Jobs Undone

by Andrew Stuttaford

Walter Russell Mead on Obama’s pal, Nurse Bloomberg.

 Here in New York we have a very busy government. It’s worried about the kinds of fats we eat and the size of the soft drinks we buy, and there is no shortage of regulations affecting businesses, street vendors, and individuals. But in all this exciting fine tuning, nobody seems to have bothered to think about the much greater task of keeping floodwaters out of the subway system. Admittedly, getting public support and finding the money for flood protection would be hard, but it is exactly that kind of hard job that governments are supposed to do. Leadership is getting the important things done, not looking busy on secondary tasks while the real needs of the city go quietly unmet.

The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.

Mayor Bloomberg has done an admirable job under great pressure as the city reels from Sandy’s attack. But an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. The city needed flood protection for its subways and electricity grid—and it didn’t get it. If the Mayor had spent less time and less of his political capital focusing on minutiae, this storm could have played out very differently.

And let’s be clear. Whatever you  may think about man-made global warming, and its connection or otherwise with the horrors of  Sandy, it cannot realistically be claimed that any of  the climate change measures proposed/supported  by Bloomberg in recent years would have made the slightest bit of difference by 2012.  Better flood protection for the subway and the electricity system might have done.

Still, let no one say that Bloomberg didn’t have time for big projects: he did do quite a bit to try to bring the Olympics ™ to Gotham.