B'berg, Thompson ignore economy
By the end last nights debate between incumbent Mayor Mi chael Bloomberg and challenger Bill Thompson, the city comptroller, we had the answers to numerous pressing questions. We knew if the candidates had ever had a manicure, where they stood on the Roman Polanski affair and whether they exercised regularly. But we still awaited the first adult discussion on our imperiled economy.
The economy came up only in passing, when the candidates referred to the homeless, crime or subsidized housing.
Amazingly, none of the questions in the debate -- sponsored by NY1 and radio station WNYC and held at The Museum of the Barrio -- spoke to the looming economic and fiscal dangers ahead.
Unemployment went unmentioned, even though the city has lost 100,000 jobs since Wall Street tanked, sending our unemployment rate up to 10.3 percent -- the highest level in 16 years.
Barring an entirely unexpected revival in hiring, that number will only go sharply higher as the financial sector continues to shrink and as the numbing effect of federal stimulus money wears off in a year and half -- leaving the next mayor in the fiscal soup.
An alert challenger less concerned with pandering would have asked, as Thompson did not, why, even in the recent boom years, the citys rate of job creation has been so far below the average of the last 30 years. And asked why so many of the jobs that have been created are either in low-end hospitality work or at city-subsidized health-care facilities.
Where in New York is there a future for the private-sector middle class?
In 1975, with the city on the verge of bankruptcy, the state under the leadership of a great governor, Hugh Carey, helped pull us out of the hole. But no one can expect the state to help us a few years hence.
If anything, well have to help bail out the state -- which, on its current course, faces $38 billion in cumulative deficits over the next four years. Surely this was worthy of the passing attention from the distinguished candidates and panelists?
Gotham is facing what amounts to a “scissors” crisis. One blade is formed by the declining financial sector, propped up for now by the Federal Reserves unsustainable easy money policy. The other is the citys new dominant political force -- the union-funded Working Families Party, which (like most all matters of substance) was left out of the debate.
Wall Street employment represents only 4 percent of our jobs, but roughly 22 percent of the citys revenues. The public-sector unions already consume well over half the citys budget. The financial sectors decline and the rising cost for city workers will snap together, cutting off any path to economic revival.
Neither candidate, nor the painfully unprepared panelists, raised the question of pensions costs -- which already take up one in every 10 dollars the city spends, and are likely to double or triple during the next mayoralty.
But then that might have offended the real power in the city -- the unions that, through the Working Families Party, not only run the show in Albany but captured citys second and third highest posts in the city in the recent primary election, which is tantamount to victory in November.
So here are a few questions that the panelists might want to ask if the next debate is not to be as hapless:
* Ask the mayor if his massive subsidies for the well-to-do owners of the Yankees, Mets and Nets for new stadiums can be economically justified when theyre being paid for by a middle class bridling under what are already the highest taxes in the continental US.
* Ask Comptroller Thompson what hed do to trim the unsustainable wage gains won by his backers at the Tranport Workers Union, raises that threaten to gut the MTAs capital budget.
* Ask both if a city in which only 2 percent of the voters turned out for the elections of the next public advocate and comptroller can still be considered a functioning democracy.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/wasted_debate_HrylrM1vh3X0UKgXLl5InL