Unending Crisis

The first part of Fred Siegel‘s and E.J. McMahon‘s big new article in The Public Interest is now online here. It’s a smart conservative’s take on why New York City and State lurch from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis.

As the authors put it: “The fiscal crisis of the late 1970s never really ended — it simply went into remission.”

Their point is that — unlike, say, Cleveland — New York doesn’t suffer from the fiscal problems that plague most of urban America: middle-class flight, abandonment, and an overall evaporation of the tax base. New York’s “crisis” is that it continues to spend a lot of money on services, straining one of the richest tax bases imaginable. Now you can justify this, and quibble with their claims about how much damage high taxes do — or even say the city should spend more on, say, the subways — but it’s hard to disagree with their point that the city workforce of around 300,000 people (that’s more than 1 in 1,000 Americans) has something to do with the huge costs.

Siegel and McMahon put it in terms of what used to be called “the British disease…the economic sclerosis suffered by liberal democracies held hostage to the demands of politically powerful labor unions and social service providers.”

How politically powerful? Well, the Democratic candidates for mayor do seem to prefer hammering Albany and Washington to talking about where the city spends its money.

UPDATE: The whole thing is now online.