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I See London, I See France, I see Bloomberg’s Underpants!

May 14, 2007
New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg claims that he has a plan that will make New York City both greater and greener by the year 2030. Naturally, he showcased his proposal on Earth Day, citing how his vision will transform New York City into a leader in combating global warming. You can read all about it in The New Yorker’s May 7, 2007 edition, Talk of the Town, page 23 by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Bloomberg’s solution for retarding the melting of polar caps is a controversial proposal centering on congestion pricing. Unfortunately for the polar bears and New York City, it looks like Bloomberg is looking for a golden fleece, something to legitimize his kingship, his legacy other than being known as the billionaire who spent over $140 million of his own money to capture the mayoralty, –$74 million on the first election and over $66 million during the second.

In my philanthropist heart, I must ask, what could have been done with $140 million overall, say for a domestic abuse shelter, a rape crisis center, a homeless shelter, or even the SPCA. The obvious commodification of philanthropy is not impressive to the struggling humanitarian. Bloomberg’s concentrated $300 million to John Hopkins University reek of posterity/prosperity’s sake. Ozymandias is squealing in the desert with approving delight right now.

And what footprints are Bloomberg and his ilk leaving on the planet? Will he and his entourage take the subway and city buses when conducting business within the proposed congestion pricing area? Or is it because Bloomberg is a billionaire, considered an important person by people who gauge money as the determining factor, thus considering his life, his work more valuable than the lowly deli worker’s or office manager’s. Is Bloomberg excused for his contribution to global warming while others are not? Oh I hear the argument, the volume is different, what is one mayor (billionaire) and his entourage compared to a whole society of people. In numbers, not much, in reality, in perception, in resentment it is monumental. It goes back to that time of teenage rebellion when the adolescent realizes that what is being preached is not what is being practiced. The military tries to sell it as R-H-I-P, Rank has its privileges, which leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the what is good for the goose is good for the gander supporters. Especially since the motives of the person with the privileges are often rightfully mistrusted by the lower ranking gander due to abuse and exploitation routinely exercised on said gander.

Surprise surprise, Bloomberg’s post mayoral plans include a purchase for his prospective planned foundation headquarters on the Upper East Side. The Upper East Side is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, between Central Park and the East River. More than likely an area that will in fact benefit from congestion pricing, giving Bloomberg and his ilk an open yellow brick road straight to the Emerald City while the peasants duck and dodge between buses and subways. Of course, limo services taxiing celebrities to their jobs, the very jobs that pimp the rich is best lifestyle will undoubtedly enjoy tax credits that will help the rich stay rich.

In a nutshell, according to Kolbert, global warming is the responsibility of the middle and working classes and the rich should just keep to their daily activities that their money affords them.

Kolbert states,

The case against congestion pricing is often posed in egalitarian terms. “The middle class and the poor will not be able to pay these fees and the rich will,” State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, of Westchester County, declared after listening to the Mayor’s speech. In fact, the poor don’t, as a rule, drive in and out of Manhattan: compare the cost of buying, insuring, and parking a car with the seventy-six dollars a month the M.T.A. charges for an unlimited-ride MetroCard. For those who do use cars to commute, eight dollars a day would, it’s true, quickly add up. And that is precisely the point. Congestion pricing works only to the extent that it makes other choices—changing the hours of one’s daily drive or, better yet, using mass transit—more attractive. One of the Mayor’s proposals is to put the money raised by congestion pricing—an estimated four hundred million dollars a year—toward improving subway and bus service.

Labeling having enough money or not to influence one’s actions as a choice is down right condescending. It is not a choice, as in a lifestyle choice, if one cannot afford it. Kolbert seems perfectly content with acknowledging that poor and middle class people should have their choices made for them. She introduces this choice as framed in “egalitarian terms” yet fails to inform us of the advantageous choices for the city’s rich. What is eight dollars a day for someone who has a million? It seems to be suggesting that the hoi polloi, the commoners, the masses, must allow the deserving privilege to have the streets parted for their royal use. Nostalgia for the Gilded Age is permeating environmental politics, a desire to return to the time when people such as Bloomberg was recognized as an exclusive crowd demanding the masses to part and bow when one of their members appear. State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, of Westchester County is making a very good point, why Kolbert introduces his point but then fails to adequately address it speaks volumes.

She goes on to say, “These costs will inconvenience some people—perhaps most people—and the burden will not always be distributed with perfect fairness” [added emphasis]. Is it ever distributed with fairness, much less perfect fairness?

In other words, she is sending the message, “suck it up, the rich should not have to respect the environment the way others should, or is financially forced to (disguise as choice). The rich are too worthy to take part in saving the planet they can buy their way out of that guilt trip.

I say make them all walk or use public transportation, no exceptions, and no limo services. Then for once maybe someone can enjoy an outing instead of worrying about being hit by a speeding SUV or limo carrying a V.I.P to their very important meeting.

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