George Pataki is laughing at you.

George Pataki is laughing at you.

The metropolitan transit system is the most developed mass transit system in the United States. It carries workers (including me) from their houses to their jobs inside and outside the five boroughs. It is an essential piece of infrastructure for New York City, New York State, and the Tri-State area. Its importance cannot be overstated. The economic activity made possible by the transit system produces the lion’s share of taxes that go to Albany, and a sizable income for Newark and Hartford. Without the MTA millions would be unemployed.

So why did Governor Pataki try to starve it in the 90s? This is from an article in the New York Times:

At first the programs were financed with a combination of money from the state and city and borrowing. After George E. Pataki became governor in 1995, he sharply cut state funds for the capital programs and told the authority to borrow more. As a result, the last two five-year plans have been, in the words of the authority’s current executive director, Elliot G. Sander, put on a credit card.

The massive irresponsibility of the governor’s policy is all the more glaring now that the MTA is gasping for air. So why wasn’t there more of an outcry when the electorate could do something about it?

The answer is The Great Conservative Tax Swindle, also known as the Laffer Curve. The Laffer Curve is some spurious (and typically conservative) economic snake oil sold to the masses by Reagan and his legion of followers. At first it seems reasonable: if taxes are too high people won’t work. But taken to the extreme It says that all taxes are bad, and that rests on the assumption that only private capital is able to finance the public weal.

Some things are too important to be left to private initiative. In order to form a more perfect Union (as our Founding Fathers believed) we must come together as a people, and that means we will elect a government. Conservatives, deeply suspicious of government, have for the last twenty-eight years elected sabateurs whose explicit vow was to dismantle government. Deeply suspicious of public capital, they actively and openly raided the public treasury to enrich private capital. The time has come to roundly condemn this insanity. In the words of Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union:

With a dramatic and historic increase in ridership, more service – not less – is needed on our subway and bus lines. Failure to maintain and reinvest in our transportation infrastructure now will result in huge costs to riders and all taxpayers down the road.