When Bill de Blasio took office as the new Mayor of New York City back in 2014, many on the right looked at his policy prescriptions and predicted the rapid reversal of the City’s economic revival, potentially followed by rapid economic collapse. But not me! As I had originally written in this post of April 16, 2013, the consequence of bad — even disastrous — economic policy is not immediate economic collapse, but rather what I called “gradual relative decline.” That post looked particularly at Venezuela, then 15 years into the rule of Hugo Chavez, and far into the process of adopting over-the-top socialist policies that a Comsymp NYC Mayor could only dream about — everything from nationalization of most of the economy, to doubling the size of the state sector, to government deficit of 15% of GDP, and so forth. And yet, in its official (fraudulent) statistics, Venezuela was still showing economic growth, just not as fast as the growth in countries that allowed private enterprise to flourish.
But could de Blasio, through the magic of destructive progressive policies, actually turn New York City around from the strong growth that it was experiencing when he took office, and bring back the decline of the 1960s through 1993? If you don’t follow New York City statistics closely, it can be hard to keep in mind just what a great situation de Blasio got handed by his 20 years of at-least-nominally-Republican predecessors (Giuliani and Bloomberg). To rattle off just a few numbers, over the course of the Giuliani/Bloomberg years (1994 to 2013), annual murders declined from 2245 in the peak year of 1990 and 1946 in 1993, to 332; people on welfare declined from nearly 1.2 million to about 357,000; and population (after declining from 7.9 million in 1970 to about 7.3 million in 1993) grew quickly to a new record of almost 8.5 million in 2013. Employment and economic activity had also advanced strongly.
And then you have the fact that a New York City mayor only has limited policy levers at his command. For example, since the day he started his mayoral campaign, de Blasio’s biggest priority has been to increase the local income tax on “the rich” by some unspecified amount, allegedly to finance one or another item on the progressive agenda. For that he needs the cooperation of the State Legislature, which so far has not gone along. Nationalization of industry is also not within a New York City mayor’s purview. But de Blasio has managed to find several ways to let the cancer of unproductive government grow on his watch. For example, during his now 5+ year tenure, the City budget has ballooned from $68.7 billion in 2013 to $88.7 billion this year; the headcount of City employees has comparably ballooned about 14%, from 296,000 to 338,000 (nobody knows what they do); the City agreed to huge retroactive pay increases for the workforce that had been resisted for years by Bloomberg; spending on the “homeless” has more than doubled, which has only led to the number of “homeless” soaring; subway service and publicly-owned housing have badly deteriorated despite greatly increased funding; and so forth.
So, with all of these negative policies, is there any sign of impending decline? Not much yet. But then there was this piece in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday, reporting that new estimates out from the Census Bureau were saying that the City had just experienced a decline in population in both 2017 and 2018 amounting to almost 1% in total:
New York’s population dropped 0.47% to 8.4 million by July 2018, compared with the previous year. Census officials previously estimated that New York’s population grew by about 7,000 in 2017, but revised figures show it actually dipped by about 38,000, a 0.45% decline from the prior year.
Do you think that de Blasio might find that a little bit concerning? In truth, I think he sees the small population decline as just the start, and he is busy cooking up ways to make the City’s decline take hold and then accelerate greatly. Where do I get that idea? Here’s one place. Yesterday, de Blasio held a press conference to celebrate Earth Day (aka Lenin’s birthday), and he let us mere mortals in on some of his big plans for our future. Today, the New York Post devotes its cover and several interior pages to the hilarity. Big item number one: de Blasio plans to ban the modern skyscraper from New York City. Don’t believe me? Here’s the quote:
“We are going to introduce legislation to ban the classic glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming,” de Blasio said. “They have no place in our city or our Earth anymore.”
“No place on our Earth.” The man has no clue that these buildings are the places where most of the wealth in our City gets generated these days. And what exactly is the calculation by which these buildings “have contributed so much to global warming”? He doesn’t share that. I can’t come up with a calculation under which skyscrapers in New York City could conceivably have contributed so much as a completely unmeasurable 0.01 deg C to global warming, even if you 100% believe the most alarmist of alarmist climate models. Oh, but don’t worry, City-owned buildings, public housing, and rent-regulated buildings (all categories that, because they don’t follow the profit motive, are already way, way less energy-efficient than modern skyscrapers) will all be exempted.
Is there any reason to believe that this ban might punish existing or prospective wealth-creators? Here is a reaction from Alexander Durst, developer of a new skyscraper on 42nd Street that got a LEED “platinum” certification, supposedly the highest existing level of eco-purity:
The Bank of America Tower on 42nd Street, for example, is certified LEED platinum, but developer the Durst Organization calculated that it would still face $2.5 million in fines under the new bill when 2024 rolls around. “The fine will escalate annually from there,” chief development officer Alexander Durst told Crain’s.
Sounds like, if this thing goes through, you would have to be out of your mind to try to develop a major new economic asset in New York. But don’t worry, de Blasio is also going to expand “composting”:
Among other elements of Hizzoner’s eco-friendly scheme, the mayor plans to make his struggling composting program mandatory — even though he put it on hold last year because residents weren’t participating.
Meanwhile, de Blasio travels some 11 miles most mornings in a caravan of the biggest SUVs to get to his gym in Brooklyn, before sauntering into his office some time around noon. It’s really approaching Pol Pot levels of idiocy. Yup, that’s our Mayor.