I’ve got a lot to say about the mayor’s dud of a financial plan released over the last two days, but first, some perspective.
Here’s what he said today:
As I said yesterday, for years, the City has been doing the equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck, at a level far above our means. Simultaneously, City leaders continued to amass enormous long-term obligations that they were not able to meaningfully address. What the City did is fairly simple: it fully charged 8 credit cards and in some case, was not able to even make the minimum payments on those credit cards. That kind of destructive behavior must change – and it must change within this next budget cycle – because without meaningful and drastic change, the City will be in great peril.
The mayor didn’t tell us what his planned “meaningful and drastic change” is going to be.
But most importantly, I hate this analogy. If we’re going to play the personal finance analogy game with City Hall, let’s do it right. Here’s the way it should really read:
The city wanted a new Ferrari and a vacation house on the beach. But it didn’t have the money and it didn’t want to earn it so it borrowed from its retired grandparents. The city told its grandparents that if the old folks ever got into trouble, the city would pay them back in full.
The grandparents had been making bank in the stock market so they didn’t care about it for a while. But then the stock market went back to normal and the grandparents did get in trouble.
So they sent an e-mail to their young city. The city got scared. It didn’t have the money to pay the grandparents back so it concocted a plan. The city got some of its grandparents’ friends together and conspired to get the old couple drunk. During the revelry, these so-called friends and the city were able to convince the grandparents that they didn’t really want their money back after all.
The city also had some other problems. Its car had broken down. The house it lived in had a foundation that was crumbling. Its wife was leaving it. That beach house was also having problems – during one of the beach parties someone broke the sewer system and now the city had to pay to clean up all the waste running into the ocean. These were all normal problems but the city also had to eat and drink and watch football and such so it didn’t have any extra money to pay for these normal maintenance issues.
So it went to the bank and borrowed money. Banks require you to disclose what other debts you might have. The city filled out those forms but never disclosed that it owed its grandparents all that cash.
Now the grandparents have started to collect. The city tried to get them drunk again, but it mostly just made them mad. They’re slowly coming to and with every degree of consciousness they gain, they want yet more of their money back.
The banks also found out that the city lied to them so they decided not to lend the city any more money until it figures out how much trouble it’s in. The city, however, is addicted to debt – it literally can’t function without loans – so it has been going to the local check cashing mart to get loans in advance of its payday each year.
Now the city has a new leader and he promises to pay the grandparents back, make nice with the banks and fix all the problems. But he promised not to ask everyone to chip in. He didn’t want us to worry. He said he was going to tell us all about his plan this week.
Unfortunately, it looks like all we got was this analogy and yet another recitation of how much trouble we’re in.