The speech was vintage Bloomberg: He spoke in detail about fiscal matters; he proposed solutions to matters of national import; and he tried to rise above partisan bickering and urge politicians to rise above partisan concerns and focus on the greater good.
If there is a fundamental flaw to the mayor’s approach it is that–that entrenched interests are not so much operating from deeply held beliefs but for craven political advancement.
“We need a plan that looks at the economic consequences for our country – not the political consequences for the next election,” the mayor said, and added later of the Super-Committee, “this Committee must accept that real solutions require rising above narrow partisan, regional, and ideological concerns. We need both parties to stand up to their own special interests, start putting their love of country before their fear of the next campaign.”
This assumes a belief that is common one people feel about their political opponents–they are acting out of bad faith, while I am fighting for principle. And motives are a tricky thing. One can imagine that even in the deepest part of their hearts, that Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor belief that not raising taxes is both economically important and politically important.
In Mr. Bloomberg’s speech, both sides of the aisle will find plenty to complain about, but Democrats will in the end approve of it less–not surprising given that the mayor largely has adopted the right-wing talking point that it was Congress, and not the banks, that caused the financial crisis.
For one thing, the mayor likewise repeats a Republican talking point that “uncertainty” is contributing to the downturn. For most in the GOP, this is a way to push for the repeal of Obamacare and to put the breaks on stricter financial regulation–legislation they don’t want to pass anyway. Economists doubt that either of these are dragging down growth much, since there is certain amount of uncertainty baked into everything that government does. Did the repeal of Glass-Steagal create uncertainty? Did the debate over the Bush tax cuts in 2000?
Bloomberg also credits the most recent boom of the 1990’s to efforts by Bill Clinton and Congress to balance the budget back then. But even though that boom turned out to be something of a bubble, it is by no means certain that balancing the budget had much to do with it–and in fact may have been a consequence of a number of factors, such as the rise of the Internet and increasing globalization–rather than a cause.
Twice, the mayor uses the phrase “class warfare” when talking about Democrat’s desire for a more progressive income tax. He pushes Democrats to reform Social Security, even though the Congressional Budget Office said that Social Security is solvent through 2038. He calls for further reforms in the health care system, ignoring that Democrats efforts to get even a moderate, GOP-inspired reforms through in 2009 ran into a wall of resistance. Likewise, Mr. Bloomberg chastises President Obama for being largely disengaged from deficit negotiations, ignoring again the fact that Republican resistance to all things Obama related mean that anything the president touches is likely to fail.
Mayor Bloomberg does in the end castigate Republicans too for resisting the closing of tax loopholes–even coming out in favor of closing one that allows for hedge funders to pay lower tax rates–and for resisting efforts to raise taxes.
But the mayor doesn’t want taxes just to go up on upper income earners–he wants taxes to go up across all income brackets, meaning that even those who have been hurt the most by the recession would be further squeezed.
There is little doubt that if the mayor’s program passed, it would in the end bring down the nation’s deficit. There may be little doubt too that that deficit is reaching crisis proportions. But if Mr. Bloomberg wants sacrificed to be shared equally–across income groups, and across both sides of the aisle–he may need to try again.
Either way, his full speech is below: