Act One. Mister Fix It.

ira glass and david paterson

Ira Glass interviewing David Paterson at the Capitol in May.

This week's This American Life featured a long segment about the New York State budget. During the setup for the piece, host Ira Glass says: "For those of you who live far from New York, you need to understand a few things about just how terribly run New York State is." And then he runs through all the scandals and drama (that part runs longer than many regular radio segments).

That all leads to the appointment of Richard Ravitch, whom Glass describes as the "hero of our story." Says Ravitch at one point, when asked if he felt like he was going to into a "madhouse" after being appointed to Lt. Governor (at Peter Luger):

Yes. But I'm also... this sounds terribly pompous, forgive me... but I have a kind of romance with the whole idea of government and public service. So, at the same time I knew I was going into a madhouse, I also, it was a matter of pride that perhaps I could be helpful and there was nothing more useful I could do with my life.

Ravitch later says: "I didn't know how serious the problem was. I didn't realize the state had been faking balanced budgets for so many years."

The piece includes a bunch of people from around the Capitol, including David Paterson, state budget director Bob Megna (and his non-state-funded stress balls), Ruben Diaz, public radio correspondent Karen Dewitt, YNN's Erin Billups, the singing of Jay Gallagher and NYSNYS's Kyle Hughes.

The piece is a good overview of how the state got into so much budget trouble. It's not a hopeful picture.

The show is available as a free download this week. It's also available for streaming.

photo: Paterson admin media images


Ravitch? Hero of the story? What's he done to get the budget passed?

I think the point was that Ravitch was the only one who identified the way that the budget needed to go, rather than selling off government buildings then paying rent to stay in them. And any of the other short-sighted moves the gov. does to stay operating for one more year.

And I hope you listened to broadcast before posting....

Listen to the story, He'll tell you...

Quite an interesting piece. We're on our way to 60 billion in the red over the next five years.

How inspiring...

I don't really understand why Ravitch was depicted as the hero of the story. The only substantive ideas he's proposed are borrowing, GAAP accounting and a financial advisory board. What are his ideas for closing the current-year budget deficit? What would he cut? In the story I thought that Ravitch just came off as a grizzled veteran of NYS politics who is simply dumbfounded with the current state of politics.

I hate to admit it, but the real hero of the story should be David Paterson. Aside from his whinny references to "Planet Albany," I have a new-found respect for him as the only leader proposing real spending restraint -- and actually sticking to his guns.

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