Lisa Chow is the economics reporter at WNYC. She tries to explore in her stories surprising aspects of New York’s many economies—in plain view or hidden, in neighborhoods or sectors.
Delivering a campaign style speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Wednesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg harshly criticized the federal government for being distracted by partisan politics and failing on its most pressing task -- creating jobs.
"When did success become a bad word in America? When did cooperation in government become treason? The new 'politics as usual' is making a mockery of our democracy and a mess of our country," he said.
In a room with a view of the Manhattan skyline, the 68-year-old mayor spoke to an audience of real estate and business leaders, as well as the cameras of national news organizations, urging Republicans and Democrats to unite behind centrist ideas to help get more Americans working again.
"We need change," he said. "And whether the recent elections will be a cure for America's economic problems, or just another symptom of our dysfunctional politics, remains to be seen."
The Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent laid out a framework for a middle ground. "Fortunately, there are solutions that can get us out of this mess, that can be embraced by those across the political spectrum," Bloomberg said.
The mayor's speech lasted 30 minutes, and he spent the second half outlining a national economic strategy that included cutting business taxes to prevent companies from moving overseas, opening U.S. borders to more trade and immigrants, and instilling confidence in businesses and families about U.S. economy.
The speech struck a presidential tone, even though the mayor's spokesman Stu Loeser insists Bloomberg is not running for president, but rather trying to influence Washington.
Still, many believe Bloomberg is at least weighing the option. "When his term as mayor is up, he can't succeed himself. He's a man of considerable wealth. And I think he's developing a message that would probably play very well nationally," said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University.
But the track record of third party candidates on the presidential level isn't good, Baker said. They're often spoilers. Take Ross Perot in 1992. And Baker said Bloomberg's substantial credentials may not be enough. "He is, I think, in some ways a very good messenger. I doubt very seriously whether he's necessarily someone that people would turn to be their favorite candidate."
Baker believes Bloomberg is very "east coast" and wouldn't necessarily appeal to people who live in rural areas of the country. And Baker said, "He's not particularly an eloquent man."
Robert Shrum, a former Democratic strategist who advised Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000 and John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, belives Bloomberg's ineloquence isn't an insurmountable barrier.
"What Bloomberg offers is the inspiration of competence, not charisma," Shrum said. "And if the country found itself in a situation in 2012 where people thought the economy wasn't improving and if the Republicans didn't offer a sensible alternative, then Bloomberg might be a very attractive candidate."
Shrum believes there's a good chance Republicans won't offer a good alternative, but he expects the economy to improve next year and in 2012, particularly since President Obama just agreed this week with Republicans on cutting Social Security payroll taxes for a year, extending the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years, and extending unemployment benefits for another year.
But as the economy falters now, Bloomberg continues to spread his message. He's speaking on NBC's Meet the Press this weekend and at a major gathering of political independents next week.