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November 1, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

Rupert Murdoch in Drag: The Old Gray Lady Covers the Mayoral Election and Bloomberg the Bloodless Gets Ready to Take the Throne

With the leaves turning and the mayoral race down to its final paces, William C. Thompson Jr., the Democratic candidate, sketched out a liberal policy agenda Friday, saying he would fight to repeal laws that allow landlords to charge market rents for regulated apartments.

He promised to appoint pro-tenant members to the Rent Guidelines Board to oppose higher rents and pro-rider members to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to oppose raising fares. He said he would keep subway station agents on the job, and try to place all rent-regulated middle-class apartments that are part of the Mitchell-Lama program since 1973 under rent stabilization laws.

He also said he would give the homeless priority for Section 8 rental vouchers and allow homeless families who now are required to pay for shelter to instead put that money into escrow to be used for a permanent apartment.

Michael Powell, New York Times, October 30.

Powell continues:

These are some of the positions that would place Mr. Thompson to the liberal side of the political mainstream in New York City, and open up some — although perhaps not a lot — of ideological space between him and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

We haven’t seen the polls that suggest a candidate who opposes higher rents, who wants to keep subway fares down and subway agents on the job, who doesn’t want to charge rent to homeless families living in shelters, but instead would give them a Sec. 8 priority, is on the “liberal side of the mainstream.” (We’ll discuss Mitchell-Lama in our next post where we will describe how the Mayor and The New York Times combined to perpetrate the conventional bait and switch fraud on tenants and voters.)

Then again, maybe the mainstream media’s coverage of Michael Bloomberg’s eight years and the support of so many civic leaders for another term has rotted the brains and hardened the hearts of average folks. I can’t say Powell is wrong. I’d just like to see the evidence. What I do know is that he’s wrong that there isn’t a lot of ideological space between Thompson and Bloomberg. And “wrong” is as charitable as we can be.

The facts have been buried beneath Bloomberg’s billion dollar legalized bribery and political propaganda operation in which newspaper owners and editors have turned their papers into megaphones for Bloomberg’s message, which, although occasionally delivered in the more modest language appropriate to a candidate is I’ve been a great manager for all New Yorkers – New York needs me—I don’t quit when the going gets tough. Term limits? I legally overturned a bad idea—get over it.

Thompson’s campaign operation has been less effective than we had hoped. Voters were never going to learn the truth through messages mediated by a pro-Bloomberg press or 30-second spots. They certainly weren’t going to read campaign literature. We and others have tried to put the information into voters’ hands in digestible form (See the Spin v. the Facts pamphlet), but we didn’t have the troops. Thus, unless voters have directly experienced the consequences of Bloomberg’s policies, and here we just don’t know how many there are, it appears that many, if not most don’t understand the iron fist wrapped in the velvet glove rhetoric. Truth be told, many don’t want to know.

There isn’t much that small bloggers can do about it, except tell our story, call out the New York Times when we can, and hope that others will do the same. Here’s Michael Powell again

Mr. Thompson declined to attach a dollar figure to his proposals Friday, saying that his staff had often done that in the past. He promised to lobby the Obama administration for money and predicted that his other proposals, including converting Mitchell-Lama apartments, would come at little or no cost.

Many of Thompson’s proposals would cost the taxpayers nothing. Instead, the firing of the notorious Marvin “Markup” Marcus, the Goldman, Sachs partner whom Bloomberg appointed to chair the Rent Guidelines Board, would cost rent-gouging landlords their greatest ally and would slow the rapid rise in rents that are driving out the middle class. True, less revenue for landlords means less property tax revenue, but the tax breaks and tax avoidance schemes of New York’s real estate barons rather than the ratcheting up of rents should be the focus of the next four years. Bloomberg, who charges rent to homeless working people forced into shelters and vetoes lead paint bills, doesn’t agree.

Other Thompson proposals require action in Albany. Bloomberg finances the New York State and City Republican operations, and has put a considerable amount of money into Washington as well. His standard explanation for pouring so many millions into the Bush-Pataki-Bruno-Tom DeLay cesspool has been that it buys him influence, and indeed it does. Never mind what he does with it.

The parallels between the arch of Bloomberg’s career and that of Nelson Rockefeller have been fascinating to watch. The massive debt, the megalomania, the dominance of the New York Republican Party, and much else would make a good doctoral thesis. This is where it ends though.

Rockefeller, it will be recalled, got out of town as Gerald Ford’s Vice-President just before the stuff hit the fan in 1975. Bloomberg’s money was unable to leverage him onto the McCain ticket. It is a measure of how far the country has gone off track since Ronald Reagan’s presidency that Republican politicians have painted themselves into such a narrow ideological corner that to the Republican base Bloomberg and Giuliani both look like liberals.

Bloomberg’s failure was perhaps a blessing for him. Better to be a king in your own realm than to help a Republican win and have to stand by while a befuddled president McCain adds to the mess that Bush left behind.

I am reminded of what a well-known black political figure once said to me—“Neil, they’ll never let a black man run New York unless it isn’t worth having.” He might have been wrong about that, although it was long ago, and at the time I thought he was probably right. I wonder though whether that principle might not apply to the presidency.

I digress. As for what comes next in New York, no matter who wins, poor, working and middle-class New Yorkers are going to suffer the most, but under Bloomberg, they will suffer more. The Bloomberg business model, New York, the Luxury City, doesn’t work. It’s a variation on the theme of the trickle down economy. Had it succeeded it would have sharpened the class divide even more. In this environment, it won’t work for anyone. We see no evidence that Bloomberg is prepared to rethink it. And there is nothing that we know of his character that gives us hope. Far from it, if he wins, he will attempt to suck up whatever modest resistance remains in Albany.

Here is one, not so fanciful scenario for a Bloomberg third-term.

Bloomberg will finance the Republican gubernatorial and senate candidates. It appears that Giuliani is getting ready to run. With complete ownership of New York City, the mayor-who-would-be-king will have a very large piece of everything and everyone in the state.

If they hold onto their majority, he would have to throw a few more dollars in the pot to acquire the remaining senate Democrats. It would be a simple negotiation: The real estate industry is already pushing substantial political money in that direction. Democrats want more of it. The Albany Democrats have been passing one-house tenant bills for years; confident they would die in the Republican-controlled, Bloomberg-financed state senate. Now that they control all three branches of state government, they are dithering and slithering their way out of doing anything meaningful for tenants.

It wouldn’t even be a rounding error on Bloomberg’s personal balance sheet to contribute whatever the Democrats ask to ensure that they continue screwing their constituents. The model is well-established and only recently reinforced in Bloomberg’s purchase of the Republican ballot line.

The acquisition of Albany is the direction we’re headed in a post-election world in which Bloomberg The Bloodless sits firmly on his throne in New York and sends out his tax and toll collectors to take the last few assets that his subjects have managed to hold on to. Financing a class war is easy when so many of the victims are too defeated to resist and many who could offer some resistance don’t even know they’re in one. As for the politicians, who can doubt they would take the money?

Good government groups have called for reforming Albany by dispersing the power of legislative leaders in various ways. Not that we think it will happen any time soon, but ironically, the only person in a position to resist Bloomberg is Sheldon Silver, and from time to time, he has. The rape of the Soviet Union by the oligarchs had me rootin’ for Putin for a time. Now I fear the law of unintended consequences might kick in should Silver’s power be diminished. So, while I’m not quite ready to go that far, who knows? If Bloomberg wins some of us might be shillin’ for Shelly.

– Neil Fabricant

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