New York — for millions, for centuries — has marked the spot where the ambitious, talented, driven best show up to compete for whatever they think they can win.
My mother was born in New York City and married there before moving to Canada, where I was born. I first visited the city, to see her grandmother, as a young teen, then in my early 20s, twice. Since high school, I dreamed of coming to New York to compete in journalism, and chose to move to the state in 1989, just in time for the worst recession ever in journalism (only the first of three, since then, this one far worse).
The state has become so ugly and dysfunctional, so embarrassingly stupid and risible, it begs the imagination, even as we pay more and more and more taxes to the fools sitting in Albany.
The state, and our moronic, lying, directionless lame-duck governor, David Paterson, who decided he won’t (thank God) run for re-election after all, has become a joke. So has, even more so, Senator Charles Rangel for his ethical lapses.
Mr. Paterson’s troubles have been catnip for “Saturday Night Live,” but the state’s voters are laughing to keep from crying. New York’s budget deficit is an estimated $8.2 billion, due in no small part to state spending that has risen by nearly 70%, or $35 billion, over the past decade. The recent financial crisis has exposed the state’s overreliance on tax revenue from Wall Street.
Mr. Paterson has promised several times to stop this, only to give in to the legislature and tax and spend again. He’ll now be the lamest of lame ducks, and if he wanted to do the public at least one good turn he’d resign early and let the state be run through next year by his Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch, who is at least competent.
This mess is all part of the culture of Albany, arguably the most corrupt legislature on Earth. Last June, the state government was paralyzed for more than a month when Democratic Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate joined the Republican caucus, making it unclear which party was in control. Eventually, both men returned to the Democratic side of the aisle.
Mr. Espada would later be investigated for not living in his district and funneling state money to health clinics that he operates. Mr. Monserrate was later convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Two weeks ago the Senate voted 53-8 to expel Mr. Monserrate over his conviction, which reminds us in reverse of Groucho Marx’s famous line about not wanting to belong to a club that would have him. You know you’re special when even the Albany legislature won’t have you, though Mr. Espada did vote to keep Mr. Monserrate around, perhaps to deflect investigator attention.
Meanwhile, this sense of entitlement also seems to extend to New York’s Congressional delegation. Democrat Charles Rangel of Manhattan was admonished yesterday by the House ethics committee for taking junkets to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 that his staff knew were financed by corporations. The committee said staff aides tried to tell him three times about the corporate sponsors.
As New Yorker writer E.B. White once said:
“On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill them, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”
There isn’t enough luck in the world right now for many New Yorkers.
The luckiest thing many of us might now picture is a moving truck in our driveway. But heading to where?