The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
New York’s Blue Suicide

Another day, another dollar: New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is set to raise transit fees yet again. This time around, the MTA was considering ending the MetroCard Bonus program, wherein a rider who puts $10 or more on his card gets a 7 percent bonus automatically added on. The proposal didn’t fare well:

“The reaction (was) very cool,” one transit official admitted.

Naturally. The bonus MetroCard is extremely popular with customers. It also is the cheapest and most attainable discount option for the lowest-income straphangers.

The high cost structure of building and operating transit in New York is one of the things casting a deeper and deeper blight across the region, part of a pattern of high-cost, high regulation governance that effectively strangles the middle class. Transit unions, construction unions, crony capitalism among contractors and politicians, and crazy-quilt regulations add huge burdens to the management of an essential city service. Inexorably, taxes and fares rise for the whole region as the increasingly bulky and inefficient transit system, vampire-like, sucks more and more blood from its host.

The rising cost of doing business in New York is turning the city into one of the most unequal places on earth, divided between an arrogant plutocracy and a servant class of caterers, hotel employees, waiters, and other low-end employees.

None of this should be happening, of course. New York City has been governed by liberals for generations. Surely if blue policies could produce an egalitarian utopia with a strong middle class, we would see it in New York before we would see it anywhere else. If liberals were good at running cities, people from all over the world would be coming to study New York’s public schools, marveling at the extraordinary success with which unionized teachers were transforming the lives of low income kids. Our transit system would be the envy of the world as well; awestruck visitors from benighted places like Shanghai and Tokyo would come to gaze in amazement at the speed, cleanliness and economy of the New York subways. Small business formation would be booming as the bustling economy of manufacturing start ups created opportunities in the inner cities.

Yet, somehow, this isn’t happening. It’s great mystery. Certainly incompetence, crony capitalism, cockamamie regulatory overreach and entrenched unions can’t have anything to do with it. It must be the fault of those horrible Tea Party people in flyover country. They are selfish. They are greedy.  They don’t want to pay their fair share.

Published on October 15, 2012 9:00 am