Thursday, December 22, 2005
I'd say our current transit strike illustrates one of the most important reasons why I am a registered Republican. Except that Republicans in New York haven't been that much better than Democrats - especially, especially, especially Governor Pataki, who rolled over for Dennis Rivera of 1099 to win reelection.
I wish Mayor Bloomberg would fire every single transit worker and break the union. But (a) I don't think he (nor, I suspect, anyone else) has the clear authority to do so, and (b) he'd never do it if he did have the authority; he's a cautious, centrist, consensus managerial type. That's still a whole lot better than Pataki; Bloomberg has done much less to actually sell out the city's economic interests that Pataki has the state's. But he's no Ronald Reagan.
Instead, I expect the MTA to partially cave tonight. The strike might well be over tomorrow. And, whatever compromise is agreed upon, the TWU will effectively have won.
The betting had been that the union couldn't win this one - public opinion, across the political spectrum, was massively against them; they didn't have a lot of money in the bank to withstand a strike; etc. But they struck anyway, because they have the leverage to do so, and public opinion, frankly, doesn't matter. The public may support Bloomberg if he stands firm, but they will hardly punish him if a "reasonable" compromise is reached, because in the public's mind the most important thing is for the strike to end. Toussaint is clearly happy to go to jail, and even if the union is fined $1 million per day, the city is losing more like $500 million. To put the number in context, when Bloomberg took office he faced (if I recall correctly) something like a $4 billion deficit, and that was considered a major crisis for the city's finances.
I am normally highly resistant to Leninist "the worser the better" logic, but in this case we really do need to highten the contradictions. The sooner NYC and our other major cities and blue states realize that their contracts with public sector unions are absolutely unsustainable, the better for everyone. For that reason, I would say that the Bush Administration tax proposal I most strongly favor is also the proposal that would most hurt New Yorkers, and would cost me personally a great deal of money every year: eliminate the deduction for state and local income taxes.
Bill Weld has already started attacking Spitzer for being insufficiently hawkish (if that's the right term) on the strike. Potential GOP candidates for Governor should be competing almost exclusively to one-up each other on issues like this. I will vote and contribute to whichever Republican candidate running in the primary (and I do very much hope there is a contested primary) is most likely to successfully fight New York's public-sector unions. (That is to say: multiply odds of victory in the general election times seriousness about fighting the unions times likely effectiveness in fighting the unions, and the highest score gets my support.) Nothing else matters as much for the future of my city and state.