In the spending cuts game in New York state, The New York Times has apparently assigned itself the role of the good cop, but the editorial board is in desperate need of a math lesson.

In an editorial two weeks ago about state workers, the Times declared itself “not to be anti-worker” yet simultaneously proceeded to call on the governor to go further than a salary freeze, relying on numbers that actually contradicted its argument.

In an editorial this past weekend, the paper warned that spending cuts will disproportionately hurt “New York’s most vulnerable citizens — schoolchildren, the elderly, the poor, the sick” and urged that cuts not be any “deeper and more painful than necessary.” But its subsequent call for a minimal tax increase of just $2 billion will leave the state with the need to cut spending by $8 billion, implying that these cuts are an absolute necessity.

State personal income in New York in 2009 was $908 billion. Thus a flat tax of less than 1 percent would close the deficit entirely, without any spending cuts. The New York Times’ statement that “Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rightly argued that painful spending cuts will be needed” gives the lie to the paper’s avowed concern for New York’s most vulnerable.

Moshe Adler teaches economics at Columbia University and at the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College. He is the author of “Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal” (The New Press, 2010).


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