Life on the New York City Plantation

As the recently deceased former New York mayor Ed Koch blithely proclaimed upon losing a primary election "The People have spoken... and they must be punished."

The people of New York spoke and elected proud far out lefty (no, that is not "progressive") Bill de Blasio (D) as mayor. Will they be punished? Inaugurated yesterday on New Year's Day, the speeches provided a preview.

The first speaker, wealthy entertainer Harry Belafonte, set the tone.

While it is encouraging to know that the statistics have indicated a recent drop in our city's murder rate, New York alarmingly plays a tragic role in the fact that our nation has the largest prison population in the world," Belafonte said. "Much of that problem stems from issues of race, perpetuated by the depth of human indifference to poverty." "Changing the stop-and-frisk law is as important as it is the change of the law is only the tip of the iceberg in fixing our deeply Dickensian justice system,

Offering an inaugural prayer filled with Civil War and slavery references, Pastor Fred Lucas Junior, who receives almost $25,000 as chaplain of the city's Department of Sanitation, intoned:

"Sound forth the trumpets of heaven proclaiming a new Emancipation Proclamation in New York City. "For your divine leadership, emancipate every New Yorker from the shackles of fear, futility, and frustration."


"Help us to be mastered by only the masters of love and compassion." "Let integrity never stand on the auction block or be sold to the highest bidder."


"Free us from the shackles of partisan politics, political correctness, and personal egos and agendas," Lucas railed. "End the civil wars and usher in a new Reconstruction Era that builds upon the many successes and achievements of yesterday."

The pastor concluded by blasting the "plantation called New York City."

Former president Bill Clinton (D) administered the oath of office to de Blasio, who served as a regional official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development in his administration, praising him:

"I strongly endorse Bill de Blasio's core campaign commitment that we have to have a city of shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities."


"This inequality problem bedevils the entire country," the former president said. "But it is not just a moral outrage, it is a horrible constraint on economic growth and on giving people the security they need to tackle problems like climate change."

De Blasio continued the equality theme in his inaugural address, promising to further increase taxes on the left's favorite boogiemen (er... boogiepeople), the rich.

We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city's history. It's in our DNA.


From Jacob Riis to Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Belafonte -- who we are so honored to have with us here today -- it was New Yorkers who challenged the status quo, who blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now.

From Jacob Riis to Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Belafonte - who we are so honored to have with us here today - it was New Yorkers who challenged the status quo, who blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now.


So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it.

Oh yes, he meant it. He announced his plans. Don't say you haven't been warned.

And our work begins now.

We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law -- because no one should be forced to lose a day's pay, or even a week's pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won't wait.

We'll do it now. We will require big developers to build more affordable housing. We'll fight to stem the tide of hospital closures. And we'll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in need, so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family. We won't wait. We'll do it now.

We will reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy, both to protect the dignity and rights of young men of color, and to give our brave police officers the partnership they need to continue their success in driving down crime. We won't wait. We'll do it now.

We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student. And when we say "a little more," we can rightly emphasize the "little."

Those earning between $500,000 and one million dollars a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That's less than three bucks a day -- about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.

Think about it. A five-year tax on the wealthiest among us -- with every dollar dedicated to pre-K and after-school. Asking those at the top to help our kids get on the right path and stay there. That's our mission. And on that, we will not wait. We will do it now.

Let's see how all this works out. "Big developers" might be required "to build more affordable housing" whatever that means but they can't be required to build in New York. And who will pay the real estate taxes on the "affordable housing"?

Stop and frisk, for all its admitted drawbacks, actually protected not only "the dignity and rights of young men of color" who were innocent but also those of old men, children, and women of all ages "of color" who suffered disproportionately from crime usually from very undignified "young men of color."

Sure, the teachers' unions will love more pre-kindergarten and after school jobs from the wealthiest sacrificing their daily "small soy latte at your local Starbucks" -- note that subtle dig -- to pay for it but oh the disappointment a few years from now when "our kids" are still not "on the right path." It is not the job of "those at the top" to place chldren "on the right path" that is the job of the parents, the family and even the community; absolving them and relegating this job to others deeply harms kids, not to mention the family and the community.

The very rich already pay more than their fair share of New York taxes; should those not so wealthy pay more in the name of equality? As James Surowiecki, no friend of the wealthy, noted recently:

But decrying inequality on the campaign trail is one thing. Actually doing something about it is infinitely harder.

In part, this is because New York's economy is absurdly dependent on its main driver of inequality -- the finance industry. Finance accounts for roughly forty per cent of all the wages paid in Manhattan, and almost a quarter of the city's G.D.P. (That's not even to mention the myriad businesses - high-priced law firms, say -that service the financial hub.) Wall Street's importance limits what a mayor can do to reduce inequality from the top down. The same is true of the city budget's dependence on the wealthy - the top one per cent of earners pay forty-three per cent of the city's income tax. In other words, the rich we will always have with us.

So, ironically, the rich New Yorkers are the real toilers in New York's plantation, doing the work that provides the wealth. Antagonize them, burden them with even higher taxes and many will leave to more hospitable areas taking their jobs and money with them. In this era of the Al Gore (D) invented electronic superhighway internet financial trading can be done anywhere. And those New Yorkers who once served the financial traders their daily "small soy latte" will be out of a job.

Already it seems the jobs of those who take tourists on romantic horse-drawn carriage rides through New York are in danger; the treatment of the horses is "inhumane" de Blasio decreed.

And so will New York turn into a broken-down, neglected plantation where inequality is banished and all are equal, equally poor as in other deeply socialist countries? 

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