Competition For The "Sustainability" Award: New York City?

Mayor de Blasio must have heard about Manhattan Contrarian winning the "World's Most Sustainable Web Site" award, because from the moment that award was announced on Tuesday (April 21) literally ever second word out of the guy's mouth has been "sustainable."  But can New York City actually compete with the Manhattan Contrarian for coveted "sustainability" brownie points?  Not a chance!  In fact, de Blasio seems to be making a ridiculous parody of himself as he tries to compete on the elite "sustainability" battlefield.  (Or was he already a ridiculous parody of himself and just made it a little more ridiculous by tacking the word "sustainable" on to every sentence he utters?  You be the judge!)

So as reported in the New York Times here, on Wednesday April 22 de Blasio announced his new "OneNYC" plan for the next several decades for New York City.  The speech announcing the plan can be summarized as ". . . sustainable . . . sustainability . . . sustainable . . . sustainability . . . blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . . ."  Or, to take an actual quote from the Times article:

“Environmental sustainability and economic sustainability have to walk hand in hand,” he said. “Some of my brothers and sisters in the environmental movement don’t get that yet.”  He added, “A beautifully sustainable city that is the playground of the rich doesn’t work for us.”

"Economic sustainability" -- Wait a minute, that's a new one.  You ask, what the heck is it?  The very fact that you ask the question indicates that you don't understand the first thing about "sustainability."  Obviously, it means whatever the cool people want it to mean at any given moment.  But maybe can we get a clue what he's talking about by taking a look at the OneNYC document?

Good luck with that.  The Times article discusses the document as if it's something real, like with actual text and paragraphs and things like that.  Not so much.  Here it is.  I'd say it's a lot of bright colors with a few sentences or phrases consisting of the most banal of possible clichés scattered around each page.  It's not quite as low as kindergarten level, but maybe second grade.  A few snippets from the first page will give you some flavor: "We must act boldly to build on our strengths and confront our challenges."  "The goals we envision and the actions we take today will define our city's future."  "Our Growing, Thriving City" "Our Just And Equitable City" "A Sustainable City."  (You knew the word "sustainable" would be there at least once!)

But still no clues on what "economic sustainability" might mean.  For that, try the link called "Our Just And Equitable City." Go there and you'll find exactly two sentences that give some idea what they're talking about:

When combined with OneNYC anti-poverty initiatives, we will move 800,000 people (10% of the city's population) out from poverty or near poverty over the next decade. This is transformative change.

So does "economic sustainability" mean "moving people out of poverty"?  The concept doesn't seem to bear a relationship to any meaning of the word "sustainability" that you were previously familiar with.  But anyway, didn't Lyndon Johnson promise to end poverty 50 years ago, only to see the percentage of people said to be in poverty in this country remain flat ever since, even as the taxpayers threw $20 trillion or so at the project?

Permit me for a moment to examine critically this idea that a New York City governed by de Blasio and his progressive pals is actually going to "move 800,000 people out of poverty" over the next decade.  This is the New York City that already spends more on anti-poverty programs than anywhere else, and what do we have to show for it?  The City's official "poverty rate" is right there on the same page as that last link.  It's 21.3% according to this very document.  That's a solid 6+ points above the average for the rest of the country, where they don't come close to our smorgasbord of anti-poverty programs.  Can't we see that something here is not working?

And then take a look at the proposals here that are supposedly going to accomplish the goal.  It's just doubling down on the exact same stuff that got us where we are.  "Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would be a powerful force in reducing poverty."  How so exactly?  There's not a word of analysis here as to whether that is true or not.  I think it is highly likely that raising the minimum wage, particularly by such a dramatic amount, would increase measured poverty.  Why?  Because very few minimum wage workers are in poverty now (in a small family full time minimum wage work is sufficient to put you above the poverty line, and in larger families with minimum wage workers there are usually other workers too), and because some workers at the current minimum will lose their jobs and go into poverty.  It's just how the numbers work: no job is poverty; full time minimum wage work is not poverty.  Are they too uninformed to know this?  While you're puzzling over that one, consider the other proposal on this page that supposedly will help get 800,000 people out of poverty over the next decade: "Pre-K for All."  Do they think we don't know that nobody who attends their new universal pre-K within the next decade will be older than 15 when the decade is up?

In truth they have zero interest in reducing the number of people said to be in poverty.  Any reduction in poverty will be in spite of, and not because of, their policies.  The shimmering distant mirage of 800,000 fewer people in poverty ten years from now is just the sales tool to convince the public to spend yet additional billions on things that obviously will not improve the designated metrics, not to mention the lives of the people in question.  

Compare this to the actual, real accomplishments of the Manhattan Contrarian.  For example, at Manhattan Contrarian we always eat locally-sourced food, except when we don't.  Now that's real sustainability!