You can’t argue your way out of filthy streets. My old pal, Daniel, sent me an email the other day, after I’d written about the 160 business leaders of the Partnership for New York City writing Mayor de Blasio about the status of the City. Daniel thought I was being far too hopeful, that because New York had survived its problems in the past, it would survive again.
I drove around the city all day with my wife, and I believed the “NYC will survive this” since this started but I don’t know how much I believe it now. Certainly won’t turn into Judgment Day level apocalypse but I can’t understand what fixes this shit. Vaccine? Sure, I guess. How long will that take. How do you get people to pay 75/sf in midtown when crime is up. How do you fix crime without more revenues. How do you get more revenues without offering tax breaks? How do you get more breaks without more dollars in? It’s circular.
Being brutally honest about the cause and status of problems is critical to fixing them. Wishful thinking about aspirational dreams may give you the warm and fuzzies, but never fixes anything. It’s got its supporters, because who doesn’t want to dream about the glories of whatever the Utopia is in fashion among your crowd, but believing in fantasies won’t fix the broken windows, get the garbage off the street or stop a bullet from piercing someone’s skin.
Half the country indulges in the fantasy that cities, once vibrant with manufacturing and commerce, now bottom heavy with poverty and misery, can buy their way out of their problems by spending bundles of money on theoretical solutions with little connection to reality or human experience.
The magical “tax the billionaires” solution to everything requires three things: There be billionaires. The billionaires allow themselves to be taxed to pay for other people’s hare-brained schemes rather than pick up and move to a more billionaire-friendly place. That taxing the billionaires would have worked no matter what, numbers resisting feelings as they do. New York City’s reply?
Kick rocks, billionaires.
Among the myriad dumb ideas that are taken as progressive gospel is that people who have worked hard and achieved some degree of financial success are going to be willing, maybe even delighted, to kick in much of what they’ve gained for the benefit of the marginalized. Maybe it’s because of their guilt about their “privilege.” Maybe they’re just such wonderful people. Or maybe it’s a delusion that’s perpetuated by the unduly passionate and those who care about others, but not so far as to hand over their car keys, and are satisfied by signalling their virtue on twitter, where it costs nothing to twit, “Yaasss, kween,” as you try to make the kids do their virtual homework so they don’t end up like those crazies bombing courthouses in Portland.
Reality is happening in New York City.
But it’s time to apply other words besides “tough” to a city that too readily declares surrender in the daily battle against filthy streets, mass hunger, surging street violence, polluted air, homelessness and hopelessly snarled traffic. Terms like “outrageous” and “unacceptable” come to mind.
Whether it’s Boston Strong or New York Tough, it’s just words. Inspirational words, perhaps, but still just words. It’s not just that NYC has gone from a mess to a disaster since COVID, but that nobody seems sufficiently grounded in reality to get it.
“I am not going to beg anybody to live in the greatest city in the world,” Mayor de Blasio said at a recent press conference, when asked about anecdotal evidence of well-to-do New Yorkers moving out. “The wealthy have become more global, in many ways, much less rooted. They will come, they will go.”
The thing is that they were going before all of this happened, and now they’re really going. It’s anecdotal at the moment because there are no stats available, but the streets tell the story. Yet the real story has been happening for the past decade, and there are statistics about it.
Census data cited by Bloomberg News shows that New York State experienced a net loss of 1.4 million residents between 2010 and 2019, far more than any other state. Needless to say, a majority of the million-plus people who moved out were not rich.
Why is New York experiencing the largest outflow of residents in the country? It’s expensive to live here. Really expensive. Taxes are outrageous, The cost of living is shocking. And the city is a dump, which would be repairable except that fixes rely on a middle class because they’re the ones who pay taxes.
Also outrageous is the bad habit, common among New York’s progressive leaders, of publicly announcing an official policy of disregard for those who give up and leave, especially the estimated 65,000 households (just under 2% of tax filers) who pay 53% of the city’s income tax revenue.
It’s not that New Yorkers aren’t liberal and don’t care about such issues as racism, poverty and police brutality. They do. Very much so. It’s that they’re not prepared to give up their lives for the sake of the unduly passionate to smash windows and bomb police cars whenever they feel outraged.
In the past, the promise was that government would fix what’s broken to make it work for everyone. Now, the promise is that they will fix the city for the marginalized by making life increasingly difficult and miserable for the people who pay the taxes, the ones who own businesses, the ones who go to work every day hoping the subways run and their stores weren’t looted the night. Yet, nobody seems to care. Not Bill de Blasio. Not the city council. Not the rioters in the streets.
That indifference is smug, short-sighted and factually wrong. New York State has been losing population for more than a generation — but it’s the middle class, not the rich, leading the exodus.
People don’t need cities the way they once did. They can make a living elsewhere, whether by computer or from a distance. And they surely don’t need to work hard every day to finance someone else’s progressive Utopia. You want to make it the City of the Woke? Knock yourselves out, but you’re going to have to figure out how to pay for it on your own.
We’re way, way beyond BLM nonsense and SJW. No asses in chairs anywhere and no social movement/lack of movement is going to fix that.
Daniel moved out to the country.