Business is terrible. But try surviving without it. The Partnership for New York City is a group that was once appreciated for its efforts to facilitate the business of business in NYC, but that was before capitalists became evil for not paying people enough, women and minorities affected most. It would certainly be far better without business, because jobs are awful and there aren’t enough of them.
Because businesspeople understand something that seems to elude a great many of late, PFNYC sent Mayor Bill deBlasio an open letter. They had no choice, as there’s no other mayor at the moment.
Despite New York’s success in containing the coronavirus, unprecedented numbers of New Yorkers are unemployed, facing homelessness, or otherwise at risk. There is widespread anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality of life issues that are contributing to deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs.
We need to send a strong, consistent message that our employees, customers, clients and visitors will be coming back to a safe and healthy work environment. People will be slow to return unless their concerns about security and the livability of our communities are addressed quickly and with respect and fairness for our city’s diverse populations.
What these 160 business leaders are saying, in their moderated tones, is that the combination of the pandemic, knee-jerk reforms and the deterioration of life within the city from the acquiescence to the unduly passionate is becoming a very real problem in maintaining the infrastructure for business in the City to survive.
That’s putting it gently. Mr. de Blasio’s two terms have been a slow-rolling disaster that New Yorkers experience on a daily basis from rising vagrancy and public drug use to faltering subways, a public housing scandal, and failing schools. The city’s prolonged economic lockdown, new state bail law that makes it harder to hold suspects after arrest, and a $1 billion cut to the police budget have magnified the growing public disorder.
A 25-year-old woman on a recent Saturday morning was assaulted on a subway platform in Manhattan’s business district. Women have complained about being stalked by homeless men whom the city has put up in nearby hotels. Last month a man on his way to work was randomly shot in the arm in Grand Central Terminal. Meantime, hundreds of businesses have shuttered, many permanently, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reopened only very slowly. New York City’s French bakery chain Maison Kayser declared bankruptcy this week, and New York Sports Club said it plans to file as well.
Politics compels people to emphasize what suits their purposes and trivialize, if not attack, what doesn’t. That’s as true for business as it is for social justice. And that means choices have to be made, because it’s not viable for business to let the city slide into a spiral of destruction, bankruptcy and fear, even if only partially warranted. If the goal is to destroy capitalism, then it makes sense. But few of us actually want that, even if they believe some hybrid socialized nation could somehow exist off a 1% tax on billionaires.
On Thursday he begged businesses to lobby Congress for more budget relief. “To restore city services and save jobs, we need long term borrowing and a federal stimulus—we need these leaders to join the fight to move the City forward,” he tweeted.
Mr. Cuomo has resisted higher taxes, but this week he threatened to impose them if Washington doesn’t bail out the state. He and Mr. de Blasio know that a blue-state rescue is less likely as long as Republicans control the Senate, so they are probably trying to pressure the business class to lobby the GOP or support Democratic Senate candidates. Stick ’em up.
It’s surprising, though not entirely shocking, how few people have a working understanding of economics, how business functions. Jobs. We need them. They generate the tax revenues that pay for the things we want government to do for us. They enable us to feed our families. If we’re lucky and work hard, they may enable us to succeed and have a better life. But we can’t have jobs if there are no businesses to provide them.
We need business, not because businesses are such cool entities, but because we have a symbiotic relationship with them. No business, no product or service. We want our widget? Somebody has to make it. Nobody is going to make it if they can’t turn a profit doing so. Nobody can stay in business if their costs exceed their revenues. And if they can’t stay in business, they can’t give people jobs.
There is much to complain about business. Greed, shoddy products, worthless customer service, obscene executive compensation, inadequate employee compensation, discrimination, anti-discrimination, deceit, manipuation, the list goes on and on. But we can’t survive without it either. And businesses can’t survive in an environment like New York City, trying (and failing) to thread the needle between functionality and political extortion.
New York City will survive, although with a number of businesses that once held prime corners gone forever. The windows smashed by protesters will eventually be fixed when some new business takes over the space, and it will hire new employees who will aspire to success, just as the owner of the business does. But whether it will succeed, for everyone’s sake, depends on providing a commercial environment that doesn’t dump problems upon problems, making profitability too difficult. Or a sin.
A rising tide lifts all boats. There is no solution to what ails New York City that doesn’t include maintaining a viable environment for business, even with all the problems that need fixing. There is no social justice to be had in an impoverished city marked by squalor, fear and loathing.