It’s the same story over and over again. The rich kid comes over to your house, takes all your toys out of the toy box, smashes them to pieces, and leaves. No apology. No note from his mother. No offer of restitution. No nothin’. In fact, he probably blames the breakage on you.
Somehow it’s usually that way in politics, too. President George W. Bush broke the whole setup, diving into Iraq for no authentic reason at all, “paying” for the billions it costs by cutting taxes, nearly bankrupting the nation, and now sitting at home, nonchalantly painting pictures of his feet in the bath tub.
John Lindsay, a popular Republican mayor of New York back in the 1960s, at least until he was out of office and people started counting the broken toys, left New York such a financial basket case that it essentially went into financial receivership. The economic fallout that deeply wounded the local economy and caused a precipitous drop in home prices.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was certainly aware of the syndrome when he wrote "The Great Gatsby." It’s not Gatsby, who came by his millions only lately, who makes the mess. It’s those always-rich kids, Tom Buchanan and Daisy Buchanan, who leave a wake that contains a corpse, a scandal, and misplaced blame.
And now we have former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, against whom I have railed almost since this blog was born. The damage Bloomberg has done is more subtle – or should I say more insidious?
Bloomberg hasn’t left his city bankrupt. At least not on the surface he hasn’t. But he seems to have done everything in his power to make sure that the next guy might deal with one humongous financial mess.
For one thing, like the rich kid who takes the broccoli on his plate and surreptitiously shovels it onto the plate of the kid sitting next to him, Bloomberg quietly and deliberately postponed all labor contracts until after his third term expired.
There isn’t a union representing city-paid workers in town that’s working under a contract. Most of the contracts expired five years ago. Some ran out years longer ago than that.
Clearly, employees who haven’t had a raise in five, or six, or even seven years have a beef. And clearly, if they don’t get a raise, they’re going to strike. So de Blasio will have to eat the broccoli that Bloomberg refused to touch, and find the money, either by cutting taxes or by cutting city services. But instead of wrestling with the problem and coming up with the money – even if it meant demanding of Albany that he be allowed to hike taxes – Bloomberg swept all the broccoli onto de Blasio's plate, and stashed all the broken toys under Bill deBlasio’s bed.
There are quite a few other broken toys that Michael Bloomberg left in his wake, but let me point to one program that heaped mountains of praise on Bloomberg and is leaving de Blasio with a heap of broken wheel spokes and brake levers.
I’m talking about the city's bike share program, immensely popular, now mired in a mess. There is insufficient money to make bike repairs, expand the program, or eventually replace worn out bikes.
Turns out that, with the exception of New York, in every city – every – that has a bike share program, government kicks in some cash. How much did Bloomberg kick in? Nada. Zilch. Not a plugged nickel.
To be fair, some of the program’s troubles stem from the brutal winter we’ve had here in New York, which rendered the streets un-navigable for many days. And even when the streets were clear, all but the heartiest New Yorkers found it just too cold to ride a bike through the subzero winds.
But equally to blame, according to officials, is that tourists aren’t renting the bikes in the numbers expected. Well hell, you’re limited to a 45-minute ride, which doesn’t take you far in New York traffic. And the price is nine bucks, which is pretty steep. (Yes, you can return the bike to a bike stand and pick another one up later the same day, for your nine bucks. But c’mon, we’re talking about tourists out for a day’s fun, not cost-efficiency experts gaming the klunky bike system.)
And even when you're talking about local folks, the program is too limiting. You can't ride a Citibike from the East Village to the Upper East Side, because when you get there, there are no Citibike racks. And you can't do it in reverse, for the same reason.
So why is all that Bloomberg’s fault? Simply because, in every other city where there’s a bike share program, government kicks in. Bloomberg gave…not a nickel! Nor did he ask a cent of state or federal government.
Hey, why should Bloomberg have worried when somebody else would get stuck with the broken bike share system? That person is Bill de Blasio, whose pressed, pressured, and soon-to-be-clobbered budget has to deal with getting all those union workers paid, keeping the cops on duty, the firemen on the ready, and the city offices humming – without help from New York’s supposedly Democratic governor, actually a Tea Party yahoo in disguise.
Whatever Governor Andrew Cuomo thinks he’s going to run for next, he doesn’t intend to run for it with any tax increase for anything on his record. And already he’s justifying his inaction with the kind of doubletalk and logical non-sequiturs that would make a Tea Party patriot proud.
The New York Post, which is most certainly well to the right of center, quotes Cuomo talking about the injustice – O the injustice! – of taxing the rich, as Mayor de Blasio proposes.
[Cuomo] charged that de Blasio’s proposal is more regressive than the property-tax system that steers more funding to schools in wealthy suburbs than to poorer parts of the state.
“If you haven’t come up with a system that is less equitable, this would be it. A surcharge on millionaires,” Cuomo said.
Little wonder that far from the city in upstate New York, protestors at the State Capitol are calling Cuomo "Governor One Percent."
Sorry kids, but Michael's gone, Cuomo's gone Tea Party rogue, and the toys are all broken. Maybe you can put your hand in an old sock and pretend it’s a puppet.