October 18, 2013

Kicking Our Problems Down the Road: A Political Epidemic

Kicking Our Problems Down the Road: A Political Epidemic

Fiscal disaster was averted late Wednesday when the Senate and House agreed to pay our bills and reopen the federal government. Unfortunately, they did it in a way that leaves us with the likelihood of facing the same dilemma again on January 15 (the date through which the government is now funded) and/or February 7 (the date through which the newly raised debt ceiling will carry us). They accepted what seems to be the popular solution of elected officials everywhere, which is to kick the problem down the road and avoid making the tough decisions now.

There’s no more appalling example of this political epidemic than the legacy Mayor Michael Bloomberg is about to leave the City of New York. And before I go further, let me state that I’m a big fan of Mayor Bloomberg. I think he’s done more right than wrong and has vastly improved NYC. That said, I was appalled to learn recently (and maybe, as a NYC resident, I should have known this already) that every municipal worker in the City of New York is currently working without a contract. That’s every police officer, fire fighter, sanitation worker, every worker in every department of the largest city in the country. Some of those contracts expired years ago. And what has Mayor Bloomberg done about it? Kicked the problem down the road for our next mayor to deal with. If you believe the polls, that person is likely to be Bill de Blasio. And he wants the job – how crazy!

There are hundreds of thousands of NYC employees expecting new contracts, with increased compensation and benefits. This translates into untold billions of dollars that will be owed, when you figure in the increase dating back to the original expiration dates of the various NYC labor contracts, none of which is accounted for in the already deficit ridden NYC budget.

New York City taxpayers can hardly afford it. Between city and state taxes, the 14% tax rate that NYC residents already pay is one of the highest, if not the single highest rate in the country. All the good that’s happened in New York City since Rudy Giuliani was mayor could very quickly be wiped out if our next mayor raises taxes much further and causes those of us who already pay more than our fair share to abandon this over-taxed metropolis.

But whether it’s New York City labor contracts, or the federal debt ceiling, or funding the federal government’s operations, the fact that our elected officials think it’s okay to kick these problems down the road can no longer be tolerated. Those of us that run businesses know all too well that we don’t have the same luxury.

I can imagine the reaction among my partners and staff if I announced that the good news was that we averted financial disaster and were open and getting paid as expected, but that I could only assure it would continue until January 15 or February 7. How many people would immediately be looking for a more stable work environment? How long could we remain a viable business? How could I keep my job?

My partners and staff expect me to do my job on a daily basis, to deal with any problems or issues that may arise and insure that we are financially stable and successful and meet our obligations, without them having to go home at night and even think about it. How can we allow our elected officials to be held to a different standard? Too bad 2013 is not a major congressional election year. I hope we all remember the actions of the incumbents next year and send a clear message that things need to change.

Oh, and good luck, Mr. de Blasio. You seem like a nice, smart, caring man who’s worked for and deserves his shot, although I’m not quite sure why you want to take it.