Forget the breathless talk about global warming and the seven-times-Manhattan-sized ice shelf that sheared off of Antarctica last week—people in suburban New York want to drive their cars, goddammit, and they’re going to drive them when and where they please. That’s the message from the local (Democratic) pols who scuttled Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing scheme today with a revolt in the state capitol.
The plan would have charged people $8 to come onto the island during rush hour like they do in London, and it was part of Bloomberg’s preparation for the additional 1 million inhabitants who will be living here over the next couple of decades. But whiny politicians from the outer boroughs had a hissy fit because some of their powerful constituents don’t want to take the subway like 95% of their neighbors, the same subway that would have benefited directly from the new tax.
Congressman Anthony Wiener from Queens was one of them. His knickers were in more knots than a Persian rug when the plan was announced.
Weiner wants to be mayor, and he comes from the Chuck-Schumer/Hillary Clinton school of politics where you ‘deliver’ for your voters, albeit at the expense of the rest of humanity. Weiner even worked for Schumer and has slimy Chuck’s skill at playing both sides of an issue. As the congestion pricing scheme started to win a broad consensus among people who actually worry about the future rather than their miserable careers, Weiner started to backpedal from his original screechy opposition and said we shouldn’t ‘rush’ forward with the idea.
The problem is that New York stood to win over $300 million in desperately needed federal transit funds if the state and city agreed to the plan as of midnight tonight. That went down the tubes, but no matter—Wiener’s middle-class drivers will remain happy, and the planet can go stuff itself.
It’s exactly the mentality that led Wiener’s role model Hillary Clinton to endorse Bush’s conquest of Iraq even though she knew better. It was a popular idea at the time, and she had to make sure she ‘delivered’ for her befuddled, beknighted, patriotic voters. Getting out ahead of them and telling them ‘No’ when they’re wrong doesn’t appear in her playbook, and the irony is that she’s going down to defeat precisely because she had no capacity to take the temporary heat that a principled stand would have required. Had she done so, she might be headed for the Oval Office today.