Mayor Bloombergs first budget

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the 70th wealthiest person in the world – a multi-billionaire. After he bought the New York City Mayor’s job – at a cost of almost $100 million dollars of his own money – Bloomberg is laughingly referred to as a mayor with only one special interest to be concerned about: himself.

Of course, that is a little naive since Bloomberg is a card-carrying member and leader of the Wall Street millionaires and billionaires who are seeking a second career as elected officials whose first priority is to make sure their money is well spent and that private interest prevails over the public’s interest.

Looking at the series of cuts in Bloomberg’s 2002 budget one can see the way in which private interest will benefit. As public programs are cut back, private hospitals, clinics and corporations will be left to take up the slack – with fewer services, a far higher price and far fewer people.

Overall, $57 million of health funding has been cut in the city’s 2002 budget. The Department of Health cuts include cuts in family health clinics that stand to lose many staff members in order to save about $5.5 million.

Infant Mortality in New York City has been on the decrease over the past decade. However, while the overall numbers appear to be rather good, infant mortality in poor and economically depressed areas continue to be far too high, often equaling those in developing countries. But, rather than increasing the funding, to increase the effectiveness of the Infant Mortality Reduction Program, Bloomberg is proposing to reduce the budget from $5 million to a paltry $700,000.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the new health commissioner, has announced that anti-smoking programs will receive his highest priority. But it seems that his employer, the mayor, and he were not on the same page. Bloomberg proposes to save $13 million by totally eliminating the Tobacco Control Program. Keep in mind that the tobacco settlement of a couple of years ago, which sent about $100 million to New York State, was almost entirely directed to New York City’s private hospital system by Republican Governon George Pataki. This cut in the budget, just like Pataki’s actions, is sacrificing the future lives of teenagers who can be influenced by a strong advertising anti-smoking program.

The Bloomberg budget is particularly cruel in the field of HIV/AIDS. It is well known that the excellent educational programs in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community have radically reduced HIV/AIDS disease and deaths. But Bloomberg is cutting similar education initiatives in communites of color and among intravenous drug users, all in the name of saving $5 million.

Another $1.2 million is being cut from cancer research and education programs, the Department of Social Services/Human Resource Department is getting a $69 million hit and the Department of the Homeless and Housing, Preservation and Development will be cut nearly $44 million.

The broadest of coalitions are forming to fight these cuts. Getting rid of Giuliani has been a great step forward. Now we have to get rid of the Bloomberg budget cuts that are reminiscent of the Giuliani administration.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.