When New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer made the move to the governor's office, small-government fans expected the worst from him. Surprise #1: His first big proposal is to staunch Medicaid and Medicare fraud by cutting spending and freezing reimbursement rates. Surprise #2: His biggest opponents are New York's worthless Republicans.
In the inverted politics of New York, a Democratic governor is advocating spending restraint while the Republican Party's top boss along with Messrs. Rangel and Sharpton have taken the side of the hospital industry in its battle against Mr. Spitzer. The industry is demanding that lawmakers spend hundreds of millions of dollars to roll back cuts proposed by the governor, such as a temporary freeze on hospital and nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates.
"It shows a lack of feeling to the elderly and people in need of care. … I propose finding another way to save the money, not at the cost of human beings. It just jeopardizes the elderly to a tremendous degree," he said.
So the hospital industry is paying for Al Sharpton's* anti-Spitzer radio ads, and the Republicans are whining about how a liberal Democrat wants to leave old people on the street. Spitzer's getting support from—Surprise #3. New York's Conservative Party.
"Spitzer's on target," the chairman of the Conservative Party in New York, Mr. Long, who owns a liquor store in Bay Ridge, said. "I think he should be thinking to cut more. It has to be done because it's pretty hard for taxpayers to pay their bills as it is. Spending is really the cause of high taxes."
They all laughed last year when I suggested Spitzer was basically a federalist who'd piss off liberals with his government reforms.
New York's sclerotic state government is unlikely to make the boldest reforms Spitzer jaws about. The groups that will do the most to elect him—unions, liberals, minority voters—will blanch at the compounds Spitzer wants to mix in the New York laboratory.
One cheer for Spitzer, so far.
*who is doing his best to help elect Barack Obama.