Unless you owe your paycheck to taxpayers — maybe you are a public school teacher or government accountant — you’re going to enjoy the Editorial Spotlight interview the Editorial Board had today with E.J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for Public Policy and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. (You can view the session by going to Editorial Spotlight, clicking “on demand” and then selecting the McMahon video from the menu.) Maybe enjoy isn’t exactly the right word. Let’s try this: You’re going to want to pack up all of your stuff, empty your bank accounts and move to some tax-friendlier, better-governed place. You’ll probably need a plane ticket, maybe even a boat.

McMahon, a no-nonsense researcher and public policy wonk, is tough on the state’s public-employee unions . . . because the public-employee unions are tough on New Yorkers’ wallets; virtually every report examining why combined state and local taxes in New York are so high points to the overly generous benefits enjoyed by public-sector employees. Of course, the unions did not steal the money; that isn’t necessary when there are so many elected officials eager to sit in their laps. Anyway, McMahon is unfailing critical of the unions and the public officials who forget that their obligation runs to the taxpayer.

A tidbit from today’s session: McMahon gives Gov. Paterson good marks for sounding the alarm early on the state’s economic crisis, yet he doesn’t think Paterson went far enough when it comes to altering the status quo. He would seek more favorable contract terms from the unions (i.e., “givebacks”). He applauds Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone’s recent successful efforts in this regard. Likewise, he would seek legislative approval for changes in collective-bargaining rules that are favorable to the taxpayer. He would also exact much deeper spending cuts than Paterson has proposed.

McMahon contends — and he is hardly alone in concluding as such — that the damage to Wall Street during this economic tailspin will be as long lasting as it is severe. Of course, Wall Street pain translates into Main Street pain, which translates into pain in the home. McMahon doesn’t think the proposed Paterson budget — for all its dire this and that — sufficiently recognizes just how dramatically different Wall Street and New York are. No rose-colored glasses for McMahon, a former journalist.

I suspect that if McMahon had his way, the computer system that processes applications for jobless benefits in New York would be humming with activity from ex-government workers. (The system crashed earlier this week, under the strain of 10,000 people an hour trying to get through.) No, I don’t see where dropping thousands more unemployed into the marketplace does our economy any good . . . but the state is obliged to adopt a budget that balances. So somebody has to be honest about the hard choices.

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