Friday, November 2, 2012

Nanny Bloomberg and New York's Apocalypse

At some point in the not-too-distant past the Democratic Party became the party of “infrastructure investment.” It sounded better than “government spending.”

In George Lakoff’s world, what matters is how it sounds, not whether it works.

Of course, the Democratic Party is not alone. Republicans have often jumped on the infrastructure bandwagon. Unfortunately, New Yorkers have just discovered that all of the infrastructure money was not invested in New York’s infrastructure.

Today, the situation in much of Manhattan is horrific. The situation in the outer boroughs and the suburbs is worse.

ABC News reported:

The residents of Staten Island are pleading for help from elected officials, begging for gasoline, food and clothing three days after Sandy slammed the New York City borough.

“We’re going to die! We’re going to freeze! We got 90-year-old people!” Donna Solli told visiting officials. “You don’t understand. You gotta get your trucks down here on the corner now. It’s been three days!”

Staten Island was one of the hardest-hit communities in New York City. More than 80,000 residents are still without power. Many are homeless, and at least 19 people died on Staten Island because of the storm.

One of the devastated neighborhoods was overwhelmed by a violent surge of water. Residents described a super-sized wave as high as 20 feet, with water rushing into the streets like rapids.

In the midst of this calamity New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared yesterday that the show must go on. He meant that New York City would not call off the marathon scheduled for this Sunday.

Rather than deploy the police force to help New Yorkers in need, Bloomberg wants to use it for the marathon.

Bloomberg made more news yesterday when he announced that he would endorse President Obama’s re-election.

As New York’s wealthiest individual Bloomberg does not sweat the small stuff, like jobs and economic growth. The issues that matter for him are climate change, gun control, marriage equality, abortion rights and immigration.

It’s astonishing to see such a savvy and successful businessman get suckered by trendy liberal causes.

Bloomberg has been major for more than ten years now. He has done nothing to shore up New York’s deteriorating infrastructure. It makes sense to see him blaming it all on climate change.

If the problem lies with climate change, we can supposedly solve it by building more wind farms and solar panels. If the problem is deteriorating infrastructure, then we need vastly more construction.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the climate change model embodies feminine values; the reconstruction model privileges masculine values. The first is clean; the second involves the kind of dirty work that men excel at.

As you might have guessed, a man who is called Nanny Bloomberg came down on the side of the feminine.

Throughout his mayoralty Bloomberg has squandered his political capital on Nanny state issues:  transfats, large sodas and the Ground Zero Mosque.

As I have noted on this blog, when it came time to take on the municipal unions that were prevent economic development in New York’s disadvantaged neighborhoods, Bloomberg issued perfunctory statements and let it go at that.

Compare Bloomberg’s failed leadership on these issues with Chris Christie’s willingness to go toe-to-toe with the unions.

Nearly two years ago, when the city was buried by a snowstorm, Victor Davis Hanson offered the best and most concise analysis of Michael Bloomberg’s governing style.

Hanson wrote:

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was a past master of lecturing about the cosmic while at times ignoring the more concrete. Governing the boroughs of an often-chaotic New York City is nearly impossible. Pontificating on the evils of smoking, fatty foods, and supposed anti-Muslim bigotry was not only far easier but had established the mayor as a national figure of sensitivity and caring. He was praised for his progressive declarations by supporters of everything from global warming to abortion.

But Bloomberg’s carefully constructed philosopher’s image was finally shattered by the December 2010 blizzard and his own asleep-at-the-wheel reaction. An incompetent municipal response to record snowfalls barricaded millions in their borough houses and apartments, amid lurid rumors of deliberate union-sponsored slowdowns by Bloomberg’s city crews.

New York was unprepared for Hurricane Sandy. Decades worth of municipal and state misgovernance laid the groundwork for the current catastrophe.

Some scientists did predict what would happen, but no one paid them any heed. Leaders like Michael Bloomberg, to say nothing of the local media citizenry considered the likelihood so improbable that it was unworthy of their attention or public funds.

When people consider an eventuality so improbable that it does not require preparation it is a black swan event.

The New York Times reminded us that scientists had been predicting something like Sandy for a long time now.

It reported:

For nearly a decade, scientists have told city and state officials that New York faces certain peril: rising sea levels, more frequent flooding and extreme weather patterns. The alarm bells grew louder after Tropical Storm Irene last year, when the city shut down its subway system and water rushed into the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan.

On Tuesday, as New Yorkers woke up to submerged neighborhoods and water-soaked electrical equipment, officials took their first tentative steps toward considering major infrastructure changes that could protect the city’s fragile shores and eight million residents from repeated disastrous damage.

Ask yourself this: who was mayor during the time when the scientists issued their dire warnings?

Many will say that the storm is telling us that we need bigger government. The real problem, however, is that big government, especially the kind that sees itself as everyone’s Nanny, misallocates resources:

The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.

Mayor Bloomberg has done an admirable job under great pressure as the city reels from Sandy’s attack. But an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. The city needed flood protection for its subways and electricity grid—and it didn’t get it. If the Mayor had spent less time and less of his political capital focusing on minutiae, this storm could have played out very differently.

Caring for those who are injured and dispossessed after a storm is not the same thing as building a great city that can survive a storm.


David Foster said...

Bloomberg likes to make rules for other people; he's not so big on following rules himself. He repeatedly landed his helicopter at the E 34th St helipad, which is CLOSED weekends (for noise reasons), as is clearly stated in the FAA's Airport & Facilities Directory.

Then he got into sort of a snit that anyone would raise the issue, and his spokesweasel tried to assert that "CLOSED" meant only that heliport services were not available on weekends, which is clearly not what the term means as used in means just what it sounds like it means.

Sam L. said...

Like Obama, he likes talk-talk, and ignores work-work.

Dennis said...

If one lives in a "Blue area," how many times does government have to act to control more and more of your life, fail to prepare and take the requisite actions to protect its citizens, be there when needed, et al before one figures out that just maybe there is something terribly wrong with the "Blue model?" Can one not recognize how tenuous one's existence is in areas like these? One disaster and one loses the ability to be mobile, attain the needs for survival and safety almost disappears.
Worse yet is that the elected officials have more respect for a marathon than they do for its citizens. I just do not understand the mind set that makes itself dependent upon government instead of self. Is the lure of "free stuff" so entrancing that one never recognizes that nothing is free.