Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Asking the Right Question

According to the Crain's Insider (subs.), Councilmember Brad Lander has polled his constituents and, mirabile dictu!-they'd rather tax other folks than cut "vital services." This demonstrates one thing about polling; a lot depends on how you ask the question: "If Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander's role in the formation of the council's Progressive Caucus left any doubt about whether he favors tax hikes or service cuts to balance the city budget, it was erased by a survey he sent constituents yesterday. It asks if the council should “protect vital services like education, police, fire and the social safety net, and ask for a little more from those who can afford to pay,” or, alternatively, “make cuts to essential services in order to avoid raising taxes.”

Gee, how about: Would you rather raise water rates and property taxes, or look for ways to trim the size of government by eliminating wasteful and unnecessary programs? Bet you'd get a different response. Lander should look to approach the issue from other than a narrow ideological perspective-one that sees Leviathan as a good thing rather than a beast to be tamed in the interest of greater productivity from those New Yorkers who already pay their fair share and will, if they are continued to be pushed, set up shop elsewhere.

So, our suggestions, is that the councilmember resist polling that uses false dichotomies and examine the problem of city governance from a less jaundiced perspective. If he does, there may be ways to join those of moderate means with small business owners and homeowners in a united front against waste, high taxes and over regulation. Class warfare, after all-and the belief that you could create a local socialist enclave here in the city-was a main ingredient in the fall of NYC four decades ago.