Friday, April 09, 2010

Stopped Clock Tells Right Time

The NY Post has an interesting article on Mayor Bloomberg's frustration with the role of the Working Families Party in NYC politics: "The immense clout of the Working Families Party over local legislators is a "very big problem" when it comes to negotiating a new city budget, Mayor Bloomberg declared yesterday. "There will always be legislators at every level who want to spend more money," the mayor said at a meeting with Post editors and reporters. "It depends on the leadership of the City Council . . . I think we've shown in the last four years remarkable restraint, given the local politics of every City Council person wanting to do more and the strengths of organizations like the Working Families Party. That is a very big problem."

Well, apparently, one man's restraint is another's reckless disregard-and it is rather droll to hear Bloomberg talk about fiscal responsibility. The reality is that, over the past eight years, the mayor squandered the opportunity to deal with the issue of big government, opting to raise taxes, increase regulatory mandates and add dangerously to the public payroll.

So his complaint now lacks any real strength of conviction-since it isn't bolstered by a two term record of fiscal probity and any use of the bully pulpit to educate the public about the potential dangers ahead. Short version, he simply lacks the credibility to be the poster child for doing more with less.

But that doesn't mean that his whining about the WFP lacks merit: "The mayor also said he expected that legislators with close ties to the left-leaning party would sign on to the effort to impose higher taxes on the financial-services industry, a move he argued could drive Wall Street firms from the city. "Some of them will sign on because they're basically -- I don't know if captives is the right word, I don't want to use that word -- but they're influenced by and supported by the Working Families Party," said the mayor."

Don't go out on a limb, Mike-and isn't it predictable that the call for taxing Wall Street gets such a quick response. But when you take a close look at some of his comments, you get a real good idea why he isn't well positioned to righteously complain: "Let's assume you have to downsize education," he theorized. "It's bad enough. But if I'm going to do it, I want to do it over the summer. I don't want to do it once the kids are in school. It leads to all sorts of chaos."

The fact is that the education budget has mushroomed-and it is the escalation of teacher salaries, along with the new hires and all of the over all pension obligations, that has been a big drain on our available tax dollars. And one could certainly question whether all of this excess has lead to the startling improvement that-given the increase in resources-it should have.

Mike Bloomberg is to fiscal restraint as the late Todie Fields was to dieting-a lot of lip service, but little real commitment. The only real passion that the mayor has demonstrated has been in the area of public health, where being a scold is a part that he truly relishes.

In the face of record store closings, he keeps on relentlessly pursuing additional health mandates on the small retail community-the latest being the gruesome signage that he now is requiring to warn folks about the dangers of smoking. This is just another excuse for his army of revenuers to come in to inspect, fine and hammer another nail in the coffin of neighborhood business. As if the bodegas didn't have enough trouble staying in business, now they must post signs telling their customers not to buy products that are carried in the store. Anti-fat, anti-sugar, and anti-salt warnings can't be far behind.

So we welcome even the most lukewarm admonition from Mike Bloomberg about the need to cut government spending-even while we await a mayor who will really walk the walk on this crucial issue of our time.