In The New York Post, Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute tallies up some incredible figures that underscore the massive spending increases we've seen in this 21st century. She's talking about New York City, where Mike Bloomberg has proposed his final spending plan as Gotham's mayor. Hizzoner's top number? A massive $53 billion. Now dig this: Since 2001, the city's annual budget increased by $19 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars or a whopping 56 percent.
Hey Big Applers, do you feel like you're getting that much more out of your taxes?
Bloomberg unconvincingly argues that while spending has gone up, revenues have kept pace. To which Gelinas calls bullshit:
New York will take in $1.1 billion less than it spends this year; it's had such gaps since the Wall Street boom ended more than half a decade ago.
The city is closing this year's gap with one-shots like selling new taxi medallions (maybe) and cash from banks who've reached court settlements on money-laundering charges. It plugged previous gaps with $8 billion in rainy-day funds set aside during the Wall Street boom years.
Bloomberg, writes Gelinas, is willing to talk about spending has gone up:
"A big chunk of it is fringe benefits," he said — that is, health-care costs for public workers and retirees.
"We had put away these reserves" during the Wall Street bubble to pay worker health-care costs, he said, "and we're using it all up." Health benefits will cost taxpayers $8.8 billion next year — twice the $4.6 billion they cost in his first year.
He noted how he's cut back on day-to-day operating costs (including 6,000 cops). But "all of the savings" has been "eaten up" by retiree costs, and then some, he admitted.
Gelinas points out that, contra Mayor Mike, not everybody—certainly not every business—gives his employees free health care without requiring give-backs on health care and pensions. It's well past time to start on that for public employees, who now tend to earn comparable or better wages than their private-sector counterparts while pulling down much better benefits. Gelinas also dings Bloomberg for bragging about raising education spending by $8 billion a year, as if most of that money ever makes it to the kids in the city's classrooms.
Then there's this: Whoever becomes New York's next mayor will inherit a $2.4 billion deficit (that's the rosy scenario) and a turning point in which "controllable" expenses (similar to discretionary spending in the federal budget) are dwarfed by "non-controllable" expenses (costs of benefits to retirees and workers).