The New York Times reports that despite fears arch-progressive Mayor Bill De Blasio would drive businesses and jobs out of New York, the City’s economy is booming:
“There was definitely something in the ether,” said Alicia Glen, a deputy mayor whom Mr. de Blasio recruited from Wall Street. “‘The lefties are taking over.’ ‘This is not a pro-business mayor.’ ‘They’re going to ruin the economy.’ I heard a lot of that myself.”
It did not help that Mr. de Blasio was hoping to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire and a darling of business elites.
But as Mr. de Blasio settles into the second half of his four-year term, the opposite has happened. Even amid national and global concerns about teetering economies, New York City has rarely been in better financial shape. Indeed, the city added more jobs in Mr. de Blasio’s first two years in office — 248,000 — than in any two-year period in the last half-century, according to data released last week by the State Labor Department.
Along with the steady increases in employment, the wages of workers in the city have risen at a fast pace over the last two years, helping them cope with the dizzying cost of living. Residential and office construction are booming. Tourism is at a high.
De Blasio campaigned on a “tale of two cities”, promising to redistribute resources to and reform policing in New York’s low-income communities. He’s followed through on some of those promises, successfully winding down New York’s stop-and-frisk program and ending pieces of the so-called “broken windows” approach to policing which criminalizes breaches of public order because of evidence that they can be linked to violent crime. Public urination will usually no longer lead to an arrest, for example.
In general, however, De Blasio has proven to be much better at campaign-style bluster than at political action. Early in his tenure, Governor Andrew Cuomo pulled De Blasio’s signature initiative on pre-K out from under him, managing to implement a version of the Mayor’s proposal without De Blasio’s promised tax hikes on the wealthy. (De Blasio himself lowered corporate and business taxes last year.) The mayor has spoken out against charter schools, but mostly left them alone. A staunch ally of the taxi industry, De Blasio very publicly took on Uber last year only to back down after pressure from lobbyists and constituents. He has pushed for a $15 minimum wage, but found himself on the sidelines as the real fight over the proposal rages in Albany.
Some of De Blasio’s failures can be attributed to the limited powers of the Mayor’s office, which remains, in many ways, subservient to Albany. But more to the point, De Blasio’s tenure has been a lesson in the inconsistency and hypocrisy at the heart of contemporary progressivism. This Leftism relies on the wealth of Wall Street to finance its big government ambitions. Wall Street is booming (still reaping the benefits of the 2008 bailout and low interest rates), wealthy Americans and foreigners park their money in boorish high-rises, gentrification is proceeding apace, and tax receipts are healthy.
New York’s well-being is hardly guaranteed, of course. Global financial turmoil has helped the city thus far by encouraging foreigners to invest in real estate, but if China’s slowdown or Europe’s troubles threaten the health of Wall Street banks, the winds could change direction quickly. Meanwhile, if and when federal interest rates resume their rise, the free money that has so benefited New York’s banks and hedge funds will become less free.