Gov. Paterson Has a Bridge in Brooklyn He Wants to Sell You

With the economy rapidly going down the toilet and the taxpayers just about squeezed dry, Governor Paterson is sounding the fiscal alarm. He’s even talking about the “sale of state assets.” That would normally be music to Libertarians’ ears, since we’re all for privatization. Private roads, private hospitals, private courts, you name it.

Unfortunately, the “privatization” Paterson is proposing — via “public-private partnerships” — sounds suspiciously like the bogus fiscal gimmickry of his predecessor Mario Cuomo. The most notorious example of this phony privatization was the “sale” in 1991 of Attica state prison. The sale raised a quick $200 million to close a budget gap, which would be terrific except for the fact that the state sold Attica to one of its own quasi-governmental authorities, the Urban Development Corporation. (The budgets of state authorities are not officially considered part of the state budget.) The UDC paid the state for the prison by issuing $200 million in bonds, and pays for those bonds with money the state correctional system pays the UDC to lease back the prison. In other words, the sale was really just additional borrowing, and Attica is about as “privatized” as the New York Thruway.

When Paterson says he wants to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, he has about as much credibility as any other con artist who has tried that scam over the last century.