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To Serve Mankind

While I'm glad the New York Times, as I noted, is finally providing some perspective on the supposed budget crises, the article still frames the debate as being between services or tax cuts. But what "services" are we talking about, exactly? Libraries? I suppose so. Fire investigators? Apparently. And, of course, the cabaret cops.

Records from the city's Department of Consumer Affairs show that the Bowery Bar is not one of the city's 332 licensed cabarets, so the evening's dancing was illegal under current laws. The city has shut down 11 businesses for cabaret law violations this year, compared with 20 closed from 1999 through 2002.

The cabaret laws have drawn fire since they were enacted in 1926 in reaction to popular racially mixed jazz clubs in Harlem, said Paul Chevigny, a New York University professor who has written a history of the laws. Critics say the laws do not address the more serious problems surrounding nightclubs, like noise, security or loitering.

Gretchen Dykstra, the consumer affairs commissioner, said the city was re-examining the laws for this very reason. But unless the laws change, members of the night life task force known as March for Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots will continue to crack down on unlicensed cabarets.

And heaven forbid people smoke while they dance; then the city of New York would declare martial law and call out the National Guard.

Gee, I can think of a few government employees who could be fired without impacting the "quality of life" in New York City. (Or, rather, firing them will improve the quality of life in New York City.) It would be a lot less irritating to read columns about the horrors of government budget cuts if there weren't so many stories like this, of completely wasted government resources. Nobody even makes an attempt to slash programs like this before raising taxes.


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