Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bloomberg Warns Against Overtaxing The Rich: (Don't Forget the Rest of Us)

Mayor Bloomberg has warned against overtaxing the rich, expressing concern that a hostile tax climate would scare jobs out of the city. The New York Post quotes him as follows.

"They [the wealthy] are the ones that buy in the stores so that people that work in the stores have jobs in the stores, generate sales tax," he said.

"The rich are the ones that go to the expensive restaurants where, as a matter of fact, I looked at a list the other day of restaurants where the staff is unionized. They're the expensive restaurants. They're not the cheap restaurants."

"You know, the yelling and screaming about the rich - we want rich from around this country to move here. We love the rich people"

Mayor Bloomberg shows a sound command of economics in making these remarks. Those who invest in the city are providing jobs and paying taxes. There is no better social program than a job. Anything from roads to schools to public health must rest on a solid tax base

Bloomberg is very good at his fiscal math, but he has left out a critical part of the equation. Many rich people become rich through providing needed goods and services to working and poor people. Income taxes on the rest of us are by no means the biggest problem. Lifting the sales tax on clothing was a big help. But there is one form of taxation that is strangling us. One ticket for an expired meter can eat up most of a day's pay. The price of poarking tickets has skyrocketed. There are taxpaying businesses that are seriously hurting because of the swarms of ticket police who appear out of nowhere to write up meters moments after they expire. I was discharging a passenger from a double parked van. I turned around to find a smirking cop writing me up as my passenger was being greeted at his door.

Let's be frank. tickets are not to ensure compliance with laws. It has gone way beyond that. Tickets are a way to raise rfevenue for the city. And there are quotas. I do not compalin about moving violations. The fear of tickets makes life safer for all of us. There are indeed some parking violations that should be ticketed promptly such as blocking a hydrant or a driveway. But tickets should be big enough to be a nuisance and not big enough to crush someone's budget. The outer bouroughs are being mined for fines in a systematic program of regressive taxation. My favourite bookstore closed down long ago. A major compalint of the proprietor was that fear of tickets was scaring away customers.

Then there is the matter of commercial rents. I have seen too many businesses for whom the last straw was a massive rent hike. When a store goes under, the city loses taxes. Store owners are sometimes more like sharecroppers, forking over an outrageous chunk of their earnings to the landlord.

Mayor Bloomberg is very correct in wanting to court the rich. But the rich depend upon customers. If you scare away the rich man's customers, soon he won't be so rich. This should be common sense.

The last and most critical requirement of a prosperous city is freedom from fear. The pervasive fear of crime was tackled head on by Rudy Giuliani. He sent a clear signal by refusing to tolerate graffiti or squeegee men. When the police started busting fare beaters, they found a lot of people with outstanding warrants. Bloomberg must not let up on this critical facet of Giuliani's success formula.

A man who became a billionaire writing about money should be able to follow it from Wall street to the side streets of Brooklyn. The little people in the outer boroughs are a critical part of New York's future. They do not want to be ignored, mugged or ticketed to death. It's that simple. Don't bash the rich. But give the rest of us some respect too. Sphere: Related Content

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