pay for CityTime's consultants."

So, while local businesses suffer and services are cut down with the concomitant layoff of city workers, we enter the mayor's unearned third term with the paradox of a chief executive touted for his competence, exhibiting something far less-and that these "consultants" are still on the payroll is an outrage that is deserving of a Platinum Knucklehead Award from a Mort Zuckerman who will simply never give Bloomberg the honors that he has earned.

Not My Job: Making a Bad Situation Worse

NYC's unemployment rate dropped slightly in February, but the rate is still, as the NY Times reports, "significantly higher," than the nation's: "The city’s official unemployment rate was 10.2 percent last month, down from 10.4 percent in January, the State Department of Labor reported on Thursday. That was still significantly higher than the national unemployment rate, which was 9.7 percent in February."

How many New Yorkers are out of work? Well, according to the Times: "Since the recession took hold in the New York metropolitan region in 2008, the city has lost a total of 167,500 jobs, said Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist with Eastern Consolidated, a real estate investment services firm in Manhattan...Still, nearly 845,000 New York residents were unable to find jobs last month, and more than 607,000 of them were collecting unemployment benefits."

Now, amazingly, none of these grim facts have anything to do with Mayor Michael Bloomberg-or any other city elected official-it is all the result of a natural disaster phenomenon known as the national recession-an event that transcends the ability of any local leader to remedy. How convenient to have such a handy scapegoat.

The fact is that the mayor, and the city council as well, have done all they can to make the city's economic environment as bad as possible-piling on mandates, fines and taxes for the city's local businesses. And the re-introduction of paid sick leave requirement yesterday is yet another example of this trend. Now we understand all of the righteous arguments for the sick leave measure, but when the city has just begun to try to pull itself out of its job hemorrhaging it might not be the right moment to place another costly mandate on local firms-particularly in a city that has been duly recognized as one of the worst places to do business in.

But we're not surprised, since the council's own budget in the midst of the economic meltdown has just been cavalierly increased. As the NY Daily News reports: "The City Council has some chutzpah. As the rest of city government is being forced to swallow big budget cuts, the City Council increased its own new budget Thursday by 4.6% - to $52.9 million for the budget year that starts July 1. That's $2.3 million more than the budget they approved this time last year, though five months later the Council doled out 4% raises to staffers."

This is the experienced leadership team that we needed to keep on for a third term? So what we see here is a tone deafness and an escape from responsibility-and it is the mayor who is the primary escapee. It seems that none of this is actually his fault, and he spent tens of millions of dollars to convince New Yorkers that we needed his steady hand during these troubled times; eliding any responsibility for the mess, while promoting fantasy economic recovery plans that were simply recycled from past campaigns.

For the past eight years Bloomberg has played the grasshopper to the private sector ant-playing at expanding the city government while businesses in the city-particularly neighborhood retailers-were being forced into bankruptcy at record numbers. Now he and the city council continue there regulatory mania-adding, on top of the proposed sick leave rule, scarlet letters for restaurants and huge disgusting tobacco prevention signs for bodega store windows-blithely ignoring the negative economic consequences of their efforts.

All of this indicates that out local elected leaders remain clueless about the extent to which their own actions have impacted-and exacerbated-the economic downturn. Scarily, this local mindset is now being replicated on a national level, and the country as a whole is well on the road to an insolvency hell paved with noble intentions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bloomberg Pot to State Senate Kettle

We got a big belly laugh today reading that Mike Bloomberg was castigating state senate Dems for their so-called, "pay to play" scheme. As the NY Post reports: "Mayor Bloomberg yesterday branded efforts by state Senate Democrats to extract $50,000 campaign contributions from union leaders "the ultimate pay to play," as outraged good-government groups urged a criminal probe of the blatant fund-raising demand. "Pay to play is just something we shouldn't have," declared Bloomberg."

Such chutzpah for the man who pays millions for everyone to play for his team. The fact that the Bloombucks flows in the opposite direction doesn't take away from the fact that it is, just like the money flowing in the other direction, a direct subornation of the political process. And at least all of us who contribute to the elected officials are transcribed in records for all to see.

As Adam Lisberg at the Daily News has written-and his reporting is simply the tip of the iceberg-Bloomberg's personal monetary dispenser, under the guise of charity, simply proves the old maxim that charity begins at home. He has doled out tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars-"anonymously" of course-to scores of local groups who, in the right moment (as it was in the term limits debate), come out to support the city's richest man-denying vociferously when called out that there was any possible quid pro quo.

Pay to play, indeed! The man should have the decently to simply keep a low profile on this-and we haven't even talked about his logrolling tactics with his rich friends, getting them to pony up for the great educational cause of Learn New York, a cause that was immediately abandoned once Bloomberg got back control of the schools.

And then there's Bloomberg's use of, "patricianage." In case after case we saw how deputy mayor Doctoroff made end runs of the city's bidding process to award his friend Steve Ross at Related lucrative development opportunities. Bloomberg was so upset by this favoritism that he asked Deputy Dan to leave government service-exiled to God knows where.

And as far as all of the so-called good government groups are concerned, they need to pay a bit more attention to the imperial mayoralty; but too many are stone silent, gathering lint in the mayor's suit pocket-if they aren't directly receiving Bloomberg largess.

If we are going to limit the role of money in politics-and we don't believe that this is necessary a good idea-than we must shut the door on the Bloombergs of the world who seek public office as a kind of vanity plate, and proceed to despoil democracy with an obscene use of their vast fortunes.

Progressive Caucus Gaps

The two co-chairs of the new city council Progressive Caucus lay out their agenda in the Nation (Via Liz)-and there are some high notes that they hit: "The divide between Wall Street and the rest of New York predates the economic downturn. While the economy was booming, New York City largely failed to share the benefits of growth across lines of race, class and neighborhood. The Bloomberg administration's economic development policy focused on real estate development, subsidizing mega-deals to create luxury housing for the wealthiest and retail malls with mostly low-wage jobs."

The Bloombergistas do need to be challenged for their edifice complex-and their failure to address the impact of their mega-development policies on neighborhood quality of life. And one part of that challenge, not mentioned in the Lander-Mark-Viverito manifesto, is the need to reform the entire ULURP process so that there is more accountability. We believe that this is merely an oversight-and that the Caucus will get involved in not only this needed reform measure but also the issue of community benefits agreements that has been taken up by Comptroller Liu.

On the other hand, a real missing piece that needs to be added to the Caucus world view is the need to bolster and nurture small business-and if it does, then the tension between helping these entrepreneurs thrive in NYC and the urge to grow government services has to be resolved: "Today, as we struggle with continued foreclosures, an anemic economy and the large deficits facing the city and state, we hear constant calls for fiscal austerity--to balance the budget on the backs of those most in need, slashing child care and senior centers, laying off teachers and pushing families into homelessness by eliminating subsidies."

Well, if businesses-particularly those neighborhood retailers that are the engine for the local economy-are hurting and tax revenues are down, where will the money come from to do what the Caucus leaders want? And then there's the issue of the cost of living in the city-driven by the high tax environment in the town.

If you go to the various civic associations around town you'll hear cries about too much government and property tax hike and out-of-control water bills. Here is yet another tension between laudable Caucus goals and economic and political reality. Because if we further increase these costs to try to take care of the less fortunate we run the risk of golden goose killing.

It is at just this juncture that the compatibility between right and left wing populism becomes strained. Home owners and small business is right with the Caucus on the dangers of mega-development and the aggrandizement of the real estate elites-but the lack of genuine concern for property rights, and the recognition that these rights benefit a legion of small neighborhood homeowners as well as the hated landlords and real estate tycoons, leads the Caucus into a political cul du sac pitting the middle class against the enlarge-the-government progressive agenda.

Finding a way to bridge this gap should be a primary goal for this new caucus-and ending eminent domain abuse is one bridge that's not too far since it links neighborhoods, small business and the progressives' disdain for mega development. Adding this to their agenda would broaden the progressive base and strengthen their effort to create a more equitable political culture.

Not So Fast

We posted yesterday on what we believe to be the counterproductive impacts of the initiative-put forward by Speaker Quinn to restrict fast food locations by changing the city's zoning code. After our post someone brought to our attention the following from the Queens Crap blog:

"The city has awarded ICIP benefits to fast-food chains like McDonald’s, White Castle and Dunkin’ Donuts, effectively giving them tax breaks to move into low-income communities. This contradicts recent actions by the city targeted at the chains, such as new requirements to post calories. Last spring, a Health Dept. report linked obesity in Harlem to a lack of healthy-food options. In East Harlem, 31 percent of adults are obese. A White Castle there, top, gets an annual $13,942 ICIP benefit, while a McDonald’s, bottom, writes off $21,824 a year. While the number of franchisees getting ICIP benefits is unknown, the companies are benefitting too. As of 2005, McDonald’s owned 15 properties getting the tax break. It will deduct $28,990 from this year’s property taxes on its spot at 42nd Street near Madison Avenue. That’s roughly a $288,200 break over the life of one ICIP exemption."

So, it appears that the city likes to eat out of both sides of its mouth-but the policy of subsidizing these retail outlets is, in our view, the right one, and Quinn is taking the wrong approach (along with DOH)-and this underscores the issue of economic health that we made previously: "In our view, this is at best a non sequitor, and at worst counterproductive-restricting the kind of business activity that is crucial to the health of low income neighborhoods."

Many of these businesses are not only owned and operated by minority entrepreneurs, they employ thousands of New Yorkers in tough economic times. In addition, they enliven neighborhoods and act as traffic builders for the other Mom and Pop shops in the neighborhoods.

At a time when we are trying to preserve jobs-and even grow employment-should we really be looking for ways to further regulate commerce in this city? Health is not a one dimensional issue-and working is healthy for everyone, although you'd never guess it by the incessant efforts to restrict the ability of folks to operate a successful enterprise in this town.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pulling a Fast One

Council Speaker Chris Quinn wants to zone out fast food outlets. According to the NY Daily News: "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is waging a Big Mac attack. Hoping to stop fast-food restaurants from saturating poor neighborhoods, she announced plans Tuesday to single out the junk-food joints in the city zoning code. Currently, fast-food chains are indistinguishable from other restaurants in the city charter, making it impossible for lawmakers to restrict the number of them in poor neighborhoods."

Now many of you may remember that it was then Council health committee chair Joel Rivera who first proposed considering restricting these fast food restaurants-something that got him the coveted Knucklehead Award from the Daily News. But, is another restriction on local business really the answer to the city's obesity plague?

In our view, this is at best a non sequitor, and at worst counterproductive-restricting the kind of business activity that is crucial to the health of low income neighborhoods. The food police and Quinn, however, disagree: "For me, this comes up as a ... frustration," Quinn told a group yesterday gathered at Hunter College School of Social Work for the release of a CUNY report comparing childhood obesity in London and New York. The study - which shows higher childhood obesity rates here - suggests New York follow London's lead in combating the epidemic, including passing zoning rules that limit access to fast-food joints."

Trust us, if the folks in these neighborhoods catch on to the way in which eating too much of certain foods is unhealthy for them than the fast food outlets will clamor to cater to these consumer trends. Let's place the responsibility here where it belongs-on those New Yorkers who need to be educated better to live healthier lives. Increasing the power and scope of local government will not only have little real impact it will also, in the long run, make all of our lives unhealthier.

Cuts and CRamps

As we continue to comment on the city's dire fiscal condition-and the hue and cry over the need to cut the municipal work force-it is appropriate to, once again, ask why the city would spend $140 million to build the ramps to nowhere off of the Van Wyck (or spend hundreds of millions of dollars to throw businesses out of Willets Point and rehab the entire Iron Triangle area). It is time for the city to prioritize.

Now we believe that it is a fiscally prudent thing to trim the size of city government, but there are those-and the city council's newly formed "Progressive Caucus" would be included in this group-that disagree. And we would guess that there are tens of thousands of municipal workers who would also fit nicely into the nay saying category. And, if there are plans in the current economic crisis to cut police and close fire houses-as there certainly are-than the growing claque of critics widens even further to include homeowners and elected officials that wouldn't put themselves into the progressive corner.

Certainly, though, if our analysis of the efficacy of these ramps-or lack thereof-is spot on, than to spend the money is foolhardy. But the fiscal irresponsibility runs even deeper if we include the overall cost of the entire Willlets Point project; something that EDC and the mayor have consciously hid from the folks.

Put simply, the Willets Point development is a classic pig-in-a-poke-with huge sums being earmarked for a project that may never be fiscally feasible-and certainly isn't sensible in the current economic climate (if it ever was). So it is time for a moratorium to be placed on this ill-conceived, and environmentally hazardous, mega-plan. Now this is an excellent first initiative for the council's new progressive cohort-and they should be joined by others who question the mayor's misplaced priorities..

The First Cut is the Deepest

Well it seems that the proposed state budget cuts are gonna have a ripple effect on the city as well. As Daily Politics reports (good luck Liz!): "Budget Director Mark Page sent a letter to all city agency heads this morning, directing them to prepare for the worst as state lawmakers appear poised to enact deep spending cuts in the 2010-2011 budget."

To us, this is good news, and if it forces Mike Bloomberg to do what he should have done years ago-cut the size and scope of city government-than all we can say is, it's about time. And please, stop with the threat to cut emergency services: "If the full $1.3 billion cut remains in the final budget passed by the Legislature, Mayor Bloomberg has warned the city could be forced to slash 18,500 jobs - 10,000 city employees and 8,500 teachers."

What all of this underscores is just how derelict Bloomberg as mayor has been-growing the municipal workforce, and the concomitant unsustainable employee pension packages, and making the city a much too expensive a place to live and do business in.

As per business as usual, however, the Bloombergistas are failing to treat this as a good teaching moment-focusing instead on the need for the state to restore the cut funds. As Easy Ed Skylar writes: "A scenario with significant headcount reductions is likely," Skyler said. "We want New York City to be treated fairly. Sometimes in the past New York City's been treated like a cash cow and has been disproportionally hurt. And that is something that we are going to do everything in our power to prevent."

Hey Ed, "Knock it off!" The state has no money and the mayor has reiterated this cash poor position as far as the city goes as well-so tell the tax payers that it is time to live within our means and reduce the Leviathan to more manageable levels. And think of all the useless idiots over at the DOH wasting the tax payers' dough on stupid health restrictions, who can easily be shed (with no great loss to NYC's citizens) to look for gainful employment in the private sector.

When the history of the Bloomberg Error is written, the biggest lacuna in the little man's resume will be seen in his lack of understanding of the role of government and his accompanying inability to control its out-of-control costs. He should be joining with the governor-and NJ's Governor Christie as well-in realizing that all of this over the top tax supported public sector activity is choking the entrepreneurial life out of this once economically vibrant town.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

West Side Sorry Story

Daily Politics has a great post on the observations of our own congressman Jerry Nadler on why taxing the stuffing out of New Yorkers for universal health coverage is, well, a good thing: "As for the tax on high-income residents that will impact a lot of New Yorkers, Nadler said: "We have to get tax revenue to pay for the things that we're doing, and I think that for people with over $250,000 income, which is what we're talking about, that there be a tax on capital gains income as well as upon personal perfectly fair. If we have more rich people in New York, then that's fine."

What a clear statement of both entitlement and cluelessness-from someone who hasn't worked at a real job since he got out of Stuyvesant High School in 1964! No idea just how these taxes will continue to cripple the entrepreneurs in NYC: and, by the way, a duel income of $250,000 in this town is far from great wealth by any means.

But as far as the entitlement goes, Nadler elides the fact that these exorbitant new levies-and they will have to continue to rise as the cost of all of this continues to escalate-will be used to grow the IRS and the HHS so that all of our new minted federal workers can earn the money that they never could in the private sector. In sum, bigger and more expensive government, less entrepreneurship and wealth building, and the inevitable replication-on a national scale-of what NYC experienced in the 1970s and what California is going through today. A recipe for decline.

And at least as far as this goes, Mike Bloomberg has a greater sense than Nadler. As Daily Politics reports: "Right now there's something like 1.45 percent that the city, that the employer pays 1.45 percent, the employee pays. That's going up by .9. That's a couple of billion dollars," Bloomberg said during his Q&A with reporters, including DN City Hall Bureau Chief Adam Lisberg...And we have, we estimate, roughly $93 billion in unearned income generated by the people who live here. A lot of those are retirees. Those are seniors. And the tax of the 3.8% on them is another three, four, $5 billion. We're just working on the numbers. To the extent that more people live here and generate more wealth, then it's a disparate impact."

But just when you think good old Mike is finally getting it, he goes on to opine: "You can argue that that's good or bad." Well esteemed great leader, what do you think, or are you too busy trying to triangulate with Wolfson over the prospects of 2012?

Bloomberg goes on to suggest -goading perhaps in expectation of a hoped for total meltdown of support-that Obama turn his attention now to immigration: "I've thought this country's committing what I've described as national suicide with the most meshugganeh - if you'll pardon the expression, since we're in Brooklyn - immigration policies than any country has ever picked," Bloomberg said. We are deliberately hurting ourselves in a ways it will be very difficult to recover."

It is often said that people get the elected leaders that they deserve-and with Nadler and Bloomberg we must have been really bad girls and boys. Tax and spenders and nannies beset us at every turn in this town with an ever increasing public sector suffocating the possibility of economic growth

As one commenter yesterday in the NY Daily News highlights, it is the tax payer who gets trampled: "Things look much brighter in the public sector. Mayor Bloomberg negotiated 4% annual raises with most of the city’s unions, and he has not managed to get Gotham’s 600 "rubber room" teachers off the payroll (though not for lack of trying). Over the last year, Gov. Paterson avoided laying off virtually any of the state’s 228,595 full-time government employees; in fact, he made a pledge not to lay anyone off despite a massive budget deficit. None of this should be surprising, since the workforces of the state and the city are among the most highly unionized in America. Unions’ power has helped create one of the heaviest tax burdens in the nation."

And the impact is considerable: "If we continue to ignore the growing public-private gap, the implications will be dire. Already, it has led to massive budget deficits in many states and cities around the country. Many governments have raised taxes and fees. Future generations are on the hook for enormous pension commitments. In addition, restrictive work rules imposed by the unions create barriers to the effective and efficient delivery of public services. Taxpayers are paying more and getting less. "At some point," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put it in a recent speech to his state’s mayors, "there has to be parity between what is happening in the real world and what is happening in the public-sector world." What our tax dollars buy us depends, in part, on the number of public servants and how much they are paid. Naturally, we want to be fair to them. But they also need to be fair to us. It’s time to start evening the score."

But ObamaCare will only exacerbate this trend-and it's little wonder that neither Nadler nor Bloomberg see this implication since it is a wave that they are both comfortable surfing on. Greg David underscores this point-with the emphasis on the tax consequences of the president's plan: "This is the triple whammy for the wealthy in New York. Last year, New York sharply increased income taxes with the so-called millionaire's tax, which starts well below $1 million. Second, the Obama administration will sharply increases taxes on the wealthy (families making more than $250,000) when it allows the Bush tax cuts to expire, raising income tax rates and the tax on capital gains. The health plan is the third whammy since it applies a 3.8% Medicare tax to capital gains and dividends on families earning more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000."

But it will be New York and the other high taxed states that will be first to feel the bill's impact-since the only option for many of the wealthiest New Yorkers is to exit to lower taxed climes; a trend that is already, unbeknown to the ideologically driven Nadler, already fully underway.

There are plenty of high wage earners in Nadler's district on the Upper West Side who are gonna get socked. The question that remains is whether the predominately Jewish Upper West Siders will continue to live up to Milton Himmelfarb's observation: "As the late Jewish scholar Milton Himmelfarb said in the 1950s: "Jews earn like Episcopalians"—then the most prosperous minority group in America—"and vote like Puerto Ricans," who were then the poorest."