3 Mice Forgiven In 2 Short Days
We had delayed writing to see what emerges from Albany. We read that there is a major accord in the works, which will involve congestion pricing, campaign finance, salary increases for legislators and judges, possibly DNA extensions, and perhaps a few players yet to be chosen. We will continue to watch the action.
The Assembly failed to return July 16, the widely proclaimed “drop dead date” for federal transit assistance, before which we were told by a collection of nobodies that we would not receive a sou unless we jumped on that day. The Senate met and adjourned that Monday. Both bodies will reconvene when their leaders are ready to present the package for them to ratify. That they will do.
We past the supposedly immutable deadline and we do not know when the entire package of pre-digested legislation will be ready to be dropped on the members’ desks. With a message of necessity from the governor, a bill can, however, become law overnight. That procedure is usually reserved for unpopular or special interest legislation, which the powers that be desire to see adopted with little or no public input.
We don’t want to comment on the relative public standing of the major players at this point in the game. Reputations go up and down, sometimes quickly, depending on the course of events. There is a saying in politics that the only two bad stories for a politician are indictment or child-molesting. As of July 2007, the “most dysfunctional legislature in the country” has done little to gain public regard. We respond, “Cum spira, spera,” while there is life, there is hope. The odd part is that the great majority of them are relatively decent people.
Despite the uncertainty of the outcome, there are, nonetheless, several conclusions that we can reach after the experience of the last six months. One is that Eliot Spitzer will not become President of the United States, and he should concentrate on being as good a governor as he can be. Two is that if the Democrats win the state Senate in 2008, the Legislature will be an even greater problem for the Mr. Spitzer than it is today. The relevant phrase is “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.”
Our third conclusion is that, with regard to congestion pricing, Sheldon Silver is not being an obstructionist for personal or political reasons. He is reflecting the views of his conference (the Democratic members of the Assembly). Shelly protects his members from the wrath of editorial writers, and that is an element in their loyalty to him. Four is that the congestion pricing commission should have at least two research staffs, because so many minds are closed on the subject, and different points of view should be presented if they have validity. There are questions involved here beyond boundaries and prices. They include civil liberties, the effect of millions of photographs of automobiles in government hands, and people’s rights, if any, to travel on the streets of their city without paying for the privilege.
We believe that there are anti-car forces in America and elsewhere that despise the automobile as much as they do the cigarette, the gun or the fat molecule. These modern prohibitionists would have all these pleasures banned if they could. Those of us who share their distaste for cigarettes, unlicensed guns and trans-fats will have to think about how much of our remaining freedom we are willing to deed over to the nanny state. We find it intriguing that First Amendment advocates who support free speech and civil disobedience and generally oppose government action seem unconcerned when the state attempts to impose new controls over peoples’ lives.
New York does not ban cigarettes, we simply tax them, unless they are sold by Native Americans. New York will not ban driving into Manhattan, it is proposed that we simply charge $8 for the privilege. (Remember, the income tax started in 1913, as a result of the 16th Amendment, at the rate of 1 to 7 percent.) Imposing an entry fee to the Emerald City will necessarily have a disproportionate impact on the poor, but perhaps they don’t belong in Manhattan anyway, certainly not on weekdays when they should be working. If they do want to visit their betters, they can take the subway.
Last week, the Daily News editorial included Governor Spitzer for the first time along with its traditional public enemies, Senator Bruno and Speaker Silver. This is a change of pace from the News, which months ago supported Spitzer enthusiastically in his struggles with Bruno and Silver. On Wednesday, a huge cartoon depicted the Speaker, the Senator and the Governor as three blind mice, complete with canes and tails. In it’s lengthy editorial: 3 BLIND MICE RUN N.Y. INTO GROUND, the governor, a hero to reformers, is described by the News as ”no more useful than a spectator at a clumsy execution.”
Later, there was a change in the weather. The News, in a more recent editorial, tells us that “In the end the leaders displayed the courage to move toward radically altering who pays what to enter or simply to drive in the heart of Manhattan on weekdays.” It took just two days for the “three blind mice” to turn into “leaders [who] displayed...courage”.
Despite granting redemption to the former mice, the News remained wary of its newly farsighted rodents: “The great fear is that by blowing the application deadline, Spitzer, Silver and Bruno — our infamous three blind mice — squandered New York’s shot at the money. Time will tell.”
On the basis of a lifetime in government, we can assure you that New York’s shot has not been squandered. As long as there is a plan which will raise revenue, create a new bureaucracy and restrict personal freedom, all at the same time, you will find bureaucrats and elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, who will be happy to fund it with your money.
If New York does not get the traffic funding it seeks, that decision will have nothing to do with the delay in the application. It will be because, as with Homeland Security appropriations, discretionary money goes mainly to red states. Why should the Feds not act the same way as Bruno and Silver, who care for their own members first. The difference is that Washington has a far larger empire in which it may selectively distribute its bounty, which means a bigger and juicier pie to slice. Sadly, the dough is disproportionately supplied by New York taxpayers, as Senator Moynihan pointed out for many years in his articles on the fisc.
Mice of the capital, unite. You have nothing to lose but your blinders. You have a state to win.