Today's cartoon is relatively simple in artistic terms, but it illustrates an important aspect of American urban life: the financial woes of large cities surrounded by broad belts of politically independent suburbs. Within its official borders New York City covers 786 square kilometers with a population of just over 8 million people, but the metropolitan area, i.e. the city plus its densely inhabited and fiercely independent suburbs, takes in a total of over 21 million people divided among three states. (By comparison, the true metropolitan area of Beijing - not the political municipality - includes something on thesgroupsof 11 million people.) The city, to put it crudely, has cultural assets, corporate headquarters and expensive social problems, whereas the suburbs have wealth, greenery and tedium. Every working day 800,000 generally well-heeled souls commute from the suburbs to excellent jobs inside the Big Apple, but they pay local taxes to their suburban towns, not to the cityswheresthey earn their high incomes.
And thanks to the recession and 9/11, Mayor Michael Bloomberg must contend with a whopping budget deficit projected to be billion, something that even painful cutbacks in services cannot solve. Until 1999 the city levied a 0.45% tax on the income suburbanites earned in the city proper. Now the mayor is proposing that the tax be restored and raised to 2.7%.
Jimmy Margulies' cartoon shows a suburban commuter getting all steamed up over the proposal. Mayor Bloomberg adds insult to injury by reminding the fuming suburbanite of New York City's strict laws against smoking. Suburbanites can't vote in city elections, so Bloomberg can afford to be unsympathetic.