Boo Farking Hoo
In a campaign-style speech, Paterson, who has said he’s running for election next year, also repeated a series of threats and warnings about state finances that he has made for months….I have no sympathy here at all. The reason New York (and other states) are in trouble isn’t because “they don't have enough money” but because “what money they do get, they waste on bullshit.” Last year I recall a story that barely made the news cycle for a day: cash-strapped New York State shelled out $40,000 to buy five Oriental rugs for the governor’s mansion. This would be ridiculous enough for a governor capable of looking at them and saying “Oooh, how pretty,” but is extra-stupid for a governor who is blind.
The latest action, announced earlier this month, is that Paterson will withhold and delay payments to local governments and schools this month, stashing enough cash to keep the state solvent.
"I'll probably be sued for this, but I will not let New York state run out of money," Paterson said.
The state is on track to have a $1.4 billion deficit in its primary bank account at month’s end, if it makes all its payments on-time. It would be the first time in history the state would end a month with a negative balance in its main operating account.
Meanwhile, the projected deficit for the state’s next fiscal year is at least $9 billion, and climbing, said Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. That is more than $2 billion above previous estimates. Paterson, Ravitch and state budget director Robert Megna rattled off a series of statistics showing how much the recession has depleted state resources. For instance:
• collections of personal income taxes, the largest tax in New York, were down 17 percent from April to November this year, compared with the same time a year ago. That’s a difference of $4 billion
• real estate taxes, including assessments on transfers of land, are down $430 million from a year ago—a drop of more than 50 percent
• an income tax hike to raise revenue in this year’s state budget has fallen 15 percent short of its intended target
“New York is now at a breaking point,” Paterson said. “We are hanging on by a thread. We are about to cross the financial Rubicon into fiscal disaster.”
Consider also the dysfunctional Connecticut city where I live -- screaming poverty, yet a few months ago they shelled out half a million taxpayer dollars to fix the butt-ugly clock on the butt-ugly slab of concrete we call City Hall. (News flash, assholes: we don’t need half-million-dollar public clocks anymore, because we live in an era of technological marvels where even the poorest citizens can afford to buy themselves a goddamned watch. No, wait, the poor folks can’t afford to buy themselves a watch, because they had to hand their watch money over to the tax collector to fix the goddamned clock.)
Meanwhile, the city now reports a budget shortfall of $1.46 million, with more than a third of that representing money spent to glue twelve black dots in a circle on the front of City Hall.
Thing is, no matter how bad budgets get, governments never threaten to cut the bullshit: “Increase taxes or next year the governor won’t get a new rug!” “Give us more tax money or we won’t fix the clock!” No, the governor gets his rug no matter what, the clock gets fixed if the mayor wants it, but money for road maintenance or Aid To The Poor gets cut. And then, when people like me oppose additional tax increases and say “Buy your own goddamned rug, I can’t afford to buy it for you!” we’re called selfish, self-centered people who don’t care about decent roads and Aid To The Poor.
If I handled my finances the way government handled theirs, I’d be demanding large sums of money from all of you: “Boo-hoo! I’m starving and I can’t afford to feed myself!” But when you look at my food budget, you’ll see that during the bubble years I developed the habit of eating three meals a day in a five-star restaurant. Now that the bubble years are over I can’t afford to do that anymore, no, but I can easily afford to go to the grocery store, buy plenty of high-quality food and have plenty of money left over.
We need to figure out how to force the government to stop pretending “I can’t afford to eat in a luxury restaurant three times a day” is synonymous with “I can’t afford to feed myself at all.” Until we do that, our budget problems will never be fixed.