Status Report On Bill de Blasio's Efforts To End Income Inequality In New York

Bill de Blasio — the guy currently languishing at the bottom of the polls among the Democratic candidates for President — was first elected Mayor of New York City on November 5, 2013. In a post on November 11, 2013, a few days after that election, I congratulated Mr. de Blasio on winning the office; but I had this comment:

[H]e seems to think he can solve problems that have defeated all of his predecessors and that are very likely beyond the competence of any government, let alone local government, to solve.

At the top of the list of such problems “very likely beyond the competence of any government to solve” was the problem of income inequality. It may be fading from memory today, but de Blasio had made addressing income inequality in New York City the most important focus of his campaign. During the campaign, he had frequently called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” and had claimed that life in New York under his two (Republican) predecessors (Giuliani and Bloomberg) had degenerated into a “Tale of two cities,” one rich and the other poor. In his victory speech on the night of his election, de Blasio re-emphasized his theme of ending income inequality:

That inequality, that feeling of a few doing very well while so many slip further behind — that is the defining challenge of our time. . . . But the challenge today is different. The creeping specter of inequality must be confronted, and will not weaken our resolve.

So, in my November 2013 post I posed the basic question to the new Mayor: “What exactly do you propose to do about income inequality?”

Read More

Add Rent Control To The List Of Progressive Policies That Are Sure To Increase Income Inequality

The list of progressive policy proposals supposedly designed to increase fairness and justice in the world just keeps getting longer and longer. Medicare for all. Free college. Higher minimum wages. Every kind of “climate justice” prescription. Reparations for slavery. And here’s one that seemed to have faded away in disgrace decades ago, but now is making a revival: rent control. Rent control is currently getting expanded and strengthened in numerous progressive jurisdictions, from New York to California, with new proposals now on the table in places like Minnesota and Illinois.

A recurring topic in this blog has been the extent to which progressive policies reduce — or instead, actually increase — income inequality. You will not be surprised to hear that there is a very close relationship between jurisdictions with more progressive and redistributive policies and higher income inequality. In an article I wrote in the City Journal in 2015 I pointed out the close relationship:

[In 2014] Bloomberg Rankings published a national study on income inequality, using U.S. Census Bureau income data to rank each of the 435 congressional districts by economists’ standard measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient. The study found high levels of income inequality in areas of the country known for their political progressivism. Topping the inequality list was New York’s tenth congressional district, which covers the West Side of Manhattan and Wall Street—including City Hall. Of the top 25 spots, 23 went to Democratic districts—and not just any Democratic districts. The five congressional districts covering some part of Manhattan earned the first, sixth, ninth, 13th, and 20th positions. Congressional districts in solidly liberal Chicago, Cambridge, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Berkeley placed in the Top 25. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district ranked 14th on the list . . . . And how about rent control? . . .

Read More

The Anti-Climate-Change Energy Crunch Is Starting To Hit New York

The Anti-Climate-Change Energy Crunch Is Starting To Hit New York

As you all know, the game plan of climate activists is to restrict and ultimately ban the use of carbon-based fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas. Don’t worry, those will all be replaced in due course with perfectly clean and free “renewables.” You won’t even notice that it is happening! At least until your price of electricity triples or you can’t heat your house any more.

I’ve long said that the politics of energy will change significantly when people start to get hit with reality in the form of soaring prices or shortages. An early example of the latter is starting to take shape here in New York.

In recent years, jurisdictions have competed with one another with promises to get higher and higher percentages of energy from “renewables,” and lower and lower percentages from fossil fuels, by earlier and earlier dates. For example, California claims to be “leading the nation toward a 100 percent clean energy future and addressing climate change.” California’s SB 350, enacted into law in 2015, directs the state to reduce “greenhouse gas” emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. But New York was not about to cede “climate leadership” to those rubes on the West coast. As reported here on July 6, New York’s legislature had just passed the “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.” It’s goals: to get 70% of electricity from “renewables” by 2030, followed by reduction of all carbon emissions — not just from the electricity sector — by 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. Take that, California! . . .

Read More

New York City Housing Authority Update

New York City Housing Authority Update

I keep returning to the case of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) because it is such a perfect illustration of the socialist economic model in practice. There about 170,000 NYCHA apartments, housing around 400,000 people. Most of the apartments were built from about the late 1940s to the 1970s, to be technically “owned” by the City of New York, although nobody expects any return on the investment. Maintenance and upkeep are in the hands of a unionized bureaucracy, headed by a Commissioner reporting to the Mayor. The unionized staff gets paid for going through the motions, rather than for assuring that the residents are receiving a good-quality housing product. Nobody ever gets an extra dollar of pay for getting the buildings ready to go for the next ten years, or for the next generation.

Actually, it’s far worse than that. The commissioners turn over every few years, and their only interest is in not having the buildings fall apart on their watch. The employees have union contracts that perversely reward inefficiency. For example, NYCHA’s plumbers have negotiated themselves a deal where all shifts are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4:30 PM, and any work outside those hours gets paid at “overtime” rates. Clearly, the plumbers maximize their income when the plumbing is old and prone to regular breaks, requiring emergency calls during the nights and weekends when the pay is time-and-a-half or even double. Fortunately for them, the genius economic planners who put this NYCHA thing together some 40 to 70 years ago never considered the possibility that after such a period of time the buildings would need major capital upgrades. No plan was ever put in place to provide for such upgrades. As the buildings get older, the breakdowns become more frequent and worse. The living conditions get worse and worse, while the employees make more and more money.

Mostly, NYCHA has been out of the news lately. But thank the Lord for the New York Post, which will not let go. . . .

Read More

Status Report On New York's Quest For "Climate Leadership"

An important focus of this blog is on trying to find the true “climate leader” among all the world’s political jurisdictions. After all, somebody needs to get out front to save us from the climate crisis. But who? Germany? They adopted the Energiewende policy in 2010, and have since thrown hundreds of billions of dollars at transitioning to “renewable” energy. Result: windmills everywhere, consumer electricity bills triple the U.S. average per kWh, and emissions essentially flat since the 2010 start of the program. China? They were awarded the mantle of “climate leadership” by the New York Times back in March 2017, shortly before Pravda figured out that China had hundreds of gigawatts of coal power plants under construction in their own country, and many hundreds of more gigawatts of such plants under construction in other countries around the world. The talk of energy transition was all a charade.

So now it’s time for some real progressives to show how it’s done. As reported here on June 19, New York ‘s legislature has now passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The goals of the Act are to get 70% of electricity from “renewables” by 2030, followed by reduction of all carbon emissions — not just from the electricity sector — by 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. Admittedly, this new Act has just been passed. But we’ve been talking about transitioning to renewable energy for many years. Surely we should be setting the example for the world by now. Let’s take a look at where we are, and what the plans are from here. . . .

Read More

New York Tightens Up Its Rent Regulation

A couple of weeks ago, I reported that there was “excitement in the air” here in New York. The cause of the excitement was the prospect of significantly tightened and expanded rent regulation, made possible by the ousting in the 2018 election of what long had been a narrow Republican majority in the state Senate. Now the state Senate would have a comfortable Democratic majority, joining the already-existing large Democratic majority in the state Assembly.

Being a Democratic legislator in New York means believing that preventing increases in rents makes housing “affordable,” and also has no meaningful downside consequences such as disinvestment in the regulated housing. Therefore, tight rent regulation is a key step in the march toward perfect justice and fairness in the world. Obviously then, tightening and expanding rent regulation would immediately rise to the top of the agenda in the newly constituted legislature. My previous post reported on bills on the rent regulation topic that were getting floated in May. Now, it looks like both houses of the legislature have passed a lengthy “reform,” with the title of “Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019,” which the Governor promptly signed. Here is a link to the as-passed bill on the legislature’s website, with an indication that it is what the Governor has signed.

How bad is it? Believe it or not, it could have been even worse. But, it is plenty bad. . . .

Read More